Fair enough: Winter camping isn’t for everyone. In places with an actual winter season, sleeping outside during this time of year can be cold, snowy, and downright hard. But there are plenty of campers out there who are interested—and some who actively seek out winter camping (think no bugs, no crowds). Whether they’re searching for a spot to crash before and after a day of skiing, taking an off-season road trip, or simply shaking off cabin fever, you have a good shot at attracting guests with a winter campsite. It can even be the difference between closing down for winter and earning extra money during the off-season.
But offering-up a comfortable winter campsite takes a little work beyond what you might do during more temperate times of year. Use these tips to plan for cold weather, spruce up your sites, and attract winter campers and keep them comfortable during their chilly-season stay.
No matter the accommodations you offer, Hipcampers can still be willing to visit through the rain, snow, mud, or cold if you outfit the space with some basics. If you don’t normally offer water, that’s something to consider doing in winter. In some areas, it can be difficult for guests to bring their own water and keep it from freezing. The same goes with bathroom facilities—whatever you relied on during summer may not be accessible, and the ground is often too cold to dig catholes (even if you’re somewhere without snow). A little extra infrastructure goes a long way between November and February. But if you keep things fairly bare bones or get few winter visitors, consider lowering your price during this time to build up a few reviews and visits.
No matter your camp setup—tent, yurt, or cabin—winter camping often requires some form of warmth. Whether it’s a campsite fire pit or an indoor wood stove or fireplace, campers appreciate a cozy way to stay warm once it’s dark out, especially with colder-than-usual temperatures, winds, or even snow. Even just extra hand warmers, warm blankets, sleeping bags, or water bottles filled with hot water go a long way! And if you offer firewood, remember to keep it dry.
Whether you have a heated A-frame or an off-grid tiny house, these options will help make sure your spot is up to the task.
“George, the host at Mono Camp, has winterized his cabin with a wood stove. He thoughtfully left all of the safety necessities for using it: gloves so that we wouldn’t burn our hands, kindling, scrap paper, a poker, firewood, a fire extinguisher, and a printed sheet with clear instructions for operating the stove!” –Hipcamper Christina, power user
When tent camping, Hipcampers are responsible for making sure that they’re equipped to handle weather that might come your way, but you can help them be ready and stay safe with some quick preparation.
It’s best to be proactive about sharing information. Make sure potential campers know what kind of temperatures and weather conditions to expect. How cold might it get at night? (Your elevation could mean it’s different from a nearby town.) Is it typically sunny or overcast and gray? How much snow can campers expect to see on the ground, if any? These details will help them pack gear to fit your Hipcamp and stay comfortable while they’re there.
Your listing description should describe what your site is like in winter and offer some weather-specific detail—what guests should bring to be comfortable, how long they might have to walk from their car to the site, whether local businesses shut down in winter…and if you offer a heater or stove, share that upfront!
You can also give prospective campers a chance to see what your property looks like in the winter months with a seasonal set of photos. For campers traveling from a distance, they can get a sense of typical conditions in your neck of the woods. And for others, just being able to see your winter setup will set expectations and build confidence. You can move these photos to the front of your listing for the season. Learn about Hipcamp’s professional photography program.
Coming up with some winter-specific Hipcamp Extras—additional rentals, experiences, or goods for purchase—can improve guests’ comfort levels and winter itineraries. Consider selling things like firewood bundles or hot coffee, renting heaters, sleds, or snowshoes, or offering ski tours of your property. While none are necessary for the well-equipped camper, they can help convince a less-experienced one that they should give the colder months a try.
Before a guest shows up, keep all lines of communication open so they can ask about upcoming storms, road conditions, and timely information. It’s helpful to remind guests who to contact if they need anything. If you hear of an approaching storm that might bring rain or snow, send a message to let campers know. Weather apps may not convey precise information, especially if your property is up in higher elevations, so it can be helpful to provide them with a specific zip code or lat/long. You might also want a backup plan in case of really bad weather—is there any alternative onsite accommodation you can offer to campers who might already be on your property? Or can you offer a flexible cancellation policy in the case of bad weather?
Few people go winter camping to sit around in the cold all day, so selling campers on your area’s winter activities is critical. In your site description, list any nearby skiing options (resorts, backcountry areas, cross-country trails), popular winter hikes or snowshoeing trails, hot springs, frozen waterfalls, snowmobiling destinations, or ice fishing holes for campers to explore between evenings around camp. It’s also nice to keep some spare sleds or snowshoes around for guests to borrow, or leave out a carrot and some buttons for spur-of-the-moment snowman building. See how Hipcamp Host Nick M. highlights his property’s location near a ski resort in New York.
Whatever your setup, keep in mind that pipes can freeze, driveways and roads need shoveling, lighting is more important on shorter days, and campsites are going to need a little more TLC and upkeep than they might in summer. Knock down potentially dangerous icicles, keep roads and paths plowed so that Hipcampers can access their cars, let campers know if roads require four-wheel drive, and keep campsites safe. A shovel is always good to have onsite. If high vehicle clearance or four-wheel drive is required to access your site, make that clear in your description and communicate this to Hipcampers once they book.
Not much into the winters yourself? We get it. But if you’re interested in inviting some guests to tough it out, consider bringing on a host specifically for the wintertime to take care of the chores and lend a hand to your guests when they need it.
“What has been helpful to me is to be extra communicative with our winter guests. Before I even accept a booking, I give them a heads up that it’s going to be cold, they may not have running water, etc., and they are all appreciative. A lot of guests say they’re coming because they live someplace hot and actually WANT to be cold for a few days. I also give them the option to cancel or issue a refund if there’s an extra cold snap, just to minimize any complaints or unhappy campers. Lastly, our winter rates are lower by at least $20/night than in warmer months.” –Jaedra and Carl, Little Green Yurt of Cedar Mountain
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