You might be thinking, “Why would anyone want to camp in the winter?” The summer camping crowds have hibernated to their homes, making campgrounds more peaceful and the cold season is actually quite stunning. Trees have shed their leaves and rivers and lakes are frozen. Winter offers a different landscape and even when it snows, winter is a beautiful season that can be enjoyed outdoors.
The key to a successful winter camping trip is having the right gear and becoming an informed winter camper. This is your guide to winter camping.
Winter Camping Tips:
Choose a Realistic Destination. When selecting a camping destination for your winter trip, consider your limitations and expectations. Do you enjoy cold weather? If you are not anticipating enjoying extreme weather conditions, consider looking at more moderate climates.
Check the weather forecast. Before you head out on your winter camping trip, check the weather forecast. Be sure to know the expected high and low temperatures and if there are any storms are expected. Always be prepared for a change in the weather—winter storms are often unexpected!
Make sure you have appropriate clothing. Wool socks, warm boots, thermal underwear and a warm jacket are essential, and don’t forget to bring gloves. Dressing in layers will help you regulate your body temperature and can make a big difference in extremely cold temperatures. Pack clothing according to the climate you are camping in; down garments are great in dry climates, but down is not always the best option in wet climates.
Warm your sleeping bag before you go to bed. A cold sleeping bag can take sometime to warm up with just your body heat, so pre-warming your bag is a nice way to get cozy at night. Boil water and put it in a watertight container. Let the water cool down a little and then double check that the container is completely sealed (a leaky water bottle can be disastrous!). Place the hot water container in your sleeping bag 20 minutes before going to bed. The heat will make getting into bed at night more enjoyable and help maintain your body temperature while sleeping.
Bring Plenty of Firewood. It can be difficult to find firewood on the ground in the winter. By the time winter rolls around, summer campers have scavenged the forest for wood or the winter storms have made most of the wood too wet to burn. An evening campfire will keep you warm at night and make cooking outside more enjoyable in cold weather.
Prepare Hearty Meals. While sandwiches and watermelon are great for summer camping, cold weather requires a heartier meal. Canned soups or stews are great for lunches. And don’t forget to bring plenty of your favorite hot beverages: hot chocolate, coffee, tea or apple cider.
Pack a book or something to keep you entertained at night. The nights are longer in winter, so it’s nice to have entertainment at night. Bring a book to read while in your sleeping bag, or if you are car camping, bring a computer and watch a movie. If you go to sleep too early, you’ll end up waking before the sun rises.