The 20 Best Cold-Weather Camping Essentials

Jan 7, 2021

Category: Gear

As the winter months roll around and temperatures start to plummet, it becomes an increasingly tall order to maintain comfort and warmth while camping. And while this fact deters a great many outdoors enthusiasts from taking to the backcountry, the reality is that, with the right garments and gear, even arctic-grade camping conditions can be braved. Regular advancements in insulation, fitment, and other materials have also given way to a growing number of items that afford incredible warmth and/or durability without restricting the wearer’s movement or overly weighing them down.

So, with winter now in full effect, it seems a more than appropriate time to revisit the winter gear sector in order to shine a light on today’s best cold-weather camping essentials. Whether you’re simply looking for some warm winter socks and new base layers for a casual snow camping trip, or aim to arm yourself for a hardcore high-altitude expedition, this list has got you covered.

On High Sock

With limited circulation and ample exposed surface area, our extremities are particularly susceptible to foul weather, and while a solid pair of winter boots are an obvious must-have for camping throughout the year’s colder months, far too often the socks that line them are undercooked. This top-shelf set of running socks from On features an advanced polyamide and elastane blend supplemented via technical mesh paneling at the arch of the foot that reportedly triggers sensory receptors. Offered in three colorway options, these Swiss-engineered are also just as conducive to running applications as they are appropriate for cold weather camping use.

Purchase: $22

EXOTAC Waterproof Match Case

The ability to start a fire during the winter can easily be a determining factor in life and death situations, which is why it’s so crucial to be equipped with a trusty, full-proof fire source like Exotac’s Waterproof Match Case. Precision-machined from aerospace-grade 6061 aluminum and fortified with an anodized finish, this pocketable, sub-1oz piece of kit can house 20 standard kitchen matches, 16 NATO matches, or half-a-dozen stormproof matches. Waterproof to 16.4’ (or 5m), this waterproof match case also includes a lanyard loop that accommodates up to two stands of 550 paracord and is sold with extra match striking pads and o-rings.

Purchase: $29

Zippo HEATBANK 9S Plus

For years, Zippo’s classic lighter fluid-powered pocket and hand-warmer has been a winter outdoor staple, though recently the iconic American brand opted to treat its hand warmer to a thoroughly modern update, resulting in the HEATBANK 9S Plus. Built around an aluminum housing that contains heating elements on both sides of the device, the HEATBANK 9S Plus boasts half-a-dozen power modes, with the highest allowing it to achieve temperatures of 120°F (or 50°C). Outfitted with an integrated LED flashlight and a battery level display, this rechargeable hand warmer is powered by a 5,200mAh Lithium-ion battery that affords up to nine hours of “burn time,” though can also be used to charge cameras, smartphones, or other devices via its pair of USB ports.

Purchase: $48

The North Face ThermoBall Eco Traction Bootie

Buying camp slippers has traditionally meant choosing between a pair that’s either warm or durable, though the outdoor experts at The North Face are here to change this unfortunate reality with the introduction of its ThermoBall Eco Traction Bootie. These rugged and robust booties are crafted atop a grippy sole made from 405 recycled rubber and feature a main upper construction comprised entirely of recycled polyethylene terephthalate. What’s more, the PET fabric construction has also been treated to a special coating affording it resistance from water and light snowfall, while inside the use of PrimaLoft Thermoball Eco—another material derived from recycled post-consumer product and scraps—help to ensure your feet stay warm no matter how far the needle drops.

Purchase: $60

Burton Baker Power Wool Base Layers

Very few companies have a better understanding of what garments and gear are needed on the mountain during winter better than Burton, and for the ongoing cold-weather season, the Burlington-based board and gear purveyor has deployed its new Baker Power Wool base layer collection. Constructed from Polartec’s proprietary Power Wool base—a breathable, lightweight yet incredible durable Merino wool and poly blend with quick-drying and antimicrobial properties that boasts Burton’s best warmth-to-weight ratio ever—these top-shelf undergarments sport a chafe-free design with soft-lock seams and a rugged synthetic exterior layer. A lifetime warranty also ensures season after season of use.

Purchase: $140+

Benchmade Leuku Knife

Quite often, camping during the colder parts of the year will require some impromptu chores and tasks, from building a shelter to prepping food to readying the campfire. And when it comes to ultra-rugged do-it-all outdoors blades, few genres tick as many boxes as the classic bushcraft knife. First debuting in April of 2020, Benchmade’s Leuku knife represents a modern interpretation of a traditional bushcraft blade, with a full-tang, 5.19” long, 0.14” thick satin-finish CPM-3V steel drop point blade mated to a robust handle crafted from Santoprene, a high-performance thermoplastic elastomer that’s similar in feel to rubber though substantially more durable.

