Winter camping isn’t for the faint-hearted. However, it can be fun, mainly because of the challenges, including snow and cold temperatures, it throws your way. While there are fewer crowds and bugs during winter camping, a safe and fun experience requires understanding the difficulties involved and preparing accordingly. This article outlines eight tips for your first camping in winter.
1. Consider car camping
Car camping can be daunting, mainly for first-timers. Before heading for winter car camping, ensure your vehicle is adequately maintained and snow ready to avoid breakdowns. Insulating your windows using a reflective sun shield is another way to prepare your vehicle for winter camping. It traps and keeps warmth from escaping, keeping you warm and ensuring privacy. If you want to sleep in your car, choose weather-suitable sleeping gear.
Find an insulated sleeping pad and a four-season sleeping bag. The sleeping bag should keep you warm even in the lowest temperatures based on your destination. Consider sourcing your sleeping systems and a vehicle rooftop tent from trusted vendors such as iKamper to address common camping issues and ensure a satisfying winter camping adventure.
2. Familiarize yourself with the dangers of winter camping
Winter camping increases the risk of frostbite and hypothermia, severe medical conditions you can contract if you aren’t careful with your body temperature. Frostbite results from the skin and other underlying tissues freezing and is usually common on the toes, fingers, nose, cheeks, chin, and ears. Cover all your skin to stay safe. Hypothermia happens when your body loses heat quicker than it can generate it, leading to low body temperatures. Low energy, lack of coordination, shallow breathing, and shivering are the hypothermia symptoms you might experience. So, cover yourself with a warm blanket if you see these signs.
Dehydration is another common risk that may occur, especially when you think you aren’t sweating as you would in a hot or warm climate. This may cause dizziness, a higher heart rate, dry mouth, weakness, and muscle cramps. Consider drinking a lot of water to prevent dehydration even when you aren’t thirsty. Additionally, you may experience sudden snow storms and less visibility and daylight, making navigating difficult because landmarks, markers, and trails may be covered. Based on the terrain, you might experience the risk of avalanches. Be sure to prioritize your safety.
3. Consider layering
The biggest mistake you can make as a winter camping first-timer is overdressing. And while layering can help trap heat, overdoing it may cause you to sweat, making you wet and increasing your hypothermia risk. When winter layering, ensure your body moisture and temperature are well regulated. To maintain the proper moisture and temperature, reduce layers when exerting yourself and add them when stationary.
You can try three layers: the base layer consisting of long underwear and the insulating layer, which may include a vest, sweater, or fleece. Crown your dressing with a shell layer, keeping moisture and wind at bay. Stay away from cotton because it takes longer to dry.
4. Sign up for winter camping classes
The cold weather adds distinct challenges to camping. And without the proper knowledge and skills, your first camping trip experience may not be as expected. Using a model campsite, your instructors can teach you everything you need to know, including where to set the kitchen and bathroom and how to position your tent for maximum comfort and safety.
During your classes, you’ll cover wildlife safety, food storage, and other winter camping skills you can use in car camping, long-distance backpacking, and other cold weather situations. You may also take an avalanche safety course to up your winter camping skills.
5. Prepare a winter camping checklist
While winter camping has its benefits, it has some challenges too. With proper preparation, you can ensure an incredible winter camping experience. So, consider preparing a winter camping checklist to help plan your trip. Your checklist should include campsite necessities like a highly-rated sleeping bag, a reliable hot tent, an insulated sleeping pad, a sleeping bag liner, a headlamp, and batteries, and insulation for the rooftop tent.
For your clothing, pack long underwear (moisture wicking), warm headwear, hiking boots and socks, snow clothing, a lot of layers, and hand warmers and gloves. Don’t forget food, water, and safety items, including GPS, first aid kit, extra batteries, map, and compass.
6. Check the weather forecast
Before leaving for cold weather camping:
- Check the weather forecast to determine the extreme conditions you’re likely to experience and remain on top of upcoming weather trends and systems for the region and season.
- Research the latest changes in trail closures, terrain, and other related hazards.
- Always prepare for unexpected weather changes and contact the nearest ranger station to ensure you’re up to date.
7. Protect your gadgets from the cold
The winter weather may drain battery power quicker or permanently destroy electronics. Keep your batteries, electronics, canisters, and other things that might freeze in your sleeping bag’s foot. Electronics usually have minimum and maximum operating and storage temperatures, so check them before going to camp in winter. Charging or operating an electronic gadget beyond its set temperature range may result in irreversible damage.
8. Pick your campsite wisely
A winter campsite should be selected in advance to find a good place and set camp. When choosing a campsite, consider the scenery to ensure a wonderful experience. The wind has fewer dangers. Strong winds can blow away your tent and send trees and dead branches crashing to the ground. Check to ensure there are no dead branches when setting camp. If you want to camp on or close to a slope, factor in the avalanche risk before setting up your tent.
Cold air settles in depressions like valleys, and winter camping lower areas may be colder, so avoid these areas and consider a location where the sun is likely to shine in the morning. Pick a campsite near a water source to make gathering drinking and cooking water easier. Consider quick-moving streams because they’re less likely to freeze. During winter, you can camp in the snow or on bare ground. If you want your campsite on the snow, flatten it out or dig down into it with snow shovels and saws.
Cold-weather camping can be fun and challenging at the same time. However, following these winter camping tips can help ensure an experience to remember.
Featured Image by StarFlames from Pixabay