Essential Winter Camping Gear for 2021

October 28, 2021

man in hammock camping in winter with beautiful view of lake and mountains

The first day of winter 2021 is coming, gang. For a lot of outdoorsy people, that means it’s time to put away the boots and settle in for hibernation...or is it? That’s right - for some of us, our outdoor adventures are just beginning! Winter camping gets more and more popular every year, probably because a lot of people are realizing that our current climate situation is about to take it away for good. 

Anyway, with this newfound cool weather camping craze, it’s important to note that having the right gear is essential. Don’t get caught in the frigid air with nothing but a backpack and a dream!

If you’re lost on where to start (or just looking for some tips), you’ve found the right place. We here at WOO are experts in the art of traversing tundra, and we’ve got what you need. 

We’ll start with the basics, then move on to the essential winter camping gear - tents, tent footprints, tree hammocks and accessories, blankets, waterproof bags - the works! 

Lace up those snow boots friends, because we’re about to enter the icy world of winter camping

When is it Too Cold to Camp?

This answer depends on your experience level, of course! Those who are only just dipping their toes into cold weather camping may be surprised to find they can’t handle anything lower than slightly chilly, while other ice-mountain maniacs may sleep in the snowy abyss with nothing but their phone and an insulation blanket (we don’t recommend that). 

For beginning/average campers, getting lower than 30-40 degrees F (-1 to 4 degrees C) with just regular gear may be extremely uncomfortable, or downright dangerous. Winter camping requires special gear, not just whatever you have in your garage. If you have the right gear, you should be able to be (relatively) comfortable in even sub-zero temperatures. 

Speaking of special gear, let’s start with the most important part of camping in the cold - your clothes!

What Clothes Should You Wear While Winter Camping?

  • A thick beanie or hat. People often overlook their ears. Don’t do that. Those little dudes get cold quick. 
  • Thick, waterproof gloves. And not just one pair, either. Having at least 2 pairs of thick winter gloves with waterproof fabric is a necessity. 
  • Goggles and glasses. Protect your eyes from the sun and wind! The light reflecting off of snow can sometimes be extremely damaging. 
  • A buff. Buffs act as compact scarves that are convenient to carry, cover your ears, mouth, and nose, and overall keep you warm and cozy.
  • Warm, breathable base layers. Cotton absorbs moisture and may give you hypothermia - don’t wear it! Find breathable, flexible fabrics to wear. 
  • An insulating middle layer. This layer helps you to retain body heat. The thicker and puffier it is, the warmer you are - so a windbreaker won’t always do here. Try a puffy down or synthetic insulated jacket!
  • A breathable, waterproof outer layer. Winter gets rainy, no matter where you are. Your outer layer jacket and pants have to be waterproof, otherwise you risk hypothermia. 
  • GOOD snow boots. Spare no expense here, folks. Chances are most of your time will be spent walking or climbing, and you don’t want cold feet (literally).

Now that we’re dressed and ready to camp, it’s time to pack up our gear:

What Equipment Should You Have While Winter Camping?

  • A 4-season tent. Most 3-season tents can only handle light winter weather, and will only keep you warm below the tree line. If you’re expecting a winter storm or plan on camping in an elevated area, make it a winter camping tent
  • A tent footprint. So often forgotten, yet so important! Tent footprints provide waterproof insulation for your tent, and help you retain heat all throughout the night. 
  • Hydration supplies. In icy areas water might be surprisingly scarce, and you can’t rely on the warmth of the sun to melt it. Bring as much water as possible, and ensure it remains somewhere that it won’t freeze.
  • A waterproof bag. Despite the texture, ice and snow are, in fact, just water (shocking). Sometimes, that water melts. Don’t let it melt all over your valuables! 
  • A cold weather sleeping bag. This is one of the most important parts of winter camping. Sleeping bags designed for winter should have generous amounts of goose down or synthetic insulation. Anything less and you might turn into a popsicle. Oh, and be sure to keep them dry!
  • A backpacking stove. The elements sometimes don’t allow you to build a fire, so you need to have one of these on hand. You can choose liquid fuel or a canister stove for the best results! 
  • A pullable sled. For long trips and adventures, some winter camping enthusiasts may benefit from pulling their stuff around via sled. They reduce weight, and help you retain energy! 
  • First aid kit. Honestly, you should just have one of these around no matter where you go. But especially for snow camping.
  • A hammock. These can be extremely useful when winter backpacking, or just when you want to relax! You probably won’t be able to sleep in it, though, unless you have... 
  • A hammock underquilt. I cannot recommend this enough. You will be shocked at how warm these keep you, even at sub zero temps. This one in particular is specifically designed to hold up against even intense elements by using rip-stop nylon material! These are what make camping in a hammock possible.

