Winter Camping thread, share stories, advice...


If you are carrying all of your gear on your back, you should do what you can to minimize weight. A sleeping bag that will keep you warm at 10 degrees in your underwear will keep you warm down to approximately 5 below zero temperatures if you're wearing insulated clothing. This means that if you expect 5 below zero temps, you should pack a 10 degree bag, not a 5 below bag.

Obviously, if you are overheating while you are sleeping, you should take off clothing and ventilate to keep comfortable. Just as obviously, if you're car camping, bring whatever you want. What I am saying is that if you care about weight (i.e. if you are climbing, or backcountry skiing, or backpacking) you should factor in the insulation value of your clothing when you choose a sleeping bag. This allows you to carry a much lighter and less bulky sleeping bag, reducing your overall burden substantially. This is not just my opinion. Every alpine climber does this. It's common sense.

I disagree, with the right temperature bag you should not have to wear every piece of clothing you brought or are carrying
you are going to perspire will you are sleeping & when you get active in the morning this will only help advance hypothermia if the conditions are right
purchase the newer moisture wicking gear, it may cost more, but you will be rewarded greatly when the time comes

you also need to stay hydrated as much in the cold as in the heat

Deleted member 48574

I think for most people it will come down to personal preference. Maybe that warmer bag -- just in case -- is worth the extra bit if weight, or perhaps worth the switch to dehydrated good as opposed to say cans. We really are only talking about a pound or two and that weight can easily be save elsewhere (a higher performance outer jacket for instance). That being said if you get even a little damp, without dry clothes to change into, you are in a potentially seriously bad situation.

More important in my mind is the layer between your bag and the ground. When you lie in a bag you compress the fill making the insulation properties very low. So, a pad with a high R value will really improve the performance of most bags.


just eric


I'm curious about what types of footwear you guys use. From the research I've done it seems like you can have warm and less comfortable for lengthy walking/hiking or you can have more comfortable for walking/hiking at the expense of warmth. Granted, I live in the PNW so cold for me is not what it is for some of you :REOutIceFishing:

Here are a few of the reviews I've seen:

Bogs classic Mids

Sorel Caribu

Kamik Nation Plus

Rot Box

I'm curious about what types of footwear you guys use.
I swear by my Danner Pronghorns (800g thinsulate). I wear them winter camping and ice fishing in temperatures well below 0ºF. Durable and very comfortable.. worth the money imo.


No snow camping for me. That's where I draw the line. I don't mind cold, and I've camped in rain many times, but no snow. I'll be out next weekend in the desert where the temps will get into low numbers, but still above zero. My technique involves a basic tarp shelter, a good fire and layers. I will be bringing a catalytic heater just in case :). On my cot, a Thermarest pad. In the bag, I'm a fan of thermals as my base layer, then a bag liner, a trucker bag and another bag tossed over the top. My outerwear will be rolled up and in the bag with me to keep them warm. It just sucks waking up on a freezing morning, then climbing into frozen jeans. I will also leave a prepped coffee pot on the stove, so it can be quickly fired up.


If you aren't wearing all of your clothing inside of your sleeping bag, you're carrying too heavy of a sleeping bag. (That is, if you're actually carrying it. If you're car camping, then the extra weight doesn't matter.)

If you believe that then you need to buy new gear. NOW.

My bag weighs less than a single pound, stuffs smaller than my camp pad, and is good for down to freezing on my own.
With poly thermals and wool socks (that are worn specifically for sleeping) Im good for single digits.
With my wife, and bags zipped together, we are good for below zero.

Add in the dogs, and we dont even need a sleeping bag. Dogfood powered heater :coffeedrink:

And Ill advocate the brand every single day of the week if asked.
IMO hands down the best bag money can buy.

Anyways, as an avid backpacker that spends not days, but weeks in the backcountry at a time, Ive learned that clothing, for the most part, does NOT belong on you, in a bag.

To survive cold temps, you must stay dry. Even with the best clothing money can buy, even during the winter you WILL sweat when hiking. Sleeping in the same gear you just hiked/snow-shoed/skiid in is a recipe for disaster.

