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Winter Camping

An Intro To The Next Level For Year Round Camping

If you’ve never been winter camping, you’re missing out on a fun adventure! Good planning and packing will make your first winter camping trip safe comfortable for the entire party.

Begin planning by asking yourself a few questions. Where would you like to go? How will you get there? What will you do once you get settled into camp? Snowshoeing, skiing and hiking are all great activities if you’ve packed the right equipment. Once you know where you’re going, check out the weather and terrain. Get familiar with the area before you actually go camping. It’s not hard to get lost in an area blanketed with snow. Remember that this will be very different from summer camping. You can count on everything taking twice as long to do, from setting up camp to going to the bathroom.


The two biggest dangers in winter camping are hypothermia and frostbite. You need to pack supplies that will protect you against heat loss. Take several changes of warm, snug, layered clothing. Although mittens are hard to work in, they keep your hands warmer than gloves. Only wear gloves when you need your fingers to be free to move around. Your boots should be insulated, waterproof and at least mid-shin height.

Dress Warm

Wool clothes are great in the winter… unless they get wet! Normally, sweat is wicked away from your skin, but excess moisture when you’re working hard around the camp makes wool heavy and uncomfortable. Wear wool socks but bring several extra pair and change them often. A pair of thin polypropylene socks underneath your woolies adds an extra layer of protection that draws sweat away from your skin, keeping your feet dry and warm longer.

Fleece is a good fabric for clothing or extra blankets. It is lighter than wool but insulates your body against the cold. It also handles moisture better than wool. Polypropylene is another example of a fabric that will wick away moisture and keep you warm. Down, Thinsulate, Microloft or Polarguard are more great choices.

Considering that up to 70% of lost body heat escapes through the head, the importance of a good toque cannot be stressed enough. A balaclava or facemask is necessary in extremely cold or windy conditions. Wear it while you’re sleeping! You will wake up warm and toasty.

Your outermost layer of clothing must be both wind and waterproof. Look for Goretex or a 65/35 blend of cotton and nylon in your winter jacket and pants. Your jacket should have wind flaps over the zippers, adjustable cuffs and several pockets for your supplies.


Choose a shelter that is capable of keeping out the cold weather as much as possible. Though it sounds fun, you should only attempt to build a snow cave or igloo with an experienced winter camper supervising. Otherwise, a roomy dome tent is your best choice. The tent’s shape helps to prevent snow build up on the roof. You will need plenty of space inside for all of your camping gear. A rainfly will help prevent condensation in the tent that could make your supplies damp and cold.

Before setting up your tent and kitchen areas, stomp around on snowshoes to trample down the areas your tents will sit on. Once your tent is up, have a friend sit inside and push the walls out while you pack snow against the bottoms outside to provide extra insulation. Each night before entering your tent, brush all of the snow off carefully to avoid getting the inside of your tent wet.

Warm At Night

A good sleeping bag will keep you cozy all night. Most sleeping bags have a temperature rating. Choose one that is rated for a lower temperature than what you will actually be sleeping in. For example, if you expect to be sleeping in -150°F weather, choose one rated to -300°F. Mummy style bags with hoods are best. A sleeping bag that is too loose or large will let in the cold so make sure it fits you well. Wear warm clothes even inside the sleeping bag. Your body temperature will drop as you are sleeping. A full length foam or inflatable pad placed underneath your sleeping bag will protect you from the snow.

Fuel For The Body

When you become cold, your body uses a lot of calories to try to heat you back up again. Eat healthy, hearty meals to keep your energy level up so your body can fight the cold. As a general guideline, your winter camping diet should consist of 50% simple sugars and complex carbohydrates; 20% proteins and 30% fats. Avoid taking fresh foods with you, such as eggs, fruit or vegetables. They freeze easily and are heavy to carry. Dried foods, baked goods and freeze-dried ingredients are all great choices. Meat, butter and cheese will provide much-needed fat content to your meals.

You need to bring enough water with you to last the entire trip. It can be melted over your fire or stove for drinking. Never, ever eat snow. The amount of energy it takes for your body to melt the snow can quickly lead to hypothermia.

Do Your Research

Research hypothermia and frostbite before you go camping so you will recognize the symptoms. Any camper with white or grey spots on their skin, blue lips, loss of skin sensation, confusion, exhaustion, or tremors should be warmed up immediately. Strip down and crawl into a sleeping bag with them, hugging to transfer body heat quickly. If you suspect you or another camper is experiencing hypothermia, try to warm them; then go for help right away.

Winter camping is exciting and rewarding! Plan carefully and have fun.

Contributed By Miranda Miller

To find out how to be better prepared for your camping trip from
start to finish, get your expert advice from "The Beginner's Guide To Getting You Started With Comfortable Tent Camping In 12 Easy Affordable Steps"


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