Table of contents

Winter Camping Checklist

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Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.
Winter Camping Checklist

When you go into the backcountry during the harshest season of the year, it pays to have the right equipment to keep you safe, comfortable, and having fun. Whether you’re experienced, or you’ve never been winter camping before, working through a thorough checklist like the one below will give you peace of mind when preparing for an adventure. We hope it makes packing for your next winter camping trip quick and easy.

For recommendations on our favorite backpacking equipment for spring, summer, and fall trips, check out theCleverHiker Gear Guide and Top Picks page.

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Winter Camping Checklist

You won’t need everything on this list for every winter trip, but it’s a good idea to think through each of the following items as you gather your gear so you don’t forget anything important.

Scroll down to see our recommendations and learn more about why these items are good for winter camping.

SHELTER

CAMP KITCHEN

ENTERTAINMENT

  • Book or Kindle (optional)
  • Games (optional)
  • Notebook + pen (optional)
  • Headphones (optional)

NAVIGATION EQUIPMENT

FIRST AID

(buying a first aid kit is a good place to start)

PERSONAL TOILETRIES

  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper/wipes + sealable bag (to pack it out)
  • Menstrual products
  • Toothbrush + paste
  • Floss
  • Prescription Rx
  • OTC meds. + vitamins
  • Contact lenses + supplies/glasses
  • Lotion (optional)
  • Eye drops (optional)
  • Small comb (optional)
  • Hair ties (optional)
  • Nail clipper (optional)
  • Pre trip: Clip nails, cut hair, shave, etc.

FOOD

  • Provisions – commonly between 2,500-3,500 calories per day (meals, snacks)
  • Extra day’s supply of food (for emergencies)
  • Butter, oil & condiments
  • Coffee & drink mixes
  • Food bag/Ursack (waterproof if hanging a bear bag)
  • 50’ nylon cord + small carabiner for bear bag hanging (or) bear canister (where required)
  • Liquor in a flask (optional)

BACKPACK & STORAGE

SLEEP SYSTEM

SNOW GEAR

For technical terrain

TOOLS & ACCESSORIES

EMERGENCY KIT

HYDRATION

CLOTHING

PACK IN CAR

Winter camping gear tends to be a bit heavy, but you can still travel comfortably with some meticulous planning.

Winter camping gear tends to be a bit heavy, but you can still travel comfortably with some meticulous planning.

Winter Camping Gear Recommendations

TENT – We use theNEMO Kunai 2 and Mountain Hardwear Outpost 2 / Trango 2 for most of our winter camping trips. They have a great balance of weight, strength, and weather protection. See how they compare on our Best 4-Season Tents list. If you’re looking for an ultralight tent that can be used year-round, theHyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 is also a solid option. We love its combination of low weight and livability and that’s why it’s one of our top picks on our Best Ultralight Tents list

TENT STAKES – Regular stakes tend to pull out when they’re placed in the snow the same way you’d stick them in the ground. Bury them sideways (aka deadman-style) and pack snow over them for a much more secure hold. You could also upgrade to wide snow stakes if you prefer.

A 4-season tent, like the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2, has stronger poles, more durable fabric, & a dome-shaped design for solid protection in harsh conditions.

A 4-season tent, like the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2, has stronger poles, more durable fabric, & a dome-shaped design for solid protection in harsh conditions.

BACKPACK – Winter camping requires a bit more gear than 3-season backpacking, so we prefer backpacks that have solid frames and a bit more capacity to comfortably support a heavy load. If you’re looking to save some weight, the HMG Southwest 3400 is number one on our list of the Best Backpacking Backpacks and is durable, spacious, and nearly waterproof. For heavier loads, a backpack like the Osprey Atmos 65 AG (men’s sizes) and Aura AG 65 (women’s sizes) will have more support.

the Osprey Atmos 65 AG has plenty of capacity & support for winter camping trips.

the Osprey Atmos 65 AG has plenty of capacity & support for winter camping trips.

SLEEPING BAG – We use the Western Mountaineering Versalite 10F and REI Co-op Magma 15 for winter trips. Both are lightweight, incredibly warm, and make our list of the Best Sleeping Bags

The Western Mountaineering Versalite 10F Sleeping bag along with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm & NEMO Switchback sleeping pads make the perfect winter camping sleep system.

The Western Mountaineering Versalite 10F Sleeping bag along with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm &NEMO Switchback sleeping pads make the perfect winter camping sleep system.

SLEEPING PAD – The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm is the best sleeping pad we’ve found for winter trips, because it’s lightweight, comfortable, and warm. Check out our list of the Best Sleeping Pads and our full review of the XTherm to see how it compares to other pads. We like to use a closed-cell foam pad, like the NEMO Switchback, under our air pad to add warmth. We also sit and stand on a foam pad whenever we’re on breaks or inactive at camp during snowy trips.

the MSR Whisperlite & Jetboil MiniMo perform well on winter camping trips with below-freezing temperatures.

theMSR Whisperlite & Jetboil MiniMo perform well on winter camping trips with below-freezing temperatures.

COOKING SYSTEM – Not all backpacking stoves perform well in winter conditions, but theMSR Whisperlite is a classic liquid-fuel stove that works well in any weather. It utilizes affordable white gas for boiling lots of water for a group. The Jetboil MiniMo cooking system has a regulator and it’s performed well for us in mild winter conditions. It’s super fast, easy to fire up with gloves on, and it has excellent simmer control. If you use a canister stove, keep the fuel in your jacket to warm it up before you cook. Both stoves make our Best Backpacking Stoves list.

chlorine dioxide drops are a quick & lightweight water treatment for winter trips.

chlorine dioxide drops are a quick & lightweight water treatment for winter trips.

