A general perception is that winter brings along gloominess, stagnancy, isolation, and cabin fever. When you hear about winter camping, your winter bias tells you the same about it as well i-e winter camping is also boring, gloomy, and less fun.
I had the same views before I went on my first ever winter camping.
Camping in winters is in no way less fun than in summers. If planed well with the right gear and more importantly, with the right mindset, It can even turn out into a memorable experience.
You just need to do a little more planning and explore all the activities you can do before leaving, or else you will regret going. If you think winter camping is just about damp socks, shivering nights, snow frosting, frozen numb fingers and toes, then you probably have not explored the fun side yet.
Is winter camping fun? Winter camping is fun, relaxing, and worth the experience. The deadly reptiles and insects are nowhere to be seen due to hibernation. Surroundings are peaceful and silent. You can enjoy snow-capped mountains, stary skies, and the warm campfire coziness. There are plenty of activities and sports that you are missing out on if you only camp in summers, such as sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, making snow sculptures, and ice fishing.
Despite the freezing temperatures, winter camping has its perks as you will come across new experiences. Here are some reasons you should try winter camping and some fun activities you can enjoy.
Reasons why you should try winter camping
#1 Silence, serenity, and closeness to wildlife
Winter days offer a unique sense of calmness, tranquility, and serenity which is rarely found in other seasons. As there is limited human intervention, the wildlife, and migratory birds are also at peace so you can easily spot rare species of the area.
You will also feel that the landscape is wide as the trees are shedding, leaving so more sunlight will penetrate. This makes sunrise and sunsets utterly attractive and pleasant so you can capture some amazing photographs.
As the insects are usually on hibernation so you won’t hear leaves rustling and flies buzzing. There is eccentric silence in the ambiance which might seem uncanny initially but will make you addict later.
#2 Low tour cost
Winter months are off-season time of the year so you will find campsites at economical prices. The sightseeing tickets, entry passes, and tolls for different paid activities are less in the winter season due to the limited flow of people.
However, on the flip side, you might need to spend more on specialized camping gear and winter camping clothing. We have written an article on how to dress for winter camping that might help you with your dress selection.
#3 Have the wilderness to yourself
Due to overcrowding in summers, you are only restricted to your allocated slots at the campsite. Whereas, in the winter months there is no such restriction, and you can camp wherever you want on the ice-covered ground.
For people who prefer seclusion at times, winter camping is no less than a dream come true. You don’t have to worry about other people intruding in your “me time”. Heck go skinny dipping in the nearby lack if it is not frozen yet to get a quick shower (make sure you don’t get frostbite or hypothermia)
#4 More activity, more exploration
Being active will keep you warm and protected you from the weather harshness, so winter camping provides you the opportunity to explore more and remain active. Summers are marked with scorching sun and sweat but winters are all about beating the cold with your own body heat.
You may consider walking an extra mile or hiking for some more time as it will maintain your body temperature without getting drenched in your own sweat. In fact, the more you move, the better it gets.
#5 No worries about food
This is one of the top reasons I love winter camping. You can carry with you almost any food item without bothering about a cold container or portable fridge. Simply bring raw meat, fresh fruits, or exuberant snacking options in your backpack and enjoy it on a stary night with a campfire.
In summers, your best option to have a properly cooked meal is to pre-cook and vacuum seal your meals at home but that too will need some kind of cold storage else they won’t last past a few days.
In winters, carry whatever you want without worrying about your food going bad.
Fun activities exclusively for winter camping
Winter camping has its special gifts in the form of different activities that you can only do on a snowcovered landscape. You can enjoy a number of these activities depending upon the terrain and how athletic you are.
Sledding is a win-win activity. You not only enjoy the thrill and excitement of sailing down a snow-covered hill but also hike your way back for another round, which by the way, is an excellent cardio exercise. Also, keep in mind that you should take something hot for a quick warm-up.
Additionally, there are some risks associated with sledding, so you need to consider them before starting. It has been reported that around 30,000 children get injured annually due to sledding in the USA and 1 in every 25 injuries results in hospitalization. But if you take safety precautions, sledding can be a fun activity you can do during your winter camping.
#2 Snowshoeing & cross-country skiing
These are some fun-filled and refreshing activities that give you an amazing experience of enjoying snow-covered landscapes. These activities can be enjoyed by all ages however, children might get tired quickly.
Snowshoeing is not very difficult to get hold of and is very basic compared to other winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. The only adjustment you need to make is to widen your legs a bit more so that you can fit in the composite decks of the snowshoes.
#3 Build a snowman & snow castle
If you are camping with kids, building a snowman can be a fun activity to bond with the young ones. It’s always a memorable experience. Everyone gets together, coordinates,s and builds a snowman or a castle, laughing and cherishing every single moment.
The key to building a good snowman or any snow structure is slightly wet snow. Around -2 degrees C, snow has enough moisture to hold together a big chunk of mass without toppling.
Make sure everyone wears gloves to prevent excessive heat loss especially if the weather is a little cranky.
