One of the things that I most enjoy doing in the outdoors is going camping in the winter. Being out in the woods in the cold and the snow is always a lot of fun. However, camping in severely cold conditions does bring some extra risk to the table. What sorts of things should you know about camping in the cold? What kind of special gear do you need?
First off, when we say cold weather camping, we’re talking about temperatures of below freezing all day long. If the temperature reaches the 40s or higher during the day, then you’ll still need to take some of these precautions, but the conditions are not as extreme as what we’re describing here.
When you’re planning on going camping in cold weather, you’ll need to take some extra gear in addition to your regular camping things. The first thing you need is a good quality cold weather sleeping bag. You want one that is rated to at least 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit. You can go lower than that if you wish, but a more economic way to improve the rating of your bag is to simply buy a liner to put in it. I have a fleece liner that improves the rating of my bag by around 15 degrees.
Alternately, if you do not have a good quality cold weather bag, you can use a standard sleeping bag with a space blanket wrapped around it. It’s not quite as effective, but will still get the job done. Just make sure to put the reflective side of the space blanket on the inside!
Aside from your sleeping bag, having a new, good quality tent will go a long way to making your nights more comfortable. Good tents will trap a decent amount of your body heat and keep it inside, raising the temperature in the tent by a noticeable amount. Not enough by itself to keep you warm, but every little bit helps when it’s really cold.
Aside from your sleeping bag and tent, you’ll also want to make sure to have a good sweatshirt (with a hood is best), jacket, hat and gloves. You’ll want to layer your clothes, so you can adjust the number of layers if you start getting too cold or two warm. You do not want to have one big, thick jacket and nothing else. Having a warm cap is also great, as much of your body heat escapes through your neck and head. Oftentimes, a good cap and sweatshirt are all you need to stay warm.