This winter at the ski resort, turn your vehicle into your own personal basecamp. Set up properly, a mobile basecamp beats the base lodge and will certainly save you a few bucks. So take advantage of these tips to turn your vehicle into your own personal ski lodge this ski season and kiss cold chicken nuggets goodbye, wish the swarms of other skiers farewell, and say adieu to overpriced après beverages.

Awning or Shelter

One of the best parts about base lodges is the reprieve they provide from the weather, which you can achieve outside by adding an awning to your vehicle’s rack or packing a freestanding shelter (like the Big Agnes Three Forks Shelter). Not only can an awning or shelter help eliminate exposure to the elements, block bone-chilling wind, and trap some heat, but they also help you find a bit of privacy in the parking lot.

Something to Stand On

Weather provides the biggest challenge to staying warm while getting ready or hanging out in the ski area parking lot, but standing on snow and on icy frozen ground can chill you faster than a mid-February day at Cannon. Old closed-cell sleeping pads (like the Therma-A- Rest Z Lite) are designed to prevent the cold ground from sapping body heat, making them an ideal addition to a mobile base lodge. They also provide an ideal place to stand while changing into ski boots and are an easy solution to stepping on the cold, wet ground while getting changed.

Don’t have a sleeping pad or two that you’re ready to demote to this duty? Old yoga mats, cheap foam flooring, or even a second set of car floor mats will work.

Layer Up

Even with a shelter up and a “floor” down, it’s still winter and the right layers can make the difference between a cozy respite and a full-blown shiver fest. A toasty puffy—like the EMS Featherpack Hooded Jacket (men’s/women’s)—is a foundational piece in any outdoor person’s kit and a great first step to a toasty mobile base lodge. Pair your puffy with a winter hat and some dry gloves before or after hitting the hill.

Are your feet ready for a break? Insulated slip-on shoes—like the North Face ThermoBall Traction Booties (men’s/women’s)—deliver a warm and comfortable reprieve to frozen toes from frigid and rigid ski boots.

Get Cozy

For those super-cold days (and people who can never seem to get warm), an insulated blanket—like the EMS Camp Blanket (one-person/two-person)—provides a simple way to add extra warmth. A sleeping bag is another great option for staying warm while chilling out in the parking lot.

Still cold? Chemical hand and foot warmers can help bring the heat, especially to frozen fingers and toes. They’re particularly great in the morning as you transition from the parking lot to first chair.

Courtesy of Camden Snow Bowl

Set Up Camp

Camp chairs are essential to recreating the ski lodge experience in the parking lot. They provide a place to prepare for the day and serve as a location to kick back after going bell to bell on the hill. Some skiers/boarders prefer luxurious seating arrangements (like the Big Agnes Big Six Armchair), others will opt for more minimalist accommodations (like the Big Agnes Mica Basin Camp Chair), while tight-fisted ski bums favor vintage lawn chairs found at yard sales. While space is often the main consideration when choosing a camp chair (both in the lot and your ski-gear-filled car), those setting up mobile base lodges will want to be mindful of how easy a chair is to set up with gloves on.

While not essential, a table (such as the Big Agnes Soul Kitchen Camp Table) is a good addition to any mobile base lodge. It provides a place to cook, set things down, or even space for an impromptu card game.

Food for Thought

It doesn’t take a gourmet meal to look like a parking lot Wolfgang Puck when compared to the stale chicken tenders and soggy pizza served in many ski area cafeterias or the smooshed peanut butter sandwiches favored by ski bums. Make your mobile cafeteria as involved (think a stove like the Eureka Ignite Camp Stove or Gonzo Grill Cook System) or uninvolved (such as the Hydro Flask 28 oz Insulated Food Jar) as you like, just make sure you’re serving something hot—it helps to warm from the inside—chili, soup, and mac and cheese are perennial favorites. A quick-boiling canister stove such as the Jet Boil Zip is a fantastic option if you’re just planning to serve up warm drinks, like hot cocoa.

Paper plates and plastic knives and forks will work for dishing out food, but reusable camp dinnerware and utensils are more sustainable. Don’t forget paper towels to clean up messes and a garbage bag or two to clean up after yourself. Hand sanitizer is another nice touch.

Hosting après ski? The Hydro Flask 64 oz. Insulated Beer Growler will keep your favorite libation—whether it’s PBR or IPA—at just the right temperature for you and a few of your ski bum buddies to enjoy at the end of the day.

Parking Lot Rules and Etiquette

Having the right gear will go a long way to steering clear of ski area base lodges this season, but a little knowledge can up your game even more.

Pick your parking spot wisely. It seems skiers angle as hard for that prized parking spot near the base area as they do for the first chair. However, if you’re building your own base lodge, it will likely mean a lot of traffic passing by throughout the day. Consider selecting a more discreet parking spot. Avoid backing into your spot—you’ll want the trunk facing the lot for easy access to all the stuff stored in it, so just pull straight in.

It’s extremely important to know the rules of the ski area you’re visiting in regard to tailgating. Can you cook? Are open beverages allowed? Does the parking lot have open/closed hours? Having the answers to questions like these is an awesome way to ensure your day is as smooth as a freshly groomed cruiser.