12 Terrific Tips for Camping in Winter – with Kids!

A family camping in a tent in the snow

Camping and outdoor kids’ adventures in all seasons

We have the luxury that winter is our peak season for desert camping adventures here in the UAE, where we live. Nights can be chilly, but it’s still sand beneath our toes and stars above our heads, not ice, snow, or mud beneath our boots while sheltering from the rain!

How on earth is it possible to camp in cold, even icy, conditions?

I’ve turned again to my outdoor expert Shelley for some handy tips we can share with you on the best way to tackle winter camping, with the kids. We share with your today her top 12 tips for not just surviving but enjoying a winter camping trip.

This post is part of our outdoor adventures series

Camping during the winter months will allow your family to extend the camping season and explore the wilderness with fewer crowds and more space around you. Understanding winter camping with kids’ unique challenges and taking the time to plan and prepare will make the experience enjoyable and safe.

12 Tips To Survive Winter Camping With Kids

Winter camping with kids can be so much fun, but the number one worry that we always have as parents is how do you keep your kids warm while camping?

Below are tips on how to have fun and stay cosy winter camping with your tots. If you have already taken your little one camping during the summer, you can win this too. But first, ensure that your little ones enjoy the outdoors.

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Tip 1. Prepare Beforehand For The Winter Camping

When dealing with kids, there is no better way to ensure you have fun than planning. Preparing ahead of time for camping during winter entails having enough food, the correct clothing, and the right gear. The basic point you should never overlook is securing a safe and fun environment that will ensure your kiddos have a blast.

While still prepping for real winter camping, you can have a test run by camping in your backyard during the winter months. The test run will also help you test your camping gear beforehand.

Well, there are more ways than the ones we list below to ensure you are prepared to the tooth and sail through the cold with your hot chocolate.

Basic things that you should pack when winter camping with kids:

  • Water: you should carry plenty of clean drinking water ( i.e. at least two gallons of water per person). But before packing your water, you can confirm whether your camping ground has clean water available (some campsites only have potable water in the summer months).
  • Food: you already know far too well that you have cranky tots without food. Deal with the crankiness by ensuring you have enough food and snacks to indulge in during the camp. Remember, body heat is produced frequently during the cold season, and we need healthy snacks to replenish the energy used. Go large on the snacks! It also helped to have some pre-made camping meals ready to go straight on the stove or campfire.
  • Firestarter: The chances of the whole family freezing on camp are real without firestarters! Lighters or matches will do as we all want to return home safely. And don’t forget a supply of dry firewood.
  • Beddings: quality sleeping bags and sleeping bag liners rated for the temperatures you are camping in will help you and your kids keep warm during the looong night.
  • Shelter: ensure that you invest in high-quality weather-proof tents that can handle the cold, and do not forget rainfly.
  • Kids: It’s all about them!
  • First Aid Kit: Keeping our little ones from injuries is next to mission impossible. The first aid kit can come in handy.

Tip 2. Invest In Quality Waterproof Tents

When we talk of tents, we mean a four-season tent, single or double wall. But since we majorly want to ensure that our young ones have a blast, we should probably work with the double-walled waterproof tent as it is warmer compared to the single-walled ones.

Here is what to look for when investing in a quality tent for your winter camping with kids:

  • The tent should be large enough to accommodate your whole family. And because we all know how sleeping with our little ones is, a tent with separate sleeping quarters will be best.
  • A vestibule: It will help in leaving the wet gear, like boots, out of the sleeping area. This will mean that your sleeping area is free of snow, and your shoes are also safe from the elements.
  • Double-layered tent: Since a double-layered tent is warmer than a single-layered one, it’s ideal. A double-layered tent will have an inner tent and an outer rainfly, which provides additional protection from the elements camping in the rain.

Tip 3. Quality Sleeping Bags

After we have a good four-season tent, we next need to consider how to insulate it from the ground. Sleeping on the floor with your tots will not only be uncomfortable but will also be a risk of losing body heat (which is crucial to maintain during the winter months)

Using a sleeping bag liner will help keep everyone warm during the night; they are also easy to slip into sleeping bags. This will help as the insulation in a sleeping bag does not do as much when squished flat under the weight of your tot’s body ( or yours ). But a quality sleeping pad with a high R-value will help keep your family off the cold ground from affecting your whole family.

You can also opt to layer some extra blankets under your sleeping area. Remember to take a handful of blankets when packing the right gear for cold-weather camping. Do not forget your kid’s favourite ones, as these will help layer them up.

Tip 4. Always Cloth The Kids In Layers

If space is not an issue when packing for your winter camping, then you can never overpack when it comes to extra clothes. You would rather not use the clothes than need them and not have them, right?

Layering is absolutely important when it comes to cold winter temperatures. You, therefore, need to choose the right clothes for your camp. It is wise to steer clear of cotton clothes during winter as they absorb moisture easily.

Let your little ones wear long underwear, woolly socks, and hats to remain warm. To ensure you do not forget when packing, here is a list that will help you:

  • Warm socks
  • Warm jammies
  • Winter jackets
  • Warm boots and snow boots
  • Long underwear
  • Warm gloves. You can also opt for hand warmers.
  • Warm hoodie
  • Warm hat

The same way you dress your little ones during the day, you can also dress them at night, keeping in mind that the temps will only get colder.

