Do you want to go camping during the winter but don’t want to invest in all new gear? Most campsites are discounted during the off-season, allowing you to go camping on the cheap. However, you don’t want to blow all of those savings on a down sleeping bag or a four-season tent.
Winter camping on a budget means investing in a few tarps to act as a windbreak and ground cover, a thick sleeping pad or air mattress, and a couple of synthetic sleeping bags. Shop at the thrift store for wool sweaters, coats, and hats. Invest in quality shoes, plastic water bottles, and a shovel.
Here are the absolute essentials for more information on how to go winter camping without spending much.
How Can You Go Winter Camping on a Budget?
Camping during the winter is notoriously expensive as many companies advertise that you need the latest down sleeping bag, four-season tent, and thick winter wear.
The good news is that you can do it all on a budget if you make a few savvy investments. Here are a few creative ways to make winter camping work without breaking the bank.
1. Invest in a Few Tarps
If you don’t want to spend money on a new four-season tent, you can make do with a few well-placed tarps.
These are significantly less expensive than investing in an entirely new tent that you may use only a handful of times each year.
It’s recommended that you invest in two tarps while winter camping – one to serve as a windbreak over the tent and one to cover the ground under the tent.
The windbreak over the tent will prevent wind from cutting through the thin fabric of a tent designed for warmer weather. It keeps you nice and dry, making it feel a little warmer and cozier inside your tent.
Your body heat will transfer to the cold ground during the night. Do what you can to stay warm by insulating the floor of your tent.
Pile up leaves and pine needles under the tent, place a tarp over the top of them, and then set up your tent.
2. Layer Up Sleeping Pads
Covering the ground beneath you with a tarp is just as important as rolling out a sleeping pad.
This item isn’t just for your comfort while sleeping; it can make a big difference in how warm you stay throughout the night.
Buying a high R-value sleeping pad can be expensive, but it isn’t necessary for your first winter camping excursion.
If you’re still unsure how often you’ll be going, you can buy or borrow thin sleeping pads that you’ll layer together.
An inflatable air mattress can be just as good if you’re concerned about comfort while sleeping.
Not to mention, you’ll likely be able to find a friend who owns an air mattress that you can borrow for a weekend trip, saving you even more money.
3. Double Up Sleeping Bags
A down sleeping bag is the best investment you can make if you plan to go winter camping. These can be quite expensive, though, and make winter camping on a budget untenable.
Instead, you may want to borrow a sleeping bag from a friend and double up. Cheap synthetic sleeping bags can be bundled into one another to form an extra thick barrier between you and the ground.
If you don’t have access to a second sleeping bag, bringing along the quilts from your bed or a few extra warm blankets you have lying around the house is just as good.
4. Hit Up the Thrift Store for Wool
During winter, focusing on high-quality layers is the easiest way to keep warm. Typically, these should be made out of some sort of moisture-wicking material or wool.
Clothing made of these two types of fabric can be quite expensive, especially if it isn’t something you’re likely to wear again.
While you can browse clearance racks after winter ends, the thrift store may still be your best bet. Look for wool coats, wool dress pants, or wool sweaters that can insulate and keep you as dry as possible.
After all, being wet is a surefire way to feel the chill on a winter night.
5. Don’t Forget Outerwear
Your base layers are crucial, but so are your outer layers. The good news is that a hat and gloves are inexpensive investments that can trap body heat and make you feel warmer.
A good hat is an essential piece of equipment you won’t want to skimp on. Look for thick fabric, preferably also in wool instead of cotton.
If you’re crafty, try breaking out those knitting needles and get a one-of-a-kind hat that’ll keep you warmer on a real budget.
6. Get the Right Shoes
While you might spend some great time thinking about what you’ll wear, most people neglect to think about their shoes.
This is one area where you may not want to skimp when planning your winter budget. You’ll need shoes with a vapor barrier, especially if you’re camping in areas with lots of snow.
This barrier can be removed and placed in your sleeping bag at night to warm up and dry out so that you have toasty toes all day long.
Additionally, you might want something that has a bit more traction if you’re camping in an area with lots of snow and ice.
When thinking about layers, consider your socks too. You’ll need thick wool socks to double up on warmth.
7. Hard Plastic Water Bottles
If you don’t want to or can’t invest in a heater for your tent, most people can make do with smaller heaters made from hard plastic water bottles.
Take your Nalgene bottle and fill it with boiling water. As you bundle yourself into your tent at night, place it between your legs inside the sleeping bag.
For extra low temperatures, you might find it helpful to have several water bottles inside your tent.
The warm water contributes more heat to the interior of your tent and traps it in there with your body heat.
As long as the winter winds aren’t whipping through your tent, thanks to your tarp acting as a windbreak, it should heat the tent nicely.
Keeping warm in your tent at night doesn’t have to be expensive. Shoveling snow, you can often get by with a bit of sweat equity.
Shovel out the area where you plan to pitch your tent, keeping the cold from getting beneath your tent. Use the extra snow to form a break or wall around the exterior of your tent.
Camping in the winter is fun because not many people are doing it. It’s a great time to get away from the world and enjoy some alone time. However, it’s also expensive if you don’t do it the DIY way.
These tips will help you to overcome the cold without putting a huge dent in your bank account.