Winter camping can really be fantastic, provided you’ve got the proper winter camping gear to stay warm and safe. With winter in full swing, we thought we’d take some time to point out a few winter camping essentials that can make your winter trips safe, warm, and lots of fun.
Let’s get right to it!
- 1) Can I Use My RV to Camp in the Winter?
Winter Camping Gear for Your Epic Winter Camping Trip
- 2.1) Moisture-Wicking Warm Base Layers
- 2.2) Warm Boots
- 2.3) Warm Socks
- 2.4) Warm Hats
- 2.5) Warm Gloves or Mittens
- 2.6) Face Protection
- 2.7) Heaters for the RV
- 2.8) Solo Camping Stove
- 2.9) Snow Shoes
- 2.10) Portable Ice Fishing Shack
- 2.11) Phone Protection
- 2.12) Quality Thermos
- 2.13) Flashlights and Headlamps
- 2.14) Heated Mattress Pad or Blanket
- 2.15) Rice Bag
- 2.16) Sleeping Bags Rated For Sub-Freezing Temps
- 2.17) Extra Drinking Water
- 2.18) Small Portable Power Station
- 2.19) Battery Jumper
- 3) Tell Us About Your Epic Winter Camping Trips!
Can I Use My RV to Camp in the Winter?
You certainly can use your RV to camp in the winter! Most RVs are equipped with a way to keep you warm, but even if you have a van or an older camper with a non-working heater, there are electric heaters (if you’re plugged in), propane heaters, 12V heated blankets, and all sorts of ways to keep warm.
RVs can be especially cozy and fun in the winter. Lots of people take their RVs to the slopes to ski and snowboard and spend their nights in their cozy RV before hitting the slopes again the following day.
If you’re thinking of camping in climates where the weather can potentially hit freezing or below, you may want to take a look at our post entitled, “Tips for RV Winter Camping”. We’ve got all sorts of good information there to keep you and your RV safe, warm, and enjoying RV living in winter.
But this post is about winter camping gear, so let’s get into our suggestions for some winter camping essentials you might like to try.
Winter Camping Gear for Your Epic Winter Camping Trip
The central focus when winter camping, of course, is staying warm. Whether you’re out on the slopes or hiking, or even just taking a walk in a quaint village you visit on your winter road trip, you’re going to need to stay warm. And you’ll need to stay warm inside your RV as well. So let’s get into the winter camping gear that will help you to do just that.
Moisture-Wicking Warm Base Layers
A warm base layer is an essential piece of winter camping gear because, in order to stay warm, you need to also stay dry. A moisture-wicking layer worn as the closest layer to your skin will help you do that.
There are lots of great base layers out there, but a couple that are favorites among hunters, skiers, and snowboarders are the Meriwool and Smartwool base layers made of 100% merino wool.
This one is a heavyweight layer, (400g), so it’s relatively thick. You’ll want to keep your desired thickness and level of warmth in mind as you shop for any base layer. Meriwool also makes midweight and lightweight base layers that are thinner and lighter… and probably more appropriate for chilly weather rather than long stints in deep cold.
Smartwool makes various weights of base layers as well. This one is a ¼ zip base layer made of Smartwool’s lightest weight Merino wool jersey fabric.
- Temperature regulating
Warm boots are must-have winter camping gear when camping in cold weather no matter what winter activities you may be enjoying. Boots should keep your feet warm and dry, and should also have good treads for walking on snow and ice.
The warmth offered by a good boot depends on multiple factors including fit, socks, activity, and the climate in which they’re being warm. We’re going to stay away from offering specific suggestions where boots are concerned for this reason. The perfect boot for one person won’t be adequate for another.
What we will suggest, however, is that you very carefully read reviews, and focus on reviews from people who mention using the boots as you intend to use your winter boots. Will they be for winter hiking? Casual walking in a chilly climate without snow? Outdoor winter activities in areas where temps regularly sit below freezing?
