Saturday, December 9, 2023


Bucking the trend: Heading north for winter camping—something to consider?

By Gail Marsh
Some are tired of the hassle of trying to find open RV sites. Others have snowmobiles they love to ride. Still other folks love to ski, while many folks simply love winter. Who are these people? They are the cold-loving, hardy outdoor souls in love with snow and cold temperatures. Instead of heading south like thousands of other RVers, they head north for winter camping during the cold months.

Why go north for winter camping?

  • Fewer crowds. No kidding! Many RVers travel in the opposite direction (south) to find warmer weather. If you prefer solitude, heading north is your best bet. Northern campgrounds may be able to offer greater chances to “distance” from others.
  • Less hassle. While many campgrounds close down for the winter, there are places that warmly welcome the hearty souls who enjoy a winter camping experience. It may be easier to find winter RV sites than at other times of the year.
  • Conducive to an active lifestyle. Forget shuffleboard and checkers! Winter campers are more likely to seek out active outdoor experiences, like: snowmobiling, skiing, ice skating, snowboarding, sledding, cross-country skiing, and more.
  • Greater adventure. Winter camping, along with its unique challenges, appeals to folks who enjoy out-of-the-norm camping experiences.

Where to go

  • Lake of the Woods, Minnesota, is the hot spot for ice fishing. You can take your RV. Or rent a luxury fishing cabin right on the frozen lake! It comes with a small, heated kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. Bonus: There’s a hole in the ice floor for you to drop your fishing line!
  • Hayward, Wisconsin, area. Come for the largest ski race in the Northern Hemisphere, or try out other winter sports for yourself. You’ll discover many great campgrounds for your RV, or you can also rent cabins for your stay.
  • Upstate New York. There are more than 6 million acres of protected lands that are just stunning in the winter setting. Mountains, forests, and waterways abound, and all are teeming with wildlife. Backcountry camping along with RV parks and rental units are available.
  • Great Smoky Mountain area, Tennessee. The Smoky Mountain National Park welcomes winter campers and offers great hiking trails and scenic winter views.
  • And more. Check out other areas of interest, even those places you’ve visited during warmer weather. Who knows? Your favorite summer camping spot may turn out to be your favorite winter site, as well.

What to pack

  • Warm linens. Many winter campers pack flannel sheets and down comforters. Others love their heated mattress pad.
  • Clothing. Experienced winter campers dress in layers. First, next to your skin, you’ll want a snug-fitting, non-plant-based fabric that will wick moisture away from your body. Think: long johns. Next comes a warm, insulating layer made of wool, down, or synthetic insulation, like a fleece jacket. The final layer should be a wind and waterproof jacket along with fleece-lined pants.
  • Wear synthetic socks topped with wool liners in boots. Depending on the temperatures, a parka and snow pants may be layered over the basic three clothing layers.
  • Don’t forget to protect your fingers and head, face and ears, along with your chin and neck. Waterproof mittens or gloves are best. A hat that features earflaps will keep heat in and with your jacket’s hood, provide good protection. A ski mask or balaclava will protect your face and neck.
  • Cautions. Hypothermia and frostbite are real concerns when winter camping. You can prevent a dangerous situation by wearing protective clothing and monitoring the amount of time you spend in cold temperatures.

Let’s go winter camping!

Tempting, isn’t it? Who doesn’t love seeing icicles twinkle in the morning sunshine? Or listen to the ice crack while hiking past the lake? While winter camping isn’t for everyone, it does hold an appeal for the outdoorsy folks who look forward to a wonderful wintertime adventure!

Have you ever camped in cold, winter conditions? Tell me about it in the comments below.




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Neal Davis (@guest_259881)
1 month ago

We do try to travel through the winter. In January of this year we traveled to Nappanee for warranty work. The drive home had a much higher degree of intensity than did the drive there. That is the largest amount of snow to which we have exposed our RV. Generally, our winter travel entails cold (<32° F) overnight temperatures, no snow, and daytime temperatures of greater than 40° F. We generally go to Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama state parks and stay in the northern part of the last two of these, and anywhere in the first.

