Your 15 Essential Items Checklist For Winter Car Camping

What should you consider during Winter Car Camping: Winter Outdoor Adventures Checklist

Winter car camping has many advantages, ranging from the absence of insects and, in particular, mosquitoes, to excellent conditions for a comfortable stay with responsible preparation.

All this makes camping a great option for those who love outdoor activities, and active tourism and get great pleasure from these activities at any time of the year. How to get camping in a car so as not to freeze in winter?

image 67

How cold is too cold for car camping?

Everyone has a different cold tolerance. Sometimes people feel that 30 degrees are too cold for them to camp, while others easily sleep in a car at temperatures below 40 degrees.

To ensure maximum comfort, the traveler needs to ensure that their equipment (including sleeping bag, mattress, etc.) is suitable for cold weather car camping. You may also need to bring warm clothes and blankets.

It all depends on at what temperature and in what weather the winter camping will take place. It is especially important to dress properly in order to keep warm in the cold in the evening and early morning.

Depending on the type of transport in which you are going to spend the night at winter camping, the equipment that you need to take with you in order to stay warm will differ.

image 70

Trucks and SUVs

Use your car as a tent and sleeping bag if you are used to traveling in a truck or SUV. The lower limit for winter driving at night should be around 15°F, so prepare a sleeping bag for that temperature so you can sleep comfortably in the car.

Cargo vans

A well-insulated van without a heater is usually comfortable at around 0°F with a good mattress, large blanket. This option is suitable if you are traveling alone. Two people (double body temperature) usually feel comfortable around -10°F.


Caravans and campers equipped with a propane heater or electric heater make winter car camping comfortable in all weather conditions. If you don’t have a four-season camper, you can rent one.

More Tips about cars on

image 68

Is it safe to sleep in your car in the winter?

In order to stay warm in the car at night on winter camping, it is necessary to carry out preparations that include several activities.

Isolate windows with a sun-reflecting visor

A reflective visor is placed on the inside of the windshield. In this case, heat will not escape from the car with the windows closed. Also, you do not have to worry about how to change in the car, as you will be hidden from prying eyes.

Cover windows with reflective foil

Film reflective materials are placed on the inside of the windows. Such insulation does not allow heat to pass through and prevents cold snowflakes from penetrating inside the cabin. In addition, the film does not allow condensation to accumulate inside the machine.

image 71

Pick up your sleeping gear

To comfortably spend the night in the car, you need to purchase the appropriate sleeping equipment. If you are going to winter camping in a car, then you should pay attention to an all-weather sleeping bag with an insulated rug. Your sleeping bags should be designed to keep you stay warm in temperatures up to 20 degrees.

It is possible that the temperature at the parking lot can be below zero degrees, it all depends on the destination. The combination of a good sleeping bag with a special sleeping bag insert is proven in practice, which gives extra warmth and ensure a good night’s sleep in cold weather.

Is it colder to sleep in a car or a tent?

It is unlikely that anyone can decide for sure which is colder – sleeping in a car or sleeping in a tent at a winter campsite. Some travelers claim that it is better to sleep in a car in the winter months if the seats are removed. Others say that a tent is a first-class place for winter lodging.

image 73

Cars are definitely better insulated than tents. They trap more human body heat than tents. Cars also effectively provide protection from wind and cold. The tents also heat up faster because they have less room to heat up, meaning they can be heated more easily under the same conditions when compared to a large car. Tents are usually double layered for better insulation.

In a car and a tent, you can expect heat to gradually escape to the outside, but cars have special insulation built in that naturally traps body heat inside the car to help keep the heat in.

If you’re camping in the winter and staying in your car, the next section will tell you what to pack and how to stay warm.

image 69

Winter Outdoor Adventures Checklist

1. Warm layers

The first thing to do when going to cold weather car camping is to pick up clothes that consist of many warm layers. It will be warmer in a car at night than in a tent, but in the middle of the night, you can feel like you are in a tent when the temperature drops much lower than during the day.

Fleece or wool can be placed between layers of basic clothing to help keep winter campers warmer. From above it is recommended to wear waterproof trousers with a jacket or overalls.

In most cases, the basis is selected from things consisting of polyester and wool, such clothes are easy to wash in the washing machine, dry quickly, and keep heat well. Avid travelers who prefer winter camping cannot do without thermal underwear.

