5 tips for winter camping in California
Winter overlanding trips can be incredible - entire place to yourself, striking scenery and... freaking cold. Hanging around camp can be cozy and warm with the right gear and packing tips. We have rounded up our top 5 tips for winter camping in California after spending almost every weekend overlanding all over the state last winter.
Choose the right sleeping bags - your choice of the sleeping bag can make or break your night inside the rooftop tent. Regardless of your sleeping bag weather rating, start by keeping at least two layers of tops, socks, hat and gloves - it’s better to start out being warm and take off the layers rather than freeze and shiver. If you bring your own sleeping bag, make sure to check the weather rating to make sure it's warm enough. We rent sleeping systems for $40/person.
Layer it up (with merino wool) - make sure to pack smart layers and start with a wool base layer. We love merino wool because it doesn’t stink and you barely sweat it in, as its naturally moisture-wicking. Preferred fabrics for colder weather layers: wool or cotton. If you’re chilling in front of the campfire and not moving around much, put on a pair of leggings or merino wool bottom base layer underneath your sweatpants/pants. Think multiple layers: instead of wearing one warm sweater, put on 2-3 wool layers, then the vest, then the jacket - to seal all your body’s heat. Pro tip for pants: snowboard pants are awesome for winter camping because they don’t get wet or damp. Don’ forget about warm wool socks to sleep in & wear - we recommend Bridgedale socks. They combine everything you need in a sock: warmth, comfort and wickability. Bonus: blister protection. Gloves may be necessary in the morning and night. Last thing: proper shoes - hiking shoes (Scarpa/Merrell) or Blundstones.
Don’t forget firewood - lots of firewood. Your only saving grace when hanging out outside the rooftop tent will be a campfire. Bring what you think you will need for your trip, times two. Cutting firewood might be problematic in the cold, damp weather as the logs will be damp too. Be sure to check the local fire restrictions and choose a National Forest/campground that allows fire. Campfires are awesome in any season but especially cozy when you’re warming up by the fire in your wool and fleece layers with a cup of hot tea.
Warm fluids and extra food - your body needs extra fuel when it’s cold so be sure to pack extra water and extra food, especially healthy carbs like whole grain bread, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, rice. This is also the perfect opportunity to keep snacking - without guilt! Keep hydrating and having a hot replenishing drink like herbal teas.
Bring extra books and movies (reading lamps too!) - every camper hopes for the perfect winter wonderland weather - but Mother Nature has her own plans. In the off chance that it rains or snows all day long, you want to have enough snacks, books and other entertainment to keep yourself busy if you need to stay put in the rooftop tent tent for a while. This is your perfect chance to unwind, recharge and take nap(s).