Winter is a fact of life in Canada. With most of the country covered by a thick blanket of snow for months on end, there is only one thing to do – embrace it. Despite negative temperatures and shorter days, many of us get giddy when we see those first snowflakes falling from the sky. Winter is the season for downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling – there is no shortage of ways to get out and enjoy the Canadian winter. But for the truly adventurous, spending a night outdoors winter camping is the pinnacle of winter excitement.

 

While winter camping takes significantly more preparation and planning than its summer counterpart, it can be one of the most rewarding ways to embrace the great outdoors. The feeling of conquering the elements and enjoying a good night's sleep amid an otherwise unforgiving landscape is something special. And for those of us who enjoy backcountry skiing and snowboarding, winter camping can be the best way to access some of Canada's abundant downhill terrain. To help you plan your night out under the stars this winter we've put together a few camping tricks and tips along with a rundown of a few places to try it out.

 

 

What you will need

Being prepared is essential for any adventure, but especially so in the winter. Below we have outlined exactly what you need to take with you on your winter camping trip, or you can check out our Winter Travel Checklist.

 

  • Winter Tent Winter Tent - It is important to choose... the right tent for winter camping. To ensure you stay warm throughout the night the tent must be strong enough to hold up against wind and snow, and we recommend you choose a tent rated as “4 Season.” As well, make sure that your tent has a rainfly to reduce condensation and that you have enough room for you and all of your gear.
  • Extra tent poles / pole splints
  • Ground sheet or tarp
  • Winter Sleeping Bag
  • Fire Starter Kit including waterproof matches
  • GPS Device loaded with Backroad GPS Maps
  • A topographic map of the area you are traveling
  • Avalanche kit
  • First aid kit
  • Compass
  • Cooking utensils
  • Food, including extra food for emergencies
  • Along with extra food for emergencies
  • Water
  • Camp stove
  • Flashlight & Headlamp along with spare batteries
  • Knife or multi-tool
  • Shovel
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Sunglasses
  • A book or games to pass time
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    Where to Set up Camp

    How and where you set up camp can make all the difference when camping in the winter. Here are some key tips before you pitch your tent for a cozy night's sleep:

     

  • Do not go too far! If things go wrong, you want to be close (ish) to get necessary help
  • Pick a spot with firewood available
  • Camp close to open water (if possible) to have an easy-to-access water source
  • Always have your tent on level ground. You will probably need to stomp out an area in the snow to pack it flat
  • Place a tarp on the ground to insulate the tent and prevent it from directly touching the snow
  • Be sure your site is not set up in an area with the risk of avalanche - avoid pitching your tent or below a slope
  • Pitch your tent facing south and 90 degrees to the wind
  • Avoid open areas and ridge tops to stay out of the wind
  • Stay away from low meadows and valleys where cold air will settle
  • If you have no natural shelter, figure out which direction the wind is blowing from and build a wall out of snow for protection.
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    How to Stay Warm

    While it may be more difficult to maintain your body temperature in the winter than it is camping in the summer, it is not impossible. Here are some very important tips to remember to keep you safe and cozy while camping this winter!

     

  • As soon as you are done your activities for the day and are ready to settle into your tent, change into dry clothes. Staying warm is easier than getting warm.
  • Go to bed on a full stomach. Your body uses food as fuel to produce heat, so eating a hot meal close to bedtime will help you sleep comfortably.
  • Leave your sleeping bag rolled up until you are ready to use it, otherwise it'll fill with cold air while it is sitting open.

  • Before you head to bed do some stretches, jumping jacks or any kind of movement to get your blood flowing before you sleep.
  • Filling a water bottle with hot water and putting it in your sleeping bag will provide you with a surprising amount of heat.
  • Wear extra layers to bed – you can always peel them off if you get hot in the night.
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    What to Wear

    How you dress will make all the difference during the day and at night. Dress in layers and have a change of clothes on hand in case you get wet or damp.

     

  • Base layer: wicking underwear
  • Mid layer: insulating jacket/vest/pants
  • Shell: rain jacket (or soft shell)
  • Rain pants
  • Dry clothing
  • Goggles
  • Waterproof mitts
  • Jacket
  • Vest
  • Pants
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Insulated boots
  • Main socks, liner socks, spare socks
  • Buff
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    *Wool or synthetic fabrics are much better insulators than cotton. Avoid wearing cotton in winter as it does not hold heat or resist moisture nearly as well as other materials.

