18 Tips for Winter Camping in Victoria

Camper looks outside tent on a winter morning

Victoria is a treasure trove for camping adventures, and camping enthusiasts can experience the best of this great state at any time of the year.

However, as any Victorian knows, heading outdoors in winter will mean bitter cold temperatures and plenty of rain.

It's fair to say that things can get pretty uncomfortable in a tent when the mercury dips below zero. But that doesn't mean you can't go camping in winter! It just means you need to be prepared.

Here are 18 tips to follow for a wonderful winter camping trip in Victoria!

1. Be Wary of the Weather

Winter weather can range from mild and refreshing to rain, hail, and even snow. So, the first thing you should do when camping in winter is to check the weather before you go. Keep an eye on the weather forecast in the days and weeks leading up to your trip, and if you're going to face heavy rain and storms, consider rescheduling your trip for another time.

Be sure to look at the weather forecast for your destination, not just at home. Know your preferred comfort levels and limitations and only camp in winter weather that you're comfortable with.

2. Scout Out the Best Winter Campsite

If you're camping in winter, you need to pay extra attention to your campground.

Are you looking at a large open space with no wind or rain protection? You're going to get really cold really quickly if you're camping in a tent.

On the other hand, you shouldn't camp directly beneath large trees because winter storms could turn their branches into safety hazards.

It's also worth keeping your distance from waterways that could overflow and flood your tent or camper trailer. Similarly, if you're camping in a depression or large valley, the rain and cold air will sit around your campsite, making everything colder and wetter.

Look for a winter camping spot with dense vegetation that surrounds you for protection but doesn't overhang your tent or trailer.

Check out 12+ of the best camping spots in Victoria here or visit the Parks Victoria website for inspiration.

3. Master Your Campfire Knowledge and Skills

Campers putting marshmallow twigs over a campfire

It doesn't matter if you're camping in a tent or you're sleeping in a Lifestyle Camper Trailer... If you're camping in winter, you need to become a master of the campfire.

A fire will be one of your major sources of heat on a camping trip, so make sure you're camping at a site that permits campfires.

Once you've confirmed this, make sure you've brushed up on your fire-starting skills.

Here are a few tips for a great campfire in winter:

  • If your campsite doesn't have a designated fire pit, pick a spot to build your campfire. Choose a flat, dry area and build a perimeter with rocks. Make sure your fire isn't too close to trees and other vegetation.
  • It's always best to collect firewood when you first arrive, especially if the weather is still dry. You'll regret delaying your firewood search if you wake up on a cold winter morning without a fire!
  • When gathering firewood, look for larger logs and branches as well as bark, twigs, and sticks that can be used as kindling. The dryer the better.
  • Lighters and matches can be used to start a fire, but a portable fire-starter/striker is also a good idea to get things going in winter.
  • If you're confident with a chainsaw, this can be useful for breaking down larger logs (but don't use it to turn nature into firewood!)

4. Rug Up with Multiple Layers of Winter Clothing

In general, winter camping clothes must be three things:

  1. They need to be the right materials.
  2. They need to be multi-layered.
  3. They need to be dry!

The best materials for winter camping include polyester, wool, merino wool, and fleece. Cotton is a big no-no because it absorbs moisture and makes you even colder. Outer layers should be waterproof, and every layer should be thick and bulky.

Speaking of layers, you should have three layers minimum:

  • The innermost layer should be long underwear or thermal underwear.
  • The middle layer includes thick, insulating, long-sleeved pants, tops, hoodies, jackets, and other warm clothes.
  • The outermost layer includes pants and jackets that can go over your middle layer for further warmth and waterproofing.

Don't forget thick socks, a beanie, and even protective goggles depending on the conditions!

Separate fleece or wool pyjamas are a great idea, and you also shouldn't skimp on layers when it comes to your sleepwear.

Overall, it's important to pack winter clothes generously because your clothes are more likely to get wet and dirty when camping during winter. Wet clothes are your enemy on a winter camping trip, so make sure you have backup clothes on hand.

5. The Right Sleeping Bags and Bedding

You don't want to shiver yourself to sleep on your camping trip, and that's why you need to choose a sleeping bag with excellent thermal insulation.

