Camping in winter is fun.. No really, it is:-) Its a super rewarding activity, but the only problem is getting someone to go along with you. Solo camping in winter time is not a great idea, its a looooong day, too much tent time, not many daylight hours. Having someone with you is a must if you want it to be more fun.
So have a read through this post then go talk a friend who is a little bit crazy just like you into joining you on a good old weekend winter camping excursion.. You will love it.
Winter camping is a beautiful experience. You get to enjoy nights in the utter stillness of the winter landscape, this article will show you how to make the most of your winter camping adventure.
Getting ready for winter camping
If you have not been camping in winter before, select a scenic destination that is sheltered and close to home. You don’t have to go any further than a spot where you no longer hear any noise from the closest road, or where land management regulations permit winter camping. If things don’t work out the way you planned, it will be easy to pack up and get back home fast.
Even if you are not planning on making a fire, it’s a good idea to pick a spot where firewood is available. If you do then unexpectedly have to make a fire, you’ll be able to do so without too much trouble.
Always camp close to open water when possible. This will make it easy to get water without having to melt snow all the time. If you have to melt snow to get water, be aware that you’ll use about three times as much fuel as what you would during normal summer camping, and plan accordingly.
Before you leave to go winter camping, know what the weather forecast is. It is not fun and can be pretty dangerous to be caught by sudden cold, storms, winds, or a thaw that might easily cause sopping wet conditions.
Winter Camping Equipment
To protect yourself from the cold, be prepared to dress in layers using the proper winter camping clothes and undergarments. You will definitely need a lot more clothes when going winter camping for a couple of nights than what you require for a day-long activity like skiing.
Make sure you have a winter sleeping bag that will keep you warm enough during the nights that could be both cold and long. If you don’t have a sleeping bag designed specifically for winter, you could take two normal sleeping bags and put the one inside the other. Make sure this combination works at home before leaving for your trip to make sure it fits and there is enough interior space.
You will also need boots that are both waterproof and warm. If you only own light hiking boots, it is a good idea to go out and buy a cheap pair of moon or snowmobile boots. Warmth is more important than support here. Ensure that they fit properly and are tough enough for the trip.
Don’t stuff additional socks into the boots unless you have enough space to do so. Boots that fit too tight will hamper blood circulation and will not keep your feet warm.
Most 3-season tents will be good enough for winter camping, but if you expect high winds or heavy snow, winter camping tents will be better suited to extreme weather conditions.
A white gas stove is the most effective for use in cold winter conditions, but canister or alcohol stoves will also work well enough in most conditions. Avoid using butane / propane canisters for cartridge stoves (use isobutane instead), and first warm up the cartridge in your parka or sleeping bag before using them.
Hand wear and hats are very important to protect against the cold. Mittens are much more versatile than what gloves are, and they can easily be pulled off briefly when you need additional dexterity. A thick, warm hat is also ideal to keep your head warm.
As weird as it may sound, remember to bring sunscreen and polarized sunglasses. Sun reflecting from snow can cause severe sunburn, especially from the later part of February onward.
During the Hike
Which winter camping gear you’ll need will depend on the exact camping conditions. When the snow isn’t deeper than about a foot, you won’t really be needing snowshoes or skis. You may however invest in some gaiters.
When hiking through snow, turn around often to check out your route from all different angles. This will make it much easier to recognize where you are on the way back to camp, especially if wind or snow has obscured your tracks. This idea works well in all seasons, and not only in winter.
It is always easier to keep warm than what it is to warm up again once you have cooled down too much. Don’t allow yourself to get sweaty or chilled. Anticipate changing temperatures and layer up before the change hits you. It is for example much smarter and easier to actually layer up before you reach a ridge top that is windy, than what it is to reach the top, get chilled to the bone, and then have to struggle against winds when trying to layer up.
Dehydration can easily set in during winter, so don’t forget to drink enough water or other liquids.
Lots of calories are required to keep warm, so don’t allow yourself to get too hungry, but don’t eat to much either.
Around the Camp
Dress in all your warm clothes when you arrive at the camp to preserve as much as possible of the heat that was generated while hiking in.
If you are going to camp on snow, flatten an area for your tent platform as soon as possible by using snowshoes, skis, or just a shovel and boots. Make the area bigger than what you think is required, and be thorough when flattening it. Allow the ground to set very hard before pitching the tent.
Set up the camp in such a way that you are able to easily cook drinks and food from inside the sleeping bag. If a vestibule is used for cooking, prime the stove outside, before bringing it into the tent. Always make sure there is plenty ventilation.
You will probably be spending lots of time in your sleeping bag, so ensure you have lots of activities to make the night’s hours enjoyable, like good conversation, a book, simple multi-course meals, or games.
If you feel you start to get colder, don’t just sit around and not do anything about it. Generate metabolic heat by going for a walk, or doing things like knee bends or sit-ups.
A hot water bottle is also must-have winter camping gear for a chilled camper. When these are put next to your skin under a sleeping bag or clothes, they’ll keep the heat going for up to six hours.
The most difficult times during winter camping are early mornings when temperatures are often the lowest just before sunrise, and you’ll crawl out of your bag having been inactive for a while and will get chilled easily. Get up and do physical activities like going for a walk, or start making a fire, breakfast or coffee immediately. This will warm you up quickly and get your body ready for another magic day.
Winter camping is not to be taken lightly. Ask anyone who has spent the night freezing their ass off just because they did not go prepared with the right gear or provisions. Do not even attempt camping during the winter time if you have not fully planned and prepared all aspects of your trip. It’s a fantastic experience, just do it the right way, be sensible, tell people where you are going to be camping before you leave and go have fun!