Wild Woods: 18 Essentials for Winter Camping

When you’re serious about the outdoors, a few snow flurries, a couple of avalanches, and finding the frozen bodies of some missing backpackers is hardly enough to deter you from heading out for a little camping under the winter sky. Cold weather just adds a bracing new element of fun to your camping trips, and requires that you pack a little extra insulation so that when the springtime thaw comes, you’re not found under the snowpack, stiff as a board and still clutching your disposable lighter. Get the right equipment, and winter camping will open up a whole new kind of fun.

There’s really only one rule when it comes to winter camping: Don’t freeze. Everything that goes in your car or on your back should be geared toward keeping you warm. Right down to the food you have, each thing you load up should contribute to keeping your blood flowing and your fingers and toes from falling off. You should have redundancies in place at every turn, and ways to communicate should something go wrong. So that you never risk being a human popsicle, we have 18 winter camping essentials for you.

MSR Fury Tent

MSR Fury Tent

Made of ripstop nylon in a double-walled design, the Fury weighs just a hair over six pounds and is ideal for mountaineering or cozy camping under the worst conditions. Color coding and a strong frame make it quick and easy to set up even in gale force winds while wearing winter gloves.

Purchase: $488

Mountain Hardwear Phantom

Mountain Hardwear Phantom

A true 800-fill down sleeping bag made for zero degree weather is usually bulky as hell, but the Phantom is a true phantom weight at less than three pounds. It repels water and fits you like a second skin while the ergonomic draft collar keeps cold air at bay.

Purchase: $580

Therm-a-Rest Neo-Air Xtherm

Therm-a-Rest Neo-Air Xtherm

Layered with plenty of ThermaCapture materials, this is one of the few air mattresses that won’t absorb cold from the ground and transfer it to your body. It doesn’t slip or slide, so you won’t fall off of it even during restless nights or find yourself bumping into your camping partner.

Purchase: $200

Arcteryx Fission SV Jacket

Arcteryx Fission SV Jacket

Constructed using Polyester Gore-Tex material, this jacket moves quietly, weighs little, and will keep your insulated through backcountry skiing, trekking, or any other adventures in sub-zero temperatures. Gusseted in all the right places, it won’t ever bind to constrict your movement.

Purchase: $560

Mountain Hardwear Compressor Pant

Mountain Hardwear Compressor Pant

Using an adjustable waist and fully zippered legs for the perfect level of ventilation, these will enhance your blood flow while the 20D ripstop nylon allows for freedom of movement, warmth, and resiliency during the harshest climbs or the toughest belays.

Purchase: $175

Patagonia Capilene Thermal Base Layers

Patagonia Capilene Thermal Base Layers

A nice zip-neck top with snug leggings from Patagonia are the only things you’re going to want against your skin when you need breathable warmth that also wicks away moisture. Made of Patagonia’s capilene polyester fabric, these are comfortable during long, hard days and cold, cold nights. They also fight off the bacteria that causes odors so you can adventure longer, wash less, and still not wilt plants as you pass.

Purchase: $99 Top Purchase: $89 Bottoms

Black Diamond Mercury Mitts

Black Diamond Mercury Mitts

Truly waterproof, you’ll never need to worry about wetness so long as the removable liner is in. As it gets warmer, you can take the liner out while still enjoying the stretchable, breathable warmth of the mittens, complete with their goatskin palm patch for gripping your poles or camp knife.

Purchase: $83

SmartWool NTS Mid 250 Balaclava

SmartWool NTS Mid 250 Balaclava

So thin it doesn’t feel like it can stand up to severe winter weather, once you don this merino wool miracle, you’ll see how warm a svelte piece of fabric can be and how it prevents your lips from chapping and your skin from suffering the bite of the freezing winds atop your favorite mountain.

Purchase: $40

Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew

Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew

No matter what weight works best for your excursion, Smartwool PhD has a sock that will make your feet feel like they’re strolling through the park, not climbing to knock on the gates of heaven. They wick away sweat for less smell and reduce hotspots so that you’ll never have a hike cut short from a boot blister.

Purchase: $24

Stumptown by Danner Men's Mountain Light II

Stumptown by Danner Men’s Mountain Light II

They might look as plain as porridge, but with a vibram outsole and full grain leather uppers, these have lumberjack DNA built right in. They’re some of the toughest and most comfortable boots you’re going to find at any price, and with a waterproof Gore-Tex lining that lets your feet breathe, they’re everything you could want in the winter.

Purchase: $254

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack

Sans frills, this is the ultimate pack for the weekend hiker or alpine camper who needs the bare essentials in a featherweight backpack. Completely constructed of Cuben Fiber, it’s as hardy as it is weightless and easy to pack and dig through while in the teeth of a storm.

Purchase: $320

MSR Reactor Stove

MSR Reactor Stove

Meant to minimize size but still give you plenty of space for heating up your favorite camp food, this can go in your pack easily and heat up in the worst possible conditions so you can get the calories you require for living in the freezing wilderness.

Purchase: $200

Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp

Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp

Nights are a lot longer and more brutal in winter, and you need both your hands free for most tasks, which is why having a headlamp is a life saver. Long-lasting with 3 NiMH AAA batteries and capable of throwing out 110 lumens, it even has a red setting so you can keep your night vision.

Purchase: $60

UCO Stormproof Match Kit

UCO Stormproof Match Kit

Wisdom tells us that you should have at least three ways to make fire when you’re camping or bugging out. Let this waterproof match cylinder with 25 stormproof matches be one of them. It comes with multiple strikers and the matches will each give you fully 15 seconds of fire, even if submerged in water.

Purchase: $7

Zippo Hand Warmer

Zippo Hand Warmer

Able to go for up to 12 hours, you can put this into your mittens, stuff it into your boots, or tuck it into your sleeping bag. Sleek, slender, and low-tech, this is portable warmth, plain and simple.

Purchase: $13

Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug

Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug

Multiple designs allow you to select the size that suits your winter camping style while the easy flip-top lid lets you access your glorious cocoa, tea, or Irish coffee without ever taking off your gloves. Best of all, the pictograph lock keeps it from opening in your pack and spilling its contents everywhere.

Purchase: $26

Three Jerks Filet Mignon Beef Jerky

Three Jerks Filet Mignon Beef Jerky

You should already have your favorite camp food packed, but for trail snacking there’s nothing better than the tangy bite of some sweetly marinated beef jerky. It has loads of protein for long-distance energy with a flavor and texture that proves they used high-end beef (specifically filet mignon) for this succulent jerky.

Purchase: $12

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