Winter Backcountry Camping Checklist

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An illustration of items in a winter camping checklist

Winter camping in the backcountry requires more—and slightly different—gear than a summer backpacking trip does.

In addition to the resources on, we can help you prepare for your outdoor adventure at REI Co-op stores nationwide, where you can ask questions, join local outings and classes, buy essentials, and rent gear. You can also ask questions and order gear by calling 1-800-426-4840, or you can send us an email or live chat with us.

While you're packing, use this handy checklist to make sure you don't forget anything important. Here are some notes on how to best use this list:

  • The Ten Essentials: Items that are part of the Ten Essentials should be carried on every trip. These are marked by an asterisk (*). To learn more, see our article on the Ten Essentials.
  • This checklist is deliberately comprehensive. The exact items you take should be tailored to your trip based on mode of backcountry travel, personal preferences and considerations such as weather, difficulty, duration and distance from help.
  • Printer-friendly PDF. Print out the PDF version for easy use at home.

Printer-Friendly Version (PDF)

snowflake icon

Snow Travel

Avalanche Gear:

Avalanche transceiver (1 per person)
Avalanche probe (1 per person)
Snow shovel (1 per person; also handy around camp)


Oversized zipper pulls (so you can work zippers with mittens on)

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Winter tent with guylines
Cold-weather sleeping bag(s)
Well-insulated sleeping pads(s)
Sit pad(s)
Headlamp(s)* (and extra batteries)


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If you're an ultralight packer, you can cut (or forgo) many of these items:

Insulated vacuum bottles
Mugs or cups (insulated)
Biodegradable soap
Pot scrubber/sponge
Trash/recycling bags

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Water & Food

Placing a bottle and/or filter in a plastic bag next to you at night is one strategy to avoid nighttime freeze-ups. Your body will burn more calories just to stay warm, too, so bring plenty of food for both snacks and camp meals.

Insulated sleeves for bottles and reservoirs
Extra fuel and a large pot to melt snow*
Extra day's supply of food*
Cocoa and other mixes for hot beverages or soups

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Clothing & Footwear

Check the forecast and make sure you're prepared for both extreme cold and stormy conditions.

Socks (synthetic or wool)
Warm hat or balaclava
Extra clothes* (beyond the minimum expectation)

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Navigation is one of the Ten Essentials systems. The type of trip you're taking and your personal preferences will determine exactly which items you'll bring. If you like to use a GPS, note that it's not a substitute for a map and compass.

Map* (in a waterproof sleeve)
Compass* (a clinometer feature is a plus)
Route dsecription or guidebook

pen and pencil icon

Emergency & First Aid

One of the Ten Essentials is an emergency shelter. Even if you're carrying a tent with you, you should also have an emergency shelter if you plan to take day trips away from your base camp.

Two itineraries: 1 left with friend + 1 under car seat

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Health & Hygiene

Toothbrush and toothpaste and floss
Sanitation trowel or wag bag (preferred)
Toilet paper/wipes and sealable bag (to pack it out)
Prescription medications
Prescription glasses

Sun protection:

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Tools & Repair Items

Duct tape and repair kits for pad/mattress and stove*
Extra cord
Tent-pole repair sleeve

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Personal Items


redit card and/or cash

Campsite permit (if required
Trail pass (if required)
Notebook and pen or pencil

*These items are part of the Ten Essentials systems. The exact items you take for each system can be tailored to your trip based on considerations such as weather, difficulty, duration and distance from help. To learn more, see our article on the Ten Essentials.

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