Winter Camping

RCmom

Member
Jun 19, 2021
78
New Jersey
My favorite winter camping memories are last year in my pup (2016 Viking Epic 2108st). Electric site is a MUST for my 15 yo and I to winter camp. We have heated bunk mattresses that plug in and keep us toasty warm even if the air temp in the camper is only about 50F with the propane furnace ( 29F outside) I also keep a small electric ceramic heater in my pup for instant heat/backup. We winter camp in the sunniest campsites we can find to take advantage of every drop of sunlight/radiant heat. And lots and lots of firewood for all day campfires. We play a lot of cards and board games once it gets dark.

I prefer strings of NON LED lights outside for winter camping. It isn't much, but on a cold afternoon, a set of incandescent string lights in gallon milk jug is a great hand warmer. I bought a few sets of net lights that are incandescent that I drape over our camp chairs. They give off just enough heat in 5 minutes to warm the chair before sitting in it and if you clamp them to the back of the chair, will help keep the chill off your back and shoulders while enjoying a campfire for most of an evening. Anyone who wishes to complain about my use of lights 5 to 8 pm when its 29 degrees while winter camping in a mostly empty campground can fill out an ID 10 T form on the second Thursday of next week. Your completed complaint form will glow magnificently while I enjoy my dinner at my campfire.

As for water, if the campground doesn't have a functioning winter fill station for a gallon jug, I bring extra jugs of water in a cardboard box. The cardboard acts as a bit of insulation and when wrapped in a dark wool blanket, prevents them from freezing if night temps are below freezing.

I pick my winter campsites carefully, usually I only book about a week in advance so I have a rough idea of temperatures and precipitation. Most of my winter camping is done at private year round campgrounds. One has a year round indoor pool and hot tub which is a fun break from winter outdoor activities.

Packing a pup in cold temps calls for the vinyl canvas temp to be warm enough to not crack. All I have to do is drape my net lights over the bunk ends for a few minutes and run my electric heater and I'm good fold it up.
 

tfischer

A bad day camping beats a good day at the office
Minnesota here. I've never camped below freezing in the pup, although we've been close (frost on the ground and probably 33 out). No real desire to camp colder than that.

Just curious what "brutally cold" means in North Carolina. we had a combined total of like 4 weeks of days that the lows were below zero last winter lol. And we usually get down below -20 at least for a day or two each year.
 

Patrick w

Active Member
Aug 13, 2021
449
Speaking about mattress warmers and such... Anyone just run a generator? Like I figure mattress warmers are about 100w, but space heaters are like 1200-1500...
Minnesota here. I've never camped below freezing in the pup, although we've been close (frost on the ground and probably 33 out). No real desire to camp colder than that.

Just curious what "brutally cold" means in North Carolina. we had a combined total of like 4 weeks of days that the lows were below zero last winter lol. And we usually get down below -20 at least for a day or two each year.
I've only experienced it once. I think it was -10 or -18. I just recall that the moment I took off my gloves my hands hurt. And no... Did not camp in that. Lol . Coldest I've camped in is where the water in the car was frozen the next morning.
 

kitphantom

Super Active Member
Platinum Supporting Member
Dec 26, 2009
13,544
Albuquerque, NM
@ Patrick w - Generators are usually allowed only for a limited time, and almost never overnight, unless you are not in a campground. Often (to our relief -read my post on our last trip), the hours are something like 7-9 a.m. & 8-10 p.m. or variations on that. We don't have a generator, so when we know it's going to be near freezing, or 95+, we try to find a campground with power. That's more flexible than having a generator.

We don't camp a lot in the winter because most of the places we go are closed, if not inaccessible. Also, we usually camp to explore, so if the trails and such aren't available, we're not taking vacation time to go sit in a campground. The popups extended our season by probably 4-8 weeks at either end. The travel trailer has extended it further, though not by much, since it's not a 4-season camper. U. S. Thanksgiving is usually our last trip of the year, generally to Arizona. We camp with friends at state parks, with power, this year will be the 4th park we've explored that way. (We've repeated one, and canceled last year's.)
 

Allen R Glass

Member
Jun 2, 2020
38
Columbus, OH
One of the reasons we went with the Aliner is the insulation and wind protection the hard sides provide. Last winter we spent a week at Sleeping Bear Dunes enjoying winter hiking and cross country skiing. That campground is packed all summer, but in winter we shared it with one other camper.

So far we've stuck to electrical hookups for the portable heater, but we may try a dry camping night or two this winter.
 

Karen McGinn

Member
Jul 22, 2020
46
Maryland
Maryland there.

My inaugural trip was Nov 2020 into mountains on PA. Was cold and heater worked great. So great, lowest setting was too much. Lol

My water was already winterized so didn't need to worry about that.

Go for it.
 

Hilldweller

Super Active Member
Mar 2, 2021
751
Hog Waller, GA
I tried a search for winter camping and didn't get any results, so here's the newb with a post asking about your experiences camping into winter.

