23 Essential Tips For Winter Camping With Kids

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Winter camping with kids can be a fun and memorable experience, but it is important to be prepared for unusual circumstances that you might encounter during cold weather camping.

Whether you are camping in a region that frequently snows during the winter or simply preparing for a chilly stay in the great outdoors, these essential tips for camping in winter with kids will help ensure you have a great family camping trip.

We discuss tips for staying safe during winter camping, essential winter camping gear and equipment and tips for staying warm during those long, cold winter nights in your tent!

family of five, including grandma, sitting around a campfire in front of their tent roasting marshmallows in winter.

Essential Tips For Winter Camping With Kids

Whether you are an experienced camper or heading off on your first family camping trip, winter camping with kids should be a fun, safe, and well-prepared experience. 

This guide offers helpful tips to help your family cover all bases when it comes to camping with kids in the winter months.

After all, there are a lot more things to consider so that you stay warm and still get to enjoy spending time outdoors together as a family.

Personally, I’m never a huge fan of winter so staying warm is something I take very seriously!

Preparing For A Winter Camping Trip

These winter camping for kids tips will help you prepare for your trip, before you even leave home so that you can tackle winter camping with confidence and hopefully have an amazing time filled with plenty of family adventures!

Camping with kids is an extra challenge in itself, but winter camping with kids is a whole new layer of consideration – even for those of you who are seasoned campers!

1. Have A Practice Run At Home

One of the best things to do before taking your kids on an actual winter camping trip is to have a practice run in your backyard.

This trial run before camping in the cold weather helps to ensure your set-up is suited to the winter months.

It also means that if things don’t go to plan, you can all just pack up and head back indoors for the night and reassess the next day!

Having a practice camp with our whole family in the backyard is one of those hacks for camping with kids that is always a good time before you do your first proper family camping trip.

It means you can assess the following before your winter camp: 

  • Check you have the right gear – Is your tent suitable for the winter temperatures?
  • Test your clothing layers – Are your winter clothes warm enough and comfortable enough?
  • Practice setting up your tent and shelter area – Check for tiny holes in your tent and make sure there are no pegs missing
  • Test your sleeping system – Are your sleeping bags and sleeping pad suitable for cold-weather camping?
  • Practice camp cooking – Is there anything missing from your camp kitchen?

By doing this you can carefully test your equipment to make sure everything is in good condition.

This is important so you don’t end up in the middle of the wilderness trying to solve issues like how to pitch your tent with a missing peg or trying to stay warm through the night when you don’t have the correct clothing!

No one wants to call it quits after their first night, feeling cold and miserable!

2. Choose The Right Camping Ground

The key to successful and fun winter camping with your kids is choosing the right camping location.

This choice involves a number of factors that may have a big impact on the overall enjoyment and safety of your trip.

For extreme cold weather camping, choose a campground that has facilities the whole family can make use of so it takes a little pressure off fending for yourselves in the wilderness.

The following facilities can make your whole trip a more enjoyable experience:

  • Toilet and showers – This is more comfortable than using a barely heated camp shower or doing your business in a bucket in the middle of a winter’s night
  • Camp kitchen – Having a shared cooking area means less having somewhere sheltered to prepare your meals
  • Kid-friendly activities – A playground or family-friendly hiking trails will help pass the cold days
  • Fires allowed – Not all camping sites allow you to have a fire and this can make a big difference in staying warm, especially at night
  • Space for a shelter – A larger campsite that gives you room for a tent and an extra shelter is ideal!
  • Nearby attractions – Having somewhere indoors to visit for a couple of hours to escape from the cold outdoor air can sometimes be worth considering!

Essential Winter Camping Gear For Families

The only way to survive winter camping is with the right camping gear!

Okay, that’s a tad dramatic but it is accurate if you are heading off on your trip in a region that gets really cold and potentially snows especially.

The right gear will make all the difference to your colder weather adventures.

3. Choose The Right Tent

Having the right tent is the number one thing to help your family enjoy camping during this time of year.

