Winter Camping Essentials for the Mammoth Lakes Region

Snow is on the ground and the temperatures are near freezing, but die-hard campers never pack their camping gear away. There’s something about sitting by the campfire in the winter. The forest is quiet and the air is crisp. The Mammoth Mountain RV Park is open year-round for tent, trailer, and RV camping, and there is a lot of public land near Mammoth Lakes that is free for dispersed camping in the winter. Your nose and toes might get cold, but with a few cold weather camping essentials, you can have a great time camping in the winter. Here’s a guide to the camping gear you need and a few tips for a fun winter camping adventure in Mammoth Lakes.

Winter Camping Essentials

Warm Clothing and Layers – It might be silly to state the obvious, but you need plenty of warm clothing to enjoy a winter camping trip. You’ll want to wear layers of wool thermal underwear that fit tightly to the body for a base layer. Add a fleece layer top and bottom to stay extra cozy underneath an outer layer of durable waterproof wind proof jacket and pants to seal the heat in. You’ll also want a down or synthetic jacket to stay extra warm at night and a pair of waterproof boots. Snuggly fuzzy camp boots are also nice.

Sleeping Bag and Extra Bedding – You might like to camp with regular bedding and blankets in the summer, but a sleeping bag will keep you the most warm. Sleeping bags are rated for the temperature and you won’t be disappointed with a zero degree bag. Always buy a bag rated for colder weather than you are expecting. If you are tent camping, you’ll also want an extra layer of insulation underneath you to keep the cold out from the floor. A foam pad underneath your air mattress works well, or lay blankets underneath your sleeping pad on the floor. A few extra blankets are also nice to throw over your sleeping bag on really cold nights, and can also be used to keep you warm when cooking outside or sitting by the campfire.

Four Season Tent – If you are serious about winter camping, you’ll want to purchase gear specifically designed for cold weather. A four-season camping tent is designed to provide extra protection from the elements. The thicker walls of a winter camping tent help insulate and keep the heat in, and will stand up to wind and snow better than your summer tent. If you don’t have a winter tent, bring a tarp to hang over your summer tent for extra protection.

Camping Kitchen – You’ll need all the same camping cooking equipment for winter as any other time of year, plus a few extras. Bring a stove, pots, and cooking utensils, plates, and cups. But also, bring a thermos, and insulated travel mug. A large tarp is also nice to create a shelter for cooking under if there is weather. And since it gets dark much earlier in the winter pack plenty of lanterns or camping lights for your kitchen. If you are camping in the snow, an extra stove is nice for boiling water and melting snow into water. Bring plenty of fuel to cover the extra water boiling you’ll do in the winter.  

Winter Camping Tips

Warm Your Bed Before You Sleep – There’s nothing better than getting into a warm sleeping bag, even if you have all the extra bedding and a zero degree bag. Heat water on the stove, bringing it to a boil then letting it cool slightly. Pour the hot water into a water bottle and check to make sure it is completely sealed. Place the water bottle at the end of your sleeping bag 20 minutes before bed, double-checking that the lid is tightly sealed. If you have an extra bottle place a second bottle in the middle of your bag when you go to sleep.

Make Warm Drinks – Stay warm throughout the day by consuming warm beverages. Holding on to a warm thermos cup keeps your hands warm, but the warm fluids will also warm your body from the inside out. Even though it’s cold outside, and you won’t feel thirsty you still need to stay hydrated in cold weather. Drinking hot beverages, especially ones without caffeine, will also keep your body hydrated. Try apple cider, herbal tea, and hot water with lemon.

Campfire is a Must – Most of the time you enjoy a campfire for the ambiance, but in winter a fire is essential for keeping warm at the campground. It also will be helpful in providing ambient light at the campground since it gets darker earlier in the winter. Dry firewood will be hard to find on the ground in winter, so be sure to bring plenty with you. Pine is great for burning, but hard wood like almond or oak also helps the fire burn hotter and longer.

Monica Prelle

Monica Prelle is an outdoors, wine, and travel writer who would rather be running, climbing, or mountain biking. See more of Monica's posts here, read more of her work at monicaprelle.com and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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