Get yourself a high-quality, all-season sleeping bag to start with, and consider accessories like thermal sleeping bag liners and sleeping bags with built-in hoods to keep your head warm.

Some sleeping bags are specifically designed for keeping you cool in summer, and you want to avoid these at all costs! Before you buy a sleeping bag, check its temperature rating and look for reviews.

Finally, consider this camping tip: Line your sleeping bag with all the clothes you plan to wear tomorrow for extra warmth. Bed sheets, blankets, and quality pillows are also great additions to keep your body warm.

6. Stay Off the Floor At All Costs!

Rooftop tent and ladder set up on a car

When you go camping in winter, you need to play "The Floor Is Lava" and do everything you can to stay off the floor.

The ground can be wet and cold, so avoiding direct contact will make your sleeping experience much more bearable.

If you're sleeping in a tent, lay down a tarp below the ground and use sleep mats inside the tent as an extra layer of protection between you and the cold ground.

If you're camping in a hard-floor camper trailer, like the X3 Patriot Camper Trailers for sale in our range, then your main sleeping area will already be elevated off the ground.

7. Don't Go To Bed Cold

Even the best sleeping bag will start out cold, but you can counter this by warming yourself up.

You can do this by spending plenty of time by the fire just before bed or you can get active by doing some exercises or playing some games with your kids.

However, there's a careful balance you need to strike when warming yourself up. You want to increase your core temperature, but you don't want to go to bed sweaty. That will be sticky and uncomfortable, and the sweat can eventually make you feel colder than ever before!

On that note, it's a great idea to have separate sleeping clothes so you can avoid sleeping in the same sweaty clothes you've worn all day.

8. Avoid Toilet Trips at All Costs

It's a great idea to warm up with a hot soup or a cup of tea, coffee or cocoa. Just try not to do this too close to bedtime. The last thing you want to do in the middle of a cold night is pull yourself out of bed to go to the toilet. 

So, try not to eat or drink too close to bedtime and try to go to the toilet before you tuck into your sleeping bag for an uninterrupted warm night.

9. Combat Condensation and Moisture in Sleeping Areas

The last thing you want is a wet sleeping bag or dampness inside your tent. Keep your sleeping bags and camping beds away from the edge of the tent to minimise the risk of getting wet in heavy rain. You can also use sleeping bag liners to protect your sleeping bag.

Condensation can also be a problem in tents and the tent sections of camper trailers and hybrid campers. To keep your sleeping bag condensation-free, try not to completely enclose yourself in your sleeping bag so you're not constantly breathing into it. You can also air out your sleeping bag during the day.

To reduce condensation in tents and tent areas in general, consider running a diesel heater or having a heater installed in your camper. You can also air out your tent just like you air out your sleeping bag.

10. Pack a Hot Water Bottle (Or DIY)

One way to keep yourself warm on a winter camping trip is the good old hot water bottle. Simply boil water over your gas burner or open fire and then fill up your hot water bottle and slip it in your sleeping bags.

For a DIY hot water bottle, fill a heavy-duty plastic bottle with heated water and wrap it in a light towel. When making your own water bottle, you need to ensure it is well-sealed, and that its surfaces aren't too hot. A poorly made hot water bottle puts you at high risk of burns and scalds, especially if you're putting it in your sleeping bag or bed.

11. Don't Go On A Diet

Camping food should be hot, hearty, and plentiful, especially during the winter months. 

Eating a big meal that's hot and high in fat content will help to raise your core temperature and keep you warm. Dinner is an especially important meal so you can keep warm overnight. It's also a good idea to eat slow-digesting foods as your body works harder and keeps warmer during digestion.

Sugary snacks can also give you a temporary heat spike, but every sugar high comes with a sugar crash, so you should only use these snacks to complement warm and hearty meals.

We can't talk about eating without cooking. When camping in winter, make sure you have a camp kitchen or a portable gas cooktop. It's great to cook on an open fire, but it's not going to be an option in the pouring rain.

If you have a camper trailer with a fully stocked camp kitchen, you're ready to cook in all conditions. But even if you're camping in a tent, you can buy all the gear you need.

