Top 10 Lessons Learned while Winter Camping with my Toddler

Top 10 Lessons Learned while Winter Camping with my Toddler

This past weekend a friend and I embarked on a father-son overnight tent camping excursion; he with his almost-four-year old and I with my recently-three-year old.

It’s something we’ve talked about doing for a while, and really wanted to do it now, the idea being we could get it in before it got too cold and we’d have to wait for spring or summer. We knew it would be chilly, but I did plenty of winter camping when I was an active Boy Scout. No problem.

Little did we know, Saturday night would see the lowest temperatures around here since last March, dipping down to 22°F during the night.

The phrase “we barely survived,” in retrospect, seems like hyperbole, but it was definitely how we felt at times.

This is what I learned:

  • It gets dark really early this time of year. Plan for it.
  • If your toddler misses his afternoon nap, expect that when it gets dark at 5PM he’ll have one heck of a meltdown, cry for Mama and home, and express dismay that this camping experience is very unlike what he saw on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
  • Don’t forget your gloves, dummy!
  • And for the love of God don’t forget to change into your proper warm shoes before hitting the road! Canvas and rubber Chuck knock-offs from Walmart are about as effective as wrapping your feet in bologna.
  • For a one night trip, pack enough clothes for three days, then wear it all simultaneously.
  • Don’t overestimate how much warmth a little electric oil heater and a few blankets will provide.  22° is freakin’ cold.
  • Be sure to check your air mattress for leaks before going, and try your best not to set it up directly over, say, jagged rocks. That is, unless you like sleeping with the same approximate comfort as a night on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol.
  • There is no shame hanging out in the campground bathroom for a while to warm up, even at 11PM. And 2AM. And 6:30AM.
  • Especially at 2AM.
  • You can plan on making bacon and eggs over the fire in your awesome cast iron pans. You can even actually do it, and it will be delicious. But really, your son will just want a hot dog for breakfast. Don’t fight him on this.

Believe it or not, frigid weather and leaking air mattress aside, we really had a great time. The boys did great. They slept a lot better than we did, at least.

Looking forward to doing it again when it’s warmer and the sun stays up longer. 🙂


  • And be thankful you have a mother in-law who prayed for you several times during the trip! Grandpa just thought you were crazy! 🙂


  • Sounds like quite an adventure! We are so glad you survived and are looking forward to next time.
    Lots of love to all of you.


  • I have thought of camping with kids but never considered it in the cold. Very informative and interesting write-up. Thank you!


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