Camping isn’t seasonal. Only your will to conquer it is.
Many people equate camping with the warmer months of the year—assuming that because we are human, we can’t survive in cooler temperatures in the great outdoors. Well, as history has shown us, humans have survived living off the land no matter the season—proving that it’s not the season but the gear (and awesome attitude) that get you through life outside no matter the weather.
Read on to learn some cool camping hacks and tips to get you sleeping soundly amongst the rocks and trees in any season! We’ll even help show you some of our favorite gear that endures any climate—no need to have multiple packs or gear.
While we love camping in any season, our favorite by far has to be Fall. For starters, this shoulder season is full of color and life, with animals prepping for a long winter, leaves painting the tips of trees, and best of all: no mosquitoes (if you lived in MInnesota, you’d understand).
Perhaps the best part about Fall camping is that your summer camping gear transitions almost seamlessly from one season to the next. Which means you don’t need to spend extra dollars outfitting yourself with additional gear. In fact, most tents widely sold in big box shops are considered 3-season tents, so if you’re a Summer camper, you most likely already own everything you need to cruise through Fall camping like a pro.
Here’s a quick Fall camping packing list to keep you warm:
- Any shelter will do. Bring your 3 or 4-season tent (depending on what you already own)
- Bring LAYERS!!!! The secret to Fall camping is having lots of dry layers to put on as the temps rise during the day and fall at night. Try our warm, wool beanie to keep up to 10% of your body heat trapped on your person for additional warmth.
- Chop your own firewood. A hatchet or saw to provide you with enough down and dead firewood to keep you warm
- Make homemade firestarters. Fall camping often comes with higher chances of rain, having a few cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly will have your fire toasting your toes in no time!
- Bring a weather-resistant pack. A tough tote to pack all your gear in is also a necessity. We recommend our popular Isle Royale Packs to get you through any camping season, with room for all of your camping gear.
Perhaps the most intimidating, but also the coolest camping literally and figuratively, is Winter camping. Although it’s not without its challenges, winter camping is a favorite for novices and thrill-seekers alike. There’s nothing quite like being in the quiet of the woods, surrounded by a winter wonderland of snow-covered trees to truly allow you to appreciate the wonder of the wilderness. However, most people ask, “Won’t I get cold?” The answer? Not if you do it right.
While this blog is by no means the end-all, be-all to Winter camping survival, the Team at Frost River does have a few tips and tricks to get you prepared for such an adventure. The best part? You probably own most of the gear already.
The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to try your hand at Cold Camping or Hot Tent Camping.
Cold Camping is exactly what it sounds like: you sleep in either a tent or hammock or you can even use a simple tarp or lean-to to shelter yourself from any precipitation overnight.
Hot Tent Camping is also exactly as described. For this, you will need a specialized tent (we happen to make a great one here that works well with our endcover) with a transportable wood stove. The cost of the added benefit of Hot Tent Camping is obviously having extra weight to lug around. However, you can easily do this by renting a polk sled and pulling it on cross country skis, snowshoes, or if you’re really lucky, dogsled.
No matter your choice, here are a few Winter camping hacks that will help keep you warm in the cold:
- Double-stuff your sleeping bags. This is a great tip for those with multiple warm-season camping bags. Depending on the temperatures you’ll be Winter camping in, you can easily stuff a 20-degree bag into a 0-degree bag to ensure you’ll stay toasty at night. Make sure you use a synthetic bag on the outside to stop any moisture from entering your bag.
- Make a snuggle bottle. This easy hack is one that’ll blow your mind. To warm up your sleeping bag at night, and have drinkable water in the morning, after dinner, boil some water over your fire and fill your heat-tolerant water bottle like this one up with the boiling water. Then, throw it in your sleeping bag before you get in. It’ll keep your body warm and won’t be frozen in the morning when you need a swig. You can also slip it into your boots in the morning, warming them up before you put your feet in.
- Ditch the air mattresses. While these comfy and lightweight sleeping pads filled with air might be great for all other seasons, cold air will cool your body temperature down quicker. So ditch it and either use snow as insulation or get a closed-cell foam pad to keep your body warm. Doubling up wouldn’t hurt either.
- Dress appropriately. We know this probably goes without saying however, many people think that you want as many layers as possible on your person while Winter camping. This is not always the case. Simply put, Winter camping requires a lot of work, which means if your body is active and you have too many layers on, you will sweat. Sweat is a deadly threat when Winter camping because if you’re not careful, it could freeze and cool your core body temperature down too quickly, causing hypothermia. To prevent this, we recommend adding and removing layers as your body heat rises with camp chores.
Here’s a quick list of what layers to bring:
A moisture-wicking base layer, top and bottom
A warm fuzzy mid-layer like down or fleece, top and bottom
A waterPROOF outer layer that blocks the wind and elements, top and bottom
A smooth, thin liner sock worn underneath a hiking or wool sock
Mountaineering socks for sleeping in so your other socks can dry out
Plastic baggies to wear over your socks, inside your boots for keeping your feet dry and warm (dump out the sweat at night and place in boots for the morning)
Pair of sunglasses, sun reflects on snow and can damage eyes
Bunny boots or other double-layered waterproof boots
Gaiters to keep snow out of your boots
Endless Summer Camping
If Winter camping isn’t for you, one way around this is by chasing Summer around the country to find a spot where you can set up camp without the learning curve. One of our favorite places to explore is the Southwest of the United States.
Pictured above is a shot from one of the five National Parks in Utah: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and the notorious Zion. With temperate climes during the day and chillier desert nights, you may still need an extra layer or two but exploring these awesome National Treasures is fantastic during the “off” season when guest attendance is lower.
Much like Fall camping, Spring camping is a great shoulder season where the bugs aren’t out yet and visitors in State and National Parks are at a minimum. However, the one thing to think about here is cold water and moisture. After all, April showers bring May flowers, so you’ll want to make sure you pack rain protection for your body and your camping gear as hypothermia can still be a threat even in the Spring.
If you plan a paddle trip, you’ll want to take extra care as water temperatures haven’t had the chance to rise yet and can easily take a fun camping trip and transform it into a harrowing tale with the tip of a canoe. Look at drysuits if you’re contemplating an early Spring camping trip over bodies of water.
You can also use the other tips from the Fall and Winter camping sections to keep you warm—once you’ve successfully cold camped during the Winter, you’ll know just how to keep your body warm no matter the season or weather.
While we wave goodbye to our Summer camping trips right now, we know they’ll be back around next year. One thing is for sure, when you camp in any other season, Summer camping will seem like a complete breeze to you. You’ll have less layers to wear, less gear to pack, which will ultimately make you want to challenge yourself more and push Summer camping to the limits as well.
If you’re ready to take the next step in Summer camping, we recommend a backpacking or bikepacking trip deep into the woods. There’s nothing quite like trekking through wild woods with nothing but what you can carry on your back and making it out refreshed, recharged, and ready for your next adventure.
Be sure to check out all of our awesome packs and gear for your camping trip no matter the season. Our camping gear is not only built with a lifetime guarantee but to last an actual lifetime of adventure-seeking use.