Tips for winter camping
Winter camping is not just for the brave and the bold. It is a peaceful time to explore the outdoors and most campers have scurried away to warmer climates, so campgrounds are far less crowded. If you have the correct gear it can be a lovely experience. If you follow these tips, you won’t be so concerned about the freezing temperature but about how magical the forests look with its icing of snow.
Choose carefully where you are going. Think about whether you like sleeping in the snow or prefer to be indoors. If you have never slept in the snow before, give it a go! You might be surprised by how enjoyable it actually can be.
Always, always check the weather before you go. Find out how warm or how cold it will get, and whether storms are expected. Pack for the unexpected as storms can appear from nowhere. Don’t forget to carry snow chains and a shovel in your car, just in case.
To stay warm in the winter cold, you will need to wear lots of layers rather than big chunky clothes. Make sure your base layer is of a moisture-wicking fabric to keep your skin dry. Think about getting merino or alpaca based clothing as these are light but warm. Pack gloves, a hat, and extra socks. You will need warm boots and a waterproof jacket. Down garments are good in the cold but not so good in the wet, so think about what you need ahead of time.
Winterize your camper
This is particularly important with your water lines. Check the user manual to see what necessary changes you need to make. Give the whole vehicle a check over, make sure that the heater is working, and look into what you can do to insulate the space to retain heat.
Not all sleeping bags are the same. When out in the snow, you need a sleeping bag that is suitable for your destination. Sleeping pads are light, so pack an extra one to have under you when sleeping in a tent. You will need a four-season tent for extreme winter, so make sure you get the right one. If you are taking a camping stove, make sure you also take plenty of fuel for it. Take matches in a waterproof bag for emergencies and in case you need to light a fire. Warm up your sleeping bag before you get in it – a hot water bottle or two works well and, as a bonus, your water will stay defrosted for drinking in the morning. Put these in the sleeping bag about 20 minutes before you climb in.
Nights stretch out in winter so bring something fun for those long evenings. Bring a book, cards, and even your computer. Even if you are camping with someone else, you will need some choices once you grow tired of each other’s voices.
Firewood and food
Bring your own dry firewood, or at least a good supply of kindling, if you want to have an easy campfire: in the middle of winter, it can be hard to find anything that will burn. Bring hearty food as well because you will be burning a lot more energy in winter. Canned stews and soups are great too. Dehydrated food has improved a lot over the years, so that is a good choice also. Don’t forget to pack plenty of hot beverages as well!
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