West Michigan Tourist Association

Winter Camping

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

By David Buth from Bill & Paul's Sporthaus, Grand Rapids

Winter camping is not a misery-fest! Think about it - no crowds, peace and solitude and quiet, no biting insects, bears are hibernating, no sweltering heat, a winter wonderland to explore, long nights where you sleep sooooo well cozy in your sleeping bag, hot drinks and lots of them. Plus it's inexpensive. If you have the right gear and monitor things closely, there is no reason to be cold. Really.


  • Wear wool, capilene, fleece, down, synthetic fill. Not cotton - it is a poor insulator because it absorbs moisture
  • Stay dry! If something gets wet or sweaty, take it off and get something dry against your skin
  • Sleeping bags zip together - you and your partner will be warmer that way!
  • Sleeping pads insulate you from the cold ground - you can even stack two on top of each other
  • Sit or stand on sleeping pads while you cook or hang out
  • Sleeping socks - save one pair to put on just for sleeping. Keep them dry.
  • Hot drinks! More calories than usual!
  • Bring extra fuel, especially if you are melting snow for water
  • If you wake up cold, have a snack handy. Eat it and then do some sit-ups in your sleeping bag. You'll warm up in no time.
  • Get in your sleeping bag warm and you will stay that way. We do a dance and get all warmed up and then get right in the sleeping bags.
  • Travel by skis or snowshoes
  • Dry, fluffy snow is a great insulator, surround your tent with it a foot high
  • Minimize/avoid exposed skin
  • Use water bottle covers to insulate water bottles
  • And, of course, don't build a fire under snow-loaded tree branches!

Here are a few campgrounds in West Michigan that are open for winter camping:

National Parks and Michigan State Parks also offer a scenic winter getaway for camping:

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
  • William Mitchell State Park
  • Ludington State Park
  • North Higgins Lake State Park
  • Traverse City State Park
  • Fort Custer Recreation Area