Also, pay attention to fit suggestions by boot manufacturers, and leave plenty of room for warm socks and a not-tight fit. (That’s “not-tight” as opposed to loose!)
Okay, let’s get to those warm socks!
Smartwool is known for its warm, comfortable socks, offered in multiple weights for various activities and temperatures. As with everything high-quality, they’re more pricey than other winter socks, but they do last, and if they keep your feet warm, they’re well worth the investment.
As with the base layers noted above, choose the weight of your Smartwool (or any other brand) socks based on anticipated temperatures in the locations where you’ll be using them as winter camping gear, and note that most companies that produce high-quality winter socks offer different weight socks for various activities. When you’re shopping, take care to order the appropriate socks for your particular use.
- Heavy cushion for impact absorption and warmth
- For a dialed, performance-oriented fit with flex zone at ankle joint
A warm hat (or several) can make or break how warm you can be in really cold winter weather. If you intend to be camping in moderately cool temperatures, almost any decent hat will do, especially if you’ve got a coat with a hood to pull up should temps drop or wind increase.
But anyone who camps in very cold weather may want to look to longtime winter camping gear companies like L.L. Bean for warm, weatherproof hats (and other gear as well), or to some of the highly-rated cold-weather hats from Carhartt, Timberland, Smartwool, etc.
We’ll drop links to a few hats with great ratings here, but again – gauge what you need based on where you intend to camp and the activities you’re planning. Keeping your head warm is an important part of keeping your body warm!
- Double layered for maximum warmth
- Cleanly finished seams for bulk-free fit
And yes – we’re aware of the Canada Goose Pom Toque beanies, so don’t come at us for leaving them out. We’re aware of the hats and their great reviews – we’re just not aware of a lot of people who are into spending $150 on a hat. Extreme kudos to Canada Goose for producing some great hats though!
Warm Gloves or Mittens
This can be a tough one, depending on the level of cold where you intend to camp. Warm gloves or mittens are absolutely essential winter camping gear. Frostbite on the fingers is no minor concern if you’re out in areas of the deep freeze.
With that said, we’ve got a couple of suggestions. The first is to note that our fingers tend to keep each other warm, and separating them glove style isn’t always the best idea (again, depending on the level of cold where you are).
So – if you intend to camp in areas of deep cold, we’d suggest choosing the warmest mittens you can find. If your winter camping destinations are more likely to be moderately chilly, a good glove may be just what you need.
The companies we mentioned in the hat section are good companies to look to for high-quality gloves and mittens. In addition, Burton Snowboards makes a nice hybrid glove/mitten combo that’s highly rated for both warmth and usefulness. The glove insert is completely removable for occasions that call for use of the glove only. And should you find yourself camping in sub-freezing temperatures, there’s a zippered pocket for the placement of hand warmers.
- DRYRIDE two-layer fabric shell is highly breathable, waterproof, and quick-drying
- Screen Grab Toughgrip palm and fingers for total touchscreen control
- Insulated work glove featuring logo across knuckles, nose wipe, and wrist strap with barrel-lock adjuster
- Moisture-wicking lining
For a simpler work glove, Carhartt’s waterproof insulated lineup holds onto very good reviews year after year.
- Durable polytex shell
- FastDry technology lining wicks away sweat for comfort
For face protection in truly cold weather, a neck gaiter made of 100% merino wool is a great option. It’s versatile (can be worn on the neck and pulled up to cover part of the face), and is moisture-wicking, which is very important for protecting your face from chapping in the winter air.
This one is from Smartwool, and it’s their heavy-weight (250) level, but gaiters for more moderately cold weather (150) are also available from Smartwool, Meriwool, and others. They’re a must-have on your list of essential winter camping gear.
- Double layer Interlock knit for maximum warmth and versatility
- Knit in Vietnam: 100% Merino Wool
Heaters for the RV
As noted in our companion post “Tips for RV Winter Camping”, there are a couple of ways to heat your RV without having to run the full-house heat… which can require significant electricity and fuel (diesel or propane), depending on the type of heating system your rig has.
