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11/22/2017 12:33 pm  #1

Winter camp clothes

I'm going to try my hand at winter camping. Mostly around my house because this is my first try. I did get an offer to hot tenting in Algonquin and would like to go. I'm having hard time trying to figure out what to buy to wear. I have base layers and mid layers but not sure what type of winter jacket to buy. Should I be buying a bulky down jacket like a parka or a mountaineering type jacket. Was looking at mountain headwear ghost whisper jacket online. But don't look like much warmth there. If I'm moving or hiking I'm sure I'd be fine but I'm more worried about sitting around camp or sleep. Any suggestions or comments. Curious what others are wearing up there.


11/22/2017 3:12 pm  #2

Re: Winter camp clothes

Layering is always the recommended approach. If you have base layers, mid layers, fleece and an outer shell with room for an extra fleece underneath then you're in pretty good shape. 

As you said, moving around you're generally warm and that's where layering is key to being able to adjust your insulation and try to stay warm but not enough to sweat. Where you want bigger layers is when you're sitting still for an extended period. That could be around camp while cooking, etc. and if you were cold tenting then at night too. However at night you're relying on your sleeping bag (and liner) for extra warmth in addition to whatever layers you're wearing to sleep in. 

I generally spend more time around the cottage in the winter rather than camping so I'm not as careful with managing layers as I would be camping without a guaranteed place to warm up. Often the down liner in my winter coat will be soaked from sweat by the end of the day. That's a clear indication that I should have been stripping off a couple of layers during the day. 

Winter is a good time for down filled coats and if you're out in -25C or lower then you'll be really glad you invested in it. On the other hand if you're being flexible in picking your dates to get some warmer temps for a first time winter camping trip then you may already have the layered clothing to handle it. 

Last edited by RobW (11/23/2017 9:41 am)


11/22/2017 6:32 pm  #3

Re: Winter camp clothes

Three great resource:

WinterTrekking Forums:

Snow Walker's Companion

Lure of the North


Last edited by Marko_Mrko (11/22/2017 6:33 pm)


11/23/2017 2:45 pm  #4

Re: Winter camp clothes

Packing clothes for winter camping can be difficult especially over the past few years when temps can get up to around the freezing mark.

For me personally I wear a Gore-Tex shell with layers underneath for stuff I do during the day that is active (snowshoeing, hiking, etc.).  Usually when active I'm down to my base layer and just the shell.

Then when I'm at camp and the wood is all chopped I change into totally dry base layers.  This is super important even if you feel dry because chances are your base layers are damp and you will get really chilly fast.  Once I'm in my dry stuff I switch into my big heavy down jacket.  Mine is from Taiga and was very reasonably priced.  It's not fancy stuff but it works and it's not as pricey as some of the name brand stuff.  I also have a pair of their down pants that I wear if it's ridiculously cold.  

Down/insulated booties are also amazing for around camp.  Check out the Expedition booties from MEC...one of the best pieces of kit I bought for winter!

My layers usually include a tight base layer (merino wool or polypro or something like that).  Then I layer as needed with lightweight fleece then heavier weight fleece.

Oh and I always change into clothes that I keep just for getting into bed, that way I know they are always dry.

As you can tell keeping dry is a big theme and will ensure you have an enjoyable time!

Taiga:  https://www.taigaworks.ca/Down-Clothing-c14
MEC booties:  https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5031-589/Expedition-Plus-Bootie


11/24/2017 2:11 am  #5

Re: Winter camp clothes

I wouldn't be without a down vest for winter camping.  Weighs nothing, packs down to nothing, and can make all the difference.  Also, camp chairs are bloody cold in winter, you'll want a pad of some kind to insulate wherever you plan to sit.  


11/24/2017 10:13 am  #6

Re: Winter camp clothes

=17px"If I'm moving or hiking I'm sure I'd be fine but I'm more worried about sitting around camp or sleep."

