Yes, winter camping is very much a thing. Though certainly less popular than traditional warm weather camping, winter camping trips aren't all that different in scope and tone—you've got overnight outings, weekend escapes, and full-on expeditions. The main difference is that, of course, colder temps and deep snow-covered campsites require more planning, more prep, and more specialized gear.
But don't let that dissuade you from getting out there. With the right gear in your pack, you can mitigate most potential problems and enjoy a night under the stars in as much comfort as if it were summer (err, nearly as much).
To point you in the right direction, we've compiled the following list of winter camping gear essentials. Now, this isn't a comprehensive guide and though extensive research has led us to these picks, we have not ourselves tested each and every item in all conditions. Which brings up another point worth reiterating—winter conditions are ever-changing, vary from place to place, and each trip requires different packing considerations. What might work for some people and places might not make sense for your trip. So be sure to do your own due diligence before heading out into a winter wonderland of your choosing.
One more thing—this guide is about camping gear, but your layering system will go a long, long way in making sure you're comfortable in cold weather. They're not on this list, but you'll want base layers and long underwear, mid-layers, a down jacket or synthetic insulated jacket, mittens or gloves, a beanie, a balaclava, and a small first-aid kit. And don't forget an extra pair of cozy socks, some hand warmers, and hot cocoa, of course.
Four-Season Tent for Expedition-Grade Winter Camping: Big Agnes Battle Mountain 3 Tent
Big Agnes delivers expedition-grade shelter with this spacious three-person winter tent that can endure even the harshest conditions found in high-alpine mountaineering. Made of polyester, ripstop, and nylon taffeta, the Battle Mountain 3 has a waterproof and durable construction that weighs in at 8 pounds 13 ounces and sleeps three. It's not the lightest tent by any means—no worthy winter camping tent will be—but it’s perfect for those seeking comfort in the mountains or any nearby state park.
Price: $900 SHOP NOW
Four-Season Tent for Lightweight Winter Backpacking: MSR Access 2
Not all winter tents are domed expedition shelters. MSR's Access 2 is quick and easy to set up, but it's also warmer than backpacking models and sturdy enough to handle a squall. On top of that, the Access 2 is lightweight at 3 pounds 10 ounces, which makes it an ideal two-person tent for backcountry touring.
Price: $660 SHOP NOW
Four-Season Tent for Winter Mountaineering Expeditions: Black Diamond Mega Snow Tent
The Mega Snow isn’t your typical pop-up tent. But if you're going to take winter camping seriously—or if you’re embarking on remote mountaineering expeditions–a base camp-style shelter is worth considering. With a 30D high-tenacity polyester fabric, the Mega Snow is lightweight, durable, and seam-sealed, weighing only 3 pounds 10 ounces. Setup is quick too—a single carbon-fiber pole props the tent up in seconds. Pair this with another tent, and your winter campsite is complete.
Price: $400 SHOP NOW
Sleeping Bag for Ultralight Winter Camping: Feathered Friends Hummingbird YF Sleeping Bag
When ultralight is a top priority, the Hummingbird sleeping bag has you covered—without compromising body heat. At roughly 14 ounces, this efficient, 900-fill stuffed bag features a nylon Pertex Quantum shell, while the unique Y-shaped filament fabric construction adds both a durable and water-repellent finish. Available in two temperature ratings, 20 degrees or 30 degrees, the Hummingbird is the best versatile option for anyone who takes their ounce count seriously.
Price: $469 SHOP NOW
Sleeping Bag for Warmth and Comfort: Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0F Sleeping Bag
Mountain Hardwear's Phantom sleeping bag features a mummy cut design, a 10D recycled nylon ripstop build, and a water-repellent finish. At 2 pounds 10.6 ounces, the Phantom is by no means heavy, but it certainly isn't skimping. It's packed with enough 850-fill goose down to earn a 0-degree temperature rating, which should be enough extra warmth for most winter camping scenarios.
Price: $620 SHOP NOW
Sleeping Pad for Ultralight Winter Camping: NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad
Closed-cell sleeping pads are probably the most widely used style for winter campers and backpackers alike. With an R-value of 2, a thickness of 0.9 inches, and at 14.5 ounces, the Nemo Switchback offers light insulation against frigid, snowy surfaces but is the first of a one-two punch when used as a base with an inflatable foam pad on top. Plus, you can use it on its own in the summer, too.
