Winter doesn’t have to be the end of backpacking season. With a bit of planning and the right cold-weather gear, the snowy mountains can be a great place to snowshoe, ski, hike, and even camp. Winter camping is, of course, colder and wetter than its summer equivalent, meaning you’ll need to pay more, if not most, of your attention to staying warm and dry. Because of this, most of the gear you need will be thicker and bigger, so count on carrying a heavier pack. Here are a few of the best pieces of winter camping gear that will keep you safe and comfortable to ensure you have a great time.
Mountain Hardwear Trango 2
Tents are your escape from winter weather. Four-season tents, in particular, need to be strong, dry, and easy to pitch. When the wind starts to howl and it’s raining sideways or dumping snow, the tent should be a safe place to wait it out. Mountain Hardwear’s Trango two-person tent is an excellent place to spend a night in the snow. Color-coded poles help you set up quickly in terrible conditions, and a large vestibule allows you to store your wet gear outside while still protecting it from the weather.
Sierra Designs Nitro 0-Degree Sleeping Bag
When the temperature drops, there’s nothing worse than shivering all night. A lightweight sleeping bag that will keep you warm is essential for winter camping. Wearing extra clothes, adding a hot water bottle, or putting a thicker liner inside the sleeping bag will add some extra warmth but can only go so far. The Nitro 0-Degree sleeping bag from Sierra Designs is a far better option than hypothermia.
The Nitro bag is rated down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit for cold sleepers and 2 °F for warm sleepers. You’ll be toasty in this bag, and if it gets too warm, you can just stick your feet out the Self Sealing foot vent. The PFC-free, 800-fill, water-resistant Dridown will expand more than most down, packing down better and drying faster. All this comes without breaking the bank, either, considering how comparable bags are hundreds of dollars more.
Osprey Aether Pro 70 Backpack
All this gear isn’t going to carry itself, especially in winter when there’s even more to lug. Osprey’s Aether Pro 70 is a durable 70-liter outdoor backpack designed for world treks, weekends to the cabin, or winter camping in the mountains. The size gives you a little bit of extra room for the bulky winter gear. The back panel on the Aether Pro 70 is made of a continuous mesh sheet that wraps around the top into the shoulder straps around the sides into the hip belt.
This makes it feel like the pack is floating on your back, rather than slamming against it. Tons of straps and attachment points let you carry everything else you need. The removable top lid has multiple pockets and even turns into a small day pack for shorter hikes from basecamp. A small “FlapJacket” lid with no pockets can be used in place for the lid pack for a slightly smaller, lighter pack.
Crescent Moon Eva Foam Snowshoes
If you’ve ever experienced a posthole — one leg falling into the snow up to your knee or even hip — then you know how much easier walking on snowshoes can be. Crescent Moon has a radical new design that is easier than ever to slip on and get hiking (or running) with. Instead of hard metal and plastic set up, the Eva foam snowshoe is just two layers of foam with a hook and loop binding on top. The binding is fast and easy to get in and out of. The top layer of foam is squishy for more comfort when walking, whereas the bottom is hard with big tire-like lugs and metal spikes for traction. The whole thing has a curved shape to roll you forward with each step. If you don’t need them for a rocky section, they are lightweight and lay flat to strap to your back.
Stio’s Men’s Wilcox Fleece Jacket
Just as important as any base layer or outer shell is your choice of mid-layer. Stio’s Wilcox Fleece Jacket is a versatile, four-season piece that works great as an outer layer in the fall or as part of a complete layered winter apparel kit. The Wilcox is made of 100% recycled Lofton sweater fleece. So, it looks like wool but with the same soft, cozy feel and rugged technical properties of fleece. The full-zip design is easy-on, easy-off when the weather suddenly changes. Zippered hand and chest pockets provide plenty of additional space to stow your wallet, smartphone, or electric hand warmers.
Beyond Clothing Trek Glove System
In winter, keeping your hands warm is almost as important as warming your core. Numb fingers are useless for outdoor essentials like starting a fire, making dinner, or pitching a tent. Beyond Clothing’s Trek Glove System is designed to keep you moving in even the coldest conditions. The two-glove system relies on a modular approach. The interior layer consists of a lean work glove to keep your hands warm, but nimble so you can tend to your winter camping tasks. The outer layer is made of PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco for extra warmth. Wear both layers when you’re trekking and need to maximize warmth on the go. Take the outer layer off when you arrive at camp and need to dig in for the night.