WATER PURIFIER – If running water is available in a nearby creek, we usechlorine dioxide drops or pills on winter trips. They’re lightweight, inexpensive, and they work fast. If no running water is available, we melt and boil snow with a camp stove.

A durable plastic water bottle, like a Nalgene, can be filled with boiling water to heat your sleeping bag.

A durable plastic water bottle, like a Nalgene, can be filled with boiling water to heat your sleeping bag.

WATER BOTTLES – A heat-resistant, BPA-free plastic water bottle with a screw-top lid can double as a space heater for your sleeping bag on winter camping trips if you fill it with hot water. Just make sure you thoroughly test the lid for leaks before you get it anywhere near your dry sleeping bag. You may also want to consider bringing an insulated water bottle, like the Lightweight Hydro Flask, so you can sip hot drinks throughout the day to stay warm.

Salomon’s X Ultra Mid Winter CS WP are some of our all-time favorite winter boots for snow adventures.

Salomon’s X Ultra Mid Winter are some of our all-time favorite winter boots for snow adventures.

SHOES OR BOOTS – Waterproof winter boots are great for snowy trips because they’re compatible with snowshoes and they keep your feet warm, dry, and comfortable. Just remember, it’s important to break your boots in before trips to avoid blisters. Salomon’s X Ultra Mid Winter are our top pick from our Best Winter Boots guide for their excellent traction, durability, and comfort. If your feet tend to get cold at night, get yourself a pair of down booties. They’re a seriously-worthwhile luxury item for around camp and in your sleeping bag.

It gets dark early in the winter, so bring good headlamps & plenty of batteries.

It gets dark early in the winter, so bring good headlamps & plenty of batteries.

HEADLAMP – Having a reliable headlamp is really important on winter trips, since daylight hours are short and you’ll need plenty of light for evening activities and camp duties after sunset. We like the Fenix HM50R V2.0 from our Best Headlamps list for winter trips since it’s very bright, easy to operate with gloved hands, and it performs well in the cold.

Pack plenty of delicious snacks to stave off hiker hunger on winter trips.

Pack plenty of delicious snacks to stave off hiker hunger on winter trips.

FOOD – You’ll burn a lot of calories while winter camping, so you’ll need plenty of snacks and delicious hot meals to stay fueled and to make chilly trips more enjoyable. For some suggestions on what to bring, check out our food page where we cover the Best Freeze Dried Meals, Energy Bars, Backpacking Meal Recipes, and more.

FOOD STORAGE – For most winter trips, we bring an Ursack to keep the critters out of our food. Whether or not there are food storage requirements or bears in the area you’ll be camping in, it will give you peace of mind to know that you’re storing your food properly.Bear canisters and Ursacks are easy to use and are the most effective storage methods.

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A sturdy Rain jacket, like the Arc’teryx Beta AR (men’s & women’s), works great for layering on winter trips

CLOTHING – Having clothing that performs well in damp, cold conditions is critical on winter camping trips. Here are some of our favorite winter-specific clothing items:

Navigating in the snow can be difficult, so bring plenty of tools & keep your eye on landmarks as you go.

Navigating in the snow can be difficult, so bring plenty of tools & keep your eye on landmarks as you go.

MAP &COMPASS – Navigating in the snow can be difficult when there aren’t many landmarks to keep an eye on. We like to use a combination of detailed maps, a compass, and GPS/phone app.

FIRST AID KIT – Always bring a small personalized first aid kit. We used the .7 Ultralight Kit with added extras, like painkillers and personal medications.

A small multitool, like the Leatherman Squirt Ps4, comes in handy for the unexpected on winter camping trips.

A small multitool, like the Leatherman Squirt Ps4, comes in handy for the unexpected on winter camping trips.

POCKET KNIFE – We carry a lightweightpocket knife with a decent-size blade whenever we plan to do any major cooking on winter trips. A smallmultitool can also come in handy for opening food packages, doing first aid, and for unexpected fixes on winter camping trips.

CAMERA – TheSony RX100 is our go-to point-and-shoot camera. Modern cell phone cameras are also super convenient and have shockingly good image quality for backcountry trips.

You’ll need a snow shovel to level a tent site & build a snow kitchen in your snow camp.

You’ll need a snow shovel to level a tent site & build a snow kitchen in camp.

SNOW SHOVEL – A snow shovel is excellent for all your winter camping snow-scaping needs. We like theBackcountry Access Dozer since it’s lightweight, has an extendable handle, and it has a flat top edge so you can easily kick it through hard-packed snow.

The MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes have excellent traction, heel risers for ascents & comfy, easy-to-use bindings.

The MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes have excellent traction, heel risers for ascents & comfy, easy-to-use bindings.

SNOWSHOES – Snowshoes can make or break a winter camping trip, so make sure to choose a quality pair that fit your feet right. For the best experience, match your snowshoes to the type of terrain and snow conditions you’ll be encountering. The MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes are our favorite overall for their flotation, traction, and comfort. Check out all of our recommendations on our Best Snowshoes Gear Guide to find the perfect pair for you.


More on Winter Camping

We hope this checklist has you pumped for your next winter adventure! If you want to learn more, head over to our 15 Winter Camping Tips page.

You might also like the following winter-related content:

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Need More Gear Advice?

If you liked this list, you’ll love the CleverHiker Gear Guide where we test and recommend tons of outdoor adventure gear from a variety of categories. here are some links to popular articles:



Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a modest commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.