Purchase: $165

NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad

Born out of extensive real-world experience and engineered specifically for cold weather camping applications, NEMO’s Tensor insulated sleeping pad is outfitted with a host of subtle features that collectively make for an incredibly warm and comfortable night’s rest. A “Spaceframe” baffle setup affords a stable surface that evenly distributes the user’s weight to keep them off the ground while dual layers of NEMO’s Thermal Mirror suspended metalized film allows for insulation that’s good for temperatures as low as 10°F. Boasting a high-end 20D fabric exterior, the NEMO Tensor sleeping pad also features the brand’s Laylow zero-profile, micro-adjustable valve and is sold with its Vortex pump sack.

Purchase: $175

Arc’teryx Fission SV Glove

Just like with your feet, your hands lose heat quickly, which can not only be painful but can also hugely limit finger dexterity. In typical Arc’teryx fashion, the BC-based outdoor brand has delivered a decidedly top-shelf, over-engineered solution to cold hands with its Fission SV Glove. Designed to stand up to extreme alpine conditions, these gauntlet-style gloves feature a rugged soft-shell construction supplemented via a full GORE-TEX membrane and genuine leather fingers and palms. Inside, the Fission SV sports a moisture-wicking Octa Loft lining that contains PrimaLoft Gold insulation in the fingers and PrimaLoft Silver on the back of the hands in order to provide ample warmth without overly compromising movement.

Purchase: $199

Wolverine Shiftplus Polar Range BOA Winter Boot

Founded all the way back in 1883, Wolverine has developed a solid reputation for producing high-quality American-made boots, and though the Michigan-based manufacturer typically trades in more traditional workwear-focused offerings, the brand has more recently stepped outside its comfort zone with the release of its Shiftplus Polar Range BOA Boot. Using a BOA fit system, the boot sees a premium waterproof full-grain leather upper mated to a Vibram® Arctic Grip outsole using ForgeTek direct-attach construction, before being reinforced with a DuraSpring low-density PU midsole and a nylon shank. Additional comfort and protection from the elements come from a breathable and fully waterproof membrane with a moisture-wicking mesh lining, and 600-grams of Primaloft Gold Aerogel insulation—a material that was originally developed by NASA.

Purchase: $230

Petzl Lynx Leverlock Modular Crampons

In a bid to deliver a more versatile alternative to traditional crampons, Petzl has produced its Lynx Leverlock model, a contemporary crampon that’s not only incredibly modular but can also be adjusted with immense ease thanks to the inclusion of some simple yet clever tools, such as modifying the length of the front points by simply turning a screw. Sold in a Fakir carrying bag, the Lynx Leverlock Crampons tip the scales at less than 2.5lbs, despite their hardwearing and heavy-duty tempered steel construction. Other highlights include adjustable Leverlock heels and low-profile anti-snow plates that help mitigate the buildup of snow between your boots and crampons.

Purchase: $250

Filson X Council Tool Pack Axe

This trusty pack ax was created through a collaboration between Filson and Council Tool, a 135-year old brand based in Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina. Released in the Spring of 2020, this American-made ax packs a 24” handle that can be used with one or two hands and is made from grade-A hickory wood which has been hand-selected to ensure each unit has a straight grain. Fixed to the handle is a tempered 5160 steel head that’s extremely resistant to chipping and boasts a Rockwell rating in the mid-’50s. The ax is also sold with a Filson-branded leather carrying sheath with quick-release rifle-style buckles.

Purchase: $250

BioLite FirePit+

A truly modern portable campfire for the smart-era, BioLite’s FirePit+ is a versatile do-it-all offering that can function as a hibachi-style grill or a traditional campfire. Using either charcoal or firewood as its fuel source, the grill features a patented airflow technology that, when combined with its 12,800mAh Lithium-ion battery, offers ridiculously long and efficient burn times of up to 30 hours and can be monitored or adjusted remotely via a smartphone app. Adorned in a high-temperature enamel coating for added durability, the FirePit+ also sports an “X-Ray” mesh body that allows heat to freely radiate outwards 360-degrees. Best of all, it weighs in at just under 20lbs and has folding legs, making it surprisingly portable.

Purchase: $250+

Fjällräven Expedition Pack Down Hoodie

Despite debuting fairly recently, we’ve become thoroughly enamored with Fjällräven’s new Expedition Pack Down Hoodie, as the Swedish outdoor brand has managed to deliver a garment that’s extraordinarily comfortable, lightweight, and warm. Produced in five colors, the jacket is built around a recycled polyamide shell and liner stuffed with 110-grams of 700 fill power ethically-sourced goose feather and down and outfitted with warm lined pockets, an adjustable hood, reinforced synthetic padding across the shoulders, and secure zippered pockets throughout. The entire jacket can also be folded up and stuffed into one of its own pockets that acts as a carrying case.

Purchase: $275

Rumpl x Snow Peak NanoLoft Takibi Blanket

As obvious as it may sound, a warm field blanket is a tried and true method of warding off the cold, whether around a campfire or as an extra layer on top of a sleeping bag at night. And while Rumpl already churns out some of, if not the best-insulated field blankets currently available, the Portland-based brand has managed to maintain its product’s efficacy and quality while upping the cool factor through a special limited edition collaboration with premium Japanese outfit, Snow Peak. Produced entirely from post-consumer recycled materials, the machine-washable 50” x 70” throw blanket features a shell constructed from fire-resistant Snow Peak Aramid ripstop fabric that’s lined with a 20D ripstop nylon fabric bottom, filled with synthetic NanoLoft insulation, and treated with a DWR finish.

