Winter Camping (How to Camp in the Winter)

Many people may not consider camping in the depths of winter. However, it can still be as enjoyable and, to some degree, more comfortable than in the height of summer.

You have fewer crowds to contend with, and there are far fewer insects and bugs to fend off. Besides, you get a very different glimpse of the great outdoors in its entire winter wonderland glory.

If you are pondering over a winter camping trip, you will need to pack a very different set of winter camping gear before you head off.

Winter Camping

Here you can learn all winter camping tips to help you embrace all the winter conditions you can face on any of your winter trips.

Winter Camping Camp Making

Possibly by far, the most significant distinction between summer and winter camping is the potential for camping in the snow. Once you arrive at your spot for the day, try to take time to find the right place to camp rather than unpack straight away.

Unwind, have a warm snack and drink, put on some extra layers of warm clothes, and survey your area for such items:

  • Protection from Wind: look for natural wind blocks such as a group of trees. Even a small hill can break the wind to make things more comfortable.
  • Water Source: Are you close to a stream or river, or will you be melting snow for water?
  • Hazards: be careful not to set up your tent under trees because of falling branches
  • Sunrise: Try to find a spot exposed to the sunrise as it helps your tent and you warm up quicker.
  • Landmarks: Pick out some markers so you can locate your camp if snow hits you or it is going dark when winter backpacking
  • Vegetation: Try to find areas that are on bare ground rather than on vegetation, such as an established campsite
  • Snowfall: Make sure your campsite isn’t in an area where there could be an avalanche or large amounts of falling snow.

Coleman Weather Master 10-Person Outdoor Tent

Setting Up Winter Tents on Snow

You will be using a winter tent unless you can build a snow shelter or an igloo. You will find cold-weather tents slightly different from the lightweight backpacking tents you use in the summer.

Here’s all you need to know about tents and making your camp.

Pack down the snow is one of the first things to do. This helps avoid snow melting from your body heat and easier to pitch your tent.

Build a windbreak to stop wind if there are no natural ones. A small wall that runs around your flat area can be enough to stop the wind from hitting your camping tent.

One thing you will most likely need is snow stakes and aluminum poles. These poles can prevent accidents if there is heavy snow, and they design these tent stakes for snow use. You can also use stuff sacks packed with snow. (Read How To Boil Water While Camping)

Your tent will be the most vital piece of equipment, so having the right one is critical. If you know the weather will be relatively mild, you can get away with using a 3-season tent.

If you know you may be facing high winds, or there is the chance of heavy snowfall, then you need one of the 4-season tents. You will see these are a tent designed for bad weather.

They have heavier duty poles, the fabrics are more substantial, they come with less mesh, and their rainfly almost reach the ground to prevent snow from blowing up the inside.

One additional tip is to select a tent double the size of the people staying inside. Doing this allows you some extra space to stow your camping gear.

Winter Camping Food and Drink Tips

One thing campers overlook in the winter is the excess energy the body needs to keep warm. You must eat well and stay hydrated after, during, and especially before any activities.

Here are some winter weather food and drink tips:

Store Your Food: While it can vary depending on where you are, you need to be wary of animals that are scouting for a snack. Storing food in backpacks or something secure and hanging it from a tree in a stuff sack or a cool box.

Use Water Bottles: Many backpackers use water hydration reservoirs during warm weather. In winter, leave these at home and use insulated water bottles. Fill your water bottle before sleep, ready for the following day.

Drinking: If you cannot access a stream, you will have to melt snow for your drinking water. If you are out on the trail, you may find stopping to make hot drinks inconvenient, yet it does help retain your body temperature and quench your thirst.

It is also important to force yourself to sip water during the day because you can dehydrate without realizing it.

Eating: You can find two areas when it comes to food for camping during the winter. When hiking, be sure to take short lunch breaks. The reason being, if you stop for too long, your body cools down. Keep moving and eat food packed with proteins, carbs, and fats.

Back in camp, keep your warm evening meals simple that is calorie-dense and easy to prepare. Spending too long washing lots of dishes is no fun in cold weather. One-pot options are ideal, easy to make, and freeze-dried foods where you have to add hot water.

Winter Camping Essentials

Essential Winter Camping Gear

You need to go through all your gear and make sure they are all suitable for use in the winter.

Even your backpack needs to be larger to carry your extra stuff.

Sleeping bags: Select a sleeping bag rated at least ten degrees lower than the temperatures you expect to face.

Synthetic insulation is the best option because this dries faster and is lighter to carry. You can opt for down, yet this loose insulation is wet. Winter sleeping bags also come with sealed zippers, hoods, and draft collars.

Sleeping bag liners are also handy ways of staying warm as they can retain an extra 5 to 25°F of warmth for a cozy night.

Sleeping Pads: When cold weather camping, you will need a pad to sleep. They deliver extra insulation and provide a softer surface to lie. A sleeping pad is rated by an R-Vale. The rating runs from 1.0 to 8.0, and the higher the number, the better. Cold weather ratings are 4 upward.

Many campers use two sleeping pads, the one next to the ground being closed-cell and an inflatable sleeping mat.

Winter Weather Camping Clothing

No guide to winter camping would be complete without detailing the clothing you need to take with you.

While you may not be going to the extreme and tackling the north face, you do need the right clothing to be as comfortable as possible.

You do need layers in your clothing because this is proven as the best way to retain body heat.

Base Layer: Here’s the layer of underwear that sits next to your skin. When camping in winter, medium-weight long underwear is a suitable base layer choice for use everywhere. Lightweight garments are preferable for mild conditions and heavyweight garments for sub-freezing temperatures.

Base layers need to be fabrics that wick perspiration away from your skin and dry rapidly, such as polyester or wool.

Middle Layer: This is your insulating layer designed to keep you warm. In general, puffier equals warmer. For the upper body, winter campers have puffy down or synthetic jackets. Fleece can be used as long as it is heavyweight. For legs, fleece pants or heavyweight long underwear are best.

Outer Layers: These are your waterproof layers, and they do need to be waterproof and not just water-resistant.

Other items are a winter hat, gloves or mittens, sunglasses, and good hiking socks.

Winter Footwear

If the snow is only a few inches deep, you may be able to use your regular boots on your camping trip.

For more extreme weather, you will need to choose purpose-made winter hiking boots or boots for mountaineering that offer waterproofing and good insulation.

Gaiters are a great addition to keep snow from your boots and to add some warmth.

Camping Survival

One of the last things you need will be to build a winter survival kit. If there is lots of snow, an avalanche transceiver should be taken.

A probe is also handy in case of snowfall. These are light and can reach depths of around ten feet if any of your parties become buried.

One final thing is your snow shovel. While you may not face an avalanche, these do help when you set up camp.

You can find many other tips and tricks for camping in the year’s colder months, yet following all the above will make you comfortable and keep you safe.

Read more Camping Guides.

Winter Camping (How to Camp in the Winter)

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