When the weather turns cold, it can be frustrating for outdoor enthusiasts who feel like they have to retreat indoors for months on end.
Cold weather camping comes with its fair share of challenges, but there are several ways you can plan a trip so that you enjoy the time and don’t come away feeling like you’ve journeyed to the South Pole.
Here’s how to get the most out of a cold-weather camping trip in 2020 and beyond.
1. Winterize All Your Gear
Any person who goes camping in the mountains during the summertime knows that it gets chilly at night, and a t-shirt and shorts won’t do it anymore.
In the summertime, however, a windbreaker and jeans might be all it takes to stay warm and comfy, while a wintertime camping trip needs very different gear.
Don’t think that any one piece of your summertime camping gear is “good enough”, because you may find yourself wishing you’d brought better equipment.
You need to make certain everything is capable of keeping you warm, dry, and happy: your tent, sleeping bag, clothes, jacket, and boots all need to be able to resist snow and low temperatures.
What’s more, you also may need snowshoes and hiking poles to get from Point A to Point B once you’re in the wilderness.
2. Pack Those Calories
A person going camping in the wintertime may burn twice as many calories as a summertime trip, just due to the need to create extra body heat.
You can enjoy most of the same foods you love in summertime camping — burgers and brats, trail mix and protein bars, or just good old fashioned junk food — so long as you make certain you’ve got enough to keep you full and warm.
Make sure you also bring more water than you think you need: the act of shivering can dehydrate you if you’re not carefully keeping track of your fluids intake.
3. Check Your Campsite for Hazards
In the summertime, coming across a flat piece of ground is usually all you need to set up camp. In the wintertime, however, you have to make sure that your campsite won’t present you with any problems.
For starters, check where you want to pitch the tent: make sure the area is clear of ice and any rocks buried by snow.
Additionally, you may need to clear out the firepit, since no fire on Earth will catch when it is damp.
Finally, check that walking routes to outhouses, vehicles, or hiking paths don’t have icey surfaces that can result in a slip.
Remember to check the weather report too, and plan your campsite accordingly: if you expect more snow or icy rain, you may not be able to get in and around the areas you want to get at.
4. Have Plans for an Emergency
In summertime, an accident might not require much more than finding the first-aid kit in your gear.
In winter, you face more challenging emergency situations, ranging from avalanches to blizzards.
Know first and foremost where you intend to go, how to get there, and what your timeline is for camping.
Next, look for ranger stations, medical facilities, supply stores, and any other important location that is helpful in the event of an emergency like an injury or lost equipment.
5. Make Snow Work For You
Polar explorer Eric Larsen recommends that as soon as you pitch your tent, use your legs to open up your sleeping area from the snow beneath.
This not only creates extra insulation by reducing the air between you and surfaces, but it’s easier to do so at the beginning then when the snow is packed down hard from your body weight.
If you want to enjoy a perk of winter camping, consider making an igloo or a snow shelter: these actually stay warmer than tents because they don’t lose heat, but you have to be careful about building one because you don’t want it to collapse on you while you sleep.
6. Insulate Your Space
Contact with the freezing air will sap all of the heat away from your body in the middle of the night.
For the same reason that you want to create a snow space beneath your tent, you also want to fill up your tent with as much gear as possible for insulation.
Use a simple blanket with duct tape to create a “ceiling” in your tent that will retain more heat.
Finally, put sleeping bags close together so that a partner’s body heat doesn’t go to waste.
7. Be Careful With Fire
A roaring fire is perhaps the best part of any camping trip, no matter the weather.
Cold-weather fires need to be made with greater care than warm-weather fires, however: you have to make certain wood and tinder are dry, and once it is established you have to be careful that you are not coming too close.
It’s tempting to get as close as you can to a fire on a cold day, but fires produce sparks and hot ejecta; they can also create burns for those who think they need to get closer and closer.
What’s more, you can’t just assume the fire won’t spread when its surrounded by snow, as falling leaves or animals can spread it once you decide to go to bed, so it must be put out with certainty that it is cold and dead.
8. Keep Boot Liners Fresh
Your boot liners will keep your feet warm and dry when there’s snow on the ground, two things that are invaluable to cold-weather campers and hikers.
Make certain you have backup boot liners in case you find that some got wet. After a normal day, place these liners inside your sleeping bag so that they absorb some of your body heat and you don’t have to wedge your feet into an ice-hard boot the next morning.
There you have it. 8 tips on how to get the most out of a camping trip during winter. We hope you enjoyed the article and if you have other tips that are worth sharing, feel free to do so in the comments area below. Till next time!