If you typically put away your camping gear during the winter and leave it stowed until spring, you’re missing out on some great days in the outdoors. During the winter, the bare trees reveal mountain views you just can’t get in the warmer months, and the cold conditions drive off the masses, providing a greater sense of solitude. Plus, the dry, cool air creates ideal conditions for stunning sunsets.

But, winter camping also poses special challenges. During the winter, the temperatures can fall below freezing, even down to single digits, and you need the proper knowledge, gear, and clothing to stay warm, dry, and comfortable. If you don’t pack wisely in summer, you might be uncomfortable, but it’s usually no big deal. But, in the winter, you risk illness, injury, or a really miserable outing if you’re not prepared.

To help you fill your winter with safe, enjoyable, and memorable adventures, we’ve put together a list of 11 important camping tips.

1. Check the Weather

As with all of your outdoor adventures, you should do your homework and find out the weather conditions you’ll likely encounter while camping. You can check the forecast with local media or the National Weather Service. Remember that conditions can change quickly, so be prepared with all of the clothing and supplies you’ll need for a worst-case scenario.

Also, keep in mind that the weather can affect road conditions, and you need to make sure that you’ll be able to reach your destination and return safely. Whenever possible, check the websites of parks or other recreation areas or contact park rangers or other experts to get the latest road and trail conditions. Rangers and other official personnel can also offer suggestions on the best campsites to use in winter.

2. Choose the Right Campsite

Whether you’re backpacking or tent camping, the right campsite can be the difference between an enjoyable, cozy winter outing or one that’s miserably cold. Look for a campsite that has trees or rocks that can partially block the wind, but make sure the trees are sturdy and that they’re not dead, dying, or rotting. The same goes with branches. Don’t pitch camp under dodgy looking limbs that could come crashing down.

3. Dress in Layers

The trick to staying comfortable outdoors during winter is to remain warm and dry. To do this, you need to regulate your body temperature so that you’re never too hot and sweaty, and never so cold that you’re core body temperature drops. The most efficient way to regulate your temperature is to dress in layers so that you can quickly add or remove clothing.

Basically, there are three layers you should carry:

  • Baselayer: These clothes sit against your skin and move moisture away from your body to keep you dry. They should be made of synthetic materials or wool and include little or no cotton, which holds water and robs valuable heat from your body. Mid-weight long underwear is a good choice for moderately cold winters. When temps start heading below freezing, you might consider heavier baselayers.

  • Middle layer: This is your insulating layer that will retain your body heat, but also allow some air to circulate to prevent overheating. This could be a sweater or jacket made with synthetic and/or wool materials. (This would include most puffy jackets.)

  • Outer layer: This is also known as the shell layer and includes jackets and coats that offer some protection from wind and moisture. If there’s a chance you’ll encounter rain or heavy snow, be sure to pack a waterproof shell.

4. Dress for Sleeping Success

It’s not always comfortable to change clothes while hiking or camping in the cold of winter, but you should change into dry, clean clothes before you go to sleep. If your clothes are dry you’ll stay warmer at night, and dirty clothes typically hold dirt and oil from skin, which reduces their insulating properties.

5. Pack the Proper Tent

Choose a tent that has enough room to allow you to store gear inside it.

Jordan Heinrichs

Choose either a three- or four-season tent for winter camping. A three-season tent works for most mild winter conditions, and it will allow more ventilation to reduce the amount of condensation that can form inside the tent. During the winter, be sure to open the tent’s vents and expose mesh panels to reduce condensation.

Four-season tents are designed to withstand high winds and heavy rain or snow. To reduce drafts, they typically have little mesh for ventilation and a rainfly that extends almost to the ground. Plus, the poles are very sturdy so they can stand up to the wind. The downside is that four-season tents can build up lots of condensation in the more humid areas of the US.

When you choose a tent, be sure that it has room for an extra person—if two people will be sleeping in the tent, get one designed for three people. This way you’ll have space to place gear inside the tent or the vestibule to keep it out of the elements.

6. Choose the Right Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bag temperature ratings aren’t supremely accurate, because many factors affect your body temperature at night. Some people tend to sleep hot, while others tend to be cold. Plus, your warmth is affected by the number of calories you consume before sleeping. So, it’s a good idea to choose a sleeping bag that has a temperature rating 10 degrees lower than the coldest temperature you expect. You can also use a sleeping bag liner to add five to 25 degrees of warmth.

Keep in mind that most bags filled with down will be more lightweight and efficient at keeping you warm. However, they lose their thermal effectiveness when wet. A bag with synthetic insulation might weigh more, but it will continue to keep you warm if it gets wet. Also, be aware that some bags have water-resistant down that gives you the best of both worlds.