     

    Where to Go

    Now that you are packed and prepared, here are a few places across the country that make for excellent winter camping destinations:

     

    Garibaldi Provincial Park

    Winter camping in Garibaldi Provincial Park is best left to experienced outdoor explorers, but those who take on the challenge can enjoy unlimited access to some of the best skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing terrain in the country. From the flat, frozen expanse of Garibaldi Lake to the imposing Black Tusk rock formation that rises like a black, scraggly tooth out of the snow-covered mountains, this is a winter landscape that is well worth spending a couple of days exploring.

     

    Garibaldi Provincial Park - British Columbia Backroad Mapbooks GPS Maps

     

    Glacier National Park

    Covering 1,349 km2 (520 mi2) of mountain peaks, glaciers and forest and boasting a legendary annual snowfall, Glacier National Park is one of the most exciting winter destinations in Canada. Camping is allowed in designated Winter Unrestricted Areas, but be prepared for a snowshoe or ski of at least 5 km (3 mi) to get to a camping spot. The stunning views and world-class backcountry skiing terrain will be more than worth it.

     

    Glacier National Park - British Columbia Backroad Mapbooks GPS Maps

     

    Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

    If lugging your tent and camping gear up a steep, snow-covered mountain isn't quite your style, there are still some fantastic winter camping adventures to be had. Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, which makes up the highest point of land in Canada between the Rockies and Labrador, offers winter camping areas that are vehicle-accessible but still retain a scenic wilderness setting. This includes the Spruce Coulee Campground, nestled among the forest that lines the Spruce Coulee Reservoir, and the Reesor Dock campground on the shores of gorgeous Reesor Lake.

     

    Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park - Western Canada Backroad Mapbooks GPS Maps

     

    Pike Lake Provincial Park

    Another easy-to-access option for those who want to spend the night outdoors in the winter, Pike Lake Provincial Park offers all of the fun of sleeping under the stars with none of the risk of trekking through dangerous avalanche terrain or getting lost amid a mountaintop blizzard.

     

    Pike Lake Provincial Park - Saskatchewan Backroad Mapbooks GPS Maps

     

    Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

    Sleeping Giant Provincial Park offers one of Northwestern Ontario's most spectacular landscapes, with thick boreal forest and rugged cliffs overlooking Lake Superior. There are over 200 campsites at the park that are open year-round, along with over 50 km of groomed cross-country ski trails and even more opportunities for snowshoers. A winter's night out at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park will leave a lifelong impression of the beauty of Canada's backcountry.

     

    Sleeping Giant Provincial Park - Ontario Backroad Mapbooks GPS Maps

     

    Algonquin Provincial Park

    Algonquin Provincial Park is famous for canoeing and fishing during the snow-free months, but the park makes an equally impressive destination in the winter. Hundreds of frozen lakes are surrounded by picturesque Ontario forest, where you can find a secluded clearing to set up camp with nothing but the flap of a bird's wings and the distant crashing of a moose through the bush to break the silence. Those who do not wish to ski or snowshoe into the park's backcountry can opt for vehicle-accessible options as well.

     

    Sleeping Giant Provincial Park - Ontario Backroad Mapbooks GPS Maps

     

    Cape Breton Highlands National Park

    From the vehicle-access Ingonish and Cheticamp Campgrounds to the park's expansive backcountry, Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a winter camping wonderland. When the park's lakes and rivers freeze over, cross-country skiers and snowshoers can access parts of the park that are otherwise quite difficult to reach, giving you the opportunity find your own private camping spot amid some of Nova Scotia's most breathtaking wilderness.

     

    Cape Breton Highlands National Park - Atlantic Canada Backroad Mapbooks GPS Maps

     

    Kouchibouguac National Park

    Kouchibouguac National Park is one of New Brunswick's premier winter destinations, with toboggan hills, geocaches, snowshoe trails and excellent bird watching drawing visitors from all over the province. The park also offers winter camping at the Petit-Large campsite, conveniently located along Kouchibouguac's 15 km cross-country ski trail network.

     

    Cape Breton Highlands National Park - Atlantic Canada Backroad Mapbooks GPS Maps

     

     

     

    Did you know that we’ve partnered with Overland Recreation to give away three Winter Prize Packs with a combined value of over $3,000? Prizes include a Penthouse XL Rooftop Tent, BRMB GPS Maps, BRMB Mapbooks bundle and more! Simply click on the link below to enter

     

     



     

    Find your way to these and many more winter camping spots with the help of our Backroad Mapbooks and Backroad GPS Maps.

     

     

     

    Did we miss a crucial winter camping tip or your favourite winter camping area? Let us know in the comments below or share your winter camping adventures with us on Instagram using #brmblife for a chance to be featured on our feed and win prizes.