I had the crazy idea during the winter lockdown of camping in the garden with my 4-year-old. Cold, wet, around 14 hours of darkness… what could possibly go wrong?
I’ve created a bit of a monster with my lad Sonny. We’ve done quite a lot of camping together since his second birthday and since the first COVID lockdown struck last year he’s been constantly bugging me to sleep out in the garden. And in one of my more generous moods I agreed to attempt a winter night out.
A couple of weeks ago Sonny called my bluff and said he wanted to do it, so after officially running out of excuses we decided to take the plunge, just before Beast From The East 2 arrived.
So… winter camping with kids. Good call or recipe for disaster? Here’s what we found out…
Get a good tent!
It’s one thing camping in a cheapo tent on a warm summer night, but you need something that can deal with a bit of weather in winter. I got the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-person tent last summer and tragically this was its first outing. More of a backpacking tent than a full-on winter tent, but with temperatures through the night forecast at about 7 degrees C it was perfect for the two of us to stay warm and dry in.
Don’t cut back on comfort
This isn’t a lightweight backpacking trip, so don’t treat it like one with the kit you use. We stuffed a big double inflatable bed in our tent, plus four pillows, three sleeping bags and a big fluffy blanket. It ended up more comfy than my bed indoors!
Wrap up warm
As a rule, kids feel the cold more than adults. So if you’re chilly, there’s a good chance they’ll be freezing. Probably the most important (and obvious) tip for winter camping with kids is to make sure you’ll stay warm all night. As well as the sleeping bags and blankets listed above, we both wrapped up in hooded onesies with thick hiking socks on our feet. Job done!
Pack some entertainment
I discovered pretty quickly, as we zipped up the tent just after sundown, that this was going to be a long night. It was barely 6pm and we were already in for the night. Now, I get on pretty well with my son, but there was no way we were getting through the night just playing eye spy. So we downloaded a Disney movie on to his Amazon Fire tablet, buried ourselves in the sleeping bags, and had a tent movie night! I also made sure I packed a book to keep myself entertained when he eventually nodded off.
Don’t forget the snacks
If you’ve got kids, you don’t need me to explain this. They’ll want snacks, and probably lots of them, so go fully loaded. Popcorn and fruit pastilles did the job for us.
Or the torches
One thing I’d forgotten about winter, the mornings are seriously dark too. If you don’t have a headtorch, you’ll never find anything in the tent when you’re trying to get up in the morning.
Pick a mild weather forecast
Your first trip is going to be challenging enough without adding sub-zero temperatures, hurricane winds and torrential rain into the mix. Choose a reasonably mild night and your first experience of winter camping with kids might not feel so different from spring or autumn.
Don’t be afraid to bail…
If you do what we did and make your first winter camping trip in your garden, remeber that the back door of the house will be just a few footsteps away if you decided you don’t like it…
Winter camping with kids kit list…
- Onesies (Spider-Man for Sonny, Patagonia for me)
- Thick socks
- Unilite headtorch
- Unilite torch
- MSR Hubba Hubba 2-person tent
- Coleman Extra Durable Double Airbed
- Outwell double sleeping bag
- Outwell kids’ sleeping bag
- The North Face Winter Sleeping Bag
- Four pillows
- RubbaStuff Pacmat (for storing shoes in the porch)
- Nitize Gear Line Organisation System (great for hanging up torches)
- Amazon Fire Kids Tablet
- Cars 3 movie
- Simon Jordan’s autobiography (for me!)