Is camping in the cold actually better than camping in the heat?

Published: June 10, 2024

It’s the time of the year when, traditionally, most grey nomads are heading north to enjoy some tropical heat … but it seems that more than ever are prepared to face – and perhaps embrace – the cool southern temperatures this year.

Recent statistics from the Caravan Industry Association of Australia indicated that a lot less travellers then normal are heading up to Queensland. Possible explanations included high fuel prices, general cost of living pressures, and fears over the poor states of many roads and general infrastructure after earlier major flooding events.

But could there be another reason … some people are simply deciding they would prefer to camp in the cold than the hot!

Although temperatures at Naracoorte in South Australia’s Limestone Coast are expected to get down to 2 degrees by next weekend, campsite bookings are apparently still extremely strong.

“A lot of our campsites are heavily booked out,” National Parks and Wildlife Service Limestone Coast Manager, Nick McIntyre, told the ABC. “There is quite a good contingent of people deciding to camp out.”

While Mr McIntyre said these campers were of the ‘hard-core variety’’, it seems that the number of hard-core campers is growing rapidly.

A caller into the ABC, John from Woodside, made a strong case for winter camping.

“I’d much rather be sitting around a campfire having a nice drink, all rugged up and snuggled, having a great time than on a hot summer’s night where it’s sweltering, you’re in your jocks in a stinking bloody hot tent and you can’t go outside because the mozzies will eat you alive,” he said.  “I know what I’d rather be doing!”

Veteran grey nomad, Cynthia Kay, agreed.

“I love the heat but, goodness, some of those nights in the NT can blistering and very uncomfortable,” she said. “When it’s just too hot to sleep and all you can hear are the insects swarming around, it’s almost enough to make you wish you were down in Tassie … I said almost!”

But experienced travellers Sue Stanley and partner Shane have experienced the extremes of cold camping … and don’t particularly recommend it.

Back in 2021, they were travelling in the rig they reserve for their more remote adventures … a 2018 LandCruiser Troop Carrier with a James Baroud rooftop tent … when they arrived at Expedition National Park up on the Great Dividing Range.

As the time, Sue described the conditions as being ‘cold and challenging’, and says she was delighted when their campground neighbours invited them to share a campfire.

“We eagerly joined them rugged up with warm layers and puffer jackets along with beanies and gloves,” said Sue. “We had a lovely evening getting to know them and we all beat a hasty retreat to bed as the flames died down to glowing coals.”

Having a hiking background around the Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands and the ACT where they have sometimes camped in rock shelter overhangs, Sue and Shane were well equipped for the cold with all the right gear.

“In the morning though when I tried to get water from the taps on the jerry cans for the billy, the taps were frozen solid, likewise the tap on the Troopy’s water tank was also stubbornly frozen,” said Sue. “The Robinson Gorge campground in Expedition National Park has a tap midway down the hill from the tank beside the toilet block, but the black poly pipe was also frozen solid!”

The couple later learned that the temperature had been -5 degrees, the coldest ever July morning in that region!

“I can’t say I enjoy camping in the cold,” said Sue. “And I always appreciate the warm rays of morning sun to thaw the frost and my numb fingers.”

But Sue says the secret to surviving – and enjoying – any camping trip is to be as well prepared as possible … and that means for weather as well as for road conditions.

“You can’t always guarantee a cool inviting waterhole for a swim on a scorching hot day,” said Sue. “Or a cosy warm fire to provide warmth on a chilly night or brisk morning.”

  • What the coldest and the hottest temperatures you’ve ever camped in? Which did you prefer and why?

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I live on the Atherton Tablelands. If it’s too cold I head down to the coast. If it’s too wet I head east. I haven’t experienced too hot yet. Best of all worlds with great camping all round.

Last edited 7 days ago by ROSS SIMON

You live on the Atherton Tablelands you don’t know what cold is and I’m very Jelous

We have a refrigerator temperature gauge that displays the ambient temperature & the temperature inside our fridge.
We were camped in the Victorian Mallee & on a few mornings the ambient (outside) temperature was lower than the temperature inside our fridge.
We loved enjoying a bacon & egg breakfast around our campfire.
We love cold weather camping, we don’t like hot weather.

We’re from the Atherton tablelands . This is our 2nd winter down south. We are enjoying it after the heat of summer . We’re in a caravan so can warm that up nice n toasty. I don’t miss the humidity on the far nth coas of qld

Give me cool weather camping anytime. My wife and I also had a James Baroud on a trailer. We have recently bought a Stockman Rover mainly to save the ladder to bed. (We are now in our 70’s.) The Rover eliminates the ladder but is also hard walled and insulated. We have yet to test it out in minus conditions but the thought of being tucked up inside it is very appealing.

I think it is cold when you wake up to icicles inside hanging from the roof of your camper trailer tent. This happened to us last year half way across the Nullabor. I will stick to Caravanning in future..

I perfer warmer climate.

A Motorhome fitted with a diesel heater guarantees that you’ll ALWAYS be comfortable, summer and winter, down here in Tassie

A mixture of both cool & warm camps is good for the soul. An outback trip with 30C days followed by 5C overnight is great for the campfire cooking. If it’s below zero o/night then we aren’t there. With warm days I can tolerate the cool my wife likes.

Hi, -10 at Wilmot Tas and Karungal ?? Walls NSW.
Near 50 in the Pilbara .

The coldest I’ve ever been camping was at Kanangra Walls once in late May. It had been nice warm weather but a cold change came through without us realising. When we arrived at the campground I sent the kids out to play in
the late sun. They came back very quickly saying it was too cold to play!

We had to go to bed by 8pm as even huddled right over the fire it was bitterly cold. Had to wear all our clothes to bed at first, including beanies. Later we woke up to find it was snowing – our simple, light tent roofs were bowing under the weight of snow! Did not look good, luckily the tents didn’t collapse!

A few years ago my wife Robyn and I camped at Girraween National Park in the middle of winter. We were in our slideon camper and were the only people there. We had an excellent dooner on the bed so were nice and warm, however I was rather cold around the ears. In the morning we found the tap in the camper frozen and the thermometer read -12 Celsius. We love camping in the cold but now have a truma gas heater. Much nicer.

As old ex-bikers, the coldest camp for us was at a motorcycle rally in West Australia’s wheatbelt. Temp was a bit under 0C. We were using old wool-filled sleeping bags and even though we were fully clothed, leather jackets and flying boots left on in the bags, we froze! After that we wised up and bought alpine type sleeping bags rated at -5deg. and -10C (My wife sleeps warm, I’m the opposite). Bulky but essential. Way better!
We’ve slept in tents in the tropics many times during nor’west fishing trips but it was mostly in April or August/September when conditions were somewhat milder than high summer. Last time in Exmouth we had an industrial fan to keep things more livable. Although neighboring campers made a few murmurs about the noise, there was a fair bit of envy when we slept more comfortably. Some of our coastal wilderness camp-nights were relatively heat affected but nothing too radical. Uncovered, nekkid sleeping was the norm – with insect netting deployed of course.


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