Have you already started packing up your camping gear for storage until next summer? You might want to reconsider your decision because winter season also has a lot to offer you as a family. Even more than adults, winter camping can be a lot more fun for kids, from fun snow fights to their favorite hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, s’mores, there’s nothing more kids would want from a camping trip.
While winter camping can be so much fun, it can also be plain cold. And with kids with you, you certainly need to plan ahead to make the trip memorable and comfortable for everyone.
Start with a Test Run
If your family is new to winter camping, it would be best if you did a test run by camping in your backyard. You can start simple, like having dinner with family in the backyard one night. Slowly extend your stay, from a couple hours to a whole night. Also test your winter camping gear, like clothing, tent, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, etc., so it will be easy for you to not just test the quality of the gear, but also to get back inside in case your kids get scared or cold. To show them how the whole experience can be fun, build snow forts and snowmen with them and play with them in the snow; this will help them attain some level of comfort in the cold weather.
While adults can quite easily adapt to the changes of winter camping, doing a test run will be greatly helpful for kids to get an idea of the whole scenario and they will be readier than ever.
Go for Your All-Time Favorite Trails
Once again, if this will be your kids’ first winter camping experience, take them to your all-time favorite trail or campground, where they have already camped in other seasons. Choosing a location that is close to your home is even more preferable. While your kids will be excited to see how different their favorite trail looks in winter, you can be more comfortable and less stressed since you know the place inside out. Always remember that daylight during winter starts quite late but ends sooner than during summer and the time it takes for you to reach the camping destination will also be more; therefore, plan your travel accordingly. Since it will be snowing, check on road closures in your neighborhood before heading out.
Take the Right Gear
Surviving winter camping with kids is easier than you think, if you take the right gear with you. If you are already into camping, you would probably have most of the essential camping gear and all you need to do is just upgrade some of them to suit the season. What you need to keep in mind is that all of you should be dry, warm and well-fed, and not wet, cold and hungry.
- Tent: When it comes to tent, a four-season tent, single or double walled, is what we would recommend for winter camping. Since you will have your kids with you, opting for a double walled tent would be a better option as it can provide more warmth than its counterpart. Also, remember to pitch your tent on a large tarp for extra comfort and to stay dry at all times.
- Sleeping bags: For winter camping, get yourself and your kids hooded mummy sleeping bags for the best level of comfort and warmth. However, if you already have a three-season sleeping bag, purchasing a sleeping bag liner will be sufficient.
- Also take with you a couple blankets, especially if your kids have their favorite ones, for layering.
- Insulated mugs for hot water, tea, and their favorite hot chocolate.
- Hot water bottle to prepare your sleeping bags warm and cozy before you head to bed.
- Multiple light sources and extra batteries.
The most important step to staying warm during winter camping is choosing the right clothes. Layering is absolutely essential for cold winter temperatures. Make your kids wear a long underwear, pants, and also a hat to remain warm while camping. Go for socks that are quite thick and warm, and always have them wear waterproof boots while moving around. You can also dress them up the same way for sleep, as the temperature will only get colder during the night.
Pack some additional sets of clothing, including socks, so you and your kids always have fresh, warm sets of clothing to change into in case you get wet.
As soon as you arrive at your campsite, you need to start working on making fire. Pack with your gear a few essential fire sources to make the process easier for yourself. You can choose anything between DIY fire starters and more modern, high-tech options.
Winter Camping Food
Campsite cooking is actually something many campers love doing; however, while it can be fun during the warm summer months, the freezing temperatures during winter is not something you would want to experience for hours while cooking. Therefore, planning your winter camping meals ahead of time and investing in a good camp stove or Dutch oven will be greatly helpful.
Remember, when the temperature is so low, your body will burn more calories than usual. Needless to say, kids love running around no matter what the climate is like. Therefore, you need to be ready with fulfilling and energizing snacks like trail mix, granola bars, etc. that will keep them going. Make sure to include plenty of eggs, dairy, nuts, and meats in your menu for protein, and also carbohydrates like breads, legumes, and nuts. Having a snack just before going to bed will also help maintain fuel in the body. And yes, don’t forget that hot chocolate!
Let Them Run Around
During summer camping, it is absolutely fine if you have your kids engage in activities that don’t involve too much movement, like playing board games, reading, or assembling puzzles. However, if you practice the same during winter camping, it will only make them feel colder. Preplan activities that will keep them moving. If there will be snow in your camping area, plan ahead and bring the necessary tools to build igloo or snowmen, or go sledding or skiing. If not, you can let them explore the campground on foot, play active sports like volleyball, football, etc., or go cycling.
These are just the basic survival tips for winter camping with kids. Nothing here will be overwhelming even for a first-time camper. Keep in mind, be safe and have fun!