If you’re winter camping in a location where you’re hooked up to shore power, an energy-efficient space heater works well to heat the main area of your living space.
This 1500W space heater from Pelonis offers widespread oscillation as well as tip-over protection and is consistently well-reviewed. It’s also compact and has a programmable thermostat.
$ave Money! Buy the black version. The white costs twice as much for the same product.
- WIDESPREAD OSCILLATION FUNCTION: This ceramic heater can rotate from side to side within 83 degrees, so it can be fast and evenly warming the entire...
- SAFE TO USE - The PTC electric heater made of cool touch ABS UL94 V0 flame resistant material. US standard socket can directly plug into an outlet...
A second good option for heating your rig in winter without running your whole-house heater is a solid propane catalytic heater like this popular Camco Olympian Wave heater. These come with legs to stand on the floor or they can be wall-mounted. While we haven’t used one ourselves (we have a different, but similar, indoor propane heater we consider to be on of our winter camping essentials), we do know that they come highly recommended by many RVers.
Just be sure that you keep one thing in mind… warming the interior of the RV with alternate heat sources like this may mean that your basement & water compartments won’t be kept warm, either. Plan accordingly to ensure you don’t damage your plumbing by letting it freeze.
Solo Camping Stove
Solo portable fire pits are made of stainless steel in a double-wall design that maximizes both airflow and burning. There are air holes on the bottom of the stove that encourage oxygen to feed the fire. Millions of these portable fire pits have been sold by Solo and their excellent reviews suggest they’re everything they were created to be.
Note that Solo portable fire pits come in a variety of sizes. This one (19.5” x 14” and 20 pounds) is among the most popular (despite some complaints about ash buildup and rust when left out), and the fuel source is firewood logs:
- MOST UNIQUE FIRE PIT: Solo Stove Bonfire pushes the limits of both combustion airflow efficiency and minimalist outdoor design with its all stainless...
- SECONDARY COMBUSTION: The camping stove has double wall design maximizes airflow and burning process. Bottom vent holes allow oxygen to the feed the...
If you prefer, there are portable fire pits that run on propane, like this one from Outland Living. At half the price of the Solo stove above, this 58,000 BTU smokeless portable propane fire pit has been extremely well received by the market.
These are reportedly far less messy, but you do have to have a propane source to use them. While we don’t have one ourselves, our friends Rae and Jason (Getaway Couple) own one and love it (and we’ve enjoyed it with them, from time to time). You can check out their review of the Outland Living Model 863 for yourself.
- Perfect no mess campfire: with our fire pit say goodbye to dirty ash, expensive firewood, and bothersome smoke and enjoy a clean realistic propane...
- Compact and easy to transport: Travel size fire pit is lightweight and portable; Easily set up in minutes with no tools required. Lower profile...
For you snow enthusiasts out there (more power to you! ☃️), a great pair of snowshoes might be the perfect piece of activity-oriented winter camping gear for your list of essentials. No matter where you are, or how much it snows, you can move through the snow like a champ in a pair of shoes that are made – literally – for walking on top of the snow.
Hiking trails that are deeply snow-covered can’t be hiked with traditional hiking boots, but if you snap your warm winter boots into a pair of good snowshoes, you’ll be able to continue your hiking year-round, no matter where you are.
We don’t own a pair of snowshoes because we
despise cold weather enjoy snowbirding, but L.L. Bean carries a wide range of snowshoes & poles. If you’re just starting out, an inexpensive pair of Chinook Trekkers or Yukon Charlies might work well. Remember to check sizes and grab a set of trekking poles.
- Light weight and strong aluminum frame features an ergonomic design to ensure comfortable and easy walks
- UV resistant polyethylene decking, easy-to-use dual ratchet bindings and heel straps with quick release buckles
- Weighing 5.0 pounds, the 10x36-inch frame is built for users from 251 to 300 pounds. Unisex design for women and men
- Designed to deliver confidence and ease to any recreational snowshoer
- Great for Everybody - Our hiking poles are a perfet fit from beginners to experts, children, teens, adults & seniors. Anybody from 3'6" up to 6'4"...
