It almost goes without saying you need a four season tent, but which one to choose? The ability to cope with high winds, rain and potentially snow mean that strength has to be a major consideration.
Hilleberg make a range of tents that are certainly capable of withstanding the worst winter conditions you can expect to encounter in the UK. Their Red Label range of tents offer a balance of weight and strength that makes them ideal winter backpacking. From the popular, super stable one person Soulo through to the spacious and versatile tunnel tent design of the Nallo 2 and the new version of the Allak which easily fits three people there is definitely a tent to suit your needs.
A fantastic all-rounder is the MSR Access (available in 1, 2 or 3 person models). The solo version weighs just 1.3kg, unthinkable for a true four season tent a few years ago.
We’d recommend a bag that has a Comfort Limit down to -10°C for UK winter camping that’s a sweeping generalisation and if you are a cold sleeper you might want to consider going even lower. The recommendation also assumes full body coverage in the bag (i.e. socks, long-johns, base-layer), and backup down clothing just in case.
Having established a general rating which bag would we choose? As an ultralight winter bag Rab’s new Mythic Ultra 360 sleeping bag ticks all the boxes and is one of the most technically advanced bags out there. Less expensive options exist though, either not quite as warm or heavier – these are Marmots Helium bag which weighs more but has a temperature rating of -12°C or Sea to Summit Men's Spark III or Women's Flame III which are marginally heavier but have an exceptional balance of weight, warmth and especially pack size.
Insulation is the key to a winter sleeping mat – thankfully most manufacturers have them tested so you can compare one against another, this makes the choice straight forward. I would also choose a rectangular mat rather than a Mummy one for Winter camping as you are less likely to come off it, if your legs come off in the night you can get cold quite quickly.
For the same reason you may want to consider an oversized mat, but giving the weight penalty this would be a personal choice.
Our recommendation would be Thermarest’s 2020 NeoAir Xtherm, at just 456 grams for the regular it's very lightweight but offers full insulation from the cold ground. This is a new mat for Spring 2020 and it now features the ‘WingLock Valve’ which adds an extra stage of security with the valve when inflating and deflating.
Exped’s Downmat XP 9 M Sleeping Mat, with an ASTM R-Value of 7.8 it would be another alternative with the highest insulation value on any mat we stock. It is made from hard wearing 75D fabric throughout whereas the Xtherm has 30D on the top and 70D on the bottom where it saves weight but potentially reduces the durability.
If you’ve ever used screw on gas canisters in very cold conditions you will have no doubt gone out and bought a liquid fuel stove as soon as you got home. Low temperatures kills off the pressure in a cylinder causing the gas to trickle out rather than spurt into your stove burner head.
There are some innovative ideas around for improving this performance but if you do a lot of winter camping there is only one choice, liquid fuels.
Outside the UK you may have to burn dirty fuels, of which the worst are Kerosene, unleaded petrol and diesel, if this is the case then the best option may be the MSR Dragonfly Multi-Fuel Stove which has established itself as an expedition workhorse when these kind of fuels may be all that you can source. If you are likely to use gas canisters in addition to liquid fuels then the MSR Whisperlite Universal Multi-Fuel Stove is a very reliable, tried and tested option.
If though, you are likely to have access to clean fuel, such as so-called ‘White Gas’ and other sources like gas canisters, then our immediate recommendation is the award winning Soto StormBreaker Multi-Fuel Stove. It has all the benefits (cold weather performance) of a liquid fuel stove with unrivaled adaptability and convenience.
There are lots of other kit choices to make – why not read our ‘Ten tips for Winter camping article, which suggests a few?