#4 Ice fishing
If you are winter camping in an area with a frozen lake or river, you can also do ice fishing. For those who haven’t been outdoors during winter much, ice fishing can be an exciting experience. You will make a hole through the ice crust and lower your fishing jig with bait and wait for the fish to catch it.
The whole idea of catching a fish in under-ice flowing water is very novel and interesting. You can bring your own ice fishing gear or rent it out from a nearby store if you know the area. The tools you usually need are:
- Ice fishing rod & reel combo
- Hand or gas powered auger to drill the ice
- Tackle and bait
- Ice fishing shelter to keep you warm while you wait
Once you have the fish, gutting it and slow roasting it over the campfire is another activity that you can enjoy.
#5 Make a campfire, sit around and toast marhmallows
There is no better experience than sitting around a campfire, enjoying and laughing with friends and family while toasting marshmallows. Campfires have something about them that they seem to be very soothing, fun and help bring people together.
It is an enduring tradition to cook over a campfire whenever staying outdoors and trust me, you will not find that smoky flavor anywhere else.
Campfires are the best place to tell true and made-up stories to pass time and get a good laugh (or a good scare). You can read up a good inventory of spooky stories (Wisconsin yellow ribbon, The keyhole, The cursed doll) or get a good camping stories book (my recommendation: Classic Campfire Stories: Forty Spooky Tales by William W. Forgey) before you leave. I am pretty sure your camping pals will be impressed by your
If you are into drinking, do remember that alcohol thins your blood which in turn accelerates body heat loss, and you might end up extremely cold and possibly get hypothermia. Drinking might warm you up initially, but as the night drags on, you might feel the cold even more, . So, drink, but just don’t get trashed completely.
#6 Play card & board games
Everyone loves playing group games but playing them during the winter nights camping in the wilderness is a whole new experience.
You can gather around your campfire and shuffle your cards and enjoy the cozy night with laughter (and a lot of cheating). Card and board games are very popular among the campers, and they are equally enjoyed in all weathers.
Popular board games for winter camping:
Popular card games for winter camping:
If you are not carrying any board or card game, you can popular games “2 truths and a lie”, or “Guess the famous person”.
#7 Stargazing with Binoculars
Light pollution has made it impossible to see the night sky in all its glory. Winter camping is your best opportunity to gaze into the stars and see the depth of the universe in its true sense.
Stargazing away from the city lights can be a fun and relaxing activity especially if you are someone into astronomy. If you are bringing a smartphone, do install a stargazing app to look into the sky and see what exactly you are looking at.
You can also bring along binoculars to see the moon and planetary bodies when they are up in the sky. The stargazing app will help you pinpoint where exactly Mars or Venus is at certain times.
Winter camping vs Summer camping
Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of camping in summer and winter. For those who prefer to camp in the summer season, a comparative table will help present a better picture and weigh both of these options.
|Winter Camping||Summer Camping|
|People who prefer this|
|Popular in people who are not fond of interacting with people and like places with a limited flow of people.||Extroverts prefer camping in this season as it provides the opportunity to make new friends and interact with other campers.|
|Between -1 to 4 0C so you may get the opportunity to enjoy the snow sports. Bring warm clothes.||Between 15 to 30 0C. Heat is more likely to be a problem than cold.|
|Bugs and reptiles|
|These are mostly on hibernation mode, so you are safe.||Summers is the breeding season so you can see them in abundance all around you.|
|Hypothermia, Frostbite, Snow blindness, Higher risk of car accidents.||Sunburns, Dehydration, Rashes, Insect bites, Hyperthermia.|
|Natural events risks|
|Landslides, Avalanche, Blizzard||Flash floods, Thumber storms|
|Low travel cost due to off-season, Economical campsites and discounted tickets for different activities and sightseeing, High camping gear cost and expensive winter clothing||High travel cost Expensive campsites and tickets for different activities and sightseeing. Low camping gear cost and expensive winter clothing|
Is winter camping fun – Conclusion
Winter camping can be a lot of fun if you have a good idea of the activities you can do in the area you are camping. As discussed in the above article, these can range from tough physical sporting activities like skiing to lazy campfire games like playing cards and telling ghost stories.
Whatever you do, make sure you have a good time as that is your number 1 reason for going camping in the first place – to have fun.
Why winter camping is the best?
Winter camping can be the best experience of your life because you will be camping away from the crowd, immersed fully within nature at its best, and enjoying all the pure white snow around.
What is snow painting?
Snow painting is a fun activity that you can perform during winter camping in snowy lands. You can use spray paint bottles or even food colors to unleash your creative side on the vast canvas of pure white snow.
What can you do in the winter without snow?
If you are camping in winter without snow, you can still do all the fun activities that don’t involve snow like making a campfire, fishing and roasting afterward, play card and board games and gaze at the stars.
Related reads: Can you sleep in your car during winter camping?
Related reads: How to keep water from freezing during winter camping?
Recommended Camping Gears: I have compiled a list of my favourite camping gear in one place. The selection is based on my own personal experience using them for many years camping as well as feedback from fellow campers. Check them out on my Recommended Camping Gears page