The Best Winter Camping Gear for Sleeping in the Snow

Want to get outside this season? These 7 products can help you do it more comfortably and safely than ever before.

If you’re like us, you’re planning adventures deep into the snowiest months of the year. To hike and camp safely in the winter, though, you’ll need to plan ahead and bring the right gear for the your trip. Here’s everything you need to stay warm, safe, and comfortable while camping and hiking during the winter.

The Best Tents for Winter Camping

When conditions are truly bad, a 3-season tent won’t cut it. Get ready to weather the storm—and stay comfortable doing it—with these tents built for winter camping (plus one winter-ready hammock). Reviews by Will McGough

The Best Sleeping Bags for Winter Camping

In cold weather, your sleeping bag is your layer of last resort: it keeps you comfortable and safe by trapping warm air next to your body. The lightweight three-season bags and quilts you use the rest of the year will leave you sleeping chilly, but that doesn’t mean you need to weigh yourself down. Reviews by Emma Athena

Winter Camping Gear Basics

Winter camping is your ticket to great views and wilderness solitude.

Hitting the trail in winter presents challenges you won’t face in summer. The first step to tackling them is careful layering: start with a warm baselayer (synthetic, wool, or a blend, depending on conditions and your budget). Next, pick the appropriate insulation for your planned activity. Thick puffies are great for stargazing or carrying as an emergency piece, but gravitate toward more breathable midlayers on the trail. Finish off your layers with a waterproof-breathable shell.

Consider how you’ll travel as well. If you’re heading into untracked powder, a pair of snowshoes or light touring skis will go a long way towards keeping you on top of the snow instead of wallowing in it. If the trail is icy, a set of traction devices like Yaktrax can keep you from slipping.

Have plenty of time to burn? There’s no warmer sleeping solution than an igloo, but building one takes time, effort, and a little know-how.

https://www.backpacker.com/gear/the-best-winter-camping-gear-of-2017-2018 Backpacker

Superior Hammock 15°F

Best winter hammock

Our take The Superior Hammock combines expedition-style warmth with a pitch easy enough that a first-timer can nail it. The key is the 20 ounces of 800-fill hydrophobic down that conserves warmth and eliminates the need for a rigid sleeping pad (awkward to use in a hammock), separate underquilt (finicky to set up), or even a sleeping bag. The long baffles are sewn in from the bottom, so that there are no interior seams through which heat can escape. Snaps on the top of the hammock ($10 extra) allow you to fully wrap yourself. “I didn’t feel cold at all, even in the 20s,” one tester said after a few nights in Maine’s Baxter State Park, during which he eschewed a quilt or bag. (He was not able to test the hammock down to its temp rating, but doesn’t doubt it would be up to the task.)

The details This long (10-foot) but light hammock provides premium sleeping space. “I didn’t experience any back pain, tightness, or taco-ing the way I sometimes do with cheaper hammocks,” one tester says. The Superior Hammock does have some drawbacks, though: A rainfly ($129) and the suspension system ($25) are sold separately, and the snap system sometimes came undone when we rolled over. $280; 2 lbs. 2 oz.; 1-person

https://www.backpacker.com/gear/superior-hammock-15-f Backpacker

Big Agnes Battle Mountain 3

Best protection in a winter tent

Our take The Battle Mountain 3 is for the winter adventurer who spends extended time in the cold and at high altitudes, placing a priority on weatherproofing and strength above versatility and weight. A four-pole skeleton reinforces the canopy, which is secured by guylines on the fly and stabilized by high and low internal guy loops. Large Velcro fasteners on the underside of the fly help secure it to the tent body, and storm flaps protect the zippers, ensuring no water leaks inside and that the zippers won’t freeze shut. “Once you stake it down and guy everything out, it’s bombproof,” one tester said after the Battle Mountain brushed off snowy, 30-mph gusts on Colorado’s Grand Mesa with minimal flapping. “We got 4 inches of snow on top of the tent, and it had no trouble handling the weight.”