Underwear is removed in favor of thermals, and fresh socks go on. If I need any more, a wool cap does the trick.

Camper traveling we employ the same methods.


SAR guy
this is why I dont use canister stoves for winter camping,even if you support the canister off the snow/ground it is prone to freezing

something along these lines is better
If you drop a canister or stove in the snow or it has condensation on it when put away, you can also plug the jet with an ice crystal. You then have to rewarm it or heat up the part with a lighter.

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SAR guy
If you're taking the family or SO, they need to be kept warm or you will have a miserable trip. On of the ladies on our SAR team does most of her Winter layer shopping at TJ Max and Ross. They usually have fleece vests, down items and sometimes good shell jackets on the cheap. They are probably last-season's ski colors, but the cold won't notice.

+1 on the NEO Air line of Thermarest pads. These just plain work.



Expedition Leader
Living in Montana 80% of our camping is winter camping. We take I easy sleep in the back of my ford or in my suburban. Throw a tarp over the top to help hold heat in and have good sleeping bags. Now my camping partner is a stubborn man and still dose a cheap wallmart ground tent placed on top of pine bows. I can honestly say the older I get the more I love my trucks.


If you aren't wearing all of your clothing inside of your sleeping bag, you're carrying too heavy of a sleeping bag. (That is, if you're actually carrying it. If you're car camping, then the extra weight doesn't matter.)
I respectfully disagree with this. Here's my rationale:

Heat vs Temperature

Heat is the excitation of molecules. The more heat, the more excited they are. Lake Superior, at 55 degF has FAR more heat than a cup of boiling water. Temperature is really kind of a 'density of heat'. The amount of molecule excitation in a confined area. The cup of boiling water has a far greater temperature.

What we REALLY want when we sleep is for the air temperature next to our skin to be comfortably high in temperature. To do this, we trap excited air (heat) in dead air space near us. Generally, our heavy insulated jackets and our sleeping bags contain the most loft to do this the most effectively. So, to get that high temperature air nearest you, sleeping bare skinned or with a single base layer is the best way to get that heat closest to you.

Wearing extra layers of clothes is ultimately separating you from the most effective portion of your insulation.

The heavy layer jacket (assuming it isn't heavy in weight) can be put atop the sleeping bag for slightly more insulation. You should NOT put all your clothes on top of the bag because this will compress the insulation in it, making less dead air space volume.

As always, more material between you and the ground is advantageous. If you are in a tent, use the extra clothes as a ground cloth (between two sleeping pads works best), or as a pillow.

