Our Best Gear for Winter Camping

As summer comes to an end and the first snow falls, you may be thinking of stowing away your backpacking gear, as you wait patiently for the return of warmer weather next year. But with the right gear and adequate preparation, you can continue to spend nights outside deep into winter’s cold and snowy months. From snowshoe camping to ski-tour camping, winter is full of adventure possibilities. To help make these trips a success, we’ve rounded up our list of favorite winter camping gear.

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that the landscape you travel through will dictate the preparations and specific gear you take. If you’ll be in mountainous terrain, be sure you’re up to speed on avalanche awareness to ensure you’ll enjoy a safe adventure in the snowy environment. After all, winter is truly a spectacular experience worth exploring.

Access™ 2 Tent and Footprint

Most backpacking tents are made of some mix of mesh and lightweight fabrics, which help to minimize your pack weight and allow for a breeze to pass through the shelter. While you may appreciate that breeze on warm July nights in the alpine, you won’t feel the same about a breeze on a cold January evening. The MSR Access™ Tent Series provides winter-grade warmth without a significant weight penalty. Set up the tent with a Universal Footprint to protect your shelter from abrasive snow and to provide an additional layer between you and the cold ground.

Blizzard Tent Stakes

Have you ever tried to stake your tent in soft ground? You can imagine how challenging it would be to use regular tent stakes in snow, which can be one of the most challenging surfaces to secure a tent on. Instead of your summer tent stakes, use Blizzard Tent Stakes – the broad profile and concave design of these stakes make them ideal for holding well in snow.

WhisperLite™ Universal Stove

Liquid fuel stoves are your best bet for winter camping for a multitude of reasons, from consistent output in cold temperatures to stability on uneven or meltable surfaces like snow. If you’re used to canister fuel stoves like the MSR PocketRocket® and want to give liquid fuel a try, the hybrid-fuel WhisperLite™ Universal provides you the versatility to use the familiar canister fuel in warmer months and easily convert to liquid fuel in the winter – all in the same stove.

Ceramic 2.5 L Pot

At the end of a long, cold day in the snow, warm up with a hot meal. MSR’s 2.5 L Ceramic pot is built of ultralight aluminum and uses a tough ceramic coating for nonstick performance, keeping your pack light, but making dinner clean-up easy. This pot is the perfect size to prepare dinner, melt snow for drinking water, and boil water for hot chocolate or tea for up to 4 people.

Lightning™ Ascent Snowshoes with new Paragon Binding

The trail you take to your campsite in the summer is likely well-established, but if you’re winter camping, there’s a chance that you’ll be breaking the trail. MSR’s Lightning™ Ascent Snowshoes offer the flotation and grip you need to reach your campsite—wherever it might be. They feature our most advanced traction for surefooted stability. And starting in 2019, these snowshoes come with MSR’s new Paragon™ Binding, an all-mesh and freeze-resistant strap that provides maximum foot control without compromising comfort.

The snowshoes also feature MSR’s Ergo™ Televators heel bars that can be quickly and easily engaged to reduce calf fatigue as you climb hills, acting like a heel step as you gain elevation. If you’re heading into deep, light snow or carrying a very heavy pack, pick up a pair of our modular flotation tails, which increase the surface area of your snowshoes for more flotation in softer snow.

DynaLock™ Explore Backcountry Poles

Poles help you keep your balance as you cross uneven snow fields, making you more efficient and helping to save energy. Our 3-section DynaLock™ Explore Backcountry Poles are built of high-strength aluminum and collapse down small, making them ideal for a full range of winter activities. They feature an EVA foam grip for comfort while hiking all day. And the poles’ two DynaLock adjustment mechanisms are simple to use, letting you adjust the length of the pole even with thick winter gloves, so there’s no need to take your gloves off in cold winter temperatures.

The poles’ powder baskets are designed to lift the heel bars on MSR snowshoes, so there’s no need to bend over mid-trail for the adjustment. In addition to powder baskets, the poles also include a pair of trekking baskets so you can travel with the same poles all year round.

Beta™ Snow Saw

Building snow walls and wind barricades around your camp and tent will help protect it from windy conditions, particularly in the alpine. Protecting your camp will keep you warmer inside your tent and make it easier to cook outside of it. Our Beta™ Snow Saw lets you cut everything from snow blocks for walls, to benches for seating. It’s built of stainless steel for ultralight strength, and is super thin, allowing it to slip easily into your pack. This saw ups the ante of your winter camping kit.

Operator™ Basecamp & Backcountry Shovel

Like the snow saw, a backcountry shovel will be an important part of your gear when you begin to set up camp. Use the shovel to dig a platform for your tent as well as a pit inside the vestibule, to give yourself a standing-height space to store gear and change footwear before entering and exiting your shelter.

Our Operator Shovel is built tough yet light. Its handle was designed for maximum comfort and leverage and its flat chopping face makes an aggressive tool for penetrating harder snow. If your stove won’t stay above the top of light snow (or if the heat from the stove is melting the snow), the removable shovel blade can be used as a platform for a stove to keep it above the snow.

Striker™ 240 Probe

If there’s any chance that you’ll be traveling in avalanche terrain, you’ll need to bring and be prepared to use the mandatory avalanche safety gear, including a beacon, shovel, and probe. MSR’s Striker™ 240 Probe is made of durable but lightweight aluminum with a corrosion-resistant coated stainless steel cable. Combined with its fast deployment, this probe adds a reliable piece of safety gear to your backcountry kit.