When people hear the words "winter camping" or "cold weather camping" excitedly come out of our mouths, they often give us weird looks. For some people, winter camping looks like a cozy little cabin in the woods but for many adventure enthusiasts it means grabbing the absolute essentials and heading to the middle of nowhere.
Take it from us, it's totally worth it.
Here are a few tips and tricks learned over the years to make sure your winter camping experience is a successful one.
Look out for "widowmakers"
Widowmakers are broken or dead branches that hang high in the treetops ready to fall on people camped underneath them. Snow and ice can make these branches heavier and much more likely to fall. Always check overhead branches and limbs before camping under any tree.
Pack the snow down first
Use your snow shoes (or boots) to pack the snow down first before you set your tent up. Let the area re-freeze (takes about an hour) to solidify. Loose snow melts more readily than packed snow. Your body heat will melt the loose snow making it uncomfortable to lay on. You might also be susceptible to tent tears by stepping on loose snow inside your tent.
Create a trail to a safe area where you can use the bathroom. Make sure the "bathroom" is about 150-200 yards away from your camp, water sources and main trail.
Face the front door of your tent downhill and against prevailing winds. Build a snow wall if possible. If not possible, dig an area a couple feet down to protect your tent against the wind.
Keep the guylines taunt to prevent the fly from touching the tent’s inner canopy. This will keep the interior well-ventilated and dry.
Make sure to shake off any loose snow on you or your clothes before climbing into your tent. Reduce the amount of tracked-in snow by using a single door. Plan to cook and organize your gear in one vestibule of your tent and use the other one to climb in and out.
Protect your body from the cold ground
First lay down your sleeping pad then place a closed-cell foam pad over that. The sleeping pad protects you against the ground while the foam pad protects you from the cold air in the sleeping pad. Throw your sleeping bag over all of it.
Make your sleeping bag warmer
Loosen the down in your sleeping bag by shaking it out about an hour before you go to bed. Fill a water bottle full of hot water and stick it in the bottom of your sleeping bag. You can also put it in a jacket pocket while you’re walking around camp. When you get into your sleeping bag, strip down to lightweight base layers and a hat to keep your body warm.
Get some exercise
Try a (safe) night walk. The stars will be beautiful and you’ll sleep better if you’re warm from the exercise.
Use the bathroom before bed
The body works harder to keep itself warm on a full bladder, so you feel cold when you need to go number one. Keep a (tightly-sealed) pee bottle in your tent so you don't have to leave the tent in the middle of the night.
Consume a high-fat snack before bed to keep your body working and burning while you sleep.
Clear fresh snow
You can clear the lighter snow by thumping the walls of your tent with your hand but for heavier snowfall you’ll have to manually clear it. Don’t use a shovel to do this or you might tear the fabric of your tent.
Use your loved ones
Cuddle up with your honey or pup for extra warmth. Don't forget to wipe the dog down so no extra moisture freezes to them. Wiggle them into your jacket if it gets too cold.
Have fun and always follow Leave No Trace ethics while camping.