For sitting around in camp, a one-piece snowmobile suit should keep you warm if you're not moving around much. It should be a quick and easy in and out to quickly change from damp clothes into something warm and dry and then back into active gear when you're ready to go. There are used ones available on Kijiji and maybe at the end of the season clearouts

Sparks from a campfire will most likely burn holes in a snowmobile suit, so if you're planning on doing a lot of that, wool and cotton outer layers would be better.

Kevin Callan has a new book on winter camping, pop open the whiskey bottle, whooo doggie.




11/24/2017 8:45 pm  #7

Re: Winter camp clothes

If you spend a lot of active time outside I would look at a down mountaineering jacket over a heavy parka. I have an old MEC Tremblant jacket. It gets thrown on at breaks, on mountain tops, to sleep, around the fire, on chilly mornings, as I pack the toboggan, etc... The reason it gets heaven use is because of its size and weight. If it was a heavy parka I would not lug it around. Beware of micro puffs and down sweaters though, they are totally different than a full on down jackets.

The rest of the time it's all about layers. In order of preference: wool, synthetic, cotton.

Other than that I would say: focus on managing layers that will keep you as dry as possible over as warm as possible during the day. Save the big insulating layers for night or when you are stationary. It's better to feel slightly cool and dry during the day than hot and damp, then at night throw the big layers on.

When I say dry, it doesn't mean gortex 24/7 as it can trap moisture. It is what ever combination of layers vents sweat when needed and blocks external moisture when needed.


11/24/2017 9:36 pm  #8

Re: Winter camp clothes

APPaul wrote:

When I say dry, it doesn't mean gortex 24/7 as it can trap moisture. It is what ever combination of layers vents sweat when needed and blocks external moisture when needed.

Exactly. On a cold winter day it's not uncommon to end up with a layer of frost under my outer shell from the moisture that has evaporated through the inner layers and then condensed and frozen as it got close to the outside. Gortex or other breathable fabrics are still useful for protecting from outside moisture on a wet winter day but the cold air temp will keep them from venting moisture from the inside. 


11/25/2017 6:01 pm  #9

Re: Winter camp clothes

These are all very helpful comments. I think when it comes to active time I think I'm covered. I figure between base layers and my fleece pants and sweater and woolie pooly for warmth I'm good. My rain jacket and snow pants over top. I don't own any gortex yet. I'd like to keep my gear light as possible but I get cold easy. I'm thinking my hard to buy item is my camp jacket. The one that packs the big warmth when sitting around. Those big parkas look warm but huge and heavy and then there's these down (bubble) jackets. Which one to choose. That mountain hardwear ghost whisper jacket I was looking at looks very thin.

     Thread Starter

11/25/2017 6:06 pm  #10

Re: Winter camp clothes

Any recommendations on those big warm puffy jackets for when I'm just hanging around camp or taking a cold nap.

     Thread Starter

11/25/2017 7:05 pm  #11

Re: Winter camp clothes

The comment about cold seats is so true.  Another great piece of kit for winter is one of these insulated seats (great for $20)  https://www.thermarest.com/catalog/product/view/id/16715/category/17/



11/29/2017 12:18 pm  #12

Re: Winter camp clothes

Just came across this. Although its about hypothermia, it does talk about dressing right and gives tips on winter clothing. 



11/30/2017 3:17 am  #13

Re: Winter camp clothes

Curemd wrote:

Any recommendations on those big warm puffy jackets for when I'm just hanging around camp or taking a cold nap.

You just can't beat down from a warmth, weight and packablity standpoint.  The higher the fill power the warmer (and more expensive) it will be.


