Camping is most popular in the summer months, but you could argue that the season typically wraps up by the end of October.
Does that mean camping in November is totally out of the question?
In our experience, it’s never too cold to camp in November as long as you’re prepared for the weather.
Temperature and weather conditions to expect
In the Northern Hemisphere, you can expect decently cold weather during the month of November.
Here in Ontario, Canada, the cold starts creeping in around mid to late October, including the first frost and often the first snowfall.
By November, we’re already dealing with near freezing temperatures.
If you plan on camping in Canada or the northern US, you should definitely expect:
- Daytime temperatures ranging from 30 to 60°F (-1° to 16°C)
- Nighttime temperatures ranging from 20 to 40°F (-7 to 5°C)
As far as the conditions go, you’re likely to see:
Many regions see increased amounts of precipitation and higher wind speeds in November, which can make camping a bit more challenging.
Make sure to check your local forecast for your region for the most accurate temperatures and conditions you can expect.
It’s also one of the darkest times of the year as the Winter Solstice creeps closer.
In November, you can expect to wake up in the dark and cook your dinner in the dark.
Specialized gear for November camping
When camping in November, it’s important to have the right gear to stay warm and comfortable.
Here are some essential items to consider when packing for your trip:
3 or 4-season tent
Not all tents are made for for cold weather camping.
We’ve even brought our hot tent out in November to stay comfortable in the cold.
Groundsheet and tarp
The ground is going to be cold and probably wet, so you’ll need to protect your tent floor from it by laying down a proper groundsheet first.
A tarp is also a must—whether you decide to set it up over your tent as an extra barrier from the elements or as an alternative shelter at camp.
If you have two tarps, you might as well do both.
Cold weather clothing
You’re going to want high-quality outdoor clothing that’s designed for cold weather.
Layers are key to keeping the heat in and regulating body temperature.
We always recommend wearing a base layer, mid-layer, and outer layer.
Your base layer should fit snugly and be made of a moisture-wicking material such as polyester or merino wool to keep sweat away from the skin.
Cotton clothing should be avoided because retains moisture and can make you feel colder.
Your mid-layer should be made of a material like fleece or down to provide insulation.
Your outer layer should be waterproof and windproof to protect against the elements.
When it comes to socks, wool or synthetic materials are best as they provide insulation and moisture-wicking properties.
You’ll also want to bring along a warm pair of gloves, a hat (like a beanie or toque), a scarf/buff/neck gaiter, and potentially a pair of down booties to wear when you’re at camp.
The temperature rating of your sleeping bag is one of the most important factors to consider when camping in cold weather.
A sleeping bag’s temperature rating is the lowest temperature estimated to keep the average adult comfortable warm.
If you have no idea what yours is, it’s safe to say it probably won’t be warm enough to withstand November’s chill.
You’ll need to use a sleeping bag with a temperature rating that can handle temperatures below freezing.
Important: You may need a sleeping bag with a much lower temperature rating than you think.
When I used a sleeping bag with a 23°F (-5°C) temperature rating in November, I was still cold.
The outside temperature of 30°F (-1°C), which was higher than my sleeping bag’s temperature rating.
On the other hand, Ross was comfortable with his 32°F (0°C) quilt.
The lesson here is that some people sleep colder than others, which is something you need to consider.
Sleeping bag liner
This was something I wished I brought with me, but forgot it at home.
A sleeping bag liner is basically an inner layer you can put inside your sleeping bag to increase its insulation by a few degrees.
It’s also a great alternative if you don’t have the budget to upgrade your existing sleeping bag.
Insulated air mattress and/or sleeping pad
The R-value isa measure of insulation, with higher values indicating better insulation.
The great thing about R-value is that you can stack them to increase the number.
In our case, we use our 4.2 R-value air mattresses with our 2 R-value closed cell sleeping pads, which bring the total R-value up to 6.2.
Portable propane heater (optional)
Although not totally necessary, a portable propane heater can be a game-changer when camping in cold weather.
Want more gear ideas?
Grab a free copy of our cold weather camping gear checklist for a complete list of items to bring.
Food and hydration in cold conditions
In cold weather, your body burns more calories to stay warm.
This is why it’s so important to bring high-calorie foods for extra energy.
Fats and carbohydrates are both great sources of energy.
Hot dishes like hearty soups and stews are also idea because they’re easy, versatile, and nutritious.
Have a look at some of our favourite cold weather meals.
Make sure to also drink plenty of water throughout the day.
In the fall and winter, the air is drier, which leads to increased body moisture loss through your breath.
If you’re having trouble drinking enough water, consider warming up with a hot drink, such as tea or hot cocoa, or add an electrolyte drink mix to your water.
Choosing the right campsite
Look for a sheltered spot that’s protected from the wind.
If you’re camping in a designated campsite, check if they have sheltered spots or lean-tos available.
If you’re camping in the backcountry, look for areas with natural windbreaks like trees, rocks, or hills.
If you prefer a more comfortable camping experience—or “glamping” experience—consider renting a yurt.
Yurts are semi-permanent structures that offer more protection from the elements than tents.
They’re usually equipped with beds, heating, and electricity, making them a great luxury option for camping in colder months.
Tips for staying warm and comfortable
The hardest thing about camping during the month of November is staying warm.
Here are some tips to help you stay warm and cozy during your trip:
Dress in layers, which will allow you to adjust your clothing as your body temperature changes throughout the day.
Keep yourself dry by brining a spare change of clothes and always having quick access to your outer shell layers in case it starts to rain.
Insulate your tent floor area with extra pads or wool blankets to prevent the cold from reaching you through the ground.
Keep your core temperature up by getting active, eating high-energy foods that are easy to digest, and drinking warm liquids regularly.
Use the femoral artery trick by placing a hot water bottle against your groin area where the femoral artery is located.
Biggest risks and how to avoid them
Camping in November can be awesome, but it can also be dangerous.
Hypothermia is perhaps the biggest risk, mainly because November is a transitional month where the risk of getting wet is high.
Being wet can cause your body to lose heat faster than it can produce it, even if the outside temperature is relatively mild.
To avoid hypothermia, you don’t just need to stay warm—you need to stay dry.
Layer down if you start to sweat, layer up if it’s raining or snowing, and change into dry clothes immediately if you do get wet.
Condensation can develop overnight on the walls inside your tent when the temperature drops, making everything feel damp.
Make sure your tent is well-ventilated and keep your gear or clothing away from the walls, which can soak up moisture by coming into contact.
You may also want to consider having fewer bodies inside a single tent, which cuts down on the condensation due to less body heat and breathing.
For instance, if you’re going camping with four people, consider sleeping two people in two tents rather than four in one big tent.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a potential risk of you’re using a gas heater to keep warm.
It’s also a risk in hot tents that use wood burning stoves.
If you decide to use it inside your tent, open up all the vents to maximize airflow and never, ever keep it on overnight.
We bring a battery-powered CO detector for extra peace of mind.
More about cold weather camping:
- How to stay warm inside your tent (without electricity)
- How to keep your air mattress warm when camping
- How to keep your feet warm in your sleeping bag
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).