Yes, you can layer up with extra clothes and extra warm sleeping bags, but having a quality tent that blocks out the elements is going to make a big difference to your comfort levels.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a winter tent:

  • Four-season tent: Consider choosing a four-season tent since it is made with durable and strong materials to withstand the difficulties of winter camping, such as large snow loads, and offer enhanced protection from cold temperatures. 
  • Size: Make sure that the tent has enough space for everyone to fit comfortably inside. You should also consider not only space for sleeping but also room for storing gear and space for kids to move around without feeling crowded. This is more important during winter since you don’t want to end up with wet gear that’s left outside the tent overnight.
  • Separate Sleeping Quarters: Having a segmented tent allows you to close off a smaller space for sleeping so your shared body temperature can help keep yourselves and your kids warm.

4. Use Sleeping Pads Or Elevated Camping Beds

It can be uncomfortable and bone-chilling to sleep straight on the freezing ground.

Choose an insulated sleeping pad to prevent your body heat from draining and leaving you shivering. This means you won’t be sleeping directly on the cold ground or the tent base.

Another perfect option is elevated camping beds since it is elevated above the ground which creates a space where air can pass.

It usually protects you from the cold ground below. 

What you don’t want to choose is an air mattress, as it will fill with cold air and make you much colder through the cold night.

5. Choose The Right Sleeping Bags For Winter

Camping throughout the winter frequently involves dealing with icy weather which is why choosing a sleeping bag with a temperature suited for the expected weather to to keep you warm and comfy is important.

Also, consider the individual needs of your family. Kids might need a warmer sleeping bag than adults, as they are more sensitive to cold.

This is also where the practice at-home experience can really help with knowing if you will still feel cold through the night or if you have adequate warmth from your sleeping bags and blankets.

Extra blankets or a second sleeping bag is always a good idea for extra warmth too, especially if there’s a chance of bad weather and lower temperatures than anticipated.

You’d rather be too hot than too cold!

Clothing For Camping In Winter

Warm clothes to suit the temperatures is essential to keep the kids warm… and yourself, of course!

While you may have plans for being active through the day, with hiking and trekking, you need to account for the fact that those overnight temperatures will drop much lower.

6. Less Flammable Fabrics

Safety always comes first while camping in winter with kids, and that includes the clothes your family wears.

Choosing clothing made of less flammable materials helps keep your little people from any harm around the campfire. Burn holes can become much more serious with the wrong fibres!

Campfires are useful since they provide heat and an area to cook food. But the flames and the spark from it can also be dangerous, that is why it’s advisable to choose clothing that is more flame resistant, such as:

  • Wool 
  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Modacrylic

7. The Right Outerwear

two kids sitting on a wooden sleigh on a hill with a thermos and cups.

It is essential to think about your family’s comfort and safety in cold weather. 

Make sure that your kids’ outerwear fits them well and is the right size.

Clothing that is too tight can limit movement and cause cold patches, while clothing that is too loose can let in the cold air and be equally ineffective.

Additionally, it’s crucial to give space for layering, so pick sizes that leave space for several layers of clothes underneath.

We love the kids’ snow jackets from Anaconda here in Australia. They are great for cold weather – not just snow trips!

Choosing the right shoes is also important to keep feet protected, such as snow boots or warm boots for hiking.

You might also like to check out this guide to the best hiking gear for kids.

8. Extra Layers To Stay Warm

Using layers gives you the freedom to change your children’s clothing according to their activity level and the weather.

They can take off outer garments when they’re busy trekking, playing, or doing camp chores to avoid overheating. 

On the other hand, they can wear layers during times of inactivity or when the weather is chilly to stay warm and comfortable.

This includes things such as long underwear or thermal underwear, paired with items such as Merino wool jumpers and wool socks, beanies, scarves and gloves.

Additionally, bringing extra layers for sleep guarantees that your children can burrow into their sleeping bags without feeling chilly from wet daytime attire.

9. Quick Dry Fabrics

Quick-dry clothing offers an excellent defence against moisture in the unpredictable environment of winter camping.

Whether it comes from snowfall, rain, or an unintentional fall into a puddle – since kids have that talent for managing the unexpected sometimes!

