11 Tips to Be Prepared for Winter Camping
Ah, to sleep outside surrounded by banks of snow in sub-zero temperatures. Winter camping is not for the faint of heart, but if you are more comfortable outdoors than indoors, it may be the next way to amp up your wilderness adventures. If you are a winter sport enthusiast, winter camping is a great way to combine your love for camping with your passion for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Another perk of winter camping is you will get to enjoy the quietude of nature all on your own, as not many folks are brave enough to pitch a tent in freezing temperatures. Just like any type of outdoor activity, winter camping is one for which you must be well prepared. Read on for some of my best-loved winter camping tips, and share yours in the comments.
- Pack a shovel. Useful in so many instances (digging a fire pit or a makeshift toilet, or digging up snow, or making a snow shelter), you won’t ever regret having one on hand.
- Bring a closed-cell foam sleeping pad. This is the best way to protect your body from the cold ground while you sleep. If you like to put your sleeping bag on an air mattress, bring all three, with the closed-cell foam sleeping pad as the bottom layer.
- Make certain your sleeping bag is rated at least 10F below the nighttime low. For example, if you use a sleeping bag with a lower limit of 12F and a comfort level of 23F, you will be able to sleep comfortably in 23F weather without supplemental layers.
- Make sure you have a bag that fits you. A bag that is too large or too small is not going to work as efficiently as one of the right size.
- Bring a sleeping bag liner. Liners can add between 5-17 F of warmth depending on its construction and material The warmest options are either flannel or merino wool.
- Wear a knit beanie to bed. About 50% of body heat is lost through the head when exposed to the cold.
- An easy way to add some extra heat is an emergency blanket. You can attach it to the top of the tent to reflect the heat back towards you, or wrap it inside your sleeping bag in a pinch. It’s also a good idea to bring a couple along on an excursion, in case you’re out longer than intended, or start to feel chilly and can’t find shelter.
- Winter nights are long, so be sure your headlamp and flashlight batteries are fully charged and pack extras.
- You knew this was coming - layer up. Several loose layers are key to comfort and warmth. Start with a base layer that wicks moisture, and as many layers of insulating clothing on top as is comfortable for you in the climate you’re in. The top layer should be a weather-proof coat. Fabrics to look into: Gore Tex, polyester, polypropylene, down, wool. Stay away from cotton.
- Stay dry. Water conducts heat better than air does, so wet clothes will lower your body temperature in a flash. Even sweating can dangerously cool you down. Know your limit and peel off layers to slow perspiration.
- Waterproof boots (as well as gaiters and snowshoes) are a must when making your way through deep snow.
According to REI, these "Ten Essentials" are especially important for your comfort and safety in winter:
- First aid kit
- Sun protection
- Insulation (extra clothing)
- Repair kit and tools
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (extra water)
- Emergency shelter