Why camp in colder months?
California offers something for everyone, no matter the season. In the colder Winter and Springs months, landscapes and weather in coastal, desert and mountain California are all completely different. The biggest bonus of going on road trips in colder months is of course - less crowds; if you’ve been to Big Sur or Yosemite National Park in the summer time, you know from experience that it can feel as overcrowded as Disneyland (or worse).
Carry plenty of water & fuel
- adventures and winter road trips are only fun if you are fully prepared for any surprises the road throws at you. Especially if you are travelling in the cold snowy area, make sure you either have a full tank of gas or an extra gas canister - accidents happen and if you have to wait for a rescue ranger or a tow truck, you want to make sure you can still run your car to stay warm. Same goes for water - remember, you are using the water for drinking, cooking and cleaning so always carry extra.
Always have a backup plan
- even the best planned road trip can go wrong due to hazardous weather conditions. You might find yourself in the midst of a blizzard and not being able to drive further. Always having a back up plan pays off - know where the closest hotel or lodge is so you can crash there for the night if the weather conditions worsen.
- Carrying chains when driving a 4x4 may seem unnecessary but it’s a California law and when a blizzard hits, you will be glad you did. You won’t need chains during daytime driving if the roads have been cleared of snow and salted - but once evening comes and temperatures drop to freezing, windy roads become a skating rink and you will thank the rangers who made carry those chains. Chains improve traction (by a lot) and make sure you have good grip - even in icy road conditions.
Don’t forget the portable heater
- portable heater is a big part of any successful winter wonderland trip, if you’re planning to camp overnight. You can bring anything from heat packs, heated blankets and portable heaters. Pros of heated blankets: once you’re inside the rooftop tent on a chilly night, the blanket stays heated the entire night, keeping you nice and toasty. We find that a portable heater is enough - you climb into the rooftop tent, turn the heater on, wait for the tent to warm up while you get changed into your sleeping gear and climb into the sleeping bag and then turn it off. You don’t need a heater through the night if you picked the right sleeping bag for the weather conditions.
Carry meals that don't need cooking
- we love making delicious camping meals from scratch but sometimes when the weather conditions get worse, i.e. rain or snow, you need something quick and easy. Dehydrated meals are not the most glamorous thing in the world but they work for days when all you can master is some boiled water. Our favourite brand is Mountain House - they have breakfast and lunch/dinner options and are surprisingly delicious.
Places to visit between November and April
Yosemite National Park
Death Valley National Park
Redwoods National and Regional Parks
Joshua Tree National Park