Winter is a great time for cozy indoor activities, like movie marathons and living room slumber parties. As a parent, though, you likely already know that there are only so many ways to keep your kiddos (and yourself) entertained indoors all season long. Winter can feel a bit tedious if you don’t try to balance out your comfy-cozy downtime with some outdoorsy adventures. The good news is that with some extra planning, you can explore the great outdoors even in the colder months.
Winter camping can be the perfect opportunity to get out of the house, get in touch with nature, and have a memorable adventure with the entire family. Below are some tips for camping with kids in winter that’ll help set you up to have the best experience possible.
Once you book your campsite, keep an eye on the weather forecast. Checking the forecast in advance is a must whenever you’re camping, but this is particularly true in the winter, especially when bringing your kids along. Even if you’re an adventurous, outdoorsy family, you’ll want to pivot or have a backup plan if it looks like temperatures will drop too low or if there are any major snowstorms or sleet on the horizon. Consider safety first!
Even without below-freezing temperatures or a snowstorm, winter nights will be cold. So, it’s essential that you have an extra cozy and warm setup planned for your tent. One tip here is to share a four or six-person tent with the whole family (rather than several smaller tents) to maximize body heat. You’ll also want to ensure that your tent has a rain flap to protect the top of the tent from the elements and a tent tarp so there will be another layer between you and the ground.
To make the tent's interior feel warmer, you can purchase some insulating fabric to line it. Finally, be sure to bring a large lantern and perhaps even some battery-powered string lights (in addition to headlamps for nighttime bathroom breaks) to make the interior of the tent feel extra cozy at night – just remember to test all of your light sources in advance and remember to bring extra batteries!
Having a cozy sleep setup is essential for winter camping. Aside from insulating the tent, you can achieve the coziest possible night in the great outdoors with the right sleeping bags. Check for kids' sleeping bags suitable for colder temperatures, with extra-comfy details like fleece lining. Look for the same in your sleeping bag, but don't stop there – plan on bringing some additional bedding like fleece blankets to keep everyone nice and toasty throughout the night.
If your kiddos are new to camping or on the younger side, pack some comfort items, like their favorite blanket and one of their favorite stuffed animals. Finally, be sure that everyone has a pillow or that you’re using sleeping bags with a built-in pillow feature.
An outdoorsy winter adventure always calls for lots of layers and some must-have accessories, so be sure to keep this in mind while you pack for your camping trip. Everyone should bring winter accessories, like snow gloves, a fleece or fleece-lined hat, and a practical scarf. You’ll also pack thick, water-resistant hiking socks (bring more than you think you'll need) and waterproof footwear.
Make sure your kids have durable kids' snow boots that fit properly over their hiking socks so you can explore the campgrounds or nearby trails. Once you have all of the essential accessories and footwear squared away, make everyone in your camping party has thermal underwear, some activewear leggings or pants, waterproof snow pants, and a super-well insulted packable down coat. A packable jacket is ideal for camping because it’s a major space-saver in your bags, but any snow or squall jacket will work.
Of course, you'll all also want to bring a few flannel shirts, as these layers – perfect for everything from roasting marshmallows by the fire to exploring nearby trails – are the official shirt for camping. And, as you create your packing lists, don’t forget to include your warmest possible pajamas, like fleece or flannel PJ sets.
By keeping an eye on the weather, creating a warm and cozy sleep zone in your tent, and packing extra layers plus all of your warmest accessories, you can have a great winter camping trip with your kiddos. This is definitely a memorable way to break up your seasonal routine and create memories that your kids will cherish forever!