Winter Car Camping – 10 Essential Tips


Winter car camping is your ticket to embracing the snowy wilderness without bidding farewell to comfort. Imagine waking up to a serene snowscape right outside your car window!

This guide, laden with 10 essential tips, is your roadmap to making this dream a reality, ensuring your cold-weather camping adventure is both cozy and safe.

Whether it’s turning your car into a snug haven, or finding the ideal spot under the stars, we’ve got you covered. Let’s fuel up and roll into the chilly outdoors!

Preparing Your Vehicle

Fold Down Your Seats

Creating a flat sleeping surface is crucial for a comfortable night’s rest. Ensure that the back seats of your vehicle fold down completely flat.

If your vehicle doesn’t allow for this, you might want to invest in a compact, foldable mattress that fits your car’s dimensions.

Add Insulation

Insulation is a game-changer in retaining heat. Use thick reflective sun shields on your windshield and windows.

Reflectix wrap or foam board insulation can be cut to size for your other windows, effectively trapping warmth inside.

Winter Car Camping - 10 Essential Tips 1

Lay Down a Comfy Mattress

A good mattress can be the difference between a restful sleep and a night of tossing and turning.

Opt for a 6 to 8-inch thick memory foam mattress, cut down to size, to fit the dimensions of your car. They’re easy to fold up for storage and provide excellent insulation from the cold car floor.

Pre-Heat Your Car

Before you settle in for the night, run your car’s heater to warm up the interior. This initial heat-up can make your car cozy before you crawl into your sleeping bag.

Just ensure to turn off the car before you doze off to conserve fuel and ensure safety.

Essential Gear and Clothing for Winter Car Camping

Dress in Layers

Dressing in layers is a wise move to combat the cold.

Start with thermal underwear, add a moisture-wicking base layer, followed by an insulating layer, and top it off with a waterproof and windproof outer layer. Don’t forget a warm hat, gloves, and socks!

Pack a Cold-Weather Sleeping Bag

A cold-weather sleeping bag is your cocoon of warmth in the frosty outdoors. Look for sleeping bags rated for temperatures lower than you expect to encounter.

A bag rated for 0°F or lower is a good choice for winter car camping.

Choosing Your Sleeping Spot

Consider a Rooftop Tent

A rooftop tent elevates your sleeping quarters off the cold ground. Hard shell rooftop tents are sturdy, offering protection from strong winds and snowfall, while soft shell tents are more spacious and lightweight, providing a cozy perch to enjoy the starry night.

Pitch a Traditional Tent

For the seasoned adventurers, pitching a traditional tent in the snow beside your car can be thrilling. Ensure your tent is winter-rated, with a sturdy frame to withstand snow accumulation. Keep a waterproof ground barrier and tarp handy to deal with moisture from the snow.

winter car camping by the fire

Safety Considerations

Have a Backup Plan

Despite thorough preparations, winter can throw curveballs. Have a backup plan like knowing a nearby open hotel or a heated shelter. Keep extra warm layers, and ensure your gas tank is full to run the heater if needed.

Avoid Gas-Powered Heaters

Safety is paramount when camping in the winter. Avoid using gas-powered heaters in enclosed spaces like your car as they can be dangerous. Opt for electric heaters with safety shut-off features, ensuring a warm yet safe environment.

Entertainment in the Snow

Spending time outdoors doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some cozy indoor activities. Board games are a fantastic way to spend the evening. Check out our collection of camping-friendly board games for some chilly night fun.


Winter car camping opens up a realm of adventures. With these 10 essential tips in your arsenal, you’re well on your way to conquering the cold and making memorable escapades amidst the snowy landscapes.

So pack up, drive out, and embrace the frosty adventure awaiting you!


  1. Bluebird Backcountry. (n.d.). How to Camp in Your Car in Winter. Retrieved from
  2. Cascadia Vehicle Tents. (2022). Car Camping in Winter – a Definitive Guide. Retrieved from
  3. Outdoors with Bear Grylls. (n.d.). How to (Safely) Car Camp in Winter. Retrieved from
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