We live in Northern Virginia and some years winter is mild and some years it's brutally cold. Last weekend we purchased our first RV, the 2006 Fleetwood Utah. It's in GREAT shape, but it is currently over at the shop getting a full inspection, some new tires, and new water lines (safety first and all; it sat unopened in a garage for over a year).

Anyhow, our friends bought a travel trailer last month, and they're already talking about winterizing their rig and getting it parked for the winter in the local RV lot. When I said I had assumed there would be monthly trips even over the winter, everyone complained about the cold AND told me there was no way I could possibly camp in the winter with two kids (6 and 8). I mean, our sleeping bags are rated for 0 degrees. The pop up has a heater (no AC, but we have heat!), and rumor has it bubble wrap between the screen and the vinyl is mighty insulating. Can y'all share with me your successes (or failures/lessons learned) about winter camping, please! Thanks :)
We camp all year long and always have.

In fact, I throw a bash every winter and invite the world. It's called Country Fried Weekend and is now set for 5 days including the MLK holiday. We do it in the mountains, either Georgia or NC ---- people have ridden/flown in from as far as the Czech Republic and Poland.
Everyone brings their kids, from babies to young adults. Camping spans generations.

This was our coldest year; never got warmer than 20F but at least it was windy:


Warmest year:


Part of the fun is figuring out how to prepare for it. Any weather.
I use 12v electric blankets, Buddy Heater, solar panels, layers. Others rely on lotsa propane. Rory slept in the bed of his pickup under an EZ-Up and declared victory with just one blanket this past year. In the snow.


Figure it out and go have fun. And come to Country Fried Weekend if the fit takes you. I'll post on this forum when we figure out where we'll be.
 

SheaLoner

Member
Apr 12, 2021
57
Upstate NY
Was that 2 winters ago? Had that here in upstate ny in 2019? I think. Whole month of Feb never saw single digits above zero.
Minnesota here. I've never camped below freezing in the pup, although we've been close (frost on the ground and probably 33 out). No real desire to camp colder than that.

Just curious what "brutally cold" means in North Carolina. we had a combined total of like 4 weeks of days that the lows were below zero last winter lol. And we usually get down below -20 at least for a day or two each year.[/QUOTE
 

RonDad

Active Member
Aug 11, 2020
115
North Carolina
I think we'd hike -- I want to head to NC/SC, so I don't think snow would be an issue for the most part.
From VA; live in NC now.

There are very few days in an average year where it is too cold to enjoy camping in a popup. I wouldn’t call it brutally cold; but uncomfortably cold at times.

Problem I would run into is planning activities. After being out for a few hours in the cold, it’s nice to have somewhere warm to come back to. Whole family hanging out in the pup during the day just to warm up is not “fun” in my mind.

The other thing to figure out is what temp you think you want to sleep at. If your family can’t sleep unless it’s 72, that would be a problem. Good sleeping bags at 58 and your furnace won’t have a problem. (Or, bring lots of propane [:D] ).

In other words, plan a short trip and go for it!
 
Lots of good information so far, and I have not read every post, but I wanted to add that if you have Shore Power where you camp, heated mattress pads are lovely. I have been camping at night this week at Camp Back Yard and just last night put the heated mattress pad on when I changed sheets, and ahhhhhh was last night nice! It's down in the forties, and with the mattress pad on the bottom, a couple of wool blankets on top, and a Keeshond on either side of me, I was toasty. It's too hot for my husband but he's out of town and doesn't get a vote.
 

Hilldweller

Super Active Member
Mar 2, 2021
751
Hog Waller, GA
Lots of good information so far, and I have not read every post, but I wanted to add that if you have Shore Power where you camp, heated mattress pads are lovely. I have been camping at night this week at Camp Back Yard and just last night put the heated mattress pad on when I changed sheets, and ahhhhhh was last night nice! It's down in the forties, and with the mattress pad on the bottom, a couple of wool blankets on top, and a Keeshond on either side of me, I was toasty. It's too hot for my husband but he's out of town and doesn't get a vote.
X2 on the heated mattress pad. That was the only thing we'd use in our teardrop if we had Shore Power. Single digits over Christmas week in the NC mountains, mattress pad on, windows open. Great night's sleep.
 

netslacker

Member
Jun 19, 2020
54
We’re in northern VA, have a pup and have done some cooler (40 degree) camping in it. Biggest problem we have is keeping my wife and smaller kids warm. The boys in the family stay warm just fine, not my wife.

sure, we have a furnace but the heat from it doesn’t really get into the bunk ends, not like it does in the main cabin area. So, if you have anyone on your family that typically has a harder time staying warm well, just know that it becomes that much harder for them.

What helped the most for warmth in the bunkends was a 2” memory foam topper. Holy smokes this upgrade makes the biggest difference for comfort and warmth. With this we don’t run the heated mattress anymore, there’s no need.