Some more winter camping lessons:
  • PRIMARY: Have a realistic understanding of your capabilities, skills, and gear; and weigh them against the expected weather. If you're a 60 year old with asthma, going on a winter camping trip with 6' of snow, and don't have snowshoes or skis, you should consider altering your travel expectations.
  • Bring chapstick.
  • Embrace modern materials for clothing and shelter that are hydrophobic. Wool is also superb.
  • Your tent keeps the wind, snow, and rain out. It does NOT keep you warm. Your sleeping bag does that.
  • As soon as your tent is up, lay out your sleeping bag to give it plenty of time to loft up.
  • Snow is a fantastic building material. Use it to create wind barriers, and other camp necessities.
  • A cheap plastic sled is an amazing tool for working with snow.
  • Do NOT use a ceramic water filter. The element can crack when it freezes.
  • It gets dark earlier. Ensure enough time to make camp. At least 1.5 hrs is recommended until you become seasoned at it.
  • Everything takes longer in winter.
  • Your insulation layers thermally separate you from the ambient air. If you make a fire, unzip or shed layers to let the warmth of the fire get to you.
  • Collect 4x more firewood than you think you'll need.
  • Save firewood for the next morning.
  • Warm drinks will make you warm. Duh. Drink them, even if it's just hot water. It is free heat!
  • Warm drinks will make you go pee and it is cold outside. Go before you turn in for the night. No matter what. Have a pee bottle for your shelter. It sounds gross, but unzipping your bag is inconvenient. Putting on clothes and boots to leave the tent is even more so.
  • Always wear a wool hat when sleeping. Conventional thinking is that it augments your bag's temp rating by 5 degrees when doing so.
  • If you get chilly in your sleeping bag, getting up and going pee will make you warmer in the long run. Your body doesn't need to expend energy trying to keep a bladder of urine warm.
  • If you still feel chilly, you can do some exercises, such as leg lifts, in your bag. Steady and moderate. Don't sweat, just generate core heat.
  • A candle lantern hung in your tent can help raise the temp in it slightly as well as promote airflow out of the tent. This is very useful in reducing condensation.
  • Keep a bottle of water with you at night. Do your best to keep it from freezing. Liquid water is far easier to heat than ice.
  • When you wake up, get busy doing something immediately. Start the fire if it hasn't been done, or get some more wood for it. You have to generate more warmth for yourself.
  • When hiking, beware ice or streams that may be covered in snow. Know the terrain.
  • When hiking, be exceptionally careful of swamps or bogs. The bio-energy created in them is enough to keep them from freezing as much as other areas, and can become very treacherous to walk across.
  • Leave your itinerary with someone. Have a "you'd better call in the rescue" date/time with someone if they haven't heard from you or haven't been able to reach you.
  • Move sunglasses from the 'nice to have' category into the 'necessity' category. Snow blindness is a real thing, and not just a danger on bright sunny days.
  • Headlamps are better than flashlights. Consider a glow-stick for longer duration lighting needs.
  • ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have an emergency whistle ON YOU always.
  • Keep batteries on you in interior pockets to preserve their longevity. Lithium Ion are lighter and withstand temperature fluctuations better.
  • Know how to build at least one natural shelter, such as a quinzee.

Some gear I like and why:

  • Smartwool socks: $18 for socks is ludicrous. Until you try them on. Expedition weights are like warm slippers. Hiking weight are great for cold weather hiking. These are good at getting moisture away from your feet and up and out.
  • Klean Kanteen steel bottle: Single wall, not the dual wall insulated one! Can serve as a pot to heat water, and is durable.
  • Stevenson Warmlite Tent: A bit eccentric, but a great tent for winter camping. I've had mine 20 years and probably approaching 500 bag nights. No issues with it (other than I want a new color now, so if you like purple, let me know and I'll sell you mine so I an get a different color).
  • Trekking Pole: I have found many uses for a trekking pole aside from walking. They are worth it!

And some Wisdom:

  • Appreciate who you are there with, and their contributions to the camp. That fire was teamwork. Acknowledge it.
  • Do more than you want to. There's lots to do and others may be struggling with the work and the cold. Especially if you are experienced, help the inexperienced as much as they'll let you and as much as you are able.
  • Respect the season and all it brings. Stay aware of your group's conditions.
  • Leave No Trace. A bit hard in the winter with tracks, but the principles of respecting the land always apply.
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What we REALLY want when we sleep is for the air temperature next to our skin to be comfortably high in temperature. To do this, we trap excited air (heat) in dead air space near us. Generally, our heavy insulated jackets and our sleeping bags contain the most loft to do this the most effectively. So, to get that high temperature air nearest you, sleeping bare skinned or with a single base layer is the best way to get that heat closest to you.

This is what I was taught in Navy survival school. I sleep with as little as possible between me and my sleeping bag and stay plenty warm. We were camped over this past Christmas and New Years and one night my feet were cold. Didn't take my socks off that night. Sleep barefoot the rest of the time without issues.

Also too much clothing traps moisture especially around the neck, pits, and parts. This also causes you to be cold.


I just stumbled across this thread...I LOVE winter camping! Canvas tents and portable wood stoves with lots of good food! Some pics from a trip last December:

I use a reflector oven to bake Cinnamon rolls with bacon for breakfast:

And cookies for an afternoon snack:

The whole crew putting on the feedbag:

Cooking on the wood stove:

If any of you are in the upper Midwest, I organize a Winter Camping Rendezvous in NW Wisconsin the first weekend of February.

Lots of different tent styles and methods of camping warm in the winter!


Expedition Leader
hear is some trips a few years ago in the superduty ill be taking the Suburban out this weekend


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