9 best winter camping essentials for 2023: survive the cold season with ease

Our round up of the best winter camping essentials

winter camping essentials

Being prepared is the key to a successful winter camping trip.

But remembering everything you will/might need can be difficult.

Especially if you’re new to winter camping.

Winter camping can be a vastly different experience to that of summer camping, and while it can offer whole new adventures, it can also be extremely dangerous.

So we’ve put together some of the most essential items to pack for your winter camping trip.

9 best winter camping essentials

1. Closed-cell foam sleeping pad

A sleeping pad or mattress that can retain heat is essential on a winter camping trip, particularly if you plan to sleep on the ground.

A closed-cell foam sleeping pad offers optimum insulation in comparison to other sleeping pads, while something like the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Ultralight Foam Backpacking Mattress (Amazon) also offers a reflective ThermaCapture coating and heat-trapping dimples to capture radiant heat.

This technology can increase overall warmth by a massive 20%, a huge difference when you’re camping out in the cold.

We would actually recommend you have two sleeping pads of this calibre if you are planning to sleep somewhere especially cold.

They really do make all the difference.

2. Warm, nutrient-dense food

Having a supply of convenient, long-lasting food that is both warm and nutrient-dense is a must-have when winter camping.

The Wise Company variety meals (Amazon) include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. They offer exceptional value-for-money and food that is both tasty and convenient.

The meal packs come in a variety of sizes from 52 servings to 256 servings.

3. Lower-limit sleeping bag


Something like the Teton Sports 101R sleeping bag (Amazon) is perfect for a general winter camping trip with nothing too extreme.

If you are planning to go somewhere ultracold, a more specialist bag and plenty of research would be wise.

4. Stove cooking system

Being able to heat up some nutritious food at the beginning or end of your day is a necessity when you’re out in the cold.

And something like the Jetboil MiniMo (Amazon) which runs on mini butane canisters or the Biolite Campstove 2 (Amazon) which can boil water in minutes via the use of sticks and debris found laying around your camp site.

The Biolite also has a battery to charge your smart devices and is recharged via the fires you create to cook your meal.

A camping stove is also important if you wont have easy access to fresh water.

Your camping stove can be used to defrost any water that has frozen in your bottle, or be used to melt snow for drinking.

5. Camping stove windbreaker


Being able to heat food is one of the most important parts of winter camping.

After all, what warms you up quite like a hot meal?

While most camp stoves can handle a little wind, most will go out or you’ll struggle to light them under strong winds.

It’s always wise to take a windbreaker (Amazon with you so you know you will always have access to heat for food and water.

They are cheap, light and fold down to basically nothing, so there really is no reason not to have one.

6. Insulated water bottle


Ensuring you have an open-mouthed, insulated water bottle is essential when winter camping.

The Hydro-Flask (Amazon) is double-walled with vacuum insulation for optimal insulation, and it works a treat.

They also offer a lifetime warranty on every bottle, so you know your in good hands if you do encounter any issues.

It will prevent your water from freezing for as long as possible.

It’s also dishwasher safe and being made from stainless steel can be put by a heat source to melt the water inside if it has frozen during the night.

7. All-season tent

A 4-season or all-season tent is essential for winter camping in any sort of snowy or cold conditions.

While many, or should we say, most, all-season tents are extremely expensive, there are a couple of contenders on the market at very budget prices.

The Geertop backpacking, all-season tent (Amazon) is extremely well priced and can handle heavy snow loads, features a snow-skirt to stop drafts getting in and is super lightweight for its price.

Obviously there are more premium options, such as the Snugpak Scorpion 2 (Amazon) or Snugpak Scorpion 3 (Amazon) or but the only real advantage is their weight.

So, if you plan to spend a lot of time hiking, we’d recommend spending a bit more money, but if you’re going to set up camp in one spot and not have to hike too far to your camp, the Geertop is perfect.

If you’re interested in hot tenting during winter you can also check out our guide on the best hot tents for winter camping or if you fancy a canvas tent, our guide on the best canvas tents for winter camping.

8. Winter puffer jacket


A really warm puffer jacket is essential for both outdoors and potentially sleeping in if it’s really cold.

The Marmot Guides down jacket (Amazon) is a great insulated down puffer jacket that will keep you warm on top of your other layers.

It’s super comfy, lightweight and will help retain heat both outdoors and while you sleep.

Even the hood is down-filled for extra warmth.

9. Snow tent stakes


Most tent stakes that come with your tent (even expensive all-season tents), tend to be sub-par. Especially for winter camping in snow.

Dedicated snow stakes are a must have to ensure your tent stays firmly locked in the ground.

Even if you already have a good set of tent stakes, it’s always wise to take a back up set for emergencies.

MSR have some of the best snow stakes called Blizzard stakes (Amazon) that are especially designed for snow and sand.

Winter camping tips

Staying hydrated –

  • Keep your water bottle stored upside down to prevent the mouth opening from freezing first
  • Use an insulated water bottle for maximum protection from freezing
  • Melt snow in your camping stove if you have no other access to water

Staying warm –

  • Try to wear wool base layers (Amazon) for maximum insulation and hygiene
  • Ensure you have a super warm outer jacket
  • Try to use two sleeping pads to protect from ground cold at night
  • Buy a hot tent so you can use a tent stove to warm your tent
  • Have a separate water bottle for hot water to put in your sleeping bag with you or by you
  • Change out of wet and dirty clothes as soon as possible
  • Stay warm rather than try to get warm, it’s a lot easier
  • Have a sleeping bag that’s rated atleast 10°F lower than what the temperature is expected to be

Pitching your tent –

  • Try to pitch in a spot where the sun will rise
  • Build a wall of snow around your tent for insulation
  • Use snow stakes to ensure proper grounding of your tent
  • Pack down the snow before setting up camp to ensure a stable ground

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