12/04/2017 10:14 am  #14

Re: Winter camp clothes

I have to preface this by saying I have never spent a night in a tent in truly cold weather.  That said, I just went to a required session for parents of scouts that focused on this specifically.  Some terrific tips. Layering applies everywhere.  So you wear sock liners, your good wool socks (or whatever you're using), and then your boot, and the boot should be sized to allow for that, since it is the air within the boot that insulates.  Stated differently, if the boot is too tight, your feet will be cold.  The boot is a shell just like your jacket shell is a shell.  The sock liner wicks moisture away just like your base layer shirt.  Same thing for gloves, same thing as having a balaclava as a base layer for your head.  There were some great tips on sleeping as well, because the same concept applies . The bottom of the tent is, to a degree, insulated by snow, but of course you have your ground cloth to protect it and help prevent moisture.  Then you've got the pad you are sleeping on, the recommendation there was foam cell, because those insulate pretty well.  The big recommendation was a complete change of clothing for sleeping.  As in head-to-toe complete, from socks to balaclava.  dedicated sleepwear.  They took it to the level of saying if you had to step outside overnight to answer nature, you would change into other clothes to do so, then put your dry clothes back on when you got back into the tent.  One thing that I think is really worthwhile is the "dry sock kit".  Here, you've got a spare pair of sock liners, wool socks, and a gallon bag inside a gallon bag.  If moisture overcomes your boot and you take a soaking, you change the sock and sock liner, putting them in one of the gallon bags.  The other gallon bag you put over your sock, which provides a barrier between your soaking boot and you.  One last thing - in sleeping, the recommendation was to keep the vents open on the tent, and to keep your head outside the sleeping bag, or at least your nose and mouth.  There's a lot of moisture in breathing that you don't want on the inside of your sleeping bag or the tent, because you'll end up with condensation unpleasantness.  These tips are probably second nature to a lot of the AA posters, but much of it was new to me, and hopefully is helpful.  Oh - one last one.  with your water bottle, store it upside down.  Water freezes from the top down.  If you store the bottle right side up, you'll open the bottle to ice.     


12/04/2017 3:21 pm  #15

Re: Winter camp clothes

Great tips!

Although I don't really agree with, "The big recommendation was a complete change of clothing for sleeping!" That has been mentioned elsewhere on this site recently and it seems like a generally accepted concept. I'm not sure why. Folks stuck in a -50 bivy on everest wouln't consider getting out of their clothes. People running the Yukon Arctic Ultra don't have dedicated sleep clothes. Mushers in the Ididerot don't change into sleeping clothes.

I don't do it. Who wants to get changed when it's -20. Even worse, in the morning, who wants to put on the now frozen clothes that you changed out of the night before. I've been cold camping for many years and hot tenting for a few. The only time of year that I don't completely change into fresh clothes at night is in the winter. Obviously, if my clothes are wet I will change them. But that's not a sleeping thing. That's a, "my clothes are wet and I need to change into dry clothes" thing.

If my base layer is slighlty damp from perspiration at night that's fine. If I'm cold, I put on more layers and crawl into the sleeping bag. My clothes will be dry in the morning. For that matter I am generally dry at night anyway. Most winter camping trips end the day by sitting around a roaring fire or a hot tent stove. 


12/05/2017 9:25 am  #16

Re: Winter camp clothes

Historically the reason I was taught for changing before bed was because "your clothes are wet and you need to change into dry clothes". The explanation was that your clothes soak up enough moisture from the inside out during the day that you are better off changing and will be warmer during the night if you do change. 

You would then put your clothes for the next day in the sleeping bag with you overnight to warm them up. 

Of course that was long before the days of poly pro everything and the magical wicking qualities of today;'s tech clothing. Quite a while ago I had asked on some forum (might have been here) if the 'rule' of changing before bed still made sense if you are wearing however many layers of poly pro and the moisture is getting wicked away. 


12/05/2017 9:45 am  #17

Re: Winter camp clothes

RobW wrote:

Of course that was long before the days of poly pro everything and the magical wicking qualities of today;'s tech clothing. Quite a while ago I had asked on some forum (might have been here) if the 'rule' of changing before bed still made sense if you are wearing however many layers of poly pro and the moisture is getting wicked away. 

Personally, I just wear the same poly pro long underwear to bed that I was wearing during the day.  In the case of youth groups like Scouts you cannot count on the youth having the same high tech clothing that you as a leader have so we certainly advised our Scouts to change clothes at bedtime.


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