Most people go camping in the summer, but true outdoorsmen know that cold weather camping can be an incredible experience. Of course, you'll face some serious challenges if you decide to set up camp in the middle of the winter, but you can enjoy yourself if you plan ahead and take the right equipment. Here are a few essential tips for staying safe.
1. Think About Insulation
Your favorite cotton sleeping bag won't keep heat close to your body. Look for clothes, mats and bags
made from materials that provide excellent insulation. Wool and fleece work well. Some camping shops offer clothes made from water-resistant polypropylene, which are an excellent choice if you're planning on spending time in the snow. Be sure to think about every part of your body; by a couple great pairs of socks, stocking caps and gloves. Dress in layers.
You can often find sleeping bags
and camping clothes with temperature ratings. These are helpful when you're looking to stay warm. Always bring a foam pad to put under your sleeping bag. The pad will separate you from the ground so that you won't wake up shivering.
2. Bring the Right Tent
Many tents are designed for summer camping. They allow heat to escape, which is the opposite of what you want during the winter.
Look for a tent specifically built for winter conditions
. Consider a dome tent
or tunnel tent, which offers better performance than a traditional tent when the wind starts kicking up.
3. Take a Stove
You'll often have trouble finding firewood in cold weather, and harsh winds can put out your kindling regularly. Bring a gas stove along with enough fuel for your trip.
Practice with the stove before you leave for your trip to make sure that you know how it works. As soon as you set up camp, get your fire going to boil your water and cook your food.
4. Watch Your Intake
Your body burns a lot of extra calories in cold weather to keep temperatures at a safe level. Bring high-protein, high-calorie foods to give yourself enough energy to enjoy the trip. Nuts and trail mix are great for snacking. Eat throughout the day and throw in a hot soup or other cooked meal near bedtime. Sugary snacks are another great option, as they quickly release energy to keep your body warm.
Don't eat snow or drink lake water; bring your own supply of water and remember to stay hydrated. Many campers don't think that dehydration is an issue during winter trips, and this can be a dangerous mistake.
If you don't have much experience camping in the wintertime, plan a short first trip. Winter camping is just as rewarding as summer camping for many people, but you'll need to build a tolerance to tough weather conditions and a solid understanding of the challenges of winter camping. If you've got an experienced camping partner, take him or her along--the extra help and company might be your best resource.
For more great cold weather camping tips
check out our Complete Cold Weather Camping Guide