Is Winter Camping Right For You? - Native Campervans
Is Winter Camping Right For You?
The idea of winter camping is magical; the woods are silent, the top attractions are less crowded, and the ground is covered in snow. It feels like a winter wonderland. It sounds easy: hop in the campervan, pack your warm clothes, and get ready to adventure, maybe brush up on your fire-making skills. However, winter camping is not as easy as it sounds. It should take some serious consideration and preparation. We’ve put together a comprehensive list of things to consider before hitting the road this winter in a campervan.
The first question we get from our winter campervan travelers is: what campsites are open? The good and bad news is that a few established campsites are open year-round, while the majority are only open seasonally.
If a campground is open in the winter, it often requires a reservation, so book now! If you are visiting a National Park, campground conditions in and around the National Parks are usually posted on NPS.gov. Always check the details of each campsite to ensure they are open and provide amenities from apps like The Dyrt. Amenities are very important to have during winter camping to ensure comfort and safety.
If you’re more of an “off the beaten path” campervanner, be extra cautious of where you go. Boondocking spots are usually located along unmaintained roads. That doesn’t mean you can’t do dispersed camping in the winter! We suggest doing a lot of research into the conditions of the area ahead of time. Bring emergency equipment like chains, transaction materials, and shovels. Always make sure someone at home knows where you’re staying.
If you’re still into dispersed camping in the winter, we suggest taking a few precautions in addition to scouting the location:
Park under the cover of trees if you can – make sure to inspect the tree limbs before parking underneath them. You don’t want to park on tree limbs covered in snow and are dropping dangerously.
Point the front of your vehicle into the wind to minimize heat loss and keep your sleeping quarters warm.
Steer clear of rocky overhangs or cliffs that could erode or fall on your roof during a storm.
Clear snow regularly from your roof and from around the campervan.
Shovel snow from your desired parking spot before parking for the night.
Of course, if you’re opting for a warmer climate in the winter – you may not run into snow! If this is your first-time winter camping, we highly recommend sticking with an established campground before venturing to dispersed sites!
Cold Weather Packing
Another important question to ask yourself before heading out on your winter campervan adventure is if you have the correct gear. The correct gear is essential to a successful winter camping adventure. If you’re renting a campervan from us, check out this article for updated inclusions that we have in each van to keep you warm and safe at night. We’ve put together a list of everything you might need to keep you warm.
For the Van
All our suggestions for van warmth surround keeping the heat in and cold out. You don’t have to have all these items to make your winter campervan trip amazing, but they will be nice to have!
Sleeping bags rated for cold weather
Power bank or solar charging station
Portable jumper or jumper cables
Salt for traction
Hot water bottles
Layers are extremely important for keeping you warm in the van, while you’re cooking outside, and on your various adventures.
The base layer is thin but tight-fitting. This is your foundation that will stay warm and dry! A popular type of base layer is synthetic material or merino wool. This is what you’ll wear around the van. You’ll want this as your first layer before you layer up to go outside. You’ll want to opt for a midweight or heavyweight base layer for winter camping. Make sure to pack a few base layers in case one gets wet!
Your mid-layer is your insulation layer. The mid layer catches any body heat that your base layer doesn’t and keeps the cold off your skin. You’ll want to pack your soft shell, fleece, merino wool zip-up, or thin insulated jacket(s) to use as your mid-layer.
Your outer layers will be most important for outside activity. The outer layer is the heavy jacket that protects you from the wind, rain, and snow.
These are a few not-to-forget items:
Mittens or gloves
Hats and beanies
Socks, socks, socks
Face and neck gators
Headlamp (it gets darker earlier in the winter!)
For the Kitchen
Cooking in the winter requires a little more preparation than in the warmer summer months. Even though our campervans are equipped with a stove and counter space, you need to prep. You may need a few more items to keep you sheltered from the weather. We suggest packing the following to make your meal making a breeze!
Pop-up tent or canopy
The list is short because we provide everything you could need when you rent your campervan with us!
Nice to Haves
USB fairy lights
Driving Conditions and Closed Roads
It’s important to consider what the roads will look like and seriously take stock of your driving abilities. If you have limited winter driving experience, it might be best to practice your skills in a snowy and empty parking lot. If you’ve driven in wintery conditions before, a winter camping van trip won’t be too bad! Make sure to stay alert and drive carefully.
You should also pay attention to road signs and do research on your route ahead of time. Some roads close in the winter months due to unsafe conditions. You don’t want to be stranded anywhere!
The key to winter driving is to take it slow, leave room, and stay alert!
Research Your Activities Ahead of Time
As you can probably tell, the key to winter camping is research, research, research. You need to know what you’re getting into if you’re going to spend a weekend or longer braving the elements!
That includes researching the attractions you want to visit. Some attractions might not be open in the winter months! The last thing you want to do is drive all the way to your destination only to find out the hike you want to do or the tour you want to go on isn’t offered during the winter.
Alternatives to Winter Camping
Winter camping doesn’t have to mean snow camping or cold conditions. There are plenty of locations in the United States that are mild, even in the winter. We suggest checking out the following if you want to ease into winter camping with a milder climate:
Joshua Tree National Park – Joshua Tree, California
Death Valley National Park – Eastern California and Nevada
White Sands National Park – New Mexico
Bryce Canyon – Southern Utah
Big Bend National Park – Texas
Red Rock State Park – Arizona
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park – New Mexico
Valley of Fire State Park – Nevada
Arches – Southern Utah
These are a few of our favorite warm(er)locations. We chose these locations because you are unlikely to encounter snow or ice, and most attractions will be open. After all, sometimes winter camping is about escaping the cold rather than running toward it!
We hope that this article was helpful in deciding whether winter camping in a van is right for you! Don’t forget to tag us on social media (@nativecampervans) to show off your winter vancation!