Winter Camping Gear: 8 Basic Essentials For Overlanding & Off-Roading

Winter Camping At Pismo Beach: 8 Essentials That Will Make This Your Favorite Time of Year to Camp

Winter Camping in the 5th Gen 4Runner: 8 Essentials in Off-Road Gear and Accessories To Make This Your Favorite Time of Year to Camp

Heading out for an adventure in your 5th Gen 4Runner will make all the difference if you have the right winter camping gear and accessories.

”Winter is coming” can be a polarizing one for Overlanders in North America. Because freezing rain, closed roads, sub-zero nights, vehicle-burying snow, and mudslides can mean terror for some and delight for others.

Read on to discover eight essentials in winter camping gear and accessories that will not only help you survive the elements but turn this time of year into some of the best adventures you’ve ever experienced in your rig.

In fact, once you learn how to navigate the elements with confidence, you’ll find winter camping has fewer crowds, stunning scenery, and a deep sense of accomplishment when you make it back having overcome that which many people choose to avoid.

#1 – Capable Tires

Winter Camping At Pismo Beach: 8 Essentials That Will Make This Your Favorite Time of Year to Camp: #1 - Capable Tires

The most essential winter camping gear to get to your campsite(s) in the first place is your rig outfitted with CAPABLE TIRES.

This means either A/T or M/T tire with at least 6/32” tread left on them.

I currently run BFGoodrich KO2s and they have been very capable in snow, mud, and ice.

However, at the time this article is being written, I am preparing for two winter camping trips. One out to the sand dunes of Pismo Beach and the other to the snowy Sierras in California.

Before I did anything else, I checked my tire depth: 6/32”

I could *technically* be OK for another couple of months but why wait to replace my tires until AFTER the most important time of the year to have traction?

So, while thinking of the safety of not just myself but of my family (wife and two boys aged two and seven), I decided to replace them with a new (and bigger) set of KO2s before heading out.

Pro Tip: If you are considering tires and what size to go with, explore our resource that will inform you of how big you can go at stock height or with a lift kit as well as the largest capable 4Runner tires categorized by price point.

#2 – Shoes Made For the Conditions

Winter Camping At Pismo Beach: 8 Essentials in Off-Road Accessories To Make This Your Favorite Time of Year to Camp: #2 - Shoes Made For the Conditions

It’s not just your rig that needs the right shoes…you do as well.

Winter is not the time to roll up to camp in your Converse, Vans slip-ons, or flip-flops.

Therefore, you need something that will keep you warm AND dry.

A great all-around boot that can accomplish these two things in both a foot of mud and multiple feet of snow are the Kamik Icebreaker Cold Weather Boot.

I love these things so much that I keep them within arms reach in my rig at all times (not just during the winter) just in case I find myself in a situation where I need to get out of my rig and don’t want to either run my shoes in the mud or get wet in standing water or deep snow.

Find It On Amazon:

  • Kamik Icebreaker Cold Weather Boot:  Check Price
  • Kamik Men’s Icebreaker Insulated (-40°F Rated) Winter Boot: Check Price

#3 – Tent That Will Keep the Wind, Rain, and Snow Away

Winter Camping At Pismo Beach: 8 Essentials in Off-Road Accessories To Make This Your Favorite Time of Year to Camp: #3 - Tent That Will Keep the Wind, Rain, and Snow Away

There are many options out there but as you consider a tent that can handle freezing temperatures and high winds, consider tents that are built with higher density materials.

In fact, brands like Eezi-Awn, 23Zero, Alu-Cab, Go Fast Campers and CVT have proven themselves in some of the harshest conditions on the planet and are always reliable.

Some great options in rooftop tents and awnings include:

Pro Tip: If you are undecided on whether or not to run a soft or hard shell, check out this soft-shell vs hard-shell rooftop tents article written by Max.

#4 – Heater To Help You Forget It’s Deadly Outside

Winter Camping At Pismo Beach: 8 Essentials in Off-Road Accessories To Make This Your Favorite Time of Year to Camp: #4 - Heater To Help You Forget It’s Deadly Outside

Ask any Overlander or RVer if they’ve heard of the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy and 9 out of 10 will likely pull it out of their rig and say, “you mean this friend of mine?”

Using Coleman 1L propane canisters, this radiant heater can transform your roof-top tent or ground tent into a toasty oasis in a matter of minutes. Not only does it radiate 4-9k BTUs that can be controlled with an oversized red knob, but it also has a safety feature that will shut the unit off if knocked over.

However, there is a degree of caution that must be exercised when using these as it emits Co2 which is, of course, deadly at certain levels in a poorly ventilated space.

To stay safe and to have peace of mind, consider adding these two items to your shopping list and having them handy within your tent.

Find It On Amazon:

  • Mr. Heater – Buddy (single propane tank): Check Price
  • Mr. Heater – Big Buddy (double propane tank): Check Price
  • First Alert Battery-Powered CO400 Carbon Monoxide Detector:  Check Price
  • First Alert Portable Fire Extinguisher:  Check Price

#5 – Wool Clothes to Keep You Toasty and Safe

Winter Camping At Pismo Beach: 8 Essentials in Off-Road Accessories To Make This Your Favorite Time of Year to Camp: #5 - Wool Clothes to Keep You Toasty and Safe

When the weather drops below freezing, remember: “cotton kills.”