I would not mess with the reflectix in the bunk windows. I don’t think it helps enough to make the hassle worth it. Also extra bulk. I would definitely do more to insulate your bed from the outside. The mattress in the bunkends cool rapidly and transmit that cool to the person on top. Adding either insulation below the mattress or a topper above is a must for cold weather camping. The topper has the added benefit of making the mattress significantly more comfortable and memory foam reflects you body heat back at you.

The other main issue is activities. I believe you mentioned hiking, which can be great, but you’re not likely hiking all day.
 

Budowar

New Member
Nov 4, 2019
3
Wife and I, along with our dog and cat, have been full timing in a popup for almost 2 years. We tend to stay in warmer areas, but do run into snow, ice, and cold. We do spend December and a couple weeks of January in Ohio for the holidays with family.

For heat we use a buddy heater, but only run it during the day. The buddy keeps us comfortable even when temps have dropped into the 20's. As a backup and occasionally as a supplement we have a small 1500 watt heater that can run off our generator.

We have multiple blankets and 20 degree backpacking quilts for keeping warm at night.

We use reflectix in the windows and popup gizmos on the bunk ends. Gizmos aren't meant for excessive use so ours have been covered with reflectix and tape.

We have multiple cheap throw blankets from Walmart that we put over metal edges and to stop drafts. We put pool noodles around the edges of the bunks to stop drafts as well.

In cold weather putting away the popup takes the most planning, patience, and flexibility. We have changed locations early or stayed longer due to cold.

The canvas will not compress enough to close if it is too cold and stiff. If it is cold and we have to leave, we run the buddy heater for hours before taking down the popup to make the canvas more pliable. If it still won't close, we sit and wait for the temps to rise.

For our popup, temps need to be in the 30's for the popup to close. Sunshine helps too.

We will most likely be spending most of this winter in Ohio so we will get to experience plenty of cold and snow. We are converting a 20' enclosed trailer and once complete will be ending our time in the popup.
 

tfischer

A bad day camping beats a good day at the office
X2 on the heated mattress pad. That was the only thing we'd use in our teardrop if we had Shore Power. Single digits over Christmas week in the NC mountains, mattress pad on, windows open. Great night's sleep.

Probably my least favorite thing to do is get out of a warm bed into a non-warm camper and get dressed into cold clothes. So I'd at least have to have heat when I get up :)
 
Sep 17, 2012
23
Hi from Ontario, Canada.
We've camped, even boondocked, in pretty cold weather.
Our vintage soft-top camper doesn't have water lines to freeze, so we carry various refillable water jugs.
Interlocking foam tiles make the floor feel a lot less chilly.
The air inside gets comfortably warm just with several candles, in glass lanterns that we picked up second-hand. (Sometimes I even put one on the floor under the table where we sit!)
For sleeping, air mattresses get icy cold; foam is much warmer. Flannel and/or a fleecy sheet-blanket really traps the warm air inside a sleeping bag. Thankfully my better half runs hot, but I stay comfy in leggings, turtleneck, dry socks, and sometimes even a knitted cap.
And by the way, for outdoors we carry a repurposed tabletop propane stove (with hardware removed), and both charcoal and small pieces of firewood; it makes a fantastic fire pit!
 
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SlinginIron

Active Member
Apr 21, 2016
122
Dayton, WA
We spent Christmas at the in-laws in the Idaho panhandle last year and since the house was full we brought our 2005 Utah. The camper was already winterized so we didn’t have to worry about water. The warmest day was a high of 19F and nights got down to -5F without wind chill. We had power and if you are going to run the furnace you will want a power source. I have to tell you that I was really impressed with how warm that little furnace kept the camper. No reflectix . No bunk end insulation. 65F in the pup (they are big pups) day and night. Well not all nights. We did run out of propane at about 10:30 one night and it got pretty uncomfortable but, two adults a four year old and a six year old had a great adventure. I do now have a second propane tank as well as a big buddy as back up for our next cool weather trip. As others have said, dealing with snow covered/ wet clothing is the most difficult part. Also, we had installed new canvas and had no issues with the vinyl at 13F.
 

Patrick w

Active Member
Aug 13, 2021
449
We camp all year long and always have.

In fact, I throw a bash every winter and invite the world. It's called Country Fried Weekend and is now set for 5 days including the MLK holiday. We do it in the mountains, either Georgia or NC ---- people have ridden/flown in from as far as the Czech Republic and Poland.
Everyone brings their kids, from babies to young adults. Camping spans generations.

This was our coldest year; never got warmer than 20F but at least it was windy:


Warmest year:


Part of the fun is figuring out how to prepare for it. Any weather.
I use 12v electric blankets, Buddy Heater, solar panels, layers. Others rely on lotsa propane. Rory slept in the bed of his pickup under an EZ-Up and declared victory with just one blanket this past year. In the snow.


Figure it out and go have fun. And come to Country Fried Weekend if the fit takes you. I'll post on this forum when we figure out where we'll be.


So... freezing winter camping, some good food and some offroading?!
I used to go down to uwharrie a few times a year!
 




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