- Comfortable - Ergonomic grips, lightweight aluminum, an extra wide padded wrist strap and an anti shock feature in each poles helps make our hiking...
Portable Ice Fishing Shack
For the ice fishing enthusiasts among us, an essential piece of winter camping gear may just be a portable ice fishing shack. Collapsible and compact, you can take one of these along with you in your travels, set it up anywhere the ice is in and solid, and enjoy your favorite sport.
This one offers a 60-second setup and self-tapping ice anchors. Pull it out of your RV’s basement, set it up in a few minutes, get inside where it’s warm (ish) and drop a line!
We have friends in the northeast who can barely take a walk around the block in the winter without their cell phones losing power due to cold exposure. That’s what gave us the idea to drop one of these on our list of winter camping essentials.
A pouch like this one serves to keep your smartphone warm enough to function, should you need it. And goodness knows if you’re out hiking or camping in the snow, you need a functioning communication device.
Make sure to choose the proper size for your phone:
- Large Size: Please measure your phone case to fit the Interior Dimensions 6.5" x 0.40" x 3.6" / made for iPhone 8+/XR/XSMax/11/11-13ProMax, Galaxy...
- BUY WITH CONFIDENCE: The PHOOZY has been featured by the Today Show, Cosmo, and others. Forbes listed PHOOZY as "Essential Travel Gear"" and Gear...
Nothing’s better during a hike in the cold than a nice hot cup of coffee or cocoa right on the trail. Having a high-quality thermos in your backpack with your favorite hot beverage is a game-changer.
Stanley has been around for generations, and their good old-fashioned classic vacuum insulated wide-mouth thermos is a thing of beauty when you unscrew the top and the steam comes flowing out. Surely, there are more expensive, and higher-tech options to choose from, but this one’s time-tested!
Flashlights and Headlamps
These are items no camper should be without, but we’re including them on our list of winter camping gear because they’re really must-have items.
A quality flashlight and headlamp are useful for multiple reasons, some of which will surprise you out of the blue. Always make sure you have batteries on hand for any flashlight you’re relying on for illumination.
Or you can get a rechargeable flashlight like this one from Anker and just make sure to keep it charged. (Pro Tip: Anker also sells rechargeable battery packs, and if you keep one on hand in your backpack or RV, you’ll always be able to power your flashlight when you need it.)
- SUPER-BRIGHT: 400-lumen Cree LED (50000-hour lifespan). A compact, yet radiant flashlight to illuminate any dark spot, space, or place. Features High...
- LONG-LASTING: Up to 20 hours (Medium-beam mode) of powerful, non-diminishing brightness from the included premium rechargeable 3350mAh battery. LEDs...
There are rechargeable headlamps available as well. These tend to have a very long battery life, and as noted above can be charged on the go with a battery pack if necessary.
- SUPER BRIGHT AND POWERFUL: Equipped with 1000-lumen CREE LED lights, our upgraded SLONIK 2nd generation rechargeable headlamp can cast a super bright...
- LIFESPAN OF 100000 HRS: This dust and IPX8 waterproof LED headlamp is a must-have on the list of camping essentials. The headlamps for adults sport an...
- 36800mAh Ultra-high Capacity: [2022 Version] 36800mAh power bank with ultra-high capacity can charging for iphone 13/12 /11 above 6 times, Samsung...
- Power Bank with Tri-Output & Dual Input : With 2.1A 3 USB Output ports , you can charge 3 devices simultaneously. Dual Inport - 2.1A USB C Input, 2.1...
Heated Mattress Pad or Blanket
Our list of essential winter camping gear for your epic winter camping trips wouldn’t be complete without a couple of bed-warming devices, namely the heated mattress pad and/or heated blanket.