Unlike cotton that is slow to dry when wet and can increase the risk of hypothermia, wool is nature’s best tech for keeping you toasty and safe.

Additionally, unlike the scratchy wool sweaters that perhaps you grew up with, there are a plethora of options that are super-comfy.

Here are some great options in wool outerwear and accessories:

Pro Tip: Look for brands that feature merino wool…arguably the softest wool sourced from New Zealand. Smartwool, Icebreaker, Patagonia, and Minus33 are just a few of the many companies featuring solid merino wool options.

#6 – Cooking System That Can Handle The Wind and Sub-Zero Temps

Winter Camping At Pismo Beach: 8 Essentials in Off-Road Accessories To Make This Your Favorite Time of Year to Camp: #6 - Cooking System That Can Handle The Wind and Sub-Zero Temps

There is no other time of year that can create as many difficulties in cooking as winter can.

Wind, rain, snow, and low temperature all affect two things: fuel and flame.

As a result, your winter cooking system must be able to maximize both or you’ll become a fair-weather explorer.

Regarding fuel, wood-burning is one of the least effective, especially if it’s been raining or is raining. That’s why most Off-Roaders and Overlanders use stoves that are powered by either liquid fuel (white gas) or propane. Both are great options as they do perform well at sub-zero temperatures. Propane is cheaper and heavier and liquid fuel is more expensive and lightweight.

You’ll typically find the backpacking community going the liquid fuel route because of the packability of canisters and Overlanders going the propane route because of the price point and having your rig do all the heavy lifting for you.

However, liquid fuel performs better once you get into sub-zero temps and is always a great back up stove system to have when you’re far from home.

I have my Snowpeak Baja Burner utilizing the Snowpeak liquid fuel canisters as a backup to a Camp Chef dual-burner system on propane.

Whichever way you go, avoid relying on wood in winter as a fuel source because of the wetness factor and avoid butane because it performs poorly at low temperatures.

Some camping fuel stove options include:

Pro Tip: If you find yourself camping in an area with the potential of your firewood becoming wet and need some way to dry it, consider packing in the insanely lightweight and powerful Snow Peak GigaPower Folding Torch. What else only weighs 287 grams and puts out a whopping 14,000 BTUs? Might as well keep it on the rig at all times! Check Price

#7 – Communications to Track Storm Systems

Winter Camping At Pismo Beach: 8 Essentials in Off-Road Accessories To Make This Your Favorite Time of Year to Camp: #7 - Communications to Track Storm Systems

Winter weather has the potential to transform rapidly from sketchy to life-threatening…and it doesn’t matter what the 7-day forecast said before you left on your trip.

Tracking weather in real-time is essential and there is no better way to do so than listening to the National Weather Service over the radio.

You can use your local weather app for tracking winter storms or even Gaia GPS. Gaia GPS offers 24-hour and 72-hour weather tracking features in their app. Regardless if you are expecting a weather storm or not, it’s important to stay up to date on what is to come. Even a small rainstorm can turn to a severe thunderstorm fairly quick.

BaoFeng UV-82HP High Power Dual Band Radio

Winter Camping At Pismo Beach: 8 Essentials in Off-Road Accessories To Make This Your Favorite Time of Year to Camp:BaoFeng UV-82HP High Power Dual Band Radio

A great option is the handheld BaoFeng UV-82HP High Power Dual Band Radio.

Find It On Amazon:

  • BaoFeng UV-82HP High Power Dual Band Handheld Radio: Check Price

Pro Tip: Before you head out on your trip, research how NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) broadcasts official National Weather Service warnings. If you do not have your HAM radio license, you can take online classes at My Off-Road Radio.

FCC’ss Emergency Alert System will also broadcast warnings and post-event information for all sorts of hazards including avalanches, mudslides, and fires.

Broadcasts are found in the VHF public service band at these seven frequencies (MHz):

162.400162.425162.450162.475162.500162.525162.550

#8 – Recovery Gear Whether You’re Solo or In a Group

Winter Camping At Pismo Beach: 8 Essentials in Off-Road Accessories To Make This Your Favorite Time of Year to Camp: #8 - Recovery Gear Whether You’re Solo or In a Group

It’s eventually going to happen and it’s more likely to in winter.

More snow and more mud will mean that recovery gear is even more essential during the winter season.

Though a winch could arguably be the most powerful piece of recovery gear, its hard to winch yourself out when you are traversing a meadow of three feet deep snow with the closest tree or fixed object miles away.

In those cases, traction boards are a life-saver.

Winter Camping At Pismo Beach: 8 Essentials in Off-Road Accessories To Make This Your Favorite Time of Year to Camp: In those cases, traction boards are a life-saver.

While there are plenty of models to choose from, either MaxxTraxx or Tred PROs are regarded as the best.

Find It On Amazon:

Final Takeaways

Winter Camping At Pismo Beach: 8 Essentials in Off-Road Accessories To Make This Your Favorite Time of Year to Camp: Final Takeaways

These eight essentials in winter camping gear will dramatically improve the success, enjoyment, and safety of your next winter camping adventure whether it’s in the snow, mud, rain or freezing temperatures.

See you out there!

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