Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Outdoor Education, Outdoor Gear

Winter Storm Camping Survival

winter storm camping survival

Camping is a fantastic way to get outside and enjoy nature. Many people only seem to camp in the summer months because they are concerned with what might happen in the cooler months. This is especially if a winter storm comes down upon them. There is no need to fear winter camping or winter storms. In fact, with a little planning and preparedness winter camping can be just as fun as summer camping. Winter storm camping survival is paramount to ensuring that you can experience the outdoors year-round. The tips below will also help if you get caught out on the hiking trail.

Before we get into our winter storm camping survival tips the first thing that you should always do is make your plan. Look at everything and write down what you are expecting to do and where you are planning on going for different days. Combine this with looking over the weather report during your trip dates. Give all of this information to someone you trust who is not going out into the wilds with you. Doing this planning upfront will ensure that if something does go awry you can be found quickly.

Winter Storms may look beautiful but they can be deadly if you aren’t prepared

What to Pack

Now that you have your trip all planned out and your trusted advisor has your plans, it’s time to start getting excited and packing! First of all, you need to have the right equipment with you when you go camping. Additionally, you need to have the right clothing for the season, so you will need to pack that right in your bag. Having the right gear and clothing is the number one thing that people often don’t consider. The tools you need for winter camping and survival during a winter storm are very different than a summer camping trip. It is likely that even the normal clothes you wear in the winter to work will not cut it out in the wild. Remember there is nowhere for you to get artificial heat from an HVAC system when you are out in nature.

When it comes to winter storm camping survival, it is very important to ensure that you bring the right gear. You should pack the following clothing and gear:

Winter Storm Camping Survival Clothing
Make sure that you have the right clothing and are prepared for the cold

Here are three tips for securing gear on a budget.

Winter Storm Camping Survival Clothing

  • Extra layers
    • While camping requires that you are judicious with your packing to save space and weight, it is important to have layers. A winter day can start off very chilly but warm up. Having layers of clothing is important because it allows you to adjust as the day goes on. Additionally, when that winter storm does blow in you will have extra insulation!
  • Goggles
    • You may not think of having goggles with you if you don’t plan on doing any skiing. However, having a set of goggles in your pack can help protect your eyes in blowing snow. Or the next morning when you wake up can help to reduce the glare from the sun on the freshly fallen snow.
  • Winter Jacket
    • This is a no-brainer. If you are heading out in the winter make sure that you pack a winter jacket. Also, take the time up-front to ensure that it has been waterproofed.
  • Gloves
    • There are a few options for gloves. Depending on the style that you select you may want to have a thinner glove inside a thicker external glove. This will help to ensure that you are keeping your fingers warm as they will be the first to experience frostbite.
  • Sturdy hiking boots
    • Having a pair of sturdy hiking boots is important to ensure that you can crunch through the snow. Find a pair with a thick sole with good traction. Traction will help you if the snow turns to ice.
  • Winter hat
    • Time to keep that noggin warm. Selecting a properly fitting winter hat is key to making sure that you aren’t losing that beneficial heat from the top of your body.
Winter Storm Camping Survival Gear
You won’t always have access to lots of people do take the right equipment with you and plan before you go!

Winter Storm Camping Survival Equipment

If you are planning on heading out on the road and traveling for extended periods of time, you will also need to make sure you take the necessary equipment with you. While this list isn’t exhaustive it does provide some quick insight on the things that you may want to take with you.

GeerTop 4 Season Tent

Canway Sleeping Bag

Where to Camp

Camping shouldn’t be relegated to the northern parts of the country, as well as the mountainous regions. Many states offer lots of areas to go camping in the winter months. If you are from Florida, you can still camp in most areas of the state. However, in the northern tier of North America, you may not have the luxury of camping near a beach. Not to mention the need to understand winter storm camping survival is critical. A storm could crop up at any time. Therefore, while you are scouting out the best places to set up camp take into consideration the way that the wind may change, where you can go if you need additional protection, and how to set up your kitchen.

Don’t set up in the open like this. Make sure you have protection!

If this is your first trip camping in the wintertime it may be beneficial to select designated campgrounds. This will help to ensure that there are locations where you can quickly escape if the weather turns so severe that you need support. These will likely be near populated areas as well. Remember to test all of your gear in a safer environment first so that you know how to use each piece effectively.

Selecting your campsite in the backcountry is more critical. Trust your instincts in site location and use the information from that weather report to determine which way you may end up facing strong winds. You don’t want to set up your tent where snow and wind can blow right in. Additionally, make sure to look up. Sturdy branches with lots of snow on them can still break. So while you think you may be gaining extra cover you may actually have a widowmaker fall right on your tent. In any case, survey the surroundings and make sure that you have protection from the elements.

What is it Like Camping During a Winter Storm?

First, let’s say it’s a summer storm. When you go camping you pack the right equipment and you bring the right clothing. Now let’s say it’s a winter storm. You pack the right equipment and you bring the right clothing. As previously mentioned, what you will need to bring are things like a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and camp stove. So you are prepared in that sense. You should have at least prepared for the worst-case scenario. Now the storm is upon you and you can’t see what is happening five feet away. So what now?

Snow on the trees is gorgeous but wait till the storm passes to enjoy the view

The first thing is first, remember not to panic. If you took your time to plan out your gear and clothing then likely you will be fine. Take a deep breath. Start arranging the gear you will need inside of your tent so that it is within easy reach. To ride out the storm use the gear you brought. Layer up, use those hand warmers, and at night hunker down in your sleeping bag. There are only a few reasons to go outside of your tent during the storm and you should do these quickly. If the storm gets too bad use your two-way radio to summon for help. Like any storm, it will end and the goal in the winter is to stay warm and dry. The easiest way to do this is within your tent.

Planning for Safety

When a storm is heading towards you the best thing to do is to plan ahead. Go out and get a good map and figure out the best places to stay in the area you are in. You can find out all the weather forecasts for the area and figure out where the weather will be bad in the area.

Maintaining a basic supply kit can be a huge help in a winter storm. It should include items such as a First Aid Kit, non-perishable snacks, and a flashlight. Having these things ready and with you on any camping trip will set you up for survival. Additionally, prepare for winter storm camping survival by wear the right kind of clothing. This includes things like wool socks, waterproof boots, a down jacket, and a pair of gloves.

Make your plan and share it!

Backcountry camping will be completely different in the winter. Make sure that you know the trails to get out. If you plan on hiking in and out on the same trail then it may be beneficial to bring some trail marking tape with you that is a bright color. If you tie some to trees as you go then you can remove it on the way out. This can also help search and rescue find you if the storm becomes more severe than expected and you are trapped.

Final Thoughts on Winter Storm Camping Survival

Hopefully, you have enough basic knowledge now that there is no need to fear camping during a winter storm. While the possibility of being stuck and cut off is always a possibility during a winter storm it is not a guarantee. With a little preparation and some knowledge of how to survive a winter storm, you should be able to get the most out of winter camping. Prepare yourself upfront for winter storm camping survival and you will be able to extend your camping season year-round. You will no longer need to be couped up inside during those winter months. Just make and share your plans and everything should work out for you.

Have you been caught in a winter storm while camping? We would love to have you share your story in the comments below or on our Facebook page!