For campaholics, Christmastime is often the only bright spot during winter – the weather is too cold to let you enjoy your favorite past time… right? Norwegians might disagree. In Norway, with its famously harsh and long winters, they have a saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
So, if the world’s winter experts say you can still enjoy the outdoors when it’s cold out (providing you layer up), and Christmas exists, then theoretically if we combine these two amazing things, we would have the world’s most amazing camping experience ever! Why not give it a try? Read on to find out how you can have the most festive camping experience of your life. See our Winter Camping Guide for tips to prepare for your winter camping adventure.
Decorating your campsite is key for achieving the right holiday spirit. Try one of these creative ways to “spruce” up the spruces and your site.
Nothing says “Christmas” more than magical, sparkling lights. For low-tech tent campers, buy a string of the many varieties of solar Christmas lights available at stores and online. If you have favorite regular lights at home already, just be sure you have a way to plug them in to light up your festive lodgings.
More than likely, your site will be surrounded by lovely trees. Bring a box of ornaments or even tinsel garlands from home and hang them from trees and bushes to give your home away from home the coziest holiday cheer. Just be sure to remove your festive décor before heading back home.
Make a Wreath
Before leaving home, cut out a circle of cardboard. Bring this base and a bottle of crafting glue on your camping trip and find the rest of your materials for a holiday wreath in the woods around your site. Pine needles, holly berries, lichen, decorative sticks, bark, or even mushrooms can serve to create a yuletide woodland craft. Give the glue at least two hours to dry before hanging your wreath on your tent flap or camper door.
Let’s admit it, food ranks high on everyone’s list of favorite parts of the holidays. Don’t let your camping trip be an exception! Here are a few camp meals which are big on holiday flavor and low on prep and cleanup.
Turkey, Dressing, and Cranberry Sauce
- Boil 1½ cup water
- Mix in box of stovetop stuffing mix
- Add 2 bags of pre-cooked chicken or turkey chunks
- Drizzle with canned cranberry sauce
Honey Glazed Pineapple Ham and Broccoli
- Fan out 4 lbs of thick, pre-cut, pre-cooked ham slices in the bottom of one half of a cast iron skillet or dutch oven
- Sprinkle with ½ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup honey, and top with slices of canned pineapple and a bit of the pineapple juice
- In the other half of the pan, place two cups of pre-cut broccoli
- Drizzle broccoli with 2 tbsp olive oil, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper
- Place pot on a grate above the fire
- Cook until broccoli is tender – around 30-45 minutes
- Cut the tops off several oranges, about 1½” from the top
- Hollow out the insides of the oranges with a spoon
- Mix a box of instant brownie mix with whatever the box calls for
- Pour mixture into the oranges
- Replace orange top
- Wrap in 2 layers of tin foil and place in the embers of the campfire
- Remove with tongs after 30-50 minutes
For more delicious camping meals see Best Campfire Tin Foil Recipes.
Christmas is brimming with traditional activities that can absolutely be translated into a camping environment. You’ll be surprised how much many Christmas traditions and camping traditions had in common already!
Gingerbread houses are the quintessential holiday craft, but who says you can’t branch out to other structures? By simply leaning two horizontal graham crackers together, you’ve got a perfect tent to decorate. Or if you are an engineering or artistic pro, feel free to try a gingerbread Airstream or motorhome. All you need to bring on your trip is:
- Paper plates for a platform
- Graham crackers
- Ziplock bags (cut off the corner for a frosting piping dispenser)
- A butter knife for smoothing frosting
- Candy for decorating
We all already love to sing campfire songs, and if you’re like me, the only songs you actually know the words to are Christmas songs! If you have a friend with a guitar or ukulele, bring them along, but even if you have to sing acapella, crooning to your favorite carols around a warm fire with friends will be a hard holiday memory to beat.
Tell Scary Stories
In Victorian England, it was tradition to tell scary stories at Christmastime. It’s not as common anymore, but you can still see occasional references to it. For example, the line in the song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” says, “There’ll be scary old stories and tales of the glories of long, long ago,” and in the spooky nature of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. So when you’re telling scary stories around the fire as you might already do, just know now that you are also being very festive in the process.
Fire Pine Cones
This activity is a bit of Christmas decoration meets woodland craft meets science experiment. Bring a bit of boric acid powder and a bottle of rum from home, and once at the campsite, find the driest pine cone possible. You can use most of the rum for eggnog but save a little to sprinkle on the pine cone along with a small amount of the boric acid powder. After it’s got a light dusting of alcohol and boric acid, toss the pine cone into the fire for a display of pretty colors as it burns. It’s like a Christmas lights display that requires no electricity!
- If you are camping in a trailer or RV remember to bring extra propane for your heater.
- If you are tent camping, be sure to use a tent that is rated for cold weather and snow.
- Use a sleeping bag that is rated for freezing temperatures.
- Consider bringing a small heater for your tent.
- Use an extra layer of insulation between the floor of the tent and your sleeping bag to keep the cold from the ground from seeping into your tent.
- Use a thermal blanket inside the tent to help retain heat.
Now that you’ve got the appropriate attire, ambiance, food, and entertainment taken care of, all you have to do on this holiday adventure is bask in the glow of friendship and love and enjoy camping during what is, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year.