CAMPING & HIKING

Cold Weather Camping Tips: Safety, Adventure And Thrill

Winter camping guidelines
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

If you are an adventure lover, you are sure to enjoy quite a few days in the year taking those long and exciting camping trips. However, if you want to do winter camping, you should be aware of some cold weather camping tips in case the situation gets bad.

Camping in the winter and in the snow is one of the best activities you could engage in. This is because nothing can beat the whole idea of living amidst nature in the cold and pristine winter months. But, come to think of it, winter camping might not be the easiest of tasks if you are unprepared for the trip. To help you have a clear idea about going for a cold weather camping trip, here are some tips and suggestions.

Important Tips To Get You Through Winter Camping

We cannot stress enough on the importance of proper pre-planning before going out for a camping trip in the winter! It is absolutely imperative that you study the map of the hiking area and the surrounding places in order to keep yourself updated. It is also best to consult someone who has already visited the place before this. Below are a few things to note and double check.

Clothing

You should have three layers of clothing, namely the base layer, middle layer and the outer layer. The first layer is the wool fabric inner wear, the next one is the insulating layer that would be giving you maximum protection from the cold and the outer layer is the windproof or waterproof clothing.

Clothing for winter camping

A few essentials to keep in your bag for the cold weather camp include:

  • Insulation in the form of extra clothing
  • A lot of extra water for hydration purposes
  • First aid supplies
  • Excess food for emergency situations
  • Illumination devices
  • Fire supplies
  • Extra batteries
  • Route finder
  • Avalanche safety gear in the form of snow shovel, avalanche transceiver, airbag packs and the likes
  • Hike boots for easier movements

Check out our must-read article on the benefits of Merino wool for layers clothing.

Lighting the fire

Even though the idea of winter camping may sound very exciting, it might be a little difficult for you when you are out there in the open. One of the best ways to tackle the cold and snow is to light a fire with some logs and spend the night in peace. You could use it for warmth and also for cooking and as a source of light during the dark hours. So, it is imperative that you have all the required equipment for setting up the quickfire whenever you need it. It would be advisable to carry some magnesium fire starters’ dryer lint in film canisters for best results.

Keeping the hands safe

Most of the time we tend to cover our ears and faces and head and feet and tend to ignore the hands. But in order to keep your body warm, you would need to take care of your hands too. Polyester glove liners could do you a lot of good in these wintry conditions. In order to enhance the heating capacity, you could even carry some chemical heating pads. Find out how to choose the best winter gloves to keep your hands toasty, so read on!

Choosing the camp site

This is undoubtedly one of the most important tips for conducting a successful camping trip. For a summer camper, it is usually quite easy to choose the location. All you need to do is look for a shade and you are good to go. But it becomes a little difficult when it is the winter.

Camp site

The sun becomes important here and thus you would need to look for a place where the morning sun works to your advantage and gives you the early morning warmth. It would be best if you could place your tent at an angle such it can trap the sunshine.

Hydration

Drinking a lot of water is important for the whole year, irrespective of the weather and the month. However, when it is the cold season, it becomes a lot more important. This is the time when you will not be feeling that much thirsty.

But in order to keep the body’s processes going, you need to regularly consume water even when you are not exactly thirsty. In the wintry months, some beverages like hot tea or coffee could also work towards keeping you hydrated. This will keep you pumped up for your outdoor adventure.

Be prepared for condensation

If you are out on the cold days, you must know that you would be encountering condensation on the tent all the time at night. The condensation can be pretty disturbing the next morning. The only thing we can do here is basically dry it out before using it the next day.

Also, one other option would be to vent the tent at night such that you are able to keep the material as dry as possible. Also, every now and then you could use a towel to swiftly get rid of the condensation from the tent material.

Using a candle lantern

While a fire is a good way to keep the place lit up at night, you could also try considering a candle lantern to be hung on the side of your tent. What this could do is basically reduce condensation and also keep your tent warm and cozy. This is an interesting item to use on your long camping trips in the morning.

Boiling the snow

A number of people tend to believe that carrying your water purifier from home during the winter camps is the best way to make water drinkable. But it is a lot more complicated than what it sounds like. Chemical filters tend to work slowly in the snow, making it difficult to get to your purpose.

Boiling the snow

In that case, it is also to be noted that snow is not the purest form of water. It is usually formed around dust particles which can be pretty dangerous on consumption. So, your best way would be to stick to the conventional method of boiling water to purify it. In this case, you would be melting snow and trying to get rid of the impurities.

Wearing the clothes to bed

It would be a dumb choice to actually strip off the outer and middle layers of your clothing before going to bed in the cold camping days. Your body would find it difficult to adjust to the dramatic changes of temperature. For this reason, it would be best if you could just stick to the clothes you were wearing, put on as many layers as you can and then hit the bed. In that way, your body will remain protected even at night.

The pee bottle

We all know that urinating is natural but when you are cold the urge to do so increases a little more than usual. Now, to venture out in the wild all the time may not be a viable option. This is why it is time for you to make peace with a pee bottle as it is the need of the hour. Well, one of the reasons people need to get their own pee bottle is simply for convenience as getting out of your sleeping bag every time you feel the urge can be really annoying, especially when you are sleeping.