7. Insulate Yourself from the Ground

Much of your heat loss while camping is from sleeping on the cold ground. If possible, use two pads under your sleeping bag—the bottom pad should be closed-cell foam, while the upper pad should be thin and inflatable. Remember, pads are rated by their “R” value from 1.0 to 8.0, with 8.0 being the best. A good average pad has an R-Value of 4. Also, spread a ground cloth or tarp under your tent to prevent moisture from forming inside.

8. Consume Plenty of Calories

Pack a stove so you can prepare warm drinks.

Sage Friedman

When planning your meals, make sure they’re high in calories, which your body needs to burn to stay warm. Keep your meals simple and easy to make, preferably one-pot meals. When you arrive into a cold campsite tired and hungry, you don’t want to mess with anything that’s difficult to prepare.

Be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, which can actually be more of a problem in the cold than in the heat of summer. Also, be sure to bring a stove so that you can make hot water. If someone gets hypothermic you can warm the person’s core temperature quickly with hot chocolate or another warm drink.

9. Stay Warm with the Old Hot Water Bottle Trick

An easy way to stay warm at night is to heat water, put it in a plastic bottle, and place it near your feet or between your legs inside your sleeping bag. Make sure it’s not too hot and use a plastic bottle instead of metal so that you don’t get burned.

10. Don’t Run Out of Power

Batteries have a nasty habit of dying in the cold. Alkaline batteries tend to lose power faster than lithium. If your batteries die, try warming them in your hands or in your sleeping bag. That might jumpstart them again.

11. Use These Tricks for a Better Winter Campout

Here are few other tips for winter camping:

  • When you gotta go, go! An empty bladder means your body uses less energy to stay warm.

  • If you like to use a hydration reservoir, make sure the tube has an insulated sleeve or the water in it will freeze. If the hose isn’t insulated, leave the reservoir system at home and use water bottles instead.

  • If you do use water bottles, store them standing upside down at night. Water freezes from the top down.

Written by Joe Cuhaj for Matcha in partnership with BCBS of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Julian Bialowas

We can all agree that tradition is one of the best parts of the holiday season. Sharing a tradition builds family bonds and provides the comfort of familiarity, but after a while the years can start to blur together until no one can remember what year Uncle Johnny lit the neighbor's yard on fire deep frying a turkey, or when Grandma’s pecan pie won first prize in the county fair.

And while carrying out the traditions themselves can be more cherished than the secret family recipe they are built around, every once in awhile, change can be a welcome breath of fresh air. We believe in the invigorating power of that fresh air, which is why we are proposing something a little different for this holiday season. Below is a guide to creating a holiday feast al fresco with a few recipes to cook over a campfire. So be bold and savor the new experience. The food will taste better as the cool crisp air heightens your senses. And who knows, you might just be creating a new tradition.

Enjoy the stunning colors of fall, on the table and outdoors.

Hailey Moore

To make the most of your meal, take time to plan the menu. We’ve offered some great recipes here, but feel free to make modifications that cater to your taste. Most of the recipes will require at least a few of these key ingredients:

Staple Ingredients: Fire-proof gloves, aluminum foil, camp skillet, olive oil, sharp knife, salt and pepper, 1-2 heads fresh garlic

Specific ingredients for each dish are listed below. Of course a campfire is going to be the most important element in your rustic repast, so be sure to know the basics of building a good cooking fire. A level, U-shaped fire ring with one prominent “chimney” stone at the back is ideal, but any flat fire ring will eventually produce the desired bed of smoldering coals. This smoldering bed of coals is going to be crucial to ensure even cooking of your food. Bringing along a fire grate is optional but encouraged if you intend to use camp cookware. However, several of the recipes below call for no more from the kitchen then a simple roll of aluminum foil, which is great if you plan on packing light.

Hobo Packs

Hobo Packs use a few key ingredients that will transformed once cooked together.

Katie Taylor

These recipes embody the simplistic yet delicious flavors that can be achieved by cooking over an open fire with nothing more than aluminum foil and your favorite seasonal produce or cured meats. Quick pro tip: once you have your fire blazing and are waiting for it to turn to coal, place your fresh garlic on a nearby stone to roast while you prepare the rest of your ingredients. Be sure the garlic does not catch fire, but is close enough to roast in the husk. This will make an amazingly smoky, savory addition to your meal. Now you’re ready to begin.

