Camping in the winter means that you’ll have to take some extra time to prepare the site. Whether you are tent camping or RV camping, snow adds another level to setting up your site. Be sure to bring a snow shovel with you as you’ll need to dig out an area for the tent or RV.

RV Camping Site

Clear deep snow out of the RV camping site so that you don’t get stuck getting into the site. The ground may be icy, so leave about 2 inches of snow on the ground for traction. Clear the snow away from any hookups so that you have easy access to them. If water is available, you should fill the tanks instead of letting the water run into the RV. Unless the hookup hose is heated, it will freeze.

Likewise, don’t hook up the holding tanks. Allow them to fill up and then empty them. Always use the special pink antifreeze for RV septic tanks. Rinsing out your dump hose and storing it in a warm storage area keeps ice dams from building up. The antifreeze keeps your dump valves from freezing. If your RV has heated dump valves, you may still want to let the holding tanks fill up and then empty them because the hose won’t be heated.

If it snows while you are camping, be sure to keep the snow away from the RV so you’ll have very little to dig out when it’s time to leave. You’ll need some extras when RVing during the winter—be sure to have those extra with you.

Tent Camping Site

If you are winter camping in a tent, pack the snow down in an area that is a little bigger than the tent’s footprint. Put down a layer of plastic, then a layer of newspaper. Place a water-resistant tarp over the newspaper and then set your tent up. The layers will not only keep the snow from melting into your net, but it insulates the floor of the tent against the cold.

Use snow anchors instead of regular tent stakes. The anchors should be at least 6 inches in the snow. Pack the snow around the anchors and then wait about an hour before you tighten the lines.

If there’s enough snow, build a wall of snow about 3 feet away from the tent. The wall keeps the snow from blowing up against your tent and collapsing the tent walls under a heavy drift. If the snow is wet, make blocks out of the snow. If the snow is powdery, shovel the snow into a pile that goes around your tent. In addition to keeping the snow from creating a drift against your tent, it also keeps your tent warmer since the wall will block a lot of the wind.

Stay Warm

If you are using tent heaters, be sure that they are not close to the walls of the tent or near your sleeping gear and clothing. If the emergency shut off doesn’t work, discard the heater and get a new one. Never light a fire inside the tent to keep warm.

If you do have to rely on fire to keep warm and can’t get it to light, look for pine boughs that are still on the tree. Often, the lower branches are dead and will snap off. Even in heavy rain or snow, they’ll be dry enough to get a fire started. Once you start the fire, pile wood in the shape of a tepee around the center of the fire to dry the wood. This will keep the fire going. As the tepee collapses, stand more wood up on end for as long as you need the fire.

Staying Safe

Keeping the vents in the tent open at night helps to prevent condensation from building up. If too much condensation builds up, it will start dripping on you. If your sleeping bag gets too wet, you could freeze.

Build a fire pit a safe distance from the tent and snow walls. Clear the snow away from the ground or out of an existing fire pit. Even though everything is wet, dry wood and other flammable items kept near the fire pit could still catch fire. Keep extra firewood far enough away so that sparks don’t start a fire, but not so far that the heat doesn’t help dry out the wood. If you create seats out of snow, be sure to cover them with plastic or even newspaper to keep the melting snow from getting you wet.

Whether you are camping in a tent or an RV, be sure you have extra warm clothing you can change into. If you get wet, your body temperature will drop quickly and it will be difficult to warm up if your clothes are wet. 

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