There’s no overpacking when it comes to your kiddo’s clothes. Therefore pack enough to ensure there is always a fresh warm set of cloth to change into in case they get wet.

Tip 5. Keep Them Dry

During the chilly months, you do not want to mix cold and wet as it is a miserable combo, especially when spending time outdoors. Use a vestibule to ensure you do not get any snow in the tent, especially in the sleeping area.

And because being out in the cold will not allow you to hang things out to dry if your kiddos get themselves wet, you should change them out for dry items—the more reason you must be prepared with plenty of extra dry things.

While this might be counterintuitive, do not layer your kid too much so they start sweating. This sweat can rapidly cool them down as their body temperature starts to cool. It is, therefore, wiser to opt for layers you can easily get the off of.

Remind them to also sleep with their heads out of their sleeping bags. Sleeping with their heads out of their sleeping bags is safer and will also help not trap vapour from their breath, cooling them down.

Tip 6. Bright Night Lights

Kids can get scared of the dark during your camping trip. It is normal. But to make sure that this fear does not become a nightmare, make sure that you have some bright lights that they can also wear as headlamps.

This way, whenever they feel fear creeping in, or there is a need to relieve themselves, they can always light it on. Alternatively, you can also have a string of LED lights, which will be great for a nightlight in the tent.

And also, do not forget that the days are shorter in the winter months, meaning that for the nights not to seem long, you need to stay for several hours in the dark before bedtime.

Tip 7. Have a Campfire

Whether you choose to have a DIY fire starter or a more modern high-tech option, the fact remains that you can not camp in the winter without a campfire. When making the campfire, remember to wear and clothe your kids in clothes that will be ok if you get some burn holes. This is because sparks from the fire can create tiny holes destroying the winter clothes.

A campfire is essential and amazing as it helps create memories for your little ones. You can decide to chill and snuggle by the fire, burn marshmallows, or have some campfire songs. And don’t forget the S’mores!

8. Stay Hydrated

Hydration can not be emphasized enough, especially with your active little ones. Even when winter camping, you need to ensure that everyone is staying well hydrated.

Hydrating during winter is important, especially if your little ones are all over. Remember that you have clothed them in layers, and all the activities will make them sweat, which might lead to dehydration if they have not had enough water.

So, ensure that your whole family amidst all the fun in your winter camp. Does taking hot chocolate count? Well, if you say so! You should also give your toddler a warm drink at bedtime. Taking a warm drink will help calm them and warm them up from the inside out. Remember to go slow on the sugars if you are looking forward to quality sleep.

9. Keep Your Little Ones Busy

When winter camping with kids, the last thing you need on your list is to make it boring. You read right! You are solely responsible for how the camp turns out (ok, not all the way!) but remember, as much as you will appreciate nature, your kids need to have fun too.

Preplan camping activities that will keep your tots moving and entertained, or all they will be thinking about will be the clod. Literally! If there will be snow in your camping area, you can plan by bringing the necessary tools that will help in building snowmen, igloos, or going sledding or skiing.

Fun winter activities outdoors include:

  • Whipping out some DIY snow paint will help in making fun designs on the snow.
  • DIY cute snowman snow measuring stick and graph the snow during the trip
  • Winter play ideas for kids
  • Bringing along some fun snow toys for the kids
  • Printing out some winter nature scavenger hunt for the kids to use around the camp

10. Pack Plenty Of Winter Camping Food

While cooking during summer camps can be soo much fun, the freezing hours are not something you will want to experience for hours while cooking. This comes down to eating simple. Think of foods you and your family can eat comfortably without taking off your mittens.

You can also opt to carry freeze-dried house meals; fulfilling and energizing snacks should also be included. By planning ahead of time, you can also carry along your good camp stove or dutch oven to ensure that hot chocolate does not run out.

11. Make Up Hot Water Bottles

Camping with toddlers in cold weather makes hot water bottles a necessity. To avoid accidents that the hot water bottle poses, you should use mini hot water bottles with covers that cover the opening completely. Do not choose a hot water bottle that is too small, as it will not retain heat for long.

Place the hot water bottle with hot water in your kiddo’s sleeping bags about 15 minutes before they retire for the night. This will ensure that their sleeping bag is cosy by the time they get to bed.

While getting the right temperature might take some time, you can also let your kids guide you. But always monitor your little ones’ heat levels, so they do not get too hot and sweat.

12. For Safety Purposes, Let People Know Where You Are Heading And When You Will Be Back

When you decide to go winter camping with kids, it is always advisable that you let people know where you are going. This is important because time will be of great essence if things ever go south.

And also, most probably, you might be out of your phone network, and you do not want people to worry for no reason if they can not reach you.

When camping in the cold with your kids, you have to pay special attention to insulation and fule and still keep the adventure filled with fun. Don’t let the cols and complications scare you away, though. Once you are prepared, it is as easy as sipping your hot cocoa and dodging some snowballs.

With thanks again to Shelley for sharing her outdoor adventure hacks. You can also read her advice on the best hiking gear for hitting the trails with family and tips for making hiking fun for small kids.

More Winter Travel Inspiration

Resisting that urge to crawl under the blankets for a few months, here are some more fabulous ideas to get the family out and about and still exploring in the northern hemisphere winter months:

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A family sitting around a camp fire captioned Winter Camping Trip Tips with Kids

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