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Cold Weather Camping Gear

Boy’s Life has created an excellent list of items essential for any cold weather camping. The key to the system is layers. Let’s start with… 


Waterproof gloves or mittens

Start with a thin pair of wool or synthetic liner gloves, then layer them with an outer waterproof glove or mitten. Mittens are often slightly warmer because they let you share warmth between fingers, but gloves give you better dexterity.

Bring extras — it’s important to stay dry!



You’ve surely heard this before: If you’re cold, put on a hat.

Just as with any exposed skin on your body, you can lose lots of heat through your bare head. So cover up with a wool or synthetic stocking cap. Those with earflaps can be especially handy.

To trap the maximum body heat, pull your jacket’s hood over your head. And when the air is so cold it seems to take your breath away, try wearing something to cover your face such as a face mask, scarf, bandana, neck gaiter or balaclava (a pullover hat with a cutout for your face).


During the winter, days are shorter so it’s always a good idea to carry a headlamp with you in case you need to find your way in the dark.


When the temperature drops, layering is the key to staying warm and comfortable.

Base or Wicking Layer

Also commonly known as long underwear, the base layer is worn closest to your skin. Its main job is to wick away sweat and moisture so your skin stays dry.

Wear it relatively tight to the skin and use only wool or synthetic base layers. Never use cotton because it will not keep you warm once it’s wet, whether from sweat or precipitation.

These base layers come in various weights, from heavy for frigid conditions to lightweight for warmer temps and activities that cause a lot of sweating, such as strenuous hiking and cross-country skiing.

It’s a good idea to have one extra pair of base layers to change into every night at camp.

Insulation or Warmth Layer

The insulation layer is worn atop the base layer and is designed to provide the majority of your insulation. It should be made of fleece, wool, down or synthetic insulation and can be a pullover, zip-up jacket or vest, depending on how much insulation you need.

Shell or Windproofing Layer

The outermost layer, the shell jacket and pants protect you from wind and wet conditions.

There are two types of shells: the hard shell is a lightweight layer that’s windproof and waterproof, capable of handling heavy rain and very wet conditions; a soft shell is made of a more flexible, soft-faced material that’s windproof yet highly breathable, and water-resistant enough to protect you against everything except a heavy downpour.


Waterproof boots

Nothing can cause more misery than hiking around in soggy boots. If you want to keep your feet warm, keep them dry. Invest in a pair of waterproof boots, preferably those with warm insulation and removable liners so you can dry them out each night.


Many people underestimate the value of a quality pair of socks. For cold weather, go with wool (though synthetic blend works OK, too), and consider wearing a silk or neoprene sock liner under it to wick away sweat and minimize blistering.

Also, if you’re expecting to be in very wet conditions, try wearing an old plastic grocery bag between your liner sock and your wool sock as a moisture barrier. For really cold conditions, try cutting up pieces of an old foam sleeping pad to make insoles for your boots that provide added insulation from the cold ground.

Bring several pairs — it’s important to keep dry!

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