As long as you have enough clothing to keep you warm every snowy day, this shouldn’t be a problem. It is important to try to dress appropriately for the weather.

2. Sleeping bag

Deep sleep on winter camping in the car will provide a properly selected sleeping bag. If you take blankets instead of a sleeping bag, you will have to take a lot more luggage. You should choose the right one for the temperatures you will be sleeping in, so make sure the climate and the recommended temperature for your sleeping bag match.

image 74

The comfortable mummy sleeping bag is especially good for winter camping because it can be secured around the head and keeps cold air out from above. The sleeping bag, which can be customized, allows you to sleep on your stomach and back.

For a warm sleeping bag to serve you for many years, it is worth putting it in a compression bag only when hiking. At home, it is recommended to put it in a large bag.

3. Reflective thermal mat

In addition to a comfortable air mattress, you should also bring a heat reflective mat with you to prevent heat loss from the floor. Depending on which mat you choose, it can be placed under the main mattress or directly under the body.

image 75

We recommend placing this rug under the main mattress. It may be too light to use in a tent, but it’s perfect for winter camping.

4. Headlamp

During winter camping, preparation should be carried out not only for the cold. The length of daylight hours in winter is much shorter, so you need to take a flashlight with you to illuminate the car in the dark.

The convenience of a headlamp is that it takes up less space and does not require a lot of effort, since the traveler does not need to use his hands.

image 76

Use a headlamp when you get back in your car after a long hike to read in the evening. Be sure to bring spare batteries with you.

During transportation, it is recommended to remove or turn one of the batteries inside out so that the flashlight does not accidentally turn on in the bag and not use the batteries until they are completely discharged. Currently, you can find many headlamps that can hold a charge for a day or more.

5. Camping lantern

If you play cards or eat together, headlamps can blind your partner. In winter, it is very convenient to have a small camping lantern with you. This is a good idea, as night falls early in winter and light will be needed anyway.

image 77

Important criteria when choosing a camping lantern should be:

  • the function of recharging the device from the battery, if the flashlight runs out, it will be easy to recharge it right in the car (if this does not scare you, you can choose a flashlight with the ability to recharge from a solar battery, but this is only suitable for regions where it is sunny in winter);
  • the presence of an automatic shutdown function (if everyone in the car fall asleep at night, the flashlight will turn off without wasting a charge);
  • ease of use of the lantern (first of all it concerns the size) and its rotary mechanism;
  • the presence of a hook or a magnetic base to hang a flashlight in the car;
  • reliability.

It is important to know that the more features your flashlight needs to have, the more it will cost you. Choose a model in which the main buttons are located in places convenient for you, and you do not have to constantly look for them on the handle. You do not need to choose the smallest option, as you risk losing it.

6. Warmer 

When you go camping, making sure you don’t get cold at night is essential. If you are traveling alone, how warm your sleeping bag is will make a big difference.

Also, if you’re hiking with a partner and only take blankets with you, it’s better for both of you if you don’t insist on warming the unfortunate cold feet.

image 78

If you are traveling by car, you need to be careful about water consumption. With that in mind, it might be a good idea to use the same water heater every night. This will reduce water consumption and you will not have to look for new water for every night.

7. Hot water boiler

If you are relaxing in a car in winter, you can take a regular kettle and a kettle lighter with you, or use gas to boil water. Gas-fired systems are the fastest and most energy efficient, but they may require going outside during the cold season.

image 80

Regular kettles use more power, but may be fine if you have a powerful battery for relaxing. Cigarette lighter kettles are fine for long camping trips, but they can take up to 40 minutes to get enough hot water for a cup of tea.

If you are looking for a compact kettle that can be connected to a battery for use on vacation, an ultra-thin silicone kettle may be the one for you. Made from food-grade silicone and capable of boiling water in three minutes, these kettles are portable and efficient.

However, it will not be suitable for car camping if you do not have a suitable power system. It should be noted that cigarette lighter kettles are generally not as reliable as kettles with gas or a wall outlet.

To keep hot drinks as long as possible and stock up on boiling water, you should take a Thermo mug with you.

8. Cloth for collecting condensate

The worst thing about car camping in winter is the inevitable condensation in the car. Take a lot of old rags to wipe off the condensation in the morning. Also, remember to leave your windows open at night.

You can also purchase bags of charcoal to prevent condensation from forming. Charcoal bags perfectly absorb moisture and unpleasant odors.

image 81

At home, they are usually placed in refrigerators or laundry baskets, but they are also recommended for use in RVs and campsites. Although they do not completely remove moisture, they make good use of open windows and are more pleasant to work with.