While we’re on the subject of hammocks, let’s get a few questions answered that might be hanging over your head (ahahaha. haha. ha.). 

How Cold is Too Cold to Sleep in a Hammock?

Staying warm while winter camping is nearly impossible in a hammock without the right gear. Honestly, you probably won’t be able to stand any temperature below 45 degrees F, with 60-70 degrees F being the most comfortable. Camping with a hammock in the winter is really something you should ease into, so maybe start when it’s warm first. 

An important tip is to realize that it’s okay to turn back if it’s too cold or rainy. But, if you’re looking to stay and keep warm, read on! 

So, how do you keep a hammock warm? Easy! By getting a hammock underquilt and accessories!

Let’s start with getting a good hammock first - Wise Owl hammocks are ideal for any weather condition, so you merely have to choose by size! The single hammock is great for 1, while the double hammock is perfect for a couple. We even have extremely durable kids’ hammocks for family trips! 

After you get your camping hammock, you’ll need the accessories: 

  • Get an underquilt: I mentioned these earlier, but I’ll say it again - it’s almost impossible to go winter camping in a hammock without one. They keep you nice and insulated! This one is super high quality and made to withstand almost any weather condition. 
  • Get a hammock sleeve. This little sleeve will protect your hammock from the elements while you’re off adventuring, and keeps it nice and dry for you when you get back! 
  • Get an insulated blanket quilt. This provides an extra layer of warm comfiness that is essential when sleeping in sub zero.

How Much Weight Can a Wise Owl Hammock Hold?

All of our hammocks (even the kids one) can handle up to 500lbs! At 22.5 oz, our single hammock is about 9ft unfolded and is made of durable nylon. The double hammock can also hold up to 500lbs, but is 26 oz and built for up to 2 people. The kids hammock is a mere 6 ft long, but can still hold all that weight. 

    In short, you should have no problem feeling safe, secure, and stable while you’re in our hammocks! They’re essential winter camping gear for anyone who wants to face the elements with comfort. 

    How Do You Hang a Hammock in Cold Weather?

    This is really important - hanging hammocks in the winter isn’t always the same as camping during other seasons. Mostly because winter is, well, wet. 

    First, you’ll need to find 2 strong, healthy trees. Make sure they have no ice, snow, fruit, or dead or weighted down branches that can fall on you while you sleep. Next, you’ll need hammock straps. These don’t damage the tree, and maintain grip even on cold or wet bark. 

    If you’re a beginner, try out this hammock hanging kit - it has all of the extra tools you might have forgotten or need. 

    How Can I Make My Camping Hammock More Comfortable?

    If you’re got all of your gear to stay warm in your hammock, you still might want to make it a little more cozy! Try out these accessories:

    • A camping pillow. Try this one - it’s insulated, lightweight, supportive, and can be compressed down with ease! 
    • An extra blanket. Our blanket is insulated and super lightweight, so you won’t feel like you’re lugging around a duvet. 
    • A sleeping pad. These don’t just retain heat, they add a little extra cushion while you’re swinging away in bliss. 

    Final Thoughts

    If you’ve gotten this far in the article, I hereby declare you a winter camping pro! You’ve got almost all the knowledge you need to adventure in a winter wonderland with ease - now you just need to pick your spot! 

    If you’re looking for anything else you might need, try our website - it’s full of camping goodies you won’t wanna miss out on. Trust me! 

    Stay warm out there!

    Contributing Writer: Aurora Detor

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