  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3-4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 large beets, peeled and chopped
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme, sage or rosemary
  • a couple cloves of roasted garlic
  • handful dried cranberries, toasted pumpkin seeds, or pecans
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start by chopping an assortment of the fall veggies listed above. It is important to chop them fairly small so that you’re not waiting all night for them to cook. Tear a 12-inch sheet of aluminum foil (one per person) and mold around your fist in the shape of a “pocket”. Depending on how full you’re filling your pocket, you may want to double up the foil. Drizzle some olive oil into the bottom of the pocket to prevent sticking and fill with veggies. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, add a sprig of thyme, sage, or rosemary and stuff in a couple cloves of roasted garlic if you made some earlier. Add about ¼ cup of water, fold pocket closed and set to cook on the coals for 20-40 minutes. Bringing along some pre-cooked bacon, or honey ham to throw in with your veggies is also a great way to add a savory umami kick.

Chorizo Hobo Packs

  • 8 oz. dried Spanish chorizo, casings removed and chopped
  • 1 ½ pounds fingerling potatoes, chopped (skin on is OK)
  • 3- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 stalks celery
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme, sage or rosemary
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

The great thing about using dried chorizo here is that you don’t have to worry about refrigeration and can spend the day on the trail worry-free. Chop all of your ingredients and wrap per the same method as the Veggie Hobo Packs. Cook over the coals for 25-35 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Campfire Panini and Turkey Cream Cheese Sammy

A skillet over the campfire is a great way to cook cheesy, delicious paninis.

Basheer Tome

If low maintenance cooking is your M.O., we’ve got you covered. Sandwiches, especially hot sandwiches with beautiful golden-buttered toast, and melted cheese oozing through the crumb (let the salivation begin) are perhaps one of the most underrated comfort foods around. And with the holidays being about comfort food, we thought we’d share some of our suggestions for making the best holiday sandwich you’ve ever had. The amounts here yield about 4 sandwiches.


  • 8-10 oz. carved roasted turkey or honey ham
  • 1 jar fig preserves, apple butter or cranberry chutney (you pick your jam)
  • 8 oz. sliced gruyere, gouda, brie, provolone or swiss (you want a creamy, melting cheese)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 granny smith apple, thinly sliced
  • A loaf of sliced bread (honey wheat or sourdough are great options)

Assemble your sandwiches with the ingredients listed. Heat a camp skillet over the hot coals and add 1 tbl. butter to melt. Once butter is melted, toast your sandwich in the pan, grilled-cheese style.

Turkey Cream Cheese

  • 8-10 oz. Carved roasted turkey
  • 8 -10 slices crispy bacon
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • handful chives, chopped or fresh rosemary, chopped
  • A loaf of sliced bread (try rye or pumpernickel)

Toast your bread slices in a pan with a small amount of butter. Meanwhile, mix cream cheese with chives or rosemary (or both!). Once toasted, spread the herb cream cheese on your bread slices and go to town adding the turkey and bacon slices. It’s that easy.

Holiday Hash

Use traditional seasonal ingredients—or anything else you like—in creating a campfire hash.

Hailey Moore

This dish is a mash-up of the sweet and savory holiday flavors that make a dish satisfying. This is a one pan meal which makes it ideal for camp cooking.

Camp skillet

  • 1 lb. ground turkey or pork sausage (if hiking at all before setting up camp, use frozen sausage so that it will be cold but thawed by the time you’re ready to cook)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 apples, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tbl. maple syrup
  • 2-3 cloves roasted garlic, minced
  • A few dashes of the following spices: cinnamon, cayenne, and sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of skillet with olive oil, cook sausage with maple syrup until browned, then remove the sausage from the skillet and set aside. Add onions and sweet potatoes to the pan and cook until sweet potatoes begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add apples and spice mixture, cooking 8-10 minutes, or until sweet potatoes and apples are completely tender. Return the cooked sausage to the pan and toss together with a handful of dried cranberries, pecans or toasted pumpkin seeds!

Baked Apples

Is anything more reminiscent of the holidays then the aroma of baking apples and cinnamon? This perfect combination is truly a hallmark of any holiday meal, and should be included in yours too.

For our rustic rendition of baked apples you will need an apple per person, aluminum foil, pairing knife and a 50/50 cinnamon-sugar mix. Leaving the skin on, cut a hole in the top and bottom of the apples to pop out the core and create a hole that cuts through the apple. Set the apple upright on a piece of foil. Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of cinnamon sugar mixture into the hole (which should be closed off by the foil) and wrap the foil closed around the apple. Place on the coals to cook for 10-15 minutes and enjoy a piping hot-baked apple.

It’s true that most of us do not eat the same way year-round as we do around the holidays. We expect the same to be true for how we eat on the trail—usually we throw in a few packs of instant oatmeal, trail mix, some ramen and call it good. But for this special season, we hope you feel inspired to pack in a little extra weight (to keep a little extra off) and indulge in some holiday feasting and festivities chez-mother nature. Being gathered around the warmth of a fire inspires storytelling and memory sharing much the same way as being gathered around the family table.

Written by Hailey Moore for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Anne Worner