While you’re unlikely to need both of these, choosing one or the other may be a wise move. In the cold of winter, heating your bed before you get into it is a great way to not only get warm and comfortable but also to avoid using a heater in your bedroom or using your whole-house heater.
Of course, you have to keep things like the plumbing system from freezing, so winter camping will demand some sort of heat distribution, but at bedtime and early in the morning, turning on the warmth of a quality heated mattress pad or heating blanket will keep you surprisingly comfortable even on the coldest of days.
Sunbeam makes heated mattress pads for twin, full, queen, and king-sized beds. The king and queen-sized pads have dual controls. All four sizes offer 10 heat settings, auto temperature adjustments, and auto-off functions, and are machine washable and dryer safe. Sunbeam offers a 5-year limited warranty on these high-quality heated mattress pads.
- SOOTHE ACHING MUSCLES: This soft Sunbeam Quilted Heated Mattress Pad features dual side controllers, each with 10 heat settings to help soothe neck,...
- EASY TO USE: The ComfortTec Controllers give you control over heat levels, while dual-sided ThermoFine technology assures heat consistency by...
Sunbeam also offers a micro plush heated blanket with 10 heat settings. The king and queen sizes have dual controllers.
- ComfortTec Controller with digital display and push button controls
- Pre-heat feature warms cold sheets before bedtime
One Note: the controls for heated mattress pads/blankets don’t always play well with modified sine wave power (it tends to dramatically shorten their lifespan if they’ll work at all). So if you plan to use yours when you’re not hooked up to power, you may need to consider upgrading your RV’s inverter… or using a small solar generator that has a pure-sine inverter to provide power.
If you’re boondocking and don’t have much power to spare, you can turn on your generator for just two minutes or so and use your RV’s microwave to heat up a heavy-duty rice bag. A high-quality rice bag will not only warm you and your bed at night but can be used anytime for added warmth or to ease sore muscles and joints (like after your epic snow-shoeing adventure).
Grandpa’s Garden makes some of the highest quality hot and cold packs on the market. Made in the USA and filled with a mixture of 100% food-grade flax, long grain rice, and pure clove & cinnamon, Grandpa’s Garden packs offer an aromatic warmth that lasts for a surprisingly long time. (They do offer a scent-free version as well if you’d prefer.)
This lumbar size is 11” x 9” x 1.5” and weighs a substantial 2.4 pounds. It comes with a high-quality flannel cover that can be tossed into the washing machine for regular cleaning.
We predict this becomes one of your favorite things…(like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens).
Sleeping Bags Rated For Sub-Freezing Temps
Warm bedding is key when winter camping, but another easy way to ensure all-night warmth is by sleeping in a cocoon provided by a sleeping bag rated for sub-freezing temperatures.
Teton Sports makes a sleeping bag that’ll keep you warm in temps down to -25℉. These can be ordered with either a left-zip or a right-zip, and all come with a compression sack for easy, compact storage.
This is their extra-large, extra-warm version – the Celsius XL – but Teton makes a variety of sizes and weights including double bags for two (called the Mammoth).
- WARM AND COZY THREE SEASON BAG: Adjustable shoulder and full-length zipper baffles eliminate drafts; Size 90x36 inches, fifteen inches longer than...
- HIGH-QUALITY DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION: Sturdy taffeta shell is durable, easy to pack, and stands up to years of use; Double-layer construction for...
Extra Drinking Water
No matter what time of year you’re camping, it’s important to have a sufficient amount of water at hand. But when winter camping, you’ll want to bring along extra water just in case something should happen that either leaves you stranded due to a storm or impassable roads, or in case there’s an issue with your onboard water system due to freezing temperatures.
Any type of BPA-free water storage container (collapsible ones are easily stored when not in use) will work well for extra drinking water. We’ll link to a few here, but there are numerous types of containers from which to choose on Amazon and via retailers everywhere.
These containers from WaterStorageCube offer BPA-free food-grade storage that is freezable. When empty, the cubes can be folded and easily stored. They come in a variety of sizes. Be sure to choose a size you can easily lift.