The details Protection doesn’t come at the expense of convenience thanks to additions like press-fit pole connectors that snap to the tent body (no fussing) and oversized twist clips that are easy to grab with gloves on. Two vestibules (13 square feet and 6 square feet) adequately protect packs. Though the floor area is large (44 square feet), the hexagonal shape cuts down on viable sleeping space—it feels tight for three people. $850; 7 lbs. 15 oz.; 3-person

https://www.backpacker.com/gear/big-agnes-battle-mountain-3 Backpacker

SlingFin CrossBow 2 Four-Season

Best strength-to-weight ratio of winter tents

Our take When the double-walled CrossBow 2 Four-Season first came out in 2015, it turned heads with its unique truss system: Its pole sleeves are detached from the tent canopy and connect with clips, improving stability and setup in inclement weather. With this year’s update, designers increased the tent’s winter-worthiness with thicker aluminum poles, improved waterproofing, and pre-installed guylines that attach through the fly to the walls inside the tent. (The latter add tension to the tent walls to keep them from collapsing in high winds or snow.) 

“The tent stood up well in 50-mph gusts,” one tester said after a trip in Alaska’s Chugach State Park. It also had no trouble handling a couple inches of snow on the Grand Mesa in Colorado. Tradeoff: The CrossBow 2 Four-Season is expensive for a two-person tent.

The details Testers found the new kickstand vents in the vestibules and the drawstring porthole in the back helped avoid condensation, even on cold nights in the Colorado desert with the tent door closed. A 32-square-foot floor and 42-inch peak height easily accommodated two tall testers, and two 11-square-foot vestibules swallowed winter gear. $650; 4 lbs. 7 oz.; 2-person

https://www.backpacker.com/gear/slingfin-crossbow-2-four-season Backpacker

EXPED Winterlite 5°F WMNS

Best women’s winter sleeping bag

Our take Designers had one goal in mind for the Winterlite 5°F WMNS, and they nailed it: This bag is engineered to keep female bodies as warm as possible. Compared to the men’s version it has 15 percent more 800-fill down stuffed in its torso and foot sections, resulting in more heat retention in the areas where women need it most. “I’m a cold sleeper and usually if the temperature drops to the limit for the bag, I freeze. Not so with the Winterlite,” one tester reported after a 5°F night in the California Sierra. And with two sizes to choose from, users can ensure a proper fit.

The details The Winterlite’s premium down and highly water-resistant nylon shell—it has a supertight knit—jack up the price, but for all of its warmth and protection it’s not a bulky bag: It packs down to the size of a gallon of milk. We also appreciated the glow-in-the-dark zippers, which make night bathroom trips a little easier.

$579; 2 lbs. 14 oz. (small); 5°F; women’s small, medium

https://www.backpacker.com/gear/exped-winterlite-5-f-wmns Backpacker

Therm-a-Rest Saros 0°F

Best value winter sleeping bag

Our take Surprise! Staying warm in bone-chilling weather doesn’t have to crater your bank account. The Saros sits right in the middle of the synthetic-bag field in terms of weight, but it’s at the low end of the price spectrum. More importantly, it doesn’t skimp on warmth: One tester took it down to 5°F on Colorado’s Front Range and reports she found no cold spots. We also appreciated the inclusion of a spacious footbox pocket; you can slip your feet in between two layers of baffle for extra warmth. “My feet are the first part of me to get cold, but this foot pocket kept them plenty warm,” another tester said after a trip in New Mexico’s Cibola National Forest.

The details The Saros’s 63-inch shoulder, 61-inch hip, and 46-inch footbox girths accommodate multiple sleeping positions. As with most synthetics, the tradeoffs for its economic advantage are compressibility (it packs to the size of a basketball) and weight.

$190; 4 lbs. 15 oz. (regular); 0°F; unisex small, regular, and long

https://www.backpacker.com/gear/therm-a-rest-saros-0-f Backpacker

Gryphon Gear Taurus VRB -5°F

Taurus VRB -5°F

Our take Thanks to innovative materials and design, the Taurus VRB delivers exceptional warmth in the lightest -5°F bag on the market. And if that’s all you care about, this is your bag. An aluminized Dyneema lining helps reduce all of the ways you can lose heat—conduction, convection, radiation, and evaporation—by reflecting body heat back into the bag and minimizing ventilation (most bags focus on conduction and convection). Drawback: The lining is crinkly and doesn’t stretch, so changing sleeping positions is a wiggly prospect. But, for ultralight winter trips, the water-resistant 900-fill down makes the comfort tradeoffs worthwhile.

The details An optional Dyneema hood (3.5 ounces, $113) slides on your head like a helmet to prevent moisture being exhaled into the bag. The 64-inch shoulder and 54-inch hip girths ensure plenty of room for waiting out winter nights.

$647; 1 lb. 15 oz. (regular); -5°F; unisex regular and long

https://www.backpacker.com/gear/gryphon-gear-taurus-vrb-5-f Backpacker