Just because the temperature is dropping doesn’t mean that you’re about to stay indoors. On the contrary, cold weather camping is an incredibly unique experience that offers a whole host of activities that the warmer months just can’t provide.
However, understanding which items are winter camping essentials and having some handy pointers for the climate is key to having a fantastically frosty time outdoors.
While winter camping might seem a bit daunting at first, with the right tips and tools, it can be a wildly enjoyable experience.
Here are seven winter camping secrets for making your outing as pleasant as it is memorable.
If you don’t already have one, you will absolutely want to get yourself a 4-season tent for winter camping. The reason why is that, unlike many 3-season tents, a 4-season tent will help to discourage snow loading and sagging as a result of its pole structure.
Additionally, 4-season tents are also made of thicker nylon fabrics used to help seal in warmth. On the same token, do keep in mind that 4-season tents are less breathable.
If this is something that you need to pick up for your winter camping adventure, the good news is that there are a variety of great 4-season tents to choose from on the market.
When winter camping in snowy regions, things can get wet pretty easily. Since personally staying dry and ensuring that certain pieces of your equipment (firestarter materials, emergency radios, extra batteries and the like) remain that way as well, it is wise to purchase a watertight case for the adventure.
Part of what makes these types of cases great for winter camping (aside from keeping your supplies dry) is that they can keep everything well-organized in a single area and can carry a pretty heavy load, so your packing options aren’t too limited.
When out camping in the cold, getting a fire going is a necessity. However, if it has recently snowed, then firewood is likely to be wet or even frozen, thereby making getting a cozy fire going significantly harder.
Therefore, it is wise to pack some firestarter materials. A great option is to simply soak some cotton balls in petroleum jelly and stick them in a plastic baggie. These are an excellent means to get a fire going quickly and efficiently.
When tucking in for the night, many cold weather campers tend to stick a hot water bottle down by their feet. While this is common advice and seems like a great idea, it is actually better to place the bottle by your groin.
The reason for this is that, from this core position, the bottle will help to heat the blood that travels all throughout your body, thereby helping to heat your entire body more quickly.
However, do be careful when dealing with hot water, as the last thing you want to do out in the wilderness on a dark and cold night is burn yourself.
Anytime you go camping, safety should be the top priority. However, during this winter, campers should be especially focused on this factor as there are a different (often more unfamiliar) set of potential dangers with which they must contend.
During the winter months, lighting is one of the main challenges as the sun sets much sooner than in warmer seasons. Therefore, it is highly advisable to get a tactical flashlight for your camping trip as this item’s high number of lumens and considerable candela rating will help you to make your way through the darkness with ease.
Moreover, a tactical flashlight will often feature various modes, which can be helpful when trying not to ruin your natural night vision.
When camping during the winter, you are much more prone to losing body heat to the ground than you are to the air.
Therefore, packing a sleeping pad – even for those who prefer to travel light – is a critical necessity.
However, when picking out a sleeping pad to use, be aware that they are differentiated by the R-values, which are an indicator of their level of insulation. The higher the R-value, the warmer the pad will keep you.
Generally speaking, when out winter camping, you will want a sleeping pad that has a minimum of a five R-value.
When out in the cold, your body is going to burn a considerable number of calories trying to stay warm. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that you are keeping up with that by packing – and eating – a good number of calorie-dense snacks.
Similarly, hydration will play a key role in determining how well your body keeps itself warm. This means that you need to drink plenty of water on your camping trip.
However, there is a good possibility that your hydration efforts will make you need to go more frequently. Don’t hesitate to do so as your body expends precious energy keeping the fluids in your bladder warm.
If you really want to go all Bear Grills on the situation, you can pee into a wide-mouth container and tuck that into your sleeping bag to help keep yourself warm during the night.
Winter camping can be an extremely pleasurable, memorable and unique experience. However, it can also be absolutely miserable and potentially dangerous if you are not equipped with the proper gear and knowledge.
Be sure to pick up the items listed above and to internalize the winter camping advice outlined here to have a safe, fun and unforgettable cold weather camping trip.
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