Purchase: $299

OLIGHT Marauder 2 Flashlight

No matter what time of year you opt to venture into the great outdoors, a quality flashlight is a blatant essential, and when it comes to high lumen output models in ultra-durable and compact packages, few torches can hold a flame to OLIGHT’s Marauder 2. This upgraded version of the already thoroughly-impressive X7R Marauder packs an enormous 14,000-lumen floodlight beam that can be thrown just shy of half-a-mile courtesy of a dozen In addition to a myriad of light modes and an IPX8-rated aluminum alloy body, this powerful LED flashlight also has built-in thermal and proximity sensors and can automatically dim itself as needed if placed too close to an object. A trio of 5,000mAh battery cells affords nearly 60 hours of burn time while also enabling the flashlight to function as a battery pack for other mobile gadgets.

Purchase: $330

Hyperlite Prism Pack

While not a household name amongst hikers, anglers, campers, or other general outdoor enthusiasts, Hyperlite is beyond well-known in the hardcore mountaineering realm, with a catalog of steadily refined and improved pieces of serious kit. The American outdoor brand’s Prism Pack is one such item that’s benefitted with tweaks, revisions, and upgrades since the bag’s initial release, and now stands at the top of its space with an ultra-rugged main body, shoulder straps, and hip-belt made from Dyneema Composite Fabrics DCH150, and 375D DCHW side-panels and bottom. made by hand in Biddeford, Maine, the bag boasts just about every feature a mountaineer could hope for with diamond pocket locks for tool heads, bungees with quick-release pull tabs for securing climbing axes, an external crampon pouch, and a supplementary ax loop for non-technical mountaineering axes.

Purchase: $395

Grivel Dark Machine Ice Tool

From race cars to surfboards to wallets to EDC knives, carbon fiber has permeated a great many industries over the last decade, with the woven construction offering a stellar strength-to-weight ratio, and now Grivel is one of the latest outfits to adopt the material, employing carbon fiber to produce its latest top-shelf ice ax. The Dark Machine Ice Tool is made with a full carbon fiber handle paired with a carbon-composite shaft, enabling it to tip the scales at just 1.05lbs. Aside from its construction, the most noteworthy element of this offering is its interchangeable blade design which can accept a variety of blades and accessories from Grivel’s Vario system. The ice ax is sold with a forged, T-rated Ice Vario blade, too.

Purchase: $420

Mammut Barryvox S Beacon

Not unlike smoke alarms or security systems, spot beacons are one of those things that you’ll hopefully never have to use, though should the worst happen and a situation arises that necessitates one, you’ll be beyond glad that you have one at the ready. Considering these devices can be literal deal breakers in life and death situations, we’ve always thought it worth it to spend a little extra to ensure you’re getting a solid satellite spot beacon such as Mammut’s Barryvox S Beacon. Designed specifically for backcountry use on the mountain, this spot beacon offers an enormous 230’ (or 70m) range in digital mode, with the option for an even greater range in analog mode. A digital display also shows distance, direction, and even victim number, and there’s an auto function that deactivates search mode and sends out a signal if the user is unresponsive and not moving for four minutes.

Purchase: $500

Mountain Hardwear Phantom GORE-TEX Sleeping Bag

For those planning on facing the world’s coldest and toughest conditions, immensely warm and robust gear is required, and in the sleeping bag sector, it doesn’t get much warmer or more robust than Mountain Hardwear’s Phantom GORE-TEX sleeping bag. Equipped with a full GORE WINDSTOPPER fabric shell stuffed with ethically-sourced 850-fill-power down insulation, this genuinely expedition-grade mummy bag is rated to handle otherworldly temperatures as low as -40°F. Ample warmth is achieved through the use of vertical sidewall baffles, a cinching hood and face gasket, and a specially-shaped down-filled draft collar that traps in heat. This objectively top-shelf sleeping bag is also sold with included nylon compression and mesh storage sacks.

Purchase: $900+

HEIMPLANET Mavericks Tent

It may sound like a bold statement, but we’d wager that HEIMPLANET produces the finest camping tents that money can buy. The company’s Mavericks model distinguishes itself from other top-shelf tents through its inflatable diamond grid structure, which gives the over-57lb tent the ability to stand up to wind speeds exceeding 110mph. Despite its rugged and complex nature, the tent still offers 140 square feet of floor space—good for sleeping up to ten people—and can easily be erected by a single person as its set up is achieved simply through unrolling the tent and inflating it. And while HEIMPLANET’s tents admittedly don’t come cheap, there really isn’t anything out there that’s superior to these insanely strong and warm temporary structures.

Purchase: $5,782

The 18 Best Cold Weather Motorcycle Essentials

Plan on taking to the road this winter on two-wheels? Then be sure to check out our robust guide to the best cold weather motorcycle essentials for today’s latest and greatest in winter-ready riding garb.

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