Perks of Winter Camping

For those living in the northern part of the US, Winter means snow, cold winds, darker days, and ice. Does this mean camping goes away for the 4-5 months of Winter? Of course not! Andrew and I, as true midwesterners, decided we would begin our year on the road with some Winter camping.

What does this look like, you might ask? To shorten our long drive out West, Andrew and I decided to make Porter, Indiana, our first camping destination. What did we find? Lots of snow, cold wind, darker days, and ice. However, I am not here to tell you why we chose not to winter camp; I am here to tell you why we did.

There are several reasons why we enjoy Winter camping, and I would love to share them with you.

Winter camping means fewer crowds, nearly empty campgrounds, and quieter, peaceful hikes. There is one sure way to avoid being overcrowded while camping, and it is to go in peak non-peak season; or non-peak season in general. I mentioned Indiana Dunes National Park, in Porter, IN, was our first camping destination. We were one of 3 campers in a campground with over 100 campsites. Talk about space from other campers – we had it! We never had to wait for the campground bathroom or shower as well. That is important to campers like ourselves with no bathroom in our TAG Teardrop Trailer.
Winter camping allows you to experience a different side of nature. I would argue that most individuals enjoy camping primarily for its immersion into nature. There is something so serene and beautiful about the snow that it is hard not to want to experience a landscape covered with it. And although it gets darker sooner in the Winter, the snow does help lighten things up in the evening. Winter activities are also worth noting: cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, and ice skating.
Lastly, Winter camping makes for a fantastic excuse to snuggle up inside our cozy, warm camper and drink hot coffee (or tea if you are Andrew). We also hung up a few fairy lights inside our camper to add to the coziness. Although it is harder to venture outside without bundling up, Winter camping allows us to appreciate the time we spend inside our camper.
Now that we have explored some of the reasons Andrew and I enjoy Winter camping, I would like to share some tricks we have learned along the way. Of course, we are no experts, but I hope that the few things we have learned might help someone else out.

Keep your essentials accessible! Brainstorm before you even hit the road. Being prepared cuts down on the unnecessary time you have to spend in the cold. For example, Andrew and I keep our clothing in a cubby under our mattresses. You can only access this cubby if you are standing outside the camper. With that said, we both decided to keep all the essential clothing items we needed for the week in the smaller cubbies inside the camper (accessible from inside). We also keep our toiletries in the car’s back seat, allowing easy access during morning and nighttime use and avoiding clutter inside the camper.
Temperature control has been a learning experience for us. While inside a camper, it is imperative to ventilate your cabin while sleeping to avoid condensation build-up. As you can imagine, when camping in a wintery climate, it can be challenging to balance both ventilation and maintaining a warm temperature inside the camper. We have a fan located on the top of our camper that we will turn on to ventilate the cabin while sleeping; however, in the colder weather, we will lift the cover to the fan (allowing air to escape out the top of the camper) but not turn it on. The reasoning is simple; having the fan open and on lets in too much cold air. With the lid to the fan cracked open and the heater on (only if we have access to an electric plugin), we maintain a comfortable temperature and avoid condensation build-up while we sleep. Andrew and I have experimented with many sleeping set-ups and learned as we go. There have been times when we have woken up freezing, and there have been times when we were warm but had condensation dripping off the ceiling onto our heads. We have learned by trying out different techniques.
Invest in high-quality boots! Having reliable shoes is true about any hiking adventure, but in the Winter, it is imperative to have boots that are 1) waterproof, 2) warm, and 3) comfortable. Winter hiking is loads of fun but can quickly turn sour when you feel like your toes are about to fall off. If there is anything I have learned from Winter hiking, it is that you need reliable, warm boots to keep your attention on a beautiful snow fallen trail rather than your freezing feet.
Winter camping can be daunting; we have had our fair share of failed attempts! But once you give it a chance and find your rhythm, it is a blast. If you are ever wondering where to go winter camping, I will share with you where Andrew and I stayed this past week – if you’re close enough, maybe you can check it out too. ‍

Indiana Dunes National Park‍

We stayed in Indiana Dunes National Park. This park has only recently changed from Indiana Dunes State Park to National Park, which explains why we saw signs for both (National Park and State Park). This change happened in 2019, so it is still pretty fresh; however, it is indeed a National Park! If you stay in this area, you must complete the 3 Dune Challange, which is a hike leading you over three giant dunes. It is a 1.5-mile loop, starting and ending at the park’s Nature Center. Atop the last dune, you can see across Lake Michigan to the Chicago skyline. It is beautiful!

If you are looking for a place to grab a bite to eat, a tasty cup of coffee, or a productive environment to work, there are some gems nearby. Michigan City is a quick 20-minute drive away, and Chesterton is a delightful town south of Indiana Dunes National Park worthy of exploration. These were some locations we visited during our stay and would highly recommend:

Lakeshore Coffee & Specialties in Michigan City, IN: This cafe was adorable. Their coffee was delicious, and their lunch was tasty. Andrew avoids gluten, and, lucky us, they had gluten-free options too! We were able to get some work done using their WiFi, and I may or may not have had an extra cup of coffee.

Red Cup Cafe & Deli in Chesterton, IN: This space was fun with an earthy, quirky vibe. Red Cup had great sandwiches with plenty of gluten-free options for Andrew. This cafe was a busier location, but we enjoyed it all the same.

Westchester Public Library in Chesterton, IN: When you need to get that work done, this is the place to visit. Family-friendly and work-friendly, this little library is only a block away from cute downtown Chesterton. Also, if you need coffee or lunch, the Red Cup Cafe & Deli is only a quick 5-minute walk away.

Again, we loved our Winter Campout in Indiana Dunes National Park. Andrew and I would both love to revisit sometime soon and explore even more of what this beautiful park has to offer. And for all of you out there Winter camping, stay warm!