9. Battery operated electric blanket

 If you’re struggling with freezing weather, consider purchasing a battery powered electric blanket. Such blankets are more effective for people who like to sleep under the covers than in a sleeping bag.

image 82

However, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t use an electric blanket under their sleeping bag to keep them warm. High-quality electric blankets are not cheap, especially if they are battery-powered rather than mains-powered. However, if you plan to go camping regularly in the winter, a decent heating blanket will come in handy.

Blankets powered by rechargeable lithium batteries are also machine washable! A single charge provides about four hours of warmth, so it’s ideal to put them on a few minutes before bedtime. You can then turn it off when it’s warm enough.

10. Winter boots

Waterproof and warm boots are very important for a winter hike! It is best to take a “spare” pair of old boots with you so as not to get wet in case of rain. A pitiful sight – wet sneakers on frozen feet in cold winter weather.

image 83

A woman can buy boots that have 200 g insulation and non-slip soles. For this reason, men’s boots look completely different, but they use the same technological scheme. On average, snow boots are taller than regular boots and protect against deep snow and cold puddles.

11. Toiletries

At winter car camping, it is best to do without electronic devices. For example, an electric toothbrush will be superfluous in the cold season, when you go out to nature with an overnight stay.

Do not forget to bring wet wipes with you, they will also come in handy to wipe your hands before and after eating, or to clean a lot of other items.

It is important to understand that when parking during winter car camping, you need to take care of the toilet pit. It is recommended to dig it away from drinking springs and pedestrian roads. The depth of the pit should be at least six inches, which will allow you to dispose of the “waste” most efficiently.

In addition, you need to take care not to throw away toilet paper, pads, tissues and other used toiletries in nature. It is better to do this in a separate bag or bucket and then throw out the garbage in the city.

12. Heat Retaining Socks

An important device for winter recreation in cold weather is heat-retaining socks. It is recommended to sleep in these socks so that your feet do not freeze at night. Many travelers say that their feet get hot in thermal socks when they go hiking or skiing in winter.

13. Power Supply

Batteries drain faster in cold weather, which can be dangerous if you need to call for help. Therefore, it is recommended to bring an emergency charger with you, which can be stored in a sock so that it does not get cold and fail.

You may also want to consider using a more powerful power bank to charge power-demanding equipment. In our experience, small solar power packs are quite unreliable.

Large solar systems and batteries are great for cold weather camping, but when it comes to portable power packs, it’s best to use a charger that can be plugged in. If possible, save it for emergencies.

To increase the power, you can purchase a power supply. These larger power supplies naturally cost more but can be used to charge equipment and power devices rated at 200W or less. It’s also a good option for cinephiles who want to watch a movie on their laptop while on the go.

14. Emergency supplies

While hiking, no one is immune from accidents, so it is worth preparing in advance for an emergency. It is much easier to get under a blockage in winter than in summer, so it is worth taking a first aid kit, an emergency blanket, as well as high-calorie food that does not take up much space (energy bars or gels) with you on a hike.

An emergency blanket can hold up to 90% of a person’s body heat, which will help to wait for rescuers. Travelers who lie down wrapped in a similar blanket in a sleeping bag wake up wet from condensation and sweat, but such blankets are the best way to save them from hypothermia in extreme conditions.

image 79

Try to carry an appropriate first aid kit with you on your trip, no matter what the circumstances. In fact, you can put a first aid kit with everything you need in the car, whether you sleep in it or not. Make sure you understand the emergency well before you face it. This way you will know exactly what medication you have and how you will use it.

In addition to your essentials, consider getting snow chains for your car. They can be very helpful if you get stuck on a snowy road, but it’s a good idea to practice installing them at least once before your winter camping trip.

15. High-calorie food

An important component of winter car camping is high-calorie food. In winter, our body spends even more calories to maintain the desired body temperature. Therefore, it is worth taking more high-calorie food with you, especially if you are going to snowboard or ski.

Take along high-calorie protein bars, instant cornflakes, muesli with milk, toast, etc. It is better to take dried fruits or nuts with you on a trip, they perfectly cheer up and give strength to energetic travelers. Read also about the food storage for winter camping.


I hope you found the article interesting and wish you a good winter car camping trip!


Leave a Comment