Price: $55 SHOP NOW
Sleeping Pad for Warmth and Comfort: Thermarest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad
The NeoAir is tried and trusted by many mountaineers, and for a good reason. Weighing in at 1 pound 1 ounce with an R-value rating of 6.9 (that's nice and toasty) and a pad-thickness of 2.5 inches, the NeoAir has an unmatched warmth-to-weight ratio and packs down to the size of a water bottle.
Price: $260 SHOP NOW
Winter Camping Stove: MSR WhisperLite Universal
At 13.7 ounces, the WhisperLite Universal cuts weight but still packs a ton of features into a small hybrid-fuel stove. Capable of interchanging between isobutane canisters and liquid fuel, which is a more reliable fire starter for cold weather camping conditions, the stove is made simply of aluminum and stainless steel. It's also quite durable, easy to repair, and versatile enough for the other three seasons, too.
Price: $170 SHOP NOW
Insulated Camping Mug: Snow Peak Ti-Double 450 Mug
A good mug is a must-have campsite sidekick and Snow Peak's Ti-Double 450 is as reliable as they come. You get foldable handles and double-walled insulation that keeps beverages hot (or cold) all for just 4.2 ounces, thanks to its Japanese titanium construction. Just remember: double-wall titanium cannot be used for cooking or placed over a heat source. Trust us.
Price: $50 SHOP NOW
Winter Ultralight Backpack: Hyperlite 4400 Ice Pack
Hyperlite Mountain Gear imbued the Hyperlite 4400 with all the features that harsh alpine conditions call for, like a Dyneema composite build that’s extremely durable, a roll-top loading compartment with vertical compression straps, and a high water-resistant finish for added protection against the elements. At 2.3 pounds and with a capacity of 70 liters, you'll easily be able to stuff the rest of the bulky winter camping gear on this list inside.
Price: $395 SHOP NOW
Winter Pack for Ski Touring: Osprey Mutant 52
Not all winter camping trips call for huge backpacks. The Osprey Mutant 52 is the perfect pack for shorter weekend-long trips to deep snowfields, and it has all the technical chops for climbing and backcountry skiing if your objectives go beyond hanging at camp. The bag features a sleek design with 210D High Tenacity Nylon for strong durability, a top-loading compartment with a removable lid, and a superior fit for quick movements in the mountains. At 3.2 pounds and a 52-liter capacity, this pack holds a lot for a little, and has a multitude of uses with features like an A-frame ski carry and ice tool attachments.
Price: $200 SHOP NOW
Winter Hiking Boots: Kodiak Tagish Waterproof Arctic Grip Winter Boot
The Tagish Arctic Grip winter boot continues OG Canadian boot brand Kodiak's long legacy with a full-grain leather upper, a suede-padded tongue, a Vibram Arctic Grip outsole that clutches ice—seriously, you won't slip in these—and a waterproof/breathable membrane. The Tagish seals out sleet and deep snow and keeps your feet comfortably staying warm and frostbite-free in the coldest conditions (it has a temp rating of -4 degrees Fahrenheit). They don't work with crampons, so you'll need a pair of winter boots that do if you're planning to travel in exposed ice terrain.
Price: $190 SHOP NOW
Winter Snow Shovel: BCA Dozer 1T Avalanche Shovel
A decent shovel serves a multitude of uses, from avalanche safety to digging out a platform for your winter camping tent. An updated version of North America’s best-selling avalanche shovel, the Dozer 1T features a lightweight aluminum build, stomp-edge blades, a smooth surface base for building snowpit walls, an expandable T-grip, and auto-engaging spring pins for quick hands-free assembly.
Price: $55 SHOP NOW
Winter Headlamp: Petzl Actik Core
Light is vital to any camping trip, but unfortunately the winter sun doesn't provide much of it. Petzl’s Actik Core features a multi-beam design with 450 lumens of power and a red light mode for night vision preservation. The hybrid battery port gives you the choice between a rechargeable battery or three AAA batteries, so there's no excuse for getting caught at camp with a dead bulb.
Price: $70 SHOP NOW