Cold weather camping is different from summer camping and not just because of the temperature. It’s beautiful in its own way and more peaceful and serene, with fewer people venturing out than in summer. However, it comes with its own challenges and you need to plan ahead to avoid being caught in the cold.
With the right prep, cold weather camping can be comfortable, enjoyable and definitely worth it. Even if you’re camping in an ultralight camping hammock, you can still have fun in the winter. Whether you’re looking to go fishing, hiking, or just being outdoors, staying warm is a major key to enjoying winter camping.
Here are 5 helpful tips for cold weather camping:
1. Dress for the occasion
You want clothes to keep you warm especially during idle and inactive periods. If you are hiking to the campsite, your body will create plenty of heat. However, when you stop moving, you’ll need to maintain the heat or a comfortable temperature.
Typically, you want three layers. The base layer is your underwear or the layer next to your skin. Use breathable fabric which will dry quickly because you will sweat during your hike, despite the cold. Merino wool works great without being itchy while cotton will stay wet and keep you cold.
Above the base layer, you want a layer to provide insulation and retain body heat. Consider a fleece, pants and lightweight down jackets. Finally, the outer layer should be waterproof, windproof and breathable.
When thinking of your attire, don’t forget your head, your neck, hands, and feet. A scarf, a beanie, and gloves often make it more comfortable. Wool socks or moisture wicking polyester socks are much better than cotton socks. You should also look for thick boots that are waterproof or water repellent, especially if hiking on snow.
Build a fire first.
Plan ahead and think about your fire sources. You can either go the simple way with dryer lint or the high-tech way with magnesium fire starters.
When you arrive at the campsite, think fire right away. Build your fire before setting up anything else. Keeping warm is at the top of the priority list in cold weather camping. Boil water so you can enjoy hot drinks after setting up.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Drinking enough water is always important and doubly so in the winter. You won’t feel as thirsty during cold weather but it’s just as important as it is during summer. Have some warm drinks like tea or hot chocolate. It hydrates you, warms you up, and it also gives you fuel for your adventure.
You might want to bring a thermos to keep your hot water in. There’s nothing like a warm cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate during a cold camping trip.
Prepare full meals
You want high-calorie meals when you go camping. You want even more calories during cold weather, and if you are doing heavy activities such as hiking or climbing. Prepare full meals beforehand that you can reheat and bring some high calorie snacks.
When it’s freezing cold outside, it’s going to be easier to just reheat frozen food. If you’re camping in a trailer and can bring more things, you might want to have a camping grill for adventure. That way you can have better meals outdoors.
Shelter and sleeping
When camping during fall or winter, the sun will give you some warmth. That said, you can set camp in an angle where the sun rays will hit your tent, while keeping yourself away from the wind.
You should also be ready for condensation. Condensation can happen even if you are using a four-season tent. To minimize it, you can vent your tent at night. The warmth won’t hold in as well, but your tent will stay dryer. To avoid more moisture or water from seeping in, use a tarp or ground cloth below your tent.
For your comfort, choose a sleeping bag that has good insulation and a good sleeping pad. Try to follow the temperature ratings but take note of what temperature is comfortable for you. You should also take note that over time, sleeping bags may lose their insulating properties. If you are using a hammock you will want a good hammock topquilt and underquilt.
You can also use sleeping bag liners to add warmth. It also slows down wear, and it keeps the bag cleaner. If it gets uncomfortable at night, don’t be afraid to wear more clothes to stay warm.
Be prepared for the weather. Make sure you have a good tarp or rainfly that will withstand heavy rain or snow.
Camping during cold weather can be difficult but with the right preparations, you’ll have a great time outdoors! It might just be the time you need away from the hustle and bustle of life.
Warren Kuhn is an outdoor and camping enthusiast, always out to seek the thrill and adrenaline that only nature gives. With a wide berth of knowledge and survival training to help him stay safe in the outdoors, Warren offers a wide range of knowledge.
Check him out for more tips and expert advice for your next trip at TheCampingTrips.