Unzipping your tent to a crystal clear morning, brewing fresh coffee below frosty red rock formations, exploring iconic destinations without the crowds — this should be enough to convince anyone to give winter camping a shot. As temperatures drop and the days get shorter, planning a winter camping trip may sound daunting, but a little extra preparation goes a long way and pays off in the form of finding solace in the desert landscape. These expert tips, tricks and recommendations will help guarantee an unforgettable winter camping trip.
Tent or car camping gives you more mobility so you can reach those secluded, scenic campsites. But camping in the winter months requires some extra precautions.
Always keep an eye on the weather to avoid being snowed or rained-in, and gear up appropriately. When choosing a winter campsite, pick one that is sheltered from the wind and far away from any potential hazards like avalanches or falling trees.
Camping in a recreational vehicle can be enjoyed year round, and eases the stress of staying warm enough or becoming isolated. You’re more likely to find serviced campsites near basecamp towns, but there are also more unserviced sites available for those who’d rather rough it.
Fans of winter RV camping may also enjoy staying in one of the popular yurts located throughout the state.
The most popular winter camping destinations are found in the temperate, arid desert climate of Southern Utah. Although there are a few winter camping opportunities in Central and Northern Utah, it is much colder, and roads can be impassable due to heavy snowfall and icy terrain. Camping in or around Utah’s national parks in winter gives you front-row access to the best outdoor recreation without the usual summer crowds. The first major consideration for where to camp in winter is choosing to stay in your tent, car or RV.
The first rule of winter camping is to make a list and check it twice. Having the right clothing and gear means you can spend less time dealing with soggy meltdowns (from kids or adults), and more time enjoying the trip. Go over your packing checklist before you leave to make sure you’re prepared with the following items:
Warm Clothing – Layering up is crucial when camping in Utah, where temperatures can change drastically throughout the day. Opt for synthetic or wool materials over cotton to trap in heat and repel moisture. Bring hand and toe-warmers, and a serious jacket. Pack warm socks, hats, jackets, gloves and lighter layers for the daytime.
Tent – 4-season tents are needed for campers who expect to face harsh weather conditions. Always bring a tarp or rain fly to insulate and waterproof your tent. When heading on a camping trip during any season, do a test run and set up your tent at home before you leave.
Sleeping Mat – A roll-up or inflatable sleeping pad will lift and insulate you from the frozen ground. With the days getting shorter during the winter season, you will be spending more time cozied up in your tent. Make sure you have a warm, comfortable setup for when the sun goes down and temperatures drop.
Fire Supplies – Campfires are the iconic symbol of any great outdoor excursion, but during the winter your fire is also an essential source of heat. Stop at the local ranger station on your drive in to check if the area has any fire regulations. Bring kindling, matches, a lighter and plenty of firewood.
Camp Stove – Eating cold or fire-cooked meals can get old pretty fast on a long camping trip. A camp stove, or even a single burner, opens up a whole new world of camping cuisine. Plus, it can be used to boil snow for extra water. White gas or liquid fuel stoves perform better than canister stoves in winter conditions.
This is just a list to get you started — you should cater your checklist to your mode of backcountry travel, personal preferences and considerations such as weather, difficulty, duration and distance from emergency services. If it’s out of your comfort zone, look for guided offerings to start.
A Winter Retreat
Written by Kristen Bonkoski
7 minute read
Although it is located only a few miles from the urban hustle and bustle of Salt Lake City, the Big Water Yurt feels light years away. Located at the top of Millcreek Canyon, the yurt is open only in winter and the only way to get to it is by ski, snowshoe or fat bike.
Bring your water inside the tent at night to prevent it from freezing. Thawing out water for coffee in the morning is fun for no one.
The days are much shorter during the winter so make sure to pack headlamps and lanterns, extra batteries and games to play once the sun goes down.
Your body burns extra energy to keep you warm during winter, so add high calorie snacks and meals to your shopping list. Besides, everyone knows that calories don’t count when you’re on vacation.
Willing to bring a sleeping bag and leave the pavement behind every once in a while? If you can handle getting your car a little dusty (oh, and have a well-maintained, high-clearance vehicle), this five- or six-day itinerary will put you smack dab in the middle of the great outdoors. And with 300 days of sunshine a year, Southern Utah offers a pretty dang good chance of perfect camping weather. And the best part? This itinerary is designed for budget-conscious travelers.
Ski Southern Utah: High Alpine Trails + Red Rock Wonder
Southern Utah is home to two high-elevation ski areas that contain generous helpings of what we call (with authority) The Greatest Snow on Earth®. Things can be a little quieter down here this time of year. Give yourself at least five days to combine the thrills of Southern Utah skiing and boarding with exploring the wintertime wonders to be found in Utah’s red rock country.
Red Rock & Dark Skies: Stargazing the National Parks
This road trip through southwest Utah takes you to four of Utah’s best places to see the Milky Way — Capitol Reef National Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Cedar Breaks National Monument.