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The Ultimate Guide to Winter Camping

Contained within this document is the full range of information required to properly prepare for a weekend winter camping trip.

The 10+ Essentials

  • Extra clothing layer(s)
  • Map of area (in waterproof case) – Mr. Campbell will provide each of you a map in a ziplock bag.
  • Drinking water – I recommend a wide mouth bottle – make sure the top seals well. You will store it upside down to keep the top from freezing over.
  • Compass
  • Food – per group
  • Headlamp or flashlight (with extra batteries/bulbs)
  • First-aid kit – the group will have one; if you have a small personal one, bring it.
  • Sunglasses (with retaining strap) – if you have them or goggles, bring them. If not, we will be in the woods much of the time, so it is not critical.
  • Pocket knife
  • Sunscreen
  • Matches (in waterproof container) and/or firestarter

Conserving Body Heat- The Prime Objective

There are three ways body heat can be lost. Understanding how they work can help one prevent the loss of heat as much as possible.

  1. Conduction- The absorption of heat by objects the body comes into direct contact with. Examples: When one sits or lays on the ground, the ground absorbs body heat; when one handles metal cooking utensils heat is transferred from one’s fingers into them. This is why it is necessary to use a decent sleeping pad when winter camping- it prevents the direct transfer of body heat from ones body into the ground. Wearing gloves or mittens prevents problems with metal objects. A camp stool is recommended to prevent contact with the ground when sitting.
  2. Convection- The loss of body heat due to wind blowing across unprotected body parts. This can be prevented by keeping bare skin covered with hats, scarves, and gloves. It is important to keep exposure to a minimum, ESPECIALLY in a windy situation. Out of the three methods of heat loss, convection can reduce body heat the fastest. Wet clothing will accelerate this process, making staying dry even more important.
  3. Radiation- The emission of body heat, more exaggerated in skin areas exposed to the elements. A good pair of gloves, a hat, and a scarf can aid in keeping bare skin to a minimum.


  • Regular underwear
  • Warm pants (fleece or wool)
  • Wicking long underwear (top/bottoms)
  • Fleece or wool vest – optional
  • Quick-drying pants – can be same as above, but make sure you have two pair of pants.
  • Fleece jacket/wool sweater
  • Long-sleeved shirts – at least one


  • Outer shell jacket (or insulated parka) – most of you will just bring your winter parka.
  • Gloves/mittens (fleece or wool) – ski gloves, integral shell and insulation are fine.
  • Outer shell pants (or insulated pants) – if you have snow pants (insulated), bring them; if not, some sort of shell to keep snow and water off your clothes.
  • Glove liners – if you have them
  • Warm hat (fleece or wool)
  • Neck gaiter or scarf
  • Waterproof gloves/overmitts – this is the same as above.  If you have an extra pair, bring them.
  • Face mask/balaclava – if you have one, good; if not, the scarf will do fine.


  • Hiking/mountaineering socks – 2-3 pairs wool or synthetic – NO COTTON
  • Insulated camp booties – optional
  • Wicking liner socks – optional
  • Extra laces – optional
  • Hiking boots/shoes that match the terrain and conditions – if you have warm snow boots bring them. If not, make sure your boots are big enough for a couple pair of socks and that they are water proof/treated with sno-seal or mink oil.
  • Gaiters – if you have them.

Camping Gear

  • Backpack if you plan to carry your gear.  Duffle if you are going to use a sled to pull it.
  • Pack cover – if you have it.  Bring an 8 x 10 Tarp, which is generally good for covering things or making shelters.
  • Food (adequate supply for your trip) – per group
  • Tent, tarp or bivy sack – one tent per 2–3 people.
  • Stove – one per 2-3 people.
  • Rainfly – part of tent
  • Fuel (for cooking and melting snow) – enough for four meals.
  • Tent stakes
  • Matches/lighter
  • Ground cloth – one per tent
  • Cook set, dishes – personal and for group cooking.
  • Cooking/eating utensils – base this on your menu.
  • Sleeping bag (in waterproof stuff sack)
  • Pot grabber
  • Compression sack – optional if you have one
  • Large pot for melting snow – one per group
  • Sleeping pad – NO AIR MATTRESSES – closed cell foam or Camprest type only
  • Drinking cup (insulated) – not necessary to be insulated since you will be wearing a glove, but good if you have one.
  • Sit pad or sleeping pad chair kit – optional if you have one.
  • Thermos – optional
  • Extra nylon stuff sacks (for organizing gear) – optional. Heavy duty Ziplocks also work.
  • Biodegradable soap – per group
  • Extra plastic bags (for water-tight storage) – 2 heavy duty garbage bags each.
  • Pot scrubber
  • Resealable plastic bags – a couple
  • Snow shovel – one per group
  • Water filter/purifier – two per group
  • Snowshoes or Skis, poles and boots
  • Water bottle(s) – WIDE MOUTH – no bike bottles- they freeze shut.
  • Collapsible water container – per group
  • Lantern – optional

Personal Items

  • Toilet paper
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Lip balm (with sun protection)
  • Other personal toiletry items
  • Small bath towel – I recommend a wash cloth (we are only going out for 2 days)
  • Brush/comb – optional
  • Trowel – per group

Other / Extras

  • Binoculars
  • Repair/sewing kit
  • Field guides
  • 100-foot accessory cord
  • Camera and film
  • Axe/saw – per group
  • Notebook and pencil
  • Money
  • Travel games
  • Trip Plan (left with a responsible friend)
  • Watch/alarm clock
  • Photo ID
  • Weather radio