- 🌊 ECOLOGICAL- Non-toxic food grade with no BPA, PVC or DEHP. Made with environment-friendly premium PET PA PE plastics. It's clear, soft, flexible,...
- 🌊 TRAVEL BUDDY- 1.3 & 2.6 gallon sizes. Portable, lightweight & compact water carrier. Easily folds or stores flat taking up little space. Stash...
These 5.3-gallon collapsible water containers offer larger storage with a spigot for dispensing the water. Remember that every gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds, making these more than 44-pounds each, so buy only water containers you know you can move. If you can fill them while they’re in your rig and leave them there, all the better!
- Include 2 collapsible water container, made of premium USA raw material LDPE4 plastic, low density which gives it flexibility. No BPA PVC or DEHP. No...
- It is light and flexible, easy to store and collapse. You can fold it up when not in use, which save your space. It keeps shapes, easy to fill, dry,...
Small Portable Power Station
Small portable power stations like those from Bluetti, Jackery, and EcoFlow bring power to your RV even when you’re boondocking.
These power stations contain everything you need to store power and charge your devices. They’re compact and contain a battery (usually lithium), charge controller (for charging via solar panel(s), sold separately), inverter, and various ports for charging USB-A, USB-C, 12V, and 120V devices.
There are a number of these portable power stations on the market, and we invite you to check out our post entitled, “5 Best Choices for a Solar Generator For Your RV”, for details on our top five.
We like the Bluetti EB70S 800W (peak 1400W) portable power station with a LiFePo4 battery, four AC outlets, 2 100W USB-C ports, 2 USB-A ports, a regulated 12V car socket, and 2 DC ports as well as a wireless charging pad.
- 【MASSIVE CAPACITY OF 716WH】 Packing with a larger capacity of 716Wh and higher rated power of 800W, this 12-Outlets EB70S is the perfect choice of...
- 【MULTI OUTPUTS, MORE OPTIONS】 Featuring 4 x PURE SINE WAVE AC outlets, 2 x 100W USB-C ports, 2 x USB-A ports, 1 x Regulated 12V car socket, 2 x DC...
The best known of the portable power stations are probably those from Jackery that come in various power levels including 240W, 300W, 500W, 1000W, and 1500W. As you might imagine, the higher the wattage, the more expensive the unit.
Like the Bluetti units, these little boxes can be charged via solar, (solar panels sold separately), wall wart, or by 12V in your vehicle, as you drive.
Here’s the Jackery 500:
- LONG LASTING ENDURANCE: The Explorer 500 portable power station is built with the lithium-ion battery pack, in a safely designed frame structure to...
- THE PERFECT CAPACITY: With a 518 watt-hour (24Ah, 21.6V) capacity, it is ready to power many appliances - mini cooler, fan, projector, lamp light, and...
And believe it or not, we’re going to close out our list of winter camping essentials with a little box that’ll jump-start your rig if you find yourself in a bind with a battery so stunned by the cold that it won’t start your truck or RV.
These little battery jump starters come in all shapes and sizes. This one from HULKMAN offers 2000 peak cranking amps and can start vehicles with up to 8.5L gas or 6.0L diesel engines. A single charge is said to be able to jump-start a rig 60 times (which means we’d count on about half that many and keep the jump starter charged and ready to go at all times). It comes with a compact storage case.
- Easier & Safer Start Assurance: Product status is intuitively shown on a 3.3-inch smart screen, so you can start your car easily. Over 9 types of...
- Powerful Performer: 2000 Amps peak cranking amp can start the vehicles up to 8.5L Gas/6.0L Diesel engines. A single charge can achieve 60 times...
Tell Us About Your Epic Winter Camping Trips!
We think the list of winter camping gear above will help you to have some really wonderful winter camping trips. For those of you who’ve experienced winter camping, especially in the deep cold, we’d love to hear about your experiences, as well as any additional tips or gear you’d recommend.
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