Winter Camping in Your Backyard

What You'll Need
Warm clothing (more than you will think you need)
Sleeping pads
Insulated sleeping bags
Cooking equipment
Fire supplies

Backyard camping isn't just a cheaper alternative to a travel trip but a fun “staycation” while the kids are home for the holidays. Camping in the cold can literally bring the family closer together, and if the thermometer really drops, you're still within sight of your backdoor.

Some of my favorite memories when my children were younger are spur of the moment camping trips to "Destination Backyard." It is amazing how much excitement such a trip can stir up. The kids would pack and plan for this camping trip just as they would if we were traveling 300 miles or more. Camping in the backyard was a great way to introduce my children to all of the wonders in nature without leaving the safety of home. In addition, it gave our family a chance to be together without any distractions - a rarity today.

Depending on where you live, there are better seasons than others to camp. For us, winter camping was bug-free, humidity-free and not overly cold. However, even in the coldest of temperatures, you can prepare for a winter camping expedition without much trouble. Setting up camp close to home is also a great way to prepare your family for a larger camping trip in the wilderness. Some of the best camping skills my children learned were within 100 feet of our backdoor.

Camping is a wonderful way to experience all of the wonders of nature. The great thing about this recreational pursuit is that it does not need to be expensive or limited to particular season of the year. If you are creative, you and your entire family can have a fantastic time camping right in your backyard, even during the "dog days" of winter.

While you do need to take extra precaution to stay warm and dry during your winter camping expedition, there are many ways to accomplish this and still have an amazing time.

Warm Clothing

Layering is very important to stay warm outdoors in winter. Avoid wearing cotton clothing. Cotton holds moisture in and only makes you colder. Synthetic materials, however, wick moisture away from your body and help keep you warmer. Unlike a full scale camping trip, you don't have to worry about over-packing.

Sleeping Equipment

A thick sleeping pad or mattress underneath your sleeping bag will provide a layer of insulation between you and the ground. Mummy style sleeping bags that zip up tight and have a hood are the warmest style. Having a couple extra blankets to stuff inside your sleeping bag is not a bad idea either. If it is really cold, put a couple bottles of hot water in a plastic zippered bag and slip them in your sleeping bag with you.

Tent Location

If there is snow on the ground, it is smart to pitch your tent right on top of it. Snow is one of nature’s best insulators and will actually help keep the floor of your tent warm. Avoided setting up camp on bare ground or rock in the winter if possible. Find an area where trees, bushes, or your house is blocking the wind. A windbreak makes everything a little warmer. A four season tent that can withstand snow loads is important if you expect a lot of snow.

Food and Water

If you plan on cooking and eating outside while you camp, plan on eating a lot. When you are cold, your body uses more energy and requires more fuel. Soups and oatmeal make perfect winter camping meals. It is best to cook with a gas powered stove. Always cook outside your tent and out of the wind. Bring plenty of water and remember to drink it. Eating snow can cause hypothermia and further dehydrate you, so even though you're close to home, keep an eye on it.


One important part of any camping trip is the campfire. If you already have a fire pit in your yard, perfect. Gather 'round the pit and roast some marshmallows or hotdogs. Bring the hot coffee and cocoa out from the kitchen to make things a little easier. No pit? You can build a fire in a kettle style barbecue.


When you're out in the wilderness, flashlights are an important safety tool. In you're backyard campground they the one battery operated toy anyone should bring. Once the sun sets, play flashlight tag, make shadow shapes on the walls of the tent and keep the kids' imagination going.


There are a number of fun activities that the whole family can participate in depending on your climate and location.

  • Build an igloo
  • Make a snowman
  • Create a nature craft
  • Ice skate
  • Ice fish
  • Cross country ski
  • Have a snowball fight
  • Explore winter wildlife
  • Go snowshoeing
  • Go sledding
  • Go for a hike around the neighborhood or local woods
  • Build a fire and make s'mores
  • Sing songs