Quick-dry fabrics are made to keep off moisture and dry quickly when wet. They include fabrics such as:

  • Nylon
  • Polyester
  • wool

These fabrics dry quickly and are ideal for layering as well.

They effectively prevent moisture from being trapped against the skin, which can cause rapid heat loss and discomfort in your child, by acting as a barrier between your child’s skin and their insulating layers.

Setting Up Camp

woman with a mug wrapped in a blanket at entrance of tent and a boy smiling from inside the tent.

When it comes time to set up your campsite, you want to make sure you have a safe and fun environment. If it happens to get the morning sun, that’s a nice bonus!

10. Have A Sheltered Area

Making a protected space for your family to escape the freezing cold winds and frequent snowfall is essential. 

This shelter offers a warm place for your family to congregate, eat, and unwind, making sure that everyone is warm and at ease during your winter camping trip.

This might be a pop-up gazebo with walls or a hammock tent to block out the chilly winds or it might be an extra large tent with a space where you can set up chairs to dine and play camping games together.

11. Set Up A Ground Rug Outside Your Tent

Having a ground rug acts as a shield from the cold ground. The ground can be really chilly in the winter, and standing on it barefoot is a fast way to have you all freezing!

Your family will have a warmer surface to stand on while getting dressed or getting ready for outdoor activities if you place a rug at the entrance of your tent.

The rug has the added benefit of preventing dirt and snow from tracking into the tent.

Snow and mud can easily stick to boots when your family enters and exits the tent, becoming dragged inside.

Food and Drink Considerations

There’s no denying that hot food and a warm drink are a fast way to warm yourselves up from the inside out!

You definitely want to plan ahead with your camping meal plan so you can have plenty of hot meals and some yummy hot chocolate to enjoy.

12. Meal Plan For Hot Meals

An enjoyable winter camping trip means preparing a meal plan that focuses on hot and satisfying dishes.

Whether you are using a portable stove or campfire grill, you will find plenty of hot food inspiration with these camping recipes and meal ideas:

You will also want to have lots of water that you can boil for hot cocoa or fill a hot water bottle at night for extra warmth in your tent too!

Grab our free camping meal planner here:

free printable camping meal planner.

13. Hot Drinks For A Quick Warm Up

Being able to make hot beverages can be a lifesaver to remain warm and comfortable. 

Here are some drinks you can easily prepare during your camping: 

  • Coffee: Find some great tips on making good camping coffee here.
  • Tea: A portable and practical choice since all you need is some tea bags.
  • Hot Chocolate or Hot Cocoa: Pack some hot chocolate mix or cocoa powder in a resealable bag.
  • Hot Lemonade: Squeeze fresh lemon into hot water, and add some honey.
  • Herbal Tea: Try lemon tea, ginger tea or some other herbal varieties.

Staying Warm at Night

Staying warm at night is definitely the biggest challenge of camping in winter with kids. You need to keep your kids warm but also not sacrifice your own warmth!

14. Warm Up Your Tent

a little girl with pigtails lying inside the entrance of a tent with lots of warm blankets and sleeping bags.

Staying warm in your tent during winter is important for a comfortable and safe outdoor experience. Here are some tips:

  • Add an insulating layer between the tarp and the tent floor.
  • Use a portable tent heater. Put it in the right position where it is stable and not near the wall fabric – always take precautions when using such things!
  • Control Ventilation to manage condensation, and allow moisture to escape.
  • Use a good sleeping pad for protection from the ground.
  • Have a hot water bottle for each person.
  • Sleep in the same section of the tent so you can share body heat.
  • If in doubt, always have extra blankets!

15. Extra Blankets Or Sleeping Bags

Having extra blankets or sleeping bags on hand is a smart strategy for giving your family nighttime comfort and warmth.

These layers can be placed either on top or underneath your sleeping bag and can make all the difference in creating a cosy sleeping environment for the entire family.

They are also good for snuggling in your camping chair while you play card games or drink your warm drinks.

Safety Precautions For Camping In Winter With Kids

There are few things more important than safety on a camping trip! Especially when you’re camping with kids.

And camping with kids in winter is a whole extra level of safety considerations to add to that list.

