How to Dress for Winter Camping

Written by Teresa Harrington on January 18, 2018

Nothing is more vital to a successful winter camping excursion than preparedness. And one of the easiest ways to make sure you and your party are ready for anything that the elements may offer up, is to ensure that you have the right clothing and equipment to help keep you warm and dry in the snow. Most people understand that layers are ideal for winter weather, but when it comes to staying safe and comfortable on your next winter camping trip, there are additional considerations to keep in mind.

When packing for a winter camping trip, it's a good idea to create a list ahead of time that will help you keep track of which items are necessary for the cold and which ones you can live without. To maximize your comfort and stay dry in the outdoors, we suggest following a few simple layering rules. Whether you plan on being very active during your winter adventures or you’re going to hunker down for a long weekend away, with this straightforward concept you can easily make adjustments to your wardrobe as needed based on your activity level.

It's All About the Layers

For winter camping, each layer that you wear should have a specific function to help keep you comfortable. Your base layer, which you wear against your skin should work to manage moisture. Next, your insulating layer should provide protection from the cold. Finally, an outer shell layer of clothing will work to shield your body from the elements like rain and wind. From there, you can effortlessly add or subtract layers as needed.

The Base Layer

This layer of clothing will sit next to your skin, so moisture management is key. The base layer will need to be comfortable and light to help regulate your body temperature and keep moisture away from your skin. Keeping dry is extremely important for winter camping because too much moisture can create a hypothermia risk as temperature drops outside.

For maximum comfort in winter weather, start with a base layer that includes either synthetic fabrics, merino wool or silk. These fabrics do not absorb moisture like cotton and instead wick it away from the skin to keep you dry.

The Insulating Layer

This middle layer is all about retaining air and keeping your body warm. Many natural fibers like goose down and wool work very well to insulate the body. Both are ideal for providing a soft, warm and reliable middle layer, with wool working overtime even in wet conditions. And goose down is the best choice in very dry and cold conditions.

Alternatively, classic fleece also provides warmth in colder temperatures and is well-known for being lightweight, breathable and affordable. Fleece can be found in 3 different weight categories including lightweight, midweight and expedition-weight –which is perfect for cold climates.

The Shell Layer

The outer layer of clothing should work well to protect your body from rain, snow and wind. There are a variety of different shells available on the market today; ranging from high-priced mountaineering-style coats to affordable windproof jackets. Fit is an important factor here, so be sure to choose an outer shell layer that doesn’t restrict movement when paired with other layers.

Options that include ventilation that allows perspiration to escape are ideal, as they will allow you to stay dry and warm in extremely low temps. Look for waterproof options that include Gore-Tex or eVent for maximum performance. For lighter activity, polyurethane-coated nylon is both water and windproof.

Keep Warm and Dry All Winter Long with Smart Layering

When it comes to protecting yourself during your next winter camping adventure, be sure to think about clothing options in these 3 basic categories. With a simple base layer, an insulating layer and outer shell, you’ll be ready for anything that mother nature can throw at you. Create a simple packing list that includes at least one layering option for each category and you’ll be good to go.

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