You can check out our great range of camping cooking essentials here.

And you can view 30+ creative camping recipes here.

12. Get a Camper Trailer with a Heating System

If you're going camping in a camper trailer, buy a trailer that comes with a heating system or can have a heating system installed.

Reverse cycle air conditioners and diesel heaters are the most popular heating systems for camper trailers. 

13. Keep Your Solar Panels Clean

Most travel trailers can be equipped with solar panels or solar blankets to help power all their electrical systems. 

You're not going to see nearly as much sun when you're camping in winter, so it's important to keep your solar panels clean and in good condition so they can harness as much solar energy as possible.

Additionally, it's important to take note of the movement of the sun across your campsite and position your camper trailer to make the most of the winter sun that is available.

14. Invest in An Awning

When it comes to camping in winter, more shade is always better. An awning or gazebo can shield you from wind, rain, and even the winter sun when it shines on your face!

A retractable awning is a must-have part of any camper trailer worth its salt. If you're tent camping, you can also buy standalone shades, awnings, and gazebos from camping shops.

15. In Winter, Lithium Batteries Are Best

Did you know that lithium batteries perform especially well in low temperatures when compared to other battery types? Lithium batteries are also among the lightest batteries available. 

So, look for camping appliances that come with lithium batteries and buy lithium batteries for your torches and other camping gear.

Rechargeable batteries are a great camping investment for all your portable, battery-powered camping equipment.

16. What about Snow Camping Trips?

Camp kettle over a campfire in the snow

Camping in the snow is a topic of its own that we'll be sure to cover down the track. All of the above general cold weather camping tips apply when you camp in the snow, but you shouldn't stop there.

Here are a few other tips for snow camping trips:

  • Checking the weather forecast is more important than ever when camping in the snow. Freezing temperatures, strong winds, and heavy snowfall are all things to look out for and consider avoiding.
  • Choose a location that's nearby a patrolled ski area for safety reasons. There are several Backcountry Victorian snow locations that balance seclusion with nearby help.
  • Warm liquids are more important than ever.
  • It might be cold but avoid cooking in a tent for safety reasons!
  • Avoid camping in areas with high avalanche risk.
  • Keep your fingers and toes warm to avoid frostbite and injury.
  • Practice putting snow chains on your vehicle(s) and use them as necessary.
  • Building a snow wall around your tent can help to block out strong winds.

17. Keep An Eye on Hypothermia and Frostbite

Whether you're snow camping or just camping in cold conditions, it's important to know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite in your campmates.

Hypothermia symptoms include:

  • Shivering
  • Going silent and other attitude changes
  • Low body temperature
  • Coordination issues.

To avoid or combat hypothermia, swap damp clothes for dry clothes, start exercising, or get close to another camper and absorb their body heat.

Frostbite symptoms include:

  • Yellow-grey or white skin, usually around the extremities (fingers, hands, feet, toes, nose, ears)
  • Skin that is numb, scratchy, or hard to touch

To avoid or combat frostbite, swap damp clothes for dry clothes, tuck your hands under your armpits or rub your ears or nose with gloved hands. Drink warm liquids (not alcohol) and soak fingers and toes in warm but not hot water (about 40°C). Once skin thaws naturally or via soaking, wrap or cover it to avoid further frostbite. Tingling and burning sensations are normal as blood returns to the area.

DO NOT break any blisters that form. DO NOT heat or thaw frostbitten skin with your campfire, hot surfaces, heating pads, or other sources of direct heat. This will burn your skin and make the problem worse.

As always, seek medical assistance in serious situations.

18. Choose a Camper Trailer for Winter Camping in Victoria

Woman wearing a blanket sitting on her bed in a camper trailer

If you want to really enjoy your winter camping trip, buy a quality camper trailer. Camper trailers are equipped with gas, electricity, and camp kitchens. They also offer much more solid protection than a standard tent.

Camping Adventures is the home of camper trailers in Melbourne. We offer the industry-leading Patriot and Lifestyle range of campers.

You can also come into our camping store for a great range of camper trailer accessories and camping supplies in Melbourne.

Check out our range today or come and see our camper trailers for yourself at our Clyde North showroom!

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