Not only are you making sure there are no scratches and bumps, bites and falls, but you are also making sure you keep the kid warm enough and avoid illnesses related to the cold weather.

16. Recognise Signs Of Illness

Familiarise yourself with the symptoms of cold weather-related illnesses such as hyperthermia.

Seek medical attention if you or your kids display signs like shivering, confusion, numbness, and exhaustion, as well as skin discolouration, and pain.

You should seek immediate medical attention if anyone in your family displays these symptoms.

17. Plan For Shorter Trips In Winter

It is a wise strategy to start with shorter trips, especially if you are with your kids.

  • Short trips allow for a more manageable and enjoyable experience
  • They help your family to adapt accordingly
  • Helps build confidence for a longer winter trip.

18. Light Up Your Campsite

Headlamps and LED lights play an amazing role in providing a comfortable nighttime camping.

It means you can see your way around the camping site at night – especially for those inconvenient nighttime toilet trips that kids often need.

Les likely someone will trip over a tent peg if they can see too!

Headlamps:

  • Helps perform camp chores, like cooking or other task that uses both hands since it is hand-free. 
  • It is perfect for reading and playing games or other solo activities when you don’t need the whole tent lit up.
  • Most headlamps have adjustable brightness settings.

LED lights and Solar Lights

  • Can be used inside your tent for a cozy and well-lit sleeping area
  • Can be placed along pathways near the tent for safety

19. Plan For A Campfire

Any camping experience must include planning for a campfire and safety must always come first, especially when younger kids are involved.

Here are some campfire safety tips:

  • Select a safe location, and make sure that it is far away from tents, trees, dry leaves, or any flammable materials.
  • Store firewood in a dry place, such as under a vehicle
  • Use a firestarter, like a newsletter to ignite the fire.
  • Build the fire gradually
  • Maintain a safe size fire
  • Never leave your campfire unattended
  • Explain fire safety rules, such as never playing with matches or lighters.
  • Show kids why it is important to keep a safe distance.

20. Stay Dry 

Staying dry is a must as often as you can since dry clothes are warm clothes! Wet clothing. is not going to keep anyone warm!

  • Putting a proper layer, such as base layers that dry away the moisture, a heated layer, and an outer cover that is waterproof helps you and your kids to be comfortable while camping.
  • Wear well-fitted waterproof boots, rain pants, and jackets
  • If needed, bring extra clothing in waterproof bags for sudden clothing changes for kids if they get wet.
  • Carry an Umbrella for extra coverage during downpours.

21. Stay Hydrated

It is best to be well-hydrated while camping in cold weather, and this is especially important for kids who might be less likely to drink when the weather is cooler.

Encourage everyone to drink water even if they do not feel thirsty to make sure they are hydrated and warm.

Cultivating a Positive Attitude

A positive attitude helps in every situation and a camping trip is no exception!

22. Embrace The Experience

Encourage your kids to fully embrace the winter camping experience to raise their love for outdoor activities.

Here’s how to inspire kids to make the most of their experience:

  • Engage your child’s curiosity, like identifying plants and animals together.
  • Have nature-based activities
  • Share campfire stories
  • Enjoy time in your cosy tent playing games and spending quality time together.

23. Lots Of Planned Activities

Having plenty of things to do throughout the day and when you are winding down after your evening meal will help distract you from the cold.

Bring compact travel board games and card games to have fun inside the tent such as:

Plan outdoor Games and Activities:

  • Plan a nature-themed Scavenger Hunt around the campground.
  • Have fun hiking games and activities planned for walks
  • Bring binoculars and observe birds, insects, and other things that you and your kids might find interesting.
  • Let your kids take part in campfire cooking.
  • Look for a nearby lake and challenge each other to see who can skip rocks across the lake.
  • Gather around the campfire and play camping games like Two Truths and Never Have I Ever. You can also sing a song together or do storytelling.

Find more winter camping activities for families here.

Conclusion: Camping With Kids In Winter

Winter camping with kids can be a fun and memorable experience with the right preparation and mindset. We hope these winter camping tips for your next cold-weather adventure with your family have helped you plan your own fun winter camp trip into the great outdoors!

tent set up in the snow with text that reads tips for winter camping with kids.