Some people are put off vacationing outdoors during the colder months, usually because they’re stuck wondering what to do while winter camping. The good news is there are loads of great options to pass the time, snow, rain, or shine.
Winter camping activities range from classic snowball fights and campfire card games to heart-racing snowsports like skiing and snowboarding. The snow and colder weather open up the chance for you to try plenty of winter camping fun activities you’d miss out on during the summer months.
Below, we’ve listed fifteen of our favorite winter camping pastimes to inspire your next trip. Hopefully, they’ll give you more ideas to make the most of your snowy adventure under the stars.
This article will provide many activities that assume your winter camping trip will involve snow.
With the right equipment and warm clothing, many summer activities can be enjoyed in a snowless winter environment.
Let’s look at some of our favorite activities in more detail without further ado.
It’s hard not to feel a sense of wonder when surrounded by snow, and playing with the stuff can be just as fun as an adult as it was when you were a kid.
This can make winter camping as enjoyable for groups of adult friends as it is for families with children.
There are plenty of ways to get creative with snow, and you can even make it a competitive event with prizes for the best creations.
So, grab your thickest gloves and a couple of hand-warmers and get to work.
The most obvious starting point here is your classic snowman.
Anyone can roll snowballs large enough to make up a snowman’s body, and you can scale your project up or down depending on how much snow you have to work with.
Plus, the fun part of building a snowman is finding the best objects to make up its features and make it stand out from others.
If you’ve already mastered the snowman, you might want to branch out and have a go at something more intricate.
Snow sculpting has become an increasingly popular art form, and the only thing that sets it apart from building a snowman is that you may want a few more tools to hand to carve out your perfect piece.
A shovel, a piece of wire between two sticks, or even your cooking utensils can be all you need to create an icy masterpiece.
Building an igloo may sound like a lot of work, but it’s easier than it sounds with the right tools and an understanding of the basic building techniques required.
It’s a great activity to get lots of people involved, and if you manage to get your builds perfect, you can use them as a legitimate winter camping shelter instead of a tent.
If igloos aren’t your thing, why not try building a snow fort or castle?
You can start with a simple four-walled structure and work your way up to majestic multi-leveled creations with windows, stairs, or even an ice slide from top to bottom.
So this one may not be creative in the traditional sense.
However, you may need to devise imaginative and inventive strategies to emerge victorious from a fast-paced snowball fight.
If you want to up the intensity, give each team some time to prepare in advance and use their new snow-building skills to create a series of walls, bunkers, and obstacles for extra cover.
To make things more interesting than your average snowball fight, you could use your new snow fort as a base for a capture-the-flag game and create special objectives for each team to complete to win the battle.
Just like camping in the summer, being closer to nature is the best part of vacationing out in the wilderness, and the weather being cold and snowy doesn’t change that in any way.
You’ll need to wrap up warm, but there’s something almost ethereal about nature in the wintertime, and you’ll discover things you might not be able to experience in the hotter parts of the year.
Fishing during winter can mean a more successful catch than earlier in the year, mostly because freshwater species tend to group during colder months, especially just before a cold front.
You can also get away with using smaller lures, as fish tend not to feed as frequently during winter and prefer smaller prey.
If you want to try something different with the potential for even bigger fish, you should try ice fishing.
It can be as simple or as complicated as you want to, and camping out on the lake with a few traps set up can make for a great social activity, especially when the flag shoots up to signal that something’s taken your bait.
While you may find it a bit trickier to spot wildlife in the winter, there is an upside to seeking animals in the snow.
If the snow is deep enough, it is much easier to spot their tracks on the ground, making animal tracking a fun winter camping activity that lasts for hours.
You don’t need to have a purpose for tracking animal footprints: just the work of researching which prints belong to which animals and identifying markings left behind is a great educational experience for both adults and kids.
You might be surprised to learn that bird watching is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States alone, with millions of “birders” grabbing their binoculars every year to seek out beautiful and rare birds around the country.
Winter is also the perfect time to spot bird species that are trickier to find throughout the rest of the year, such as the classic American Robin, eye-catching Northern Cardinal, and, if you’re very lucky, the majestic Snowy Owl.
Ensure you bring a guidebook to identify each species and a notebook to track your progress.
Snowsports are an adrenaline-pumping way to make the most of a snowy winter, whether looking for something fast-paced and exhilarating or activity suitable for all ages.
Some of these are a little trickier to do if you’re tent camping but are perfect for a glamping trip to a mountain chalet or log cabin.
They can take a little more time to prepare for with some requiring specialist equipment, but there are also basic options that you can try on the fly.
The most accessible of snowsports in the winter is classic sledding. Anyone can give it a go; all you need is a decent amount of snow cover, an incline, and a flat, solid “sled” to sit on.
