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Winter Camping for the Beginner in British Columbia

Winter can be a magical time to explore British Columbia and try new activities. Thankfully, there are many campgrounds and parks – both private and public – open in the ‘off-season’.

It’s true that winter camping comes with its own unique challenges and safety considerations for campers and RVers. If heading out in an RV there is winter camping trip prep to follow. For renters, note that a number of RV companies and dealers do rent out motorhomes and units in the winter. Make sure that the RV has double-pane windows, a high efficiency furnace, an interior winter cab blanket and comes with insulated and heated water and waste holding tanks.

First Time RVing in the Winter
RVing in Winter | Canadream

When trying winter camping for the first few times it’s recommended to stay close to home and choose a campground not too far off the beaten path. Invest in any necessary items or borrow from friends or family who have ventured out at this time of year; gear rental is also an option. As with all camping trips, having a plan and being prepared is the key.

Here are some helpful tips to make your winter camping experience an enjoyable one. Read an expanded list of tips here.

Camping in Winter | Canadream

Essential Gear

  • Make a gear list, bring quality winter and windproof clothing, plenty of warm wool-blend socks, long underwear and layer, layer, layer. Mittens are a better option than gloves and a wool hat is a smart choice as is a balaclava.
  • Invest in waterproof winter boots with a warm lining and decent treads for traction.
  • Pack a water bottle for heating or hand and toe warmers.
  • Bring insulated camping chairs (there are even ones with battery heated seats).
  • Purchase a portable power pack if you don’t have one and pack extra batteries.
  • Pack ski goggles and good sunglasses for snow/sun reflection.
  • Have the first aid kit ready and educate yourself about basic first aid. Put sunscreen under your nose and chin and get an SPF lip balm as the snow reflects the sun!
  • Trekking poles and snowshoes are a fun option as are binoculars for winter bird watching.
Getting the Campfire Going | Tourism Prince George, Simon Ratcliffe

Campfires & Meals

  • Read our article on how to build a campfire.
  • Get a waterproof case for the firestarter/matches.
  • Bring a small shovel to clear snow from around the campfire pit. A small sled will also come in handy for hauling wood or gear around.
  • Pack some ready-made or freeze-dried options to simplify meal times. High calorie foods are good in winter as are soups and hot drinks.
  • Make sure you have insulated water bottles and tin mugs.

Animal Awareness

Even in the winter campers and hikers need to be aware of animals and their surroundings and continue to respect wildlife. Always exercise caution. Keep food locked away and do not leave scraps behind – pack out what you pack in.

Don’t feed the animals or get too close. Moose can be aggressive, bears can come out of hibernation, and any animal can be unpredictable if provoked. Stay alert, and move about slowly and quietly and respect the wilderness that you are in. BC Conservation Foundation provides good information.

Snowshoeing at Mt. Washington, Vancouver Island | Rob Littlejohn

Backcountry Safety

If you plan to venture out on the trails in BC’s backcountry to hike, snowshoe, cross country ski etc. only do so if you, or the person you are with, is experienced in that outdoor activity in winter. Always have an emergency plan and tell someone where you are going and your estimated timeline beforehand. Check out Adventure Smart for more information.

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For more helpful tips check out our FAQ page on winter camping and read the article Tips for Novice Campers.

For accommodations in British Columbia go the Camping Map.

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Published: December 8, 2022
Last Updated: November 7, 2023

Camping RV in BC by Camping RV in BC

The Camping and RVing British Columbia Coalition is a non-profit marketing entity created to raise awareness of the wide range of camping and recreational vehicle (RV) experiences across the province of British Columbia (BC).