Hot chocolate by the glow of a campfire …ah, classic cool weather camping bliss. But to enjoy it fully you’ll need to prepare to fend off the chill. Here are our top tips for cosy, cool season camping in your tent, cabin, camper trailer, motorhome or caravan.
Many tents, camper trailers and soft-walled caravans have extra all-seasons canvas for warmth and insulation which, more often than not, make their way to the shed. If yours comes with a fly or separate tropical tent, dust it off and familiarise yourself with the setup, taking care to check everything. If you’re expecting windy conditions, think about sand bags and extra guy ropes, too.
No fancy canvas? No worries. Try throwing a tarp over the top. And, to make up for lost time, ditch the shower tent and book an ensuite site instead.
PICKING A SITE
When it comes to site layout, caravan park designers go to great lengths to ensure they’re comfortable, function well and are safe but if you’re picking yours on a campground, examine the lay of the land. No-one plans to camp in the wet but should it rain, where will the water go? And the shrubbery—will it block out a glorious winter glow or shelter you from a breeze? Orientate your setup so your window faces east for memorable mornings, if you can.
INSULATING YOUR CAMP
Handled correctly, mats underneath your tent or camper trailer are fantastic. They help to insulate your setup and keep your canvas surfaces clean, but if they poke out from under it water can pool causing a mess. The trick is to make sure nothing sticks out. An old woollen blanket indoors finishes the job and helps to keep your canvas interiors clean.
Protect caravans and motorhomes on grassy sites with a synthetic mat out the front that allows dirt to fall through. You’ll need to peg it down.
Air-mattresses may seem cosier than the tent floor but trust us, unless they’re wrapped in blankets you’ll feel the chill. Low cost stretcher-style cots are great but most come in a single configuration. You may prefer to cough up for a decent self-inflating sleeping mat. Opt for an all-seasons sleeping bag with a separate liner to keep the warmth in. Silk liners are super light, compact and air quickly during the day, keeping you toasting and dry.
Layers are a camper’s best friend. And add beanies, mittens and scarves to cover any needlessly-exposed skin. You’ll need a good quality jacket that’s ideally light, lined and breathable with a waterproof shell such as gore tex. Extra ticks for an adjustable hood and cuffs and sealed zips. A lightweight windbreaker cuts the chill in windy but otherwise pleasant wintery weather. Natural fibres are great, but jeans, in fact, all things cotton, are a nuisance when wet.
Moisture-wicking thermals are great at keeping you dry and comfy but be sure to pack a set for night and day. Some high performance synthetics wick extremely well—in fact, they’re great for camping all round—but wool (if you can afford it) handles odour significantly better saving you time at the laundromat. Pack plenty of socks, extra close-toed shoes and gumbies.
TRAVELLING WITH KIDS
Familiarising the tin lids with thermals, bedding and other cool-weather gear before you go will minimise tag tugging at camp. Think about how you’ll rug them up after as temperatures tend to be milder when they go to bed. Younger ones can strip down unexpectedly, so keep a close eye on them as the cool sets in. They’ll go through more clothes, too.
BAGS AND RAGS
Grubby clothing are a given at winter camp. Plastic bags save it spreading while rags can help with the extra cleaning and keep condensation at bay. Fast drying towels are compact, low cost, dry quickly and will survive wringing and tumble drying.
And, as always, a broom or a hand broom and shovel never goes astray.
ARE CAMPFIRES ALLOWED?
Campfires are synonymous with all-weather camping but provisions aren’t always guaranteed. Many caravan parks allow them, but sometimes only at designated area/s away from your campsite. Before booking at a caravan park, ascertain rules relating to fires, including communal fires, which vary. And suss out the undercover camp kitchen while you’re at it.
All the fire-pits in the world matter little if you’re without wood to fan the flame. Even if you can collect quality specimens at camp you’re limited if conditions have been wet. You can, of course, bring in your own but if you’re pushed for space see if you can purchase at the holiday park. Think about quality tinder, too, so that cooler kindling sufficiently ignites.
No matter how rosy the projections, rain and wind remain a risk at shoulder and off-peak touring seasons. So, when assessing an autumn-winter destination, check out your wet-weather options in town and at camp. Some caravan parks have extensive enclosed communal areas but bear in mind, you’ll be sharing this space. Cards, travel games and books help indoors if your camp’s sufficiently lit. In fact, good camp lighting is vital given the shorter days.
Here’s an easy, free tactic to help keep you cosy before jumping into bed, stretch. Avoid working up a sweat though. And to keep it going try a chemical heat pack. Often called a ‘hand warmer’ they’re easy to use and will outlast a hot water bottle. A quick 15-minute boil returns it to full function the next day.
If you’ve booked a cabin with split-system heating, turn it on early and set it to 21°C or above before the cool air sets in. Particularly if ambient temperatures are to drop to low single figures. It might sound counter-intuitive but some systems perform better set at higher temperatures in chillier conditions.
WATERPROOF BEFORE YOU GO
Before setting off, prepare your equipment properly, especially if you’ve never used it before. Now, if it’s a stand-a-lone tent made from nylon, a trial setup is all that’s required.
Camper trailer tents, swags, enclosed cots and traditional-styles tents, however, are often made from cotton-blends. And seams on cotton-blend canvas require seasoning, where water expands the thread to fill in the needle holes.
It’ll need a decent soaking and a few days to dry but once it’s done you’ll do well in the comfort stakes.
Nylon tents need no seasoning but are prone to condensation, so like we said keep a cloth at hand.