Winter Camping In The Ozarks

Updated: Dec 4, 2019

For those of you who just can't get enough, try a little winter camping. The winter time for most people is a time of hibernation, but for us die hard campers, backpackers, hikers or winter floaters, it provides a season of peace and quite with little to no crowds in the woods or on the waters. Most camp grounds are empty but remain open, which means you get to pick the best spots. This time of year provides a unique opportunity to see mother nature like you've never seen before with no bugs! Camping in the winter time can be a lot of fun as well be a form of meditation and relaxation.

Winter camping of course is about having fun and enjoying nature,but staying warm is the challenge for most. With a few extra things, the right mentality, and some good old fashioned survival skills it can make for memorable experiences. You will be hooked and want to go every year!

Pick a scenic and sheltered destination with available firewood. Know the weather forecast before you go. Don't get surprised by sudden cold, storm, wind, or even a thaw that will make for soaking wet conditions. Dress in layers, and have the gear to overdress. You'll need more clothes than you would for day-long activities. Make sure your sleeping bag will suffice for long, cold nights. If you don't have a winter bag, take two 3-season bags and nest one inside the other. Check the combination at home for fit and interior space.

WARMTH-- The right sleeping bag will keep you cozy and comfortable, even when you're sleeping on the cold, hard ground. The wrong one will have you shaking from the cold, tossing and turning trying to stay warm. Humans have slept and played outdoors for centuries. Find a sleeping bag that's right for you. Whether you're a seasoned outdoor adventurer or still afraid of the dark, there's a sleeping bag out there that will keep you feeling warm and safe at night.

Three-season tents are perfectly adequate unless you expect heavy snow or high winds. In extreme weather conditions you will wish you had a four season, though. Set up camp so you can cook food and drinks from your sleeping bag. If you cook in a vestibule, prime your stove outside the tent, then bring it in. Allow for plenty of ventilation. When building your camp fire consider building a wind block as well. It doesn't take very long to build one out of wood or branches, and well worth it. It will keep the warmth from the fire in your area better and keeps the fire from burning to fast.

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The Ozark Mountains can be slick and dangerous when it has been wet for awhile. Make sure you bring a good pair of insulated, water-proof boots with ya. If there’s only a few inches of snow on the ground, you can use traditional hiking boots. But, in deeper snow, you’ll appreciate having winter or mountaineering boots that are waterproof and insulating. Using gaiters will keep snow out of your boots and they will add a bit of warmth. The simple rule of winter camping is to stay dry and warm. Having the right gear for your trip can be critical to your enjoyment when you’re out in the cold for extended periods. The requisite gear for winter camping is similar to what you’d take backpacking but with an emphasis on warmth and toughness.

Store food securely: Bears are typically in a deep slumber during wintertime, but there are other critters that will happily snack on your food if you leave it accessible. Stow your food securely in your backpack or hang it from a tree using a stuff sack and rope. Some areas may have regulations for food storage; familiarize yourself with those before leaving home. Be respectful of wildlife and view them from a distance. Winter is a vulnerable time for animals.

The winters in the Ozarks can bring unpredictable and drastic weather changes sometimes. Its good to plan for the "wet" as well as the "cold". Make sure all your gear is water-proof. Moisture seems to find its way into everything if you you are not careful or prepared.

Perhaps the biggest difference between summertime camping and winter camping is the possibility that you’ll be camping on snow. When you reach your destination for the day, rather than immediately unpacking, take some time to find the right camp spot. Relax, have a snack, put on some warm clothing layers and examine the area.


The winters in the Ozarks can bring unpredictable and drastic weather changes sometimes. Its good to plan for the "wet" as well as the "cold". Make sure all your gear is water-proof. Moisture seems to find its way into everything if you you are not careful or prepared.

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