Surviving And Thriving In Cold Weather Camping

When thinking about camping one usually thinks about long, warm days and rich, reddish sunsets. They think of nighttime campfires and crisp mornings. The smell of hot dogs over the grill and the salt of trail mix usually tempt the tastebuds. Mixed in with a healthy dose of loathing the mosquitos and keeping caution against bears, camping is an American pastime. But when the days get darker sooner and the moon illuminates the snow-draped forest floor as well as the retreat of the typical summertime camper, most tents get packed away and state parks are traded in for the cushion of the Hampton Inn. Plan accordingly though and cold weather camping affords you plenty of space to yourself, the real warmth of a campfire, and the joy of “Boy Scout Stew” in the embers of this mornings split wood.


A winter camping trip requires a little more thought and planning that the average summer excursion though. Much like building a tiny house for the Northeast region as opposed to the deep South, there are a number of tips that should be observed and taken into consideration in order to successfully navigate the cold-weather conditions.


When cold weather camping you won’t always be mobile and producing warming sweat. There will be moments of inactivity where you will want clothes that keep you warm. When motion stops it is more difficult to maintain a suitable temperature. The trick? Layer up! This is the same when considering a tiny house. Don’t depend just on insulation or your electric heater or your solar array. Be prepared for cold weather and atypical conditions. Just this past year a number of fulltime nomads and tiny housers alike were faced with terribly cold temps. Thankfully many of them had skirted their wheel areas, lined windows with quilts, wore thermal underwear, and used lap blankets.

When cold weather camping start out with a pair of polyester thermal underwear as a base. Choose breathable fleece so that sweat doesn’t accumulate and add to the coldness. It may be good to have a scarf or neck gaiter that is easily taken on and off to help regulate body temps. On top of that should be a lightweight, waterproof, breathable jacket. As for your head and feet, employ a fleece or wool stocking cap. Leave the cotton socks at home as well. Wear wool or wicking polyester designed specifically for hiking. They will allow your feet to breathe and remain dry. Boots should be waterproof or at least water-repellent.


Don’t neglect your feelers. When outside keep polyester glove liners and gloves on adding gauntlets over top when needed. For extra heat use chemical heating pads for quick temperature pick-me-ups.

Several tiny house nights have seen HotHands pockets in the toes of lined slippers to combat the cold floor and exposed skin as well!


When you arrive at your campsite the first thought should be to start a fire. Never depend on dry wood or dry kindling in cold weather scenarios either. Have a fire starter of some sort.


In the summertime it seems only natural to look for a good, shady spot that offers some seclusion and bit of direct sun, and a good, evening breeze. Quite the opposite for cold weather camping though. In winter the early morning sun can be a very welcome visitor not just for its warmth but also to help thaw out your tent and setup as well as vent condensation that may have formed overnight.

When you arrive at your campsite try to take note of where the sun will rise and then position your tent to take advantage of said sun without taking on direct wind.


Not the most romantic notion, granted. There was even an old thought that a camper should strip down before getting into a sleeping bag at night. But that doesn’t make much sense. In fact, in cold weather camping one should put on all of their clothing before bed. If the campfire is still going a bit, heated water in a heat-proof water bottle of stainless steel canteen, snuggled into the sleeping bag would be quite comfortable as well.

So are you ready? Can you survive cold weather camping? How can these principles be carried over into the tiny house world? 

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

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alice h - December 30, 2015 Reply

Best thing I discovered for winter trailer life is micro fleece sheets. Orders of magnitude better than flannelette. Instantly warm, doesn’t hold dampness. Mice are not interested in eating them. In really dry locations might be a bit too “sparky” though.

a. camper - December 30, 2015 Reply

Also it is important to remember to sleep on something on the snow. Even the cushions of your back packs if needed. A zero degree sleeping bag only goes so far.

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