If you are reading this article then I assume you are either planning or thinking about cold weather camping. Camping as such is an exciting activity but camping in cold weather is alt an experience in itself, if planned well it could be the most memorable trip. No matter if you are a beginner or a season camper if you are going to be out in cold, you have to plan seriously.
There is an old saying that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. The same could be said for cold weather. If you have planned well and taken the right gear you can make it as comfortable as it can get. Here are some cold weather camping tips that I would like to share with you –
- Setup your camp as soon you arrive to your campsite, do not postpone it for later as the sunlight in winter is very precious. It may get dark and cold once you return from hike or any other activity you have planned, and it will take you double the time and energy to perform same chores at that time.
- Do not do as much strenuous activities during the day as you would normally do in summer. Energy is very precious in winters and you need some reserve energy to perform daily tasks like setting camp, cooking, cleaning.
- Everything takes more time to do in the cold – your body just naturally moves slower. So plan & allow extra time for all your activities.
- For camping during the winters you need some extra light during night and mornings as days are short and it will be dark before you know. So come with extra camp lights and batteries etc.
- Select a tent site which is sent from the wind as much as possible, you can hang a tarp between two trees to block the wind hitting your tent directly. The wind chill factor can often be considerable and can result in effective temperatures being much lower than reported.
- Your tent should be strong enough to withstand high wind and snow, carry a four season tent with you these tents generally have stronger poles to handle snow.
- If you are suspecting heavy snowfall then make sure to hang a tarp above your tent, this will protect your tent from direct snowfall.
- You can also put an extra tarp below your tent or sleeping bag this will help you keep warm.
- Before you go on the trip make sure your tent does not have any wind leaks in it.
- If possible choose a tent that has a mesh netting that hangs just below the inside top of the tent to keep frost that flakes off the ceiling from constantly falling down on you while sleep.
- Vent your tent as much as possible at night to reduce condensation on the inside of the tent walls. This condensation can result in drops of water falling on your sleeping bag and cloths while you sleep.
- A Sleeping bags job is to trap heat that your body creates. Winter sleeping bags are thicker so they can trap more heat. Select a sleeping bag which is rated 10-15 degrees lower than the temperature you will be camping on.
- Use a good sleeping pad, the primary job of sleeping pad is to insulate your sleeping bag from the cold ground and helps to trap the heat between you sleeping bag and the ground.
- Buy a solid, foam type sleeping pad over an air mattress, since an air mattress will allow the cold from the ground to see up into your bag while you sleep.
- You can also line the bottom of your tent with an emergency blanket. They are small and lightweight to carry and do a great job at reflecting your body heat up instead of passing it into the ground.
- Sleeping bag warms up by trapping the heat emitted by your body, if you get into a cold sleeping bag it will take some time for it to warm up with your body heat. You can actually pre-heat your sleeping bag, for this boil some water, put it in a water tight bottle and put that bottle in your sleeping bag 15-20 minutes before going to bed. This will make your sleeping bag warm and cozy and also help maintaining body temperature during the night. But take an extra care that the bottle is not leaking water because a wet sleeping bad is 100 times worse than a cold one.
- Do not breathe inside your sleeping bag at night. Breathe through a woolen cloth or bandana instead. Breathing inside the sleeping bag will form the moisture, which will wet your sleeping bag and reduce its insulating capability.
- Some people go out in winter wearing just a heavy jacket over a shirt, this is fine when you are in town but during camping you need to wear clothes in layers. So you can adjust these layers according to the temperature or the activities you are doing. For eg the energy emitted by your body will be different while you are just sitting compared to while you are hiking. Heavy clothing during hiking will make you produce more energy and sweat, that’s when you can remove a layer or two of clothing to adjust to your body needs.
- Take the above suggestion and avoid a lot of sweating because it will wet your clothes and too much moisture in your clothes will make you even colder as it evaporates.
- Avoid cotton and wear wool or synthetic. Cotton loses its insulating qualities when it gets wet, whether from rain or sweat. Cotton also takes a long time to dry out. Wool or synthetic materials are much better suited to winter camping in cold weather conditions.
- If you will need to walk on snow which you most probably do you will need waterproof and insulated boots. They will protect your feet and socks getting wet by snow getting inside your boots.
- Conserving your energy during night and sleeping with a lot of warm clothing is also important; sleep with a warm cap, gloves and socks. Keeping your head, hands and feet warm is important because most of the heat escapes body from these areas.
- Keep the clothes you are going to wear next morning inside your sleeping bag. Mornings in the winter can be very cold and it will be nice to have warm clothes to put on when you wake up.
- Carry a propane stove for morning coffee & breakfast, you never know how long it may take to light a campfire during the morning and more so if you find your firewood wet. Having a propane stove helps you get your morning coffee or breakfast quickly which will provide you energy for other chores.
- Arrange and lay out all the coffee, coffee pot, water, cups and stove for the morning. This also means getting the stove gassed up and ready so all it needs is a match to light it in the morning.
- Consume food with more calories because your body works harder and needs more energy to do the same amount of work in cold than it does in the warmer months.
- Always keep yourself hydrated by drinking lots of water, you may not feel thirsty but your body looses a lot of water during cold and you can easily get dehydrated.
- Have a big and hot dinner before you sleep this will provide enough fuel for your body to generate heat during the long winter night.
Last but not the least keep your worries next and take time to enjoy your cold weather camping! There is so much serenity and the stillness in the outdoors during winters which you will not see in warmer months when camp grounds are swarming with summer campers.