Winter camping can be fun, but it can also be just plain cold.
It’s cold. It’s snowing. And it’s a great time for a camping trip. Whether you are camping as part of a hunting trip, or going just to enjoy the outdoors, cold-weather camping can be just as enjoyable as in the warmer months. The moon makes the snow-draped forest glow, and the retreat of the summertime campers means you have plenty of space to yourself.
But a winter camping trip requires a little more thought and planning than your average summer outing. Peter Kummerfeldt, a wilderness survival expert who teaches outdoor skills through his company, OutdoorSafe, has camped out in minus 45 F temperatures while working at the Air Force Survival School in Alaska. His winter survival tips can help a camper navigate extreme conditions as well as less daunting trips closer to home.
You want clothes that can keep you warm during periods of inactivity. Chances are you’ll create plenty of heat during that back-country trek, but it’s tougher to maintain a comfortable temperature when you stop moving.
So layer up. Start with polyester thermal underwear for the base layer. Choose breathable fleece to inhibit the accumulation of perspiration during exertion. If you prefer natural fibers, choose merino wool and wool-fleece blends that offer the warmth of wool without the itchiness. Pack a scarf or neck gaiter that you can take off and on easily to regulate body temperature, and take a lightweight jacket that is both waterproof and breathable.
Layering can also keep your head and feet warm. Fleece or wool stocking caps can be made windproof when covered with a detachable hood. Leave your cotton socks at home. Instead, choose wool (merino wool won’t be itchy) or wicking polyester socks designed for hiking. Boots don’t have to be expensive, but they should be waterproof or water-repellent, especially if you plan on hiking through snow.
Never Neglect Your Hands
To keep those digits warm, pack polyester glove liners and gloves, then gauntlets to layer over them. Stock up on chemical heating pads for when you need a little heat boost.
When you arrive at your campsite, start your fire before doing any other setup. Plan ahead and always pack fire sources. You can go low-tech with tightly packed dryer lint stuffed into old pill bottles or film canisters, or high-tech with magnesium fire starters.
Choose the Right Campsite
Summer campers might prefer the shadiest and most secluded spot. In winter, however, the morning sun can be a welcome companion. Take note of where the sun will first appear at sunrise, and angle your tent to take advantage of the early rays while shielding the door from the wind.
Hydrate, Then Hydrate Some More
You may not feel thirsty in cold weather, but staying hydrated is just as important in winter as it is in summer. Drink water (warm or cold), hot tea, or hot chocolate—the latter also provides high-calorie fuel for your outdoor adventure.
Be Ready for Condensation
As you breathe in a warm tent on a cold night, condensation will form on your tent, even if it’s a four-season model. Be ready for it to “snow” down on you in the morning. There’s not a lot you can do about condensation, but the next morning be sure to dry out your sleeping bag before using it again. To minimize condensation, you can vent your tent at night—it won’t hold in heat as well, but it will stay dryer.
Wear Your Clothes to Bed
The old wisdom of stripping down before you get into a sleeping bag doesn’t make sense. Put on everything you brought before you turn in for the night. And if the campfire is still going, heat some water, pour it into a heat-proof water bottle, and snuggle into your bag with it.
Winter is a great time for a camping trip. The key to a successful excursion is to remember that even a little bit of heat can go a long way.
Plan ahead to make your cold-weather camping trip comfortable and memorable. CONTACT us to let us know what you are looking for, or stop by Shooters Gun Shop to pick up all of your camping essentials before your next trip!