Camping in December comes with its own set of challenges and rewards.
You’re trading in buzzing crowds for the tranquil silence of a winter wonderland.
With the right planning, you can enjoy the brisk beauty without the frostbite.
Think toasty fires, warm drinks, and serene landscapes dusted with snow.
Seasonal conditions to expect
When gearing up for December camping, you’ll face a range of weather patterns and daylight hours.
Variable temperatures (Mild to extreme cold)
December can bring a spectrum of temperatures, from mildly chilly afternoons to freezing nights.
It’s key to check the forecast for your specific location and prepare for sudden drops in temperature.
In the meantime. here are some of our weather guides to check out:
- Camping in 50-degree weather
- Camping in 40-degree weather
- Camping in 30-degree weather
- Camping in 20-degree weather
- Camping in 10-degree weather
You might encounter rain, sleet, snow, or hail.
Always have waterproof gear handy and be ready for quick weather changes.
Find out how to set up a tent in the rain or snow.
Wet, slushy, or frozen terrain
Be prepared for a mix of slippery and solid ground.
Having footwear that provides good traction and is waterproof will make navigating these conditions easier.
Partially frozen bodies of water
Lakes and rivers may begin to ice over in this month.
Always test the thickness of ice before crossing and if you’re unsure, don’t take the risk.
Minimal daylight hours
You’ll have fewer daylight hours, which means more time spent in the dark.
Pack enough lighting equipment, like headlamps, and plan your activities to make the most of the daylight.
Make the most of December camping
December camping can be a refreshing adventure with the right preparations. Here’s how you can enjoy the winter landscape to the fullest.
Consider booking frontcountry campgrounds
Backcountry camping is tricky in December because there isn’t always enough snow to bring a sled or pulk, and lakes aren’t fully frozen over yet to allow for safe travel.
An easy workaround for this is to book a frontcountry campground that stays open in winter.
We recently did this in December, and it was a blast.
In addition to being safer travel-wise, they’re far less busy in December and offer convenient access to amenities.
You’ll also be closer to your vehicle for any extra supplies.
Book an extended trip over the holiday season
Taking a longer trip during the holidays gives you time to relax and explore.
Many campgrounds are less crowded, offering a more serene experience.
Use a hot tent and wood stove
Investing in a hot tent with a wood stove keeps you warm and toasty.
It’s a game-changer for comfortable winter camping.
Bring solar-powered holiday lights
Solar-powered lights create a festive atmosphere at your campsite.
They’re also eco-friendly and easy to set up.
Try holiday-inspired meals and beverages
Bring ingredients for holiday favourites like hot cocoa or spiced cider.
Warm meals and drinks will keep your spirits high.
Go on winter hikes during the day
Hiking during the day is a great way to stay active. Dress in layers and enjoy the stillness of winter woods.
Star gaze or look for northern lights at night
Clear winter nights are perfect for stargazing or catching the northern lights. Pack a thermos of tea and enjoy the sky’s natural wonders.
When camping in December, staying safe means being prepared for harsh winter conditions.
Use winter gear
Invest in a quality tent designed for winter conditions.
Make sure it can withstand snow loads and gusty winds.
Bring a sleeping bag with an appropriate temperature rating and an insulated sleeping pad to minimize heat loss.
Wear appropriate layers
Begin with moisture-wicking thermal underwear. Add mid-layers such as fleece or wool for insulation, and use a waterproof and windproof shell layer.
Don’t forget warm socks, gloves, a hat, and a scarf or neck gaiter.
Here’s how to dress in layers for cold weather.
Beware of wildlife
Some animals are active in winter and may pose risks.
Bears are one of those animals.
Even though they’re supposed to hibernate, milder winters can cause them to stay out later—or not hibernate at all.
Be sure to store food securely and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
More about seasonal camping:
- How to plan the perfect camping trip
- Things to do while camping in the rain
- Cold weather camping checklist
Elise is an experienced backcountry canoe tripper and winter camper from Ontario, Canada. She loves cooking up a storm over the campfire, taking in all the backcountry views, and enjoying a piña colada or two while relaxing at camp. She’s also certified in Whitewater Rescue (WWR) I & II and Wilderness First Aid (WFA).