Top 7 Tips For Camping In The Winter

Ryan the authorResearch by Duncan
Updated: August 11, 2019

Even just mentioning winter camping can send shivers down people’s spine. It is not something that a lot of people consider, and even fewer have attempted. Winters can be harsh and bring lots of snow, but for those brave enough, it can also be one of the most beautiful and rewarding times to camp. From frozen lakes to snow powdered vistas, camping in the cold winter months is something everyone should try at least once to fully experience what nature has to offer!

These are the most important tips for camping in the winter are:

These tips are in no particular order, but they are some of the best ideas that will help you enjoy your trip and keep you safe! Keep reading to learn more and to make your winter adventure a memorable one.

1. Bring the right tent

The choice of tent can make or break your adventure. The most common type of tent that is used is the 3-season tent. This class is suitable for late spring, summer, and early fall expeditions. The next class of tent is called the 3+ - season tent, this tent is good for early springs and late falls as well. If you are a serious winter camper or a mountaineer, it may be good to consider a 4- season tent, which can stand Michigan’s winter temps and harsh weather.

2. Pack down the snow

Before setting up your tent, make sure to pack down the snow where you plan on setting it down. This is easiest with skis or snowshoes but is possible with just plain old boots as well. Walk around where you want the tent, making sure to really flatten and harden the snow. If you do not do this, you have the chance of stepping on a soft bit of snow under the tent and ripping a hole through it.

3. Bring an insulated sleeping pad

It is much easier to lose body heat to the ground rather than to the cold air. Having the right sleeping pad will allow you to avoid unnecessary discomfort. Sleeping pads are typically rated based on their “R-value”, or the measurement of insulation. The higher the R-value, the more insulation, and the warmer it keeps you. An R-value of four or more is suggested for winter campers. If you do not have a winter sleeping pad and do not want to buy one, use two sleeping pads or put a close-celled pad underneath. When in doubt, put coats, clothes, or just about anything else to help you insulate yourself from the freezing floor.

4. Boil snow for water

While chemical, mechanical, and other water filtration systems can be very useful, these methods take a very long time to work in the cold. For water, the best source is going to be boiled snow. Contrary to popular belief, fresh snow is definitely not sterile, and should not be melted and consumed without proper boiling. Bring a designated boiling pot to camp and constantly have a pot going on the fire. This is going to help you have a constant source of clean, safe water.

5. Eat all the time

Your body will be burning a lot of calories to keep you warm. It’s important to continue eating simple, easy to digest, protein-filled snacks. Things like nuts or trail mixes are perfect for this. Try and eat a snack at least every hour or so to keep you calories up for warmth and energy.

Keep meals hot and simple. A hot meal after a long, cold hike will be very satisfying, but you don’t want to have to do a lot of cleaning or spend any more time sitting still outside than you have to. Things like hot granolas and soups will be the best bet for high calorie and low maintenance meals.

6. Gear to wear

Dressing the right way when going camping or hiking in the winter is very important. When the weather is colder, it matters what to wear, for comfort and safety. There is a time honored and important three-layer structure to what you should wear:

  • Base layer
  • Insulator
  • Shell

The base layer is for moisture wicking and the first layer of defense for your body. The insulator will be the main thing holding in your body heat. The shell is the water proof outer covering of your body. This is going to keep any type of moisture (and ideally wind) from getting on your clothes and making things much colder for you. Another huge benefit for dressing in layers is that if you get too warm, it is easy to shed a layer or two.

When choosing what you layers will be, make sure to avoid cotton. It will completely lose its ability to insulate once it is wet. Synthetic moisture-wicking layers are best.

7. Don’t hold your pee

When you feel the urge to go, don’t say no. When you have a lot of urine in your system, your body has to burn extra calories to keep you warm. While it may be cold to go in the snow, ultimately, you will be warmer. For nighttime emergencies, bring a WELL MARKED water bottle to relieve yourself in.

Be careful

All in all winter camping is a very rewarding experience that everyone should try at least once. It can force you to see a new side of familiar camping spots and bring you to new spots you may have not considered before.

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