The sleeping pad

If you are planning a camping trip in the winter or to colder regions then, bringing along your sleeping pad is definitely the right thing to do.

Reports have suggested that the human body tends to lose more conducive heat during sleep as compared to any other activity. This is why the sleeping pads can help in providing the much-needed heat in the colder conditions.

Here, when you are choosing your sleeping pad, we would suggest you look for the ones which have the value are as they are known to respond better to winter and cold weather conditions.

Sleeping pad

Moreover, bringing along closed celled foam pad to your camping trip can actually be a good idea. If you put it underneath your cooling pad then you are more likely to get ample heat to stay warm in the cold weather. If you are still feeling cold then stuffing some clothes underneath your sleeping bag may do the trick. Remember, if you want to sleep well then choose your sleeping pad wisely.

Keep your boots closer

The boot is your best friend out there as it is what protects your precious legs and feet while you walk on the cold ground. Now when you are going out there, you should choose the right boots for the occasion.

Your first preference here should be boots with removable liners. These boots play the dual role of keeping you warm all day long and also at night. What you need to do with these boots is removing the liners and placing them underneath your sleeping bags. This way they keep warm and help you get the all-important sleep.

If you don’t get the boots with removable liners and have to settle for the layered boots, don’t get disheartened as they are equally potent in battling against the cold. All you have to do here is get them underneath the sleeping bag in a waterproof sack to keep the boots and yourself warm at night.

You have to make sure that your boots are warm and nice for you in the morning because if they are cold then you might get hypothermia from wearing it which will ruin your camping trip for sure.

Eating late

It is an interesting idea to eat late in order to keep yourself warm. Like everything else, the body will have huge requirements of fuel in order to generate heat and keep itself warm. For this purpose, making yourself a hot meal just before going to bed might prove to be advantageous.

Eating when on camping

Also, contrary to popular belief, a lot of fatty food consumption might help you produce heat. Since fat takes a lot of time to get metabolized, it stays within the body for longer periods of time. So when you pack your bag for the camp, make sure you take a lot of extra cheese. See our tips on what backpacking food to bring in your next adventure.

Vaseline for life

As you can understand you cannot keep any part of the skin exposed to the cold, else you stand the chance of catching hypothermia or frostbite. Therefore, applying Vaseline on the exposed parts of your skin can keep them away from getting affected by the cold weather.

All you need to do here is to cover your nose, ears, hands, neck and any other exposed or potentially exposed part of your body with Vaseline and be safe. Here you can also use animal fat but there are people who have restrictions against it so take your time choosing between animal fat, oil, and Vaseline.

Summing Up Your Winter Trip

Irrespective of where you are going, it is essential to keep yourself protected during the winter camping days. Even though it sounds like a really fun activity, you wouldn’t want to be exposed to the chilly cold weather without suitable precautions.

Cold weather camping

So, to make sure everything is clear, here is a summary of the tips we just discussed:

  • It is best to put in more layers so that your body and skin stay insulated.
  • Do not ignore the hands and legs and try to keep them covered for as long as possible.
  • Staying with the rest of the group would be the best option.
  • It is imperative that you inform the people back home of your whereabouts. They should be aware of where you are going in case something goes bad. This ensures that you have support back home.

The most essential and useful part of the whole camping trip is the planning process. This could very well make or break the whole trip. So, chalk out your ideas and plans carefully and make sure they are solid enough to be carried through. Once you have your plans verified and the area well-researched, you are good to go for that cold weather camping trip!

Find out how our piece on choosing the best weather gear can protect you from the harsh elements. Definitely a must-read!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

  • Marco Medina

    To begin, I would like to dispel one myth. I never saw warm tents. Modern tents are made of thin enough material which objective is not to pass water. Water, not heat. Such cloth is not good breathing, so tents are often made of two layers and the bottom layer is made of a thicker one, which is also not a significant insulator.
    The main thing: tents are made to protect you from water and the wind. So the most important thing when you are going to the cold weather camping is to set fire and let it stay the whole night.

    • Dennis Owens

      The primary purpose of tents is to prevent the draft and excessive moisture from entering a controlled space. It does not provide warmth, but it prevents you from being exposed to cold and moisture.

  • john hill

    Some word about the equipment. You must have thermal underwear and an extra set of clothing. Thermal underwear is better – it dries the skin, so you feel more comfortable. Without it, you will sweat, and to sleep in a sleeping bag wet I absolutely forbid! Next, put warm socks, beanie (knitted), knitted gloves. In addition, it is necessary to have warm trousers, jacket or wool sweater. Still, prepare something for the organization of fire: a saw (sure), ax (preferably), suspension for bowlers, as well as matches and compass…. Why the compass? Well, first, it will help to orient yourself, and secondly, fit for… the fire. This device is made of plexiglass, which is perfectly lit (if different wood will not take).

    • Dennis Owens

      Clothing is one of the most important thing to think about whenever you decide camping in a cold weather. It determines comfort and protection that you will have especially when the weather becomes more unforgiving. When dealing winter weather, it is better to overdress than to underdressed.

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