7 Tips for Winter Camping Around Nashville

Winter camping around Nashville.
Winter camping around Nashville. Leah Gray
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Winter in Nashville is ever-changing and unpredictable. One day it’s spitting sleet, and the next day it's sunny and 70 degrees. Typically camping is saved for the first warm spring day or those cool summer evenings, but there are perks to getting out in the winter. These seven tips will get you out of the house, under the stars, and prepared for everything Nashville winters have to offer—good and bad.

1. Find Your Destination

Winter hike at Foster Falls.
Winter hike at Foster Falls. Leah Gray

Many campgrounds around middle Tennessee are seasonal. A site you frequent in the spring might not open until April, so it’s always a good idea to check the park’s website to be sure. If the park doesn’t specify dates most likely it’s open.

Foster Falls is a quick, hour and a half drive toward Chattanooga, and the South Cumberland State Park (which Foster Falls is located in) has a great selection of campsites. The grounds are normally pretty vacant during the winter months and feel secluded and private. The falls are gorgeous all seasons, and the Climbers Access hike is a good trek that brings you right along the base of the waterfall.

2. Travel Safely

Winter hike on Climbers Access trail at Foster Falls.
Winter hike on Climbers Access trail at Foster Falls. Leah Gray

If anything is certain it’s that you don’t know what the weather’s going to do. The weather forecast can’t always be trusted and with that comes the possibility of hazardous travel. It’s well known that Nashville drivers are terrible, and rain (not to mention sleet or snow) makes it a million times worse. When looking for a weekend spot to camp, choose a campground that is close to home and/or not too off the beaten path. A safe and stressless drive will make for an awesome trip.

3. Gear Up

This is probably the most important part of prepping for a winter camping trip. If it’s a weekend in the 60s with a 50 percent chance of rain, your best bet is to pack light layers and a good shell. For colder days and nights, bring thicker layers. Always bring fire starters, like lint, because most likely you’ll be needing to dry off some wood. When gathering wood look under brush and leaves for the driest stuff. Bring liquid fuel stoves and extra fuel in case you can’t get the fire hot enough

4. Stay Warm While You Sleep

If the forecast is showing lows in the 20s and 30s at night, be sure and pack your warmest sleeping bag. Keeping warm while you sleep is essential. If it’s one of those rare snowy days in Nashville, the four-season tent is a must, along with thicker layers and long johns. If it’s especially wet and snowy, bringing in your own firewood is probably the way to go.

5. Protect Your Feet

Keep those socks dry. A good wicking, merino wool sock and waterproof boots will be your best friends. Keep them in the tent at night so they’ll stay dry. Remember that wet boots and socks will freeze even if the low is only in the 30s.

6. Place Your Tent with Intention

Starting the fire while winter camping at Savage Gulf.
Starting the fire while winter camping at Savage Gulf. Leah Gray

With unpredictable weather comes random blasts of high wind and short, torrential downpours. Place your tent in a spot that has good wind coverage, keeping in mind the direction of the wind as to not have smoke billowing into the tent. Always have the rainfly ready or already on to avoid those midnight surprises.

To play it safe, bring all of your gear (especially boots and clothes) into the tent when you go to sleep. Waking up to soaking bags and gear is never fun and can make the rest of the trip much more difficult than necessary.

7. Have a Positive Mindset

The best thing to do going into a winter camping weekend is to decide early on to keep a positive mindset. Sure, you may wake up in the middle of the night to crazy wind or snow flurries, but if you prepare yourself and look at everything positively, you’ll always receive good things back. Middle Tennessee in the winter is worth all of the hardship it may bring, so get out there and camp away.

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