Winter Camping Spoiler Alert: It’s All About Preparation
Winter camping is a great way to extend your camping and “outdoor adventure” time. With some thoughtful preparation, you can extend your camping season well into autumn and winter.
As with any camping trip, start by making a checklist of the things you’ll need to stay safe and warm. Then check (and double check) it before walking out the door. To help you prepare, Outdoor Junkie has put together a list of tips and suggestions that can help make your fall camping trip a unqualified success.
Create a checklist, invest in good cold-weather camping equipment, bundle up and get out there!
1. Weather forecast:
First thing on your list should be to check the weather. Check the forecasts for the specific you’re heading to ahead of time. And then watch for any predicted changes. Weather can change dramatically at a moments notice. Snow, rain or other severe weather can happen at any time — especially at higher elevations.
2. A good 3 season tent:
A good three-season tents (with a full rain fly to keep out the moisture) is a must. Always bring a tarp (or tent footprint) to place underneath your tent to prevent moisture seeping in from underneath. Also, an extra tarp to place over the top of your rainfly would be a good investment.
3. Cold-weather sleeping bags:
Nothing ruins your camping experience like being freezing while you’re trying to sleep during the night. Bring sleeping bags that are rated for temperatures lower thank you expect. Consider bringing two sleeping bags if you’re sensitive to cold temperatures. (Mummy sleeping bags provide more warmth because they cling closer to your body. Plus, they usually have a hood that to capture heat inside the bag.)
4. Sleeping pads:
The ground can get cold during winter camping weather. Sleeping pads are great for insulating your body from the cold ground. Closed-cell pads work best for heat retention. A sleeping pad is one of the most effective (and cheap) camping gear you can invest in when you’re looking for ways to stay warm.
5. Backpack (with a rain cover):
Invest in a good backpack with a rain cover. You can also line your backpacks with plastic garbage bags to keep out moisture. Bring extra plastic garbage bags and plastic baggies for protecting other items, such as electronics. Also bring water tight-containers. And finally, bring extra tarps and secure them above eating/gathering areas. This will provide cover from rain and snow.
6. Lots of clothing for layering:
One of the best ways to stay warm while winter camping is layering. Breathable clothing made from wool, fleece and synthetic materials (with moisture wicking properties) are your best bets. Avoid cotton-made clothing – it simply doesn’t have the same warming properties. Choose wisely, especially ig backpacking. Additional clothing means additional weight.
Bring plenty of changes of clothing . If clothing gets wet, get out of damp clothing as soon as is reasonably possible. Essential clothing items you should consider taking with you include:
- thermal underwear
- fleece jacket
- wool or synthetic material shirt/sweater
- wind/water resistant outer jacket
- winter caps (for both daytime and sleeping use)
- gloves/mittens (plus an extra pair in case first pair gets wet)
- extra pair gloves/mittens (in case first pair gets wet)
- winter jacket
- waterproof boots
- extra shoes (in case your boots get wet)
- plenty of extra dry socks
- rain poncho and rain pants
- balaclava (face stocking)
Don’t risk going without a warm, roaring fire in the cool weather. Don’t leave it to chance that you’ll be able to find suitable, dry firewood at the campsite. Pack your own wood to make sure you not let without a campfire. Make sure there are no burn restrictions in your campsite area be sure you take waterproof matches just in case.
8. A GPS device, compass or map (preferably, bring or all three):
Know where you are at all times and let others know. Bring a GPS device, compass or map — preferably all three. Always inform friends or family (and even park officials) about your plans – where you’re planing to go and when you plan on returning.
You simply can’t have too much water with you. It’s easy to get dehydrated while camping and hiking. Bring plenty of water drink with you and drink it throughout the day.
10. Survival kit:
Make a winter camping survival kit. Here’s some survival kit essentials:
- bandanna (acts as breathing mask, emergency flag, bandage)
- tinfoil (doubles as reflector to signal)
- small roll of duct tape
- waterproof matches
- a small bag to carry all of these in your pocket
- extra water
- food (that doesn’t require preparation)
- plastic garbage bags (line your backpacks to keep them dry)
- plastic baggies (for protecting maps, phone, etc.)
- water tight-containers
- extra tarps (to protect cover eating/gathering areas from rain/snow)
When winter camping you should have a Plan B and be ready to change plans at a moments notice. Conditions can unexpectedly change without warning. There’s no reason to be miserable. If necessary, eat out at a nearby restaurant or book a room for the night at a local motel. For safety’s sake, don’t hesitate to change plans if the situation dictates.