Top 5 winter camping considerations for beginners

Club Care Camping Insurance

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When temperatures plummet and the snow descends, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should put your camping plans on ice. Hear us out: during winter, the crowds are scarce, plus all your favourite UK camping spots are arguably at their most picturesque.

If you’re a photographer seeking those stunning landscape shots, a hiker who wants to hit the trail in peace, or you just want to get away and shake off those post-holiday blues — this is the ideal time to get out there.

So, what’s required for a winter camping trip to go off without a hitch? If your camping adventures have so far only ever consisted of fair-weather trips, then fear not: our top 5 tips for beginners should help you ensure that everything’s covered.

Pack the essentials to match the conditions

The days are going to be darker for longer, meaning it’s essential to bring adequate lighting. Head torches can be especially useful; wearing one means you still have both hands free, which comes in handy if you find yourself having to pitch up in poor light. Batteries have a tendency to run out more quickly in cold conditions, so opt for lithium batteries as these perform better in the cold — though make sure you pack plenty of spares.

A shovel is highly recommended if snow or ice is a possibility; you may need to clear your pitch before setting up, as well as clearing any overnight buildup of snow from the tent entrance. Likewise, walking poles can really come into their own if there’s a layer of snow; as well as helping you keep your balance on what can prove to be unpredictable terrain, they can also double up as temporary pegs when setting up.

When it comes to preparation of food in cold conditions, getting the job done quickly and reliably is a top priority. Pressurised fuel canisters struggle to maintain their gaseous state in very cold temperatures, which is why it’s worth investing in a winter or ‘four seasons’ camping stove. These use liquid fuel, which stays stable and burns more reliably in the cold.

Setting up: choose your pitch carefully

Time your journey so you arrive well before nightfall. If there is a prevailing wind, an ideal pitch will be one that gives an element of natural shelter; fences and bushes can provide handy windbreaks but avoid trees where there’s a risk of falling branches. Even the weak winter sun can provide some welcome natural warmth, so it’s worth pitching your tent facing southeast to capture morning and early afternoon rays — provided the winds allow.

Additionally, thaw-outs can lead to flash flooding, so it’s reassuring to know that Club Care camping insurance can cover your tent and possessions for flood damage — as well as the cost of hiring a replacement tent for the remainder of your holiday. That said, prevention is always better than cure: plan around drainage patterns and avoid setting up your tent in a depression; pitch taut and take extra care to peg down the corners to keep those winter draughts at bay.

Layer up to stay comfortable and warm

For clothing, packing spares of everything, including hats and gloves, is highly recommended: if something gets wet, there’s rarely the option of leaving it outside to dry quickly. Multiple layers are advisable on several fronts: they trap heat close to the body and you can add and remove them easily depending on the activity or conditions. Cotton should be avoided as it tends to trap moisture, making you feel more of the cold; opt instead for synthetic fibres and merino wool for the base layers, along with a warm fleece and waterproof outer jacket.

Settling in for the night

A 4-season sleeping bag is a must in the coldest months. For novice winter campers, it’s also worth knowing a couple of further techniques to maximise the warmth it gives you. For instance, resting your coat over your sleeping bag might seem like a good idea; however, it actually compresses the ‘down’ inside the bag, preventing it from breathing, and stopping it from working properly. On a similar note, thoroughly shaking the bag before you get into it will help fluff up the down, giving it increased loft (i.e. trapping more air and therefore heat) and maximising its ability to keep you warm and cosy.

Extra precautions and personal insurance

The arrival of the winter months certainly doesn’t have to put paid to your favourite camping activities. That said, it’s vitally important you take adequate precautions. If you are heading out, try and do so with company, whilst making sure someone at home is aware of where you are headed and when.

It’s vitally important you take steps to protect yourself. Despite the best of preparations, sometimes accidents can happen. Fortunately, there are camping packages that include cover for personal injury; for instance, Club Care camping insurance comes with a highly reassuring personal accident element. At the very least, knowing you have that safety net will take some of the anxiety out of the more challenging experiences that come with winter camping.

Whatever your activity, you’ll find tougher conditions have a habit of highlighting the problems in faulty gear. You don’t want to tread on an icy patch only to find that a crampon has broken points, or turn onto a heavily gritted lane and realise you really ought to have switched to heavy duty bike tyres. Winter is the time when it’s more important than ever to ensure your equipment is up to standard — so ensure you check all of your gear meticulously before you set off.

From seasonal driving tips through to finding the UK’s best all-year getaway destinations, explore our Help and Advice section  for everything you need to ensure the perfect winter trip. Or find out more about Club Care's Camping Insurance