Categories: Guides & hacksHosting

Winterize Your Campground: How to Market Your Hipcamp Property for Winter

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.

Photo by Maegen Leake at Rocky Mountain High Camping Co, Colorado

1. Consider offering some of the basics

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.

Photo by Caitlin Fullam at The Snow Shack-A Frame near Breck in Colorado

2. Winterize your sites and structures for warmth

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.

For structures:

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.

Photo by Katie Corley at the Historic Mineral Springs Wilderness Log Cabin & Campground, California
  • Consider adding insulation (or extra insulation) to your structure’s walls and roofs.
  • Check roofs for waterproofness and add a waterproofed layer so that leaks don’t dampen any trips.
  • Offer candles or other lighting. Nightfall comes earlier in winter, and Hipcampers will spend more time inside than they might in the summer months.
  • Provide a tea kettle with some tea bags, instant hot chocolate, and mugs.
  • Adding a heating option is the #1 way to automatically winterize your structure—just be mindful of fire danger and leave safety information and instructions for your Hipcampers.

“We use propane powered wall heaters in our campers. They’re about $125 on Amazon and use a regular 5-gallon propane tank that you can refill or exchange. They work great.” –Janna A., Pinnacle Farms

“Our bus has a wood stove in it and we feel like people are intimidated by them, so we made a little handwritten ‘field guide’ that walks people through how to use it.” –Hosts Gabi & Jacob V. at The Bus at Rancho de Barnes, Tennessee

“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

Photo by Dan Florez at Ravens Nest Utah

For tent sites:

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.

  • Identify pathways that may get muddy or slippery in rain, and consider putting in large stepping stones or pavers to help Hipcampers get around, or moving tent sites to less muddy ground.
  • Offer a dry common space, such as a communal kitchen, tarp, or barn, for campers to gather in, cook their meals, and spend time when they’re not in their tents. This way, you can winterize just one area and set the expectation that it’s a place to hang out away from the cold.
  • Stock the kitchen with a tea kettle and lots of warm drinks!
  • Make sure everything is well-lit, since it is dark earlier. It’s more common that Hipcampers will be setting up their tents in the dark, and will always appreciate good signage and lighting.
  • If you get a novice winter Hipcamper, share some tips for snow camping:
    • Pack down the snow: Before setting up your tent, stomp around in your boots!
    • Build a snow wall around your tent to block the wind.
    • Fill your water bottle with hot water before bed, and then stuff it into your sleeping bag to keep you toasty ‘til morning.
Photo by Kat Wagner at Small Yurt Tucked in the Woods, Idaho

3. Familiarize campers with your weather

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.

Weston Pass Hut, Colorado

4. Update your listing’s photos and descriptions to match the season and set expectations

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!

Hosts who do this well:

  1. Muirs Muse, California
  2. Holy Cross Refugio, Colorado
  3. Weston Pass Hut, Colorado

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.

Photo by Nora Logue at Modern San Isabel Cabin, Colorado

5. Offer some wintery Extras

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.

Photo by Celeste Fuentes at Willow Hill Farm and Mountains Camp in New York

6. Communicate thoroughly once you have bookings

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?

Photo by Denné Boring at Talkeetna Tiny House Cabin/RV, Alaska

7. Suggest local winter activities

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.

Photo by Denné Boring at Riverside Salmon Cabin in Alaska

8. Don’t skimp on winter chores

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.

Photo by Savannah Hubbard at Welder’s White River Cabin in Colorado

9. Get some help

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

Ryan is a San Juan Mountains-based outdoor adventure and environment writer, as well as a climber, rooftop-tent camper, and all-around mountain enthusiast. His work has appeared in Backpacker, Outside, High Country News, and more.

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