There is a certain magic to cold weather camping. Going into the backcountry in winter is a more intimate way to experience nature: frozen landscapes feel both desolate and serene. And although at first it may seem that camping in the snow is a little extreme, with the right gear it is nothing short of wonderful.
Your safety and comfort rely on planning and choosing appropriate equipment. Before you embark on a multi-night backpacking trip in winter conditions, try camping out of your car to get used to the cold and safely learn how to prepare for extreme weather.
As a regular three-seasons tent is likely to collapse under the weight of snow, it is crucial to check that your shelter is designed for winter. An overnight snowfall might catch you by surprise when the roof of your tent is suddenly lying on your face.
Getting cold in your sleep can be dangerous, especially for children, so to stave off the risk of hypothermia, investing in high-quality sleeping gear is necessary preparation. If you choose well, not only will you be safe, but perhaps even a little toasty!
Choose the right equipment
A winter sleeping bag is a must - in cold weather, no amount of layers will keep you as warm. Choose a synthetic bag that will perform well even when damp or wet, such as the Climashield-insulated Eddie Bauer Airbender 20° - the ultimate cold weather bag for those serious about winter camping.
Not many people know that a sleeping pad also plays a big role in keeping you warm by isolating you from the cold ground. Luckily, travelling by car means that weight is of no concern. If you have a decent sleeping bag but no insulated pad, a thick layer of blankets under your regular three-seasons bag will do just fine.
Frozen wood may be hard to start a fire with, so bringing a liquid fuel stove as a backup will ensure your camping dinner is warm (gas canisters do poorly in very cold weather).
Select the right camping destination
Of course, there are many beautiful winter camping locations where you will not get much or any snow. If you are a fair weather camper, start with these before pitching your tent in a more extreme location. For those ready to brave the snow, here’s a list of 14 amazing destinations. Before pitching your tent, flatten and pack the snow so that the tent floor stays firm.
As winter camping is associated with more risks, make sure to check the weather forecast before you set off. For your first trip, choose a location where help and supplies are readily available.
Pack comfort food
Planning a lavish winter camping menu is a great theme for a weekend trip and it’s helpful to premake your meals at home. There is not much that can beat a bowlful of hot soup after a day of adventuring in the snow!
To warm yourself during the day, pour hot water into an insulated flask and add a few slices of ginger root (and perhaps honey to taste). It is a tested method for beating the cold!
A winter camping trip can also easily turn into a holiday treat for the whole family. Simply serve up some yummy hot cocoa and decorate your tent with twinkle lights. Start a fire and enjoy a glass of bourbon while the kids roast s’mores. Can there be anything more festive?