Camping in Alaska During the Winter With a Rental Car

Are you searching for the ultimate adventure? Whether you’re a thrill seeker looking for a new kind of challenge or an experienced camper ready to check winter camping off your bucket list, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’re sharing everything you need to know about winter car camping in Alaska.

As a team made up of adventurers, outdoorsy types, and adrenaline junkies alike, we are uniquely qualified to show you the ropes from a local’s perspective. Before you embark on your next (or first!) winter camping adventure, read on for all of our expert tips, tricks, and more.

Why Winter Camping?

If you’ve never been camping during the winter season, it may not sound all that appealing. After all, it’s cold and miserable, right? Actually, not if you plan well. There are plenty of reasons why you should consider winter car camping in Alaska, including:

Kiss the Crowds Goodbye

Once Labor Day hits, the crowds quickly start to clear out of Alaska’s coolest (pun intended) camping spots. Winter is an ideal time to go if you don’t want your scenic camping trip to be diminished by someone else’s crying baby or campfire stories. Of course, there will also be significantly more parking options for your home away from home.

Take in Unique Views

Sure, wildflowers are beautiful. But, have you ever gone leaf-peeping in the Alaskan wilderness? If you plan your camping trip towards the end of fall or early winter, you can catch the tail end of Alaska’s natural fireworks show. And if you’re too late for the changing leaves? Our snow-capped mountains are a pretty phenomenal sight as well.

Go Backcountry Skiing

Take it from us, there’s no better winter camping activity than backcountry skiing or snowboarding. Depending on your campsite location, you can hike, snowshoe, skin, or even helicopter to those coveted untouched slopes and cruise down.

Of course, you will have to take certain precautions beforehand, like getting avalanche certified and investing in backcountry gear.

What You Need

If you want your camping experience to be enjoyable, you’ll need to pack the proper gear. Here is everything you need to go winter car camping in Alaska:

Good Sleeping Gear

Sleeping in the cold is brutal if you aren’t prepared, so your sleeping equipment is your best friend. Therefore, you shouldn’t skimp on it! I recommend getting a mummy-style sleeping bag (meaning it covers your head) that is rated to -20°F.

If you need some inspiration, Mountain Hardwear’s Ghost sleeping bag or Western Mountaineering’s Lynx sleeping bag are some of our favorites.

Additionally, we recommend packing a comfortable sleeping pad to place below your bag. Not only will this make your slumber a tad comfier, but it can act as another barrier against the cold. Another thing to consider is a sleeping bag liner, as it can increase the interior temperature of your bag by 10°F or so.

Means of Condensation Management

If you aren’t already familiar, tent condensation manifests as a thin layer of frost covering the inside of your tent. It also consists of moisture droplets that transfer onto your clothing and gear. As you can imagine, this is less than ideal for winter camping in Alaska.

The best way to prevent tent condensation is to help it escape by venting your tent. To do this, opt for a tent that has both a front door and an interior bug screen. You can completely unzip the outer door (which allows condensation to escape) while keeping the bug screen closed (which prevents snow from entering).

Ways to Generate Heat

The final way to stay warm during your winter car camping trip is to generate your own heat. Stuffing hand or foot warmers into your sleeping bag is a good start. However, if you don’t have any on hand (pun intended), heating a plastic water bottle will do the trick.

Since you are car camping (as opposed to backpacking), you have the luxury of packing heavier items for the trek. Therefore, bringing a propane heater or electric space heater might be worth the investment. You can also invest in candle lanterns, which provide both light and warmth.

Best Alaskan Car Rentals for Winter Camping

Planning to go winter car camping in Alaska this year? The most important thing you’ll need is a vehicle that has been prepped for driving in snow and ice. Because most people travel to Alaska by plane, renting a car from a reputable agency is your best bet.

Avis Alaska is the only statewide car rental agency, and we boast some of the best options for car camping. Not only does our team know which cars are best suited for Alaska’s varying terrain, but our flexible drop-off/pick-up policy makes trip planning a breeze.  Give us a call to make your car camping dreams a reality this winter season!