While you can buy purpose-built sleds, you can get by with the lid of a trash can, a shovel, or even a piece of old carpet.
Inflatable pool toys also work well if they’re made of a sturdy enough material.
You can use your newly acquired snow-building talents to create a purpose-built sled racing track with exhilarating twists and turns.
Skiing has existed in one form or another for millennia, with some evidence of skis being used in China as far back as 3000 BC.
While more technical than sledding, there are still plenty of ways to approach skiing that can make it as relaxing or thrilling as you like.
Most people ski “on-piste” on prepared mountain trails of varying difficulty levels, but more advanced skiers may want to go “off-piste” and search for untouched powder and carve their trails.
Lastly, cross-country skiing is akin to hiking because you don’t require ski lifts to enjoy the sport and can combine the activity with tent camping for overnight trips.
Originally seen as the “bad boy” alternative to skiing, snowboarding has become nearly as popular in recent years.
While there’s no such thing as cross-country snowboarding (although that hasn’t stopped some people from trying), snowboarding is an amazing way to spend a day riding the mountain.
If you’ve never snowboarded before, it’s worth booking a few lessons to help you get to grips with the sport and avoid unnecessary bumps and bruises.
While it may be easier to master the technical aspects of snowboarding than skiing, the initial learning curve is undoubtedly steeper.
Snowshoeing is essentially a way to hike longer distances over snow.
Snowshoes are a form of outer footwear that fit over your boots and disperse your body weight over a large surface area, preventing your feet from sinking into the deep snow with each step.
Snowshoeing is a great full-body workout that requires no particular expertise, just a pair of snowshoes.
Unlike skiing or snowboarding, you don’t have to visit a specialist resort or pay for lift passes.
All you need is a pair of snowshoes and a properly researched trail to get started.
Ice skating is a great winter camping activity if you can find a spot near a solid frozen lake or pond.
If you don’t own your own skates, you can likely find somewhere to rent a pair for your trip.
Being able to ice skate on your trip also gives you the chance to have a go at one of the most fun winter sports out there: ice hockey.
All you need is a puck, a few hockey sticks, and some markers for goalposts, and you can host your own mini Stanley Cup tournament and be back to camp in time for hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows by the fire.
For all the perks of winter camping, you run a higher risk of encountering poor weather than you might the rest of the year, making some of the previous activities we’ve mentioned unfeasible, if not unenjoyable.
This is why you should always pack a few games to pass the time if there’s little else to do.
Rain or shine, summer or winter, no camper should leave home without a pack of cards handy.
They’re low-budget, highly portable, and the list of games you can play with them is practically endless, meaning they’re perfect for groups of all ages and any size.
Our favorites are Cheat, Go Fish, and Rummy, as the rules are simple to pick up and the games are suitable for all ages.
For adult groups, a friendly game of Poker always goes down well.
Uno should also be an honorable mention as a great way to keep occupied, especially with dozens of variant rulesets available.
Board games are a fantastic way to pass the time while winter camping.
Most classic board games now come in super handy travel editions that are great for camping as they require less time to set up, and you don’t need a large table to play them on.
If you want to play a full-sized game or your top pick doesn’t have a travel edition, you can pick up a folding camping table fairly cheaply.
You may want to avoid games with too many pieces if you don’t have much space to play in, but if you do, we recommend using small ziplock bags to store your playing pieces to avoid losing them.
If you don’t feel like carrying anything extra on your winter camping trip, campfire games don’t require anything apart from willing participants to get started.
However, we do recommend a toasty campfire.
Especially suitable for younger children who struggle with paying attention to card games and board games, campfire staples like the memory game “I Went to Market” and the collaborative storytelling game “Once Upon A Time” can provide fun evenings for everyone.
For adults, games like “Never Have I Ever” can reveal hilarious secrets and surprising stories you’ll remember for years.
Tabletop role-playing games (RPGs) like Dungeons & Dragons are more popular than ever, and anybody who’s played one will tell you just how much fun they can be.
The best part about RPGs is that they don’t have to involve wads of paper, hundreds of miniature figurines, and dozens of dice to enjoy, just an understanding of the rules and a vivid imagination.
You can even buy books with a range of shorter travel-suitable RPGs to try, set across multiple genres such as sci-fi, fantasy, and horror.
The most you’ll need to get playing is a pen and paper and maybe a pair of dice.
These are just a handful of winter camping activities you can try on your next trip, and we hope more campers are persuaded to make the most of year-round camping opportunities.
Whatever your age, budget, or group size, we think you’ll have a blast giving some of these a go and find the opportunity to pick up some useful skills and make some unforgettable memories along the way.