Winter Camping

By Bonnie Chasteen | January 1, 2020
From Xplor: January/February 2019

It's Snow Much Fun!

Turn a snow day into a snowy sleepover. All you need is the right gear, one or two willing adults, and your BFF.

Start With a Plan

Don’t wait until the snow flies to start your adventure. Tell your folks you’d like to try winter camping, and see if your bestie would like to join you. Then keep an eye on the weather, and give your crew the heads-up a few days in advance. That way, everyone has a chance to get ready and gather for the big day (and night!).

Gather Your Gear

Chances are good that Missouri will get snow in January or February. To make the most of what may be only a day or two of frozen fun, build your winter camping kit now. That way, you’ll be ready to roost outside at the first sign of snow.


  • Tent Get one that’s waterproof and has a floor. Nothing spoils snow camping like a leaky roof or a soggy sleeping area. It also helps to get a tent that’s easy to put up, especially if the sun goes down while you’re trying to make camp. Tents that have shock-corded or connected poles are easier to work with than those you have to fit together. For attaching the poles to the tent, clips or J-hooks are easier to use than pole sleeves.
  • Sleeping pad and bag A sleeping pad not only protects you from lumpy rocks and roots, but it also helps keep you warm. An inflatable, insulated pad is best, but two foam pads stacked together will work, too. For winter camping, it’s best to use a sleeping bag that’s rated colder than the temperature you’ll be sleeping in. Average minimum temperatures for Missouri range from 12 to 24 degrees Fahrenheit. A bag rated -20 should keep you warm. Choose a sleeping bag made of synthetic material and filled with down feathers or synthetic down. Avoid cotton sleeping bags for winter camping. Cotton is poor insulation, and it will draw heat from your body if it gets wet.
  • Flashlight You’ll want a flashlight (with fresh batteries) if you need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. A flashlight also comes in handy for making scary faces when you’re telling ghost stories after dark.

Pro Tip

Synthetic base layers are good choices for winter camping. Cotton undies and jammies can give you a chill, especially if they get wet.


  • Camp stove and cooking pot For making hot chocolate
  • Handsaw or hatchet For cutting up firewood branches
  • Pocketknife For whittling marshmallow sticks

Set up Camp and Gather Firewood

Pitch your tent on a flat area with the door pointing toward the house. That makes it easier to get to the bathroom when you need to. Arrange your sleeping pads and bags so they’re easy to slip into. Lastly, hang a flashlight from the tent’s center loop so the light shines right where you need it.

Build a Fire or Light Your Camp Stove

This is where a grown-up really comes in handy. Build your fire or light your stove a safe distance from the tent. If the snow is patchy, and the grass is dry — don’t build a fire! Grass fires can spread quickly. Plan B may include bringing hot chocolate and treats from the kitchen.

Have S’More Fun

What’s a campout without campfire treats?! Ask your grown-up to help you make hot chocolate and s’mores to warm you up for a night of winter camping. Once inside the tent, you and your bestie can play games, tell stories, or open the rain fly and look at the stars. It’s your first snowy sleepover, so have fun!

Pro Tip

Take your boots off BEFORE you crawl inside the tent. Once inside, knock off the snow outside the tent door, and bring your boots inside before zipping up.

Pro Tip

Wet socks and gloves? Just tuck them into the bottom of your sleeping bag. If they’re made of wool or synthetic fiber, your body heat will dry them by morning.

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This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White