If you are tired of spending the winter months daydreaming about backpacking, sleeping under the stars, waking up closer to your favorite adventures, and camping in general, we have some news for you. Just because it’s winter it doesn’t mean it isn’t prime time for camping. In fact, with a little creativity, flexibility, and an adventurous spirit, you can redefine what your basecamp looks like in the winter and sleep warm and cozy well into the season.
Here’s a few ideas that range from the more comfortable lodgings that still feel a little bit like roughing it to the hardcore, backcountry experience.
6 Ideas for Redefining Your Winter Basecamp
1. Backcountry Huts
Skiers or snowshoers rejoice—backcountry huts nestled deep in the mountains are a backpacker’s dream winter basecamp if sleeping in the snow lacks in appeal. The best part about these huts is that you can just pack like you normally would for a backpacking trip. Just leave the tent behind but bring your ski, splitboard, or snowshoe equipment, as well as avalanche safety gear such as a beacon, shovel, and probe (and the education required to use them) if you are traveling in slide-prone terrain.
Most backcountry huts are pretty rustic, so plan to throw your pad and a warm sleeping bag on the floor here. You’ll also want to bring a camp stove and water filter, although many huts have a wood burning stove. Don’t forget to bring clorox wipes or other ways to sanitize the hut’s surfaces because you might see a mouse or two running along the floorboards. Many huts are run by nonprofits such as the Sierra Club and book up months in advance, so plan your trip early if possible.
If you would rather drive up to your winter basecamp but still feel like you are roughing it, consider renting a yurt for a night or two. Similar to a backcountry hut, these are usually are located in established campgrounds but offer few amenities. Sometimes they will feature an outside BBQ, fire pit, and picnic table, and inside they might have bunk beds or just bare floors.
Despite the very basic amenities, these circular huts offer a dry space to recoup from wet or cold weather, making camping in unpleasant winter climates much more bearable. Set up your kit on the floor or a bunk like you normally would when car camping. Since your vehicle is right outside the yurt, come with your comfiest camp pillow, an extra camp quilt such as the Argo, and a deck of cards for your evening entertainment and settle in for the night.
3. Vintage Travel Trailers
Towing a travel trailers or investing in a cabover for your truck are no longer just for your retired parents or elderly neighbors. Aside from being incredibly practical, they are also offer a glimpse into nostalgic Americana and the heyday of family road trips.
If you travel light and don’t mind roughing it, consider a teardrop trailer, which can easily be towed by a smaller SUV or even a sedan with a trailer hitch. These handy (and incredibly cute) trailers sometimes feature kitchens and definitely have room for all your bedding. If you need to upgrade, consider a larger trailer complete with hookups (you’ll love having heat in the winter, trust us) or even an RV, if you are comfortable driving a large vehicle.
4. Adventure Vans
Have you been following along online with the #vanlife sensation and been wanting to give it a try? Before you quit your job, sell your house, and hit the road long-term, consider renting an adventure van for a weekend to see if you like living small but adventuring big. The winter is the perfect time to try out the van life because you are more likely to want to sleep with a roof over your head, anyway.
Adventure vans are a little easier to drive than RVs and travel trailers, and they sometimes fit better if you are venturing farther off the beaten path. Some are lifted or equipped with beefier tires, can fit bikes or skis inside as well as all your bedding, and are more convenient and less conspicuous if you need to park them in an urban setting. Rental companies that let you take their vans out for a weekend spin are popping up all over the country, so consider one of these next time you need somewhere warm and portable to stay in.
5. Car Camping
If you don’t need the space of an adventure van or if you would rather not throw down the cash for a rental, laying down the seats of just about any SUV and setting up a few pads, sleeping bags, or pillows can be surprisingly comfortable.
If your seats don’t lie flat, you can layer firm, flat objects in the crevasse to make it a little more comfortable. If you are taller and need more leg room, lay your front seats flat to give yourself a few more inches.
Sleeping in your car can be incredibly comfortable and convenient if done right. Check out How to Successfully Camp in Your Car for more in depth tips on this.
6. Snow Camping
If you have always wondered about camping in the snow but been nervous to give it a try, don’t be intimidated. There are several addition do’s and don’ts when it comes to snow camping versus regular camping, but with a little research and the right gear you can stay warm and cozy all night long.
To set yourself up for success, you want as much material between you and the ground as possible. Consider layering two mattress pads beneath you when you sleep. Put a closed-cell foam mat, like the RidgeRest Classic, on the ground for insulation and an insulated mat, such as the TrailPro, above that for comfort. Make sure the bag you are using is suitable for the temperatures you expect, and add a liner to add a little more warmth to your kit.
For the Love of Camping
Don’t be afraid to rethink your current camping style to get out there in the winter. Your basecamp prepares you for the adventures ahead and lets you fully recoup from the last excursion. For the love of camping and getting out there, redefine your basecamp for the winter months.