First Aid Kit
VSSL Compact Adventure First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is essential, no matter where you are or where you’re headed. It’s doubly important when trekking outdoors in the winter. The VSSL First Aid Kit packs 46 tightly rolled first aid essentials and a four-mode LED light into a tube about the size of a 9-inch-long flashlight. The virtually indestructible military-grade case is watertight and takes up exactly as much room as needed with no wasted space. It’s small enough to toss into your pack and forget it’s there until you need it.
Solo Stove Lite
A good camp stove can provide hot food and, in an emergency, warmth. Solo Stove’s line of camp stoves is compact, lightweight, and incredibly versatile. The Lite is the smallest of all the camp stoves in the Solo Stove lineup. This stove is powered by virtually any biomass. Twigs, sticks, leaves, pine needles — throw it all into the base to get your fire started and keep it going. So, it works in virtually any environment indefinitely. The double-wall design also provides cleaner gasification and secondary combustion for a more complete, smoke-free burn.
GSI Outdoors Escape HS Cookware Set
Few things are as satisfying while winter camping as a piping hot meal. GSI Outdoors’ Escape HS 3L Pot & Frypan set with strainer lid allows you to cook up just about anything for yourself, your significant other, or the entire family. The innovative design combines the collapsibility and versatility of silicone with the rapid heating and nonstick properties of hard-anodized aluminum for fast, even cooking. A hyper-conductive heatsink at the bottom of the pot guarantees 30% faster cooking with 30% less fuel. Plus, the entire space-saving kit collapses down to roughly 10 inches wide by 2.5 inches tall.
Fiskars Norden N7 Hatchet
In the backcountry, few tools are as versatile and functional as a well-made hatchet. Fiskars’ Norden N7 Hatchet is an ideal companion for any winter adventure. The 14-inch design is lightweight and compact enough to strap to your pack yet substantial enough to tackle everyday tasks around camp. The tumble-varnished hickory wood handle with FiberComp overstrike protection is both durable and handsome. An over-molded axe head guarantees a strong shaft connection, while the carbon steel blade stays sharp for as long as you need it. For car camping and other adventures where weight isn’t as much of a concern, Fiskars offers the larger and the flagship .
Sea to Summit Stuff Sacks
All that extra winter gear requires extra organization. It’s no fun rifling through an overstuffed pack every time you need to retrieve the smallest bit of kit. Available in a wide range of capacities up to 30L, Sea to Summit’s Stuff Sacks are the ideal system for wrangling your gear. The XXS sack holds just 2.5 liters and is great for small toiletries, first aid essentials, or loose gear cables. The flagship XXL Stuff Sack will hold an entire bedroll if need be.
S.O.L. Fire Lite Fuel-Free Rechargeable Lighter
Winter camping has its own set of challenges. It’s colder, wetter, and just plain harder than almost any other climate. That’s why the ability to reliably start a fire — both for heat and cooking — is critical. In addition to waterproof matches and a lighter, the new SOL Fire Lite Fuel-Free Rechargeable Lighter is a high-tech firestarter worthy of any outdoorsmen’s pack. The dependable dual arc design guarantees instant ignition of anything flammable that it touches at the press of a button. The watertight electric lighter works in wind, rain, and sleet regardless of temperature or altitude.
Element Case Black OPS Elite
Winter camping is not only tough on you but on your gear as well. Protect your other most valuable appendage (i.e., your smartphone) with a rugged, adventure-ready case. The Element Case Black OPS Elite cocoons your iPhone 11 Pro or iPhone 11 Pro Max with better-than-mil-spec protection using premium materials like CNC machined G10 and aircraft-grade aluminum. New for 2020 is improved, next-gen drop protection at the corners and across the entire body. Plus, it just looks totally bad-ass.
Zippo Rechargeable Hand Warmers
Pairing your expedition-level winter gloves with hand warmers is the best way to keep the blood flowing to your digits. Disposable hand warmers work fine, but they’re bad for the environment and only last so long. Zippo’s Rechargeable Hand Warmers boast five settings with a max temperature of 120°F. Indicator lights show how much life is left on the included 5,200mAh lithium-ion battery with a run time of up to six hours. Placed in the foot box of your sleeping bag, they also work great as “hot rocks” to keep your feet warm at night. Add a small solar panel to your winter camping kit to keep these charged, and you’ll have reliable hand heat any time.
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