Many people who love camping pack their gear away at the first sign of cold weather.
Winter camping is growing in popularity. It requires more and different gear than summer camping but it’s worth the cost and effort to enjoy the experience of overnighting in snow and sub-zero temperatures. With the right equipment winter camping isn’t just comfortable. It’s fun.
It is incredibly quiet and serene. There’s no question you’re “getting away from it all”.
The sight of moonlight reflected on the snow or northern lights dancing in the sky is something you’ll never forget. You’ll also never forget the looks on your coworkers faces as you tell them you’re going camping at -20.
Start with an overnight camping trip and increase the time span as you become more experienced and comfortable with winter camping.
Many outdoor equipment manufacturers make four season tents. Look for a model that is built relatively low to the ground to mitigate the effects of wind.
Make sure you choose a tent with solid poles for support. Snow is heavy and when it collects on top of the tent it can crush your shelter if it’s not well supported.
Choose a tent that offers good ventilation and is waterproof.
Bring two basic blue tarps. One will be used on the ground to keep moisture from creeping in and stop the bottom of the tent from sticking to the snow beneath it. The other can be used as a second “roof” for the tents.
Never erect your tent under a tree. Snow-laden boughs may break off, damaging the tent or injuring you.
When you set up your camping site make sure the wind is blowing on the back of the tent. That way, smoke from your campfire won’t blow back into the tent.
Bring extra pegs and waterproof rope. Your tent must be tightly secured so it doesn’t buckle under the weight of the snow or get blown away in the wind.
A sleeping bag is one of the most important investments you can make to guarantee a comfortable winter camping experience. Tossing, turning and shivering through the night is sheer misery.
Sleeping bags are rated to -60. Look at the historical overnight low temperatures in the area you will be camping in and choose a bag rated for a slightly colder temperature. You can always unzip the bag if you are too warm. Look for a bag filled with goose down or synthetic material.
Mummy bags are a good choice for cold weather camping because they fit close to the body and hold in heat but if you are claustrophobic or restless you wont find them comfortable.
Rectangular sleeping bags that zip together are available. A great way to keep warm is to share your body heat with your partner.
Bring a foam or thermarest pad to put under your sleeping bag. It will stop the moisture from seeping in and making you chilled.
Pack an extra toque and socks to wear when you’re sleeping in very cold temperatures.
Cold Weather Clothing
Look for a jacket with a hood and plenty of pockets that are easy to access. Choose a style with down or high quality synthetic filling.
You’ll need a good quality toque, long underwear, insulated over pants, vapor barrier socks, sweaters, gloves, and a pair of well insulated boots. If you are camping in very cold weather look for boots with replaceable felt liners. Bring extra socks and gloves even if you are just planning to spend just one night. If your feet or hands get wet, hypothermia can set in quickly.
Wool is the classic choice for cold weather fashion but the new synthetics like polypropylene are also a good choice particularly if you are planning any strenuous activity. They are very effective at wicking away moisture from the body.
Don’t forget your sunglasses. The relection of the sun on snow or ice, particularly at higher elevations can cause snow blindness.
Set up your cooking area inside your camping site. Here’s what you will need:
There are three major types of camping stoves, each with their own advantage and disadvantage.
Kerosene stoves cook quickly but they are not eco-friendly.
Butane/Propane stoves are clean burning but the fuel will freeze in extreme cold.
Alcohol stoves cook slowly but they are lightweight.
If you are getting a lot of exercise in the cold you will burn a lot of calories. Make up your own trail mix for snacking and include high protein, high fat foods like cashew nuts.
Your outdoors and camping store will have a good selection of freeze dried foods. Add water, heat and serve.
Go the old fashioned route. Heat up a can of pork and beans over the fire.
It’s up to you!
Stackable pots and pans with lids
Pot holder or pot grippers
Extra fuel for cookstove
Salt, pepper and condiments
Add These to Your List of Camping supplies
Add these to your list:
A sharp axe
Snowshoes or cross country skies
Cell phone (if you are in a service area)
First aid kit
Chair with insulated pad
Winter Camping Tips
Don’t camp alone until you have some experience. Join a winter camping group in your area. It’s a great way to meet people and gain valuable winter camping tips.
See if campsites in your area allow winter camping. Many stay open with reduced facilities.
Find out if your cell phone will work at your camping site.
Check the weather forecast before you leave.
Check the avalanche forecast if you are camping in the mountains.
Take a wilderness survival course.
Visit your local sporting goods store for the latest fun and high tech camping gadgets.
Always let someone know where you are going and when you are expected home.
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