Everything You Need to Know About Winter Camping

Man Sitting in Tent

One of the hobbies that attracts experienced campers, survivalists and anyone who enjoys the snow and likes to live on the edge is winter camping.

Winter camping is just what it sounds like – camping in the snow when the temperature is extremely cold. This can be a great deal of fun – particularly if you enjoy winter activities like snowshoeing, skiing or sledding, but you have to be careful because the temperature can be deadly.

Couple Setting Up Tent

You need to make sure that you have the right gear with you and that you have considered all of the pitfalls. Winter camping should not be attempted by the novice camper unless they have done a great deal of prep work.

Why Winter Camping

Why do people choose winter camping? There are actually several common reasons and you may have your own reasons as well.

  • They want to test the limits of their endurance and strength. Winter camping is difficult. You are cold and everything takes longer. Some people want to see if they have what it takes to be a winter camper.
  • People want to play winter sports and sometimes camping is the best way to get out there and do it. Cross country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing are all winter activities that you can do while you are camping and generally can be done just about anywhere there is snow.
Man Drinking Coffee on Winter Camping
  • There are fewer people when you go winter camping. If you are tired of the crowded camp site or campground and want to be mostly on your own, there are few people that attempt winter camping.
  • The views are beautiful. In the summer, you get to see the trees, grass and leaves, but you don’t get the majestic snow covered mountain peaks and trees laden with fresh icicles.
  • There are almost no insects out in the woods in winter. In addition, many animals will spend the winter hiding from the cold as well.
  • Finally, although just about everything is harder with winter camping, the one thing that isn’t is food storage. Often, you don’t even need a cooler. You can keep your food cold by storing it in a snow bank.

Choosing Winter Camping Tents

When it comes to choosing a tent for winter camping, there are two things that you want to keep in mind. First, even though it is more of a pain to haul around, heavy-duty canvas tents with thick material are going to keep you warmer than standard nylon tents.

Camping Tent Covered with Snow

Second, conventional wisdom says that you should go a “person” or two larger when you are choosing a tent for camping (a four person tent for two people for example). But in winter, you might want to stick with the smaller tent, because the more compressed you and your group are in a small space, the more body heat you will be able to retain.

Buying Winter Camping Gear

When it comes to winter camping gear, you want to keep in mind that it is going to be out in the cold and possibly will get frozen. This means that the thin canteen that you use in the summer will have to be traded in for one that will not freeze the water inside.

The same thing goes for your other gear. Your sleeping bag needs to protect you against the cold and wind. You are going to have a harder time starting a fire so you may need to bring lighter fluid that you normally wouldn’t need to use in the summer.

Woman Sitting on Sleeping Bag

The point here is to examine your normal camping gear and make sure that you evaluate every piece for winter camping to make sure it will function properly.

Safety Winter Camping Checklist

Here is a checklist that will keep you safe if you plan to go winter camping:

  • Dress for the winter – make sure that you have hat, gloves, scarf, thick wool socks, heavy boots, a coat and even some thermal underwear if necessary. Dress in layers and make sure that you are covering up exposed skin.
  • Make sure your sleeping gear is in order – Ensure your sleeping bag is insulated and rated for the temps you will be experiencing, bring extra blankets and get a heavy tent.
  • Make sure that you have the ability to call someone in an emergency or let someone know exactly where you are and when you will be back so that they can send help if you don’t come home.
Group of Campers on Winter Camping
  • Keep basic safety supplies with you like flashlights, first-aid kits, signaling mirrors, SOS lamps and snake bite kits.
  • Be smart when choosing your campsite. Make sure your tent gets the maximum amount of sun and is out of the wind.
  • Make sure you always have water and that it doesn’t freeze so that you can’t drink it; stay hydrated. Drink even when you aren’t thirsty.
  • Make sure you have lighter fluid, dry wood, magnesium fire starter kits and other tools to light a fire even when there is snow on the ground.

Packing Winter Camping Food

Winter camping food should be in enclosed containers where it will not get frostbitten. Canned foods, meats and many other foods will not survive extreme temperatures without some sort of insulation to keep them from getting too cold.

Putting Food in Sturdy Container

Of course, with items that are intended to be frozen, you can make use of these temperatures for storage, but keep in mind that you still may need to thaw the food before you can eat it.

What About Winter Hammock Camping

Winter hammocks are also quite popular. This is even more dangerous than normal winter camping with a tent because you don’t have the protection of the tent walls to protect you from the wind. Make sure you are dressed in layers and in a super insulated sleeping bag if you plan on hammocking at night.

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