Mitzi Agnew Giles and Ed Giles (@guest_259832)
1 month ago

Flannel is cotton, and COTTON KILLS! in seriously cold weather. I have fleece bedding and a Celliant mattress pad. (Nasa compliant fabric to trap heat) When sleeping I wear a fleece or acrylic pulldown cap and seriously thick fleece socks. Remember the old saying-when your feet get cold, put on a hat! I usually layer silk under wool or fleece long johns. Would take my Boy Scout Troop backpacking every MLK 3 day weekend on Florida Trail from Lorida to Lake Wales and my personal accomplishment was staying good and warm on a night that registered 17*F in the nearest city to the south.

Thomas Champagne (@guest_259796)
1 month ago

Being an avid camper, I did camp year round at my local campground in Rhode Island. I was going thru three 30 lb.tanks of propane a week. The condensation was horrible. Only electricity was provided so daily when I returned from work, I had to bring huge containers of water to the camper. Once a week I would go home to do the laundry etc. The sounds and sights were amazing during the weather. I had to purchase a plastic toboggin to place the water containers in to get my three dogs to pull it to the campsite ( roads weren’t plowed only entrance ) . Great experience cooking a full turkey inside a small oven on Thanksgiving

Dan (@guest_259793)
1 month ago

If I didn’t snowmobile I wouldn’t but I do so I do. We stay in snow parks with on services. Make sure your RV can stand the low temps, my MH can it has heated water holding bay by the furnace. Be ready to drive in snow and put on chains and clean snow off slide outs and have a shovel in case you have to dig out. We had it snow 42in in 3 days once that was fun. I take a Honda 2000 generator and run it about 2hrs in the morning and 3 or more at night to charge the batteries and watch TV. Generator runs about 9hrs on a gallon. Sometimes if it isn’t snowing will have a fire. I also have a Mr Heater big buddy for emergencies if someting goes wrong with furnace which happened once.

Jack Fate (@guest_259761)
1 month ago

Probably be easier to do a hot tent

DW/ND (@guest_259704)
1 month ago

A couple suggestions from a near life member of the Minn., ND region:
1. Don’t bring an Rv if you don’t know how to handle on ice.
2. If you do know how to handle an Rv on ice – be sure you have a reliable towing service!
3. Bonus tip: Be sure, whatever you drive, has a winter survival kit and radio and a near full tank of vehicle fuel or gas.

William Johnson (@guest_259692)
1 month ago

Not me! Willingly going where your RV is not meant to go! Cold weather!

Vince S (@guest_259640)
1 month ago

Finding camp sites after November 1 adds another hurdle to the logistics. A lot of state and federal parks close the gates when the chill comes in so that limits options and contingency plans.

That said, we often go north and enjoy the serenity of low to zero vacancy of places that might otherwise be crowded in season but to go to Wisconsin? Nope, no thank you, not even with chains, snow tires and an endless supply of propane…..LOL

We’re nuts but not crazy!

Jonathan Schacher (@guest_259624)
1 month ago

Should have included a section about making sure your equipment is rated for below freezing. A three season isn’t and a four season wan-a-be can be trouble.

John Irvin (@guest_259643)
1 month ago

Up there most things will be in trouble, few places accessible, very limited water or dumps, parks closed. Please don’t go there with your RV unless you know what you are getting into.

Mikal H (@guest_259668)
1 month ago
Reply to  John Irvin

Being a native Minnesotan, this is good advice. Winter camping up here takes knowledge and planning.

I have camped in below zero. I would leave the RV winterized and use water in jugs. Either used the primitive toilets or had a separate portable in the RV that could be dumped into a pit toilet. Use dish pans, not the sinks. We lined sinks with towels and placed dish pans in them. If you have a propane furnace plan on at least a 30# tank every day, and the RV still might feel cold. Best is if slides stay in.

John Irvin (@guest_259606)
1 month ago

Lake of the Woods? Be prepared for 30 below and broken RV’s

Jeff (@guest_259603)
1 month ago

In Wisconsin they have a frozen butt hang every January. On YouTube just type in Wisconsin frozen butt hang. This hang is by jack lake which is north of Antigo, Wisconsin.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_259590)
1 month ago

Interesting points and a nice article. Unfortunately, once I retired from OTR driving I vowed to never even open my front door if there was snow on the ground. So far, so good. 🙂

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