Winter will often bring us challenges, from icy black roads to sideways sleet, but it can also bring us one of the most gorgeous times of the year. From Snow-capped trees, picturesque landscapes and untouched snowflakes, it can bring out everyone’s adventurous side. So instead of letting Jack Frost have all the fun, we’ve devised a few ways that will allow even beginner campers to get out and enjoy what winter has to offer. Now winter camping is challenging but that doesn’t mean it can’t be comfortable and it certainly doesn’t mean that it requires a camping veteran to make it fun. With this said, here is what you need to know to get out and enjoy this year’s wonderful snow.
The Ins and Outs of Clothing: Getting It Right!
Although this may be obvious to anyone in the winter time, the number one thing that you must do to be comfortable (… and to survive for that matter) is to stay warm and dry! Now the reason this is being mentioned is because it all comes down to your clothing, what you do with it, how you wear it and when you take it off. Yes, there is an appropriate time to take off a few layers and that’s as soon as you start sweating. There is a misconception that you will only get hypothermia when the weather is below zero but that’s absolutely not the case! If you have several layers on and you begin to perspire, if you leave those layers on you will get wet. If you stay wet, you are extremely more likely to get hypothermia. Symptoms of hypothermia include: slurred speech, feeling too “hot” and disorientation.
To avoid this, here are a few hacks that you can do to make sure you keep yourself and your friends and family warm during a winter camping adventure!
- DO NOT wear cotton/denim. You’ll want to wear synthetics that insulate you and provide you with a “wicking” effect. Wicking ensures that your clothing doesn’t get wet from perspiration.
- Wear thick woollen socks at night to bed and do not get them wet.
- Sleep with your boots and/or boot liners! The reason for this is to keep them warm because if they’ve gotten damp during the day and are left cold at night, they will freeze.
- If you are planning on hiking, bring nitrile exam gloves with you. This keeps your gloves from absorbing the sweat that you may or may not have while hiking. Plus it helps keep you warm!
- Wear fleece-lined waterproof socks during the day as these are way less likely to get wet than say woollen socks. Or alternatively, wear oven bags underneath your socks to stop the sweat from reaching them.
- Stuff your clothing for the next day into the bottom of your sleeping bag – this keeps them warm and keeps them from freezing over night.
Remember that you always want to wear light layers and adjust them as you go through your daily camping activities. If you begin to sweat, you have a problem! Take off layers and adjust as many times as you need to, as sweating is what you need to avoid.
Sleeping Bag Tips and Tricks
Nothing is worse than sleeping cold all night long or waking up shivering because there wasn’t enough warmth between you and whomever else you’re camping with. The first thing to this is always make sure you are bringing along a mummy-style sleeping bag and ensure that you either have one that is goose down or synthetically filled. The second thing is to make sure that you are always insulated from the ground! If you’re not, every single night is going to be cold and uncomfortable. Here are some hacks:
- Insulate your sleeping bag! Go to your local shop and buy car windscreen heat reflectors. Poke some holes in them and then watch as you will stay toasty warm all night long. They will reflect your body heat back onto you, keeping you warmer for longer throughout the night.
- Boil hot water, place it inside your water bottle and then sleep with that at your feet at night. This will keep you warm and if you place clothing or your boot liners inside your sleeping bag, it will keep them from freezing.
- DO NOT sleep with your face underneath your sleeping bag. This will cause you to cancel out the insulation that it is supposed to provide. Always make sure there is ventilation! This goes the same for your tent!
- You can use yoga mats to insulate you from the cold ground. Just place them underneath your sleeping bag. Otherwise think about buying a thermal pad.
- You can use hand warmers to heat up your sleeping bag.
- NEVER go to bed cold! If you have to, do jumping jacks or squats to get your heart rate up.
The most important thing here is to ensure that you are protecting your body from freezing at night. If you have others inside the tent with you, then zip your sleeping bags together and make sure to cuddle in real close. Yes, do this even if it seems awkward at first as it will keep you from getting too cold.
The Importance of Food Choices and Hydration
If your body does not have the fuel it needs to burn to keep warm, you will not be able to adequately keep yourself warm which means camping won’t be fun because you’ll be uncomfortable. In order to get around this, make sure that you are consuming the right types of food.
- Think nuts, jerky, cheese and other high protein foods as protein is harder to break down during digestion and because of this your body will need to burn for longer, keeping you warmer.
- Keep your water bottle upside down and in insulated pockets. By doing this you have a far less chance of having it freeze shut. This ensures you are able to drink throughout the day.
- When melting snow to drink, always start with liquid water and pack in snow as you need it. Keep in mind that you will need a lot of snow to fill one water bottle! If you plan on doing this, bring a funnel with you to keep out any dirt/leaves.
- Do not just eat dehydrated meals! Bring boil-in-the-bag meals with you as these are super easy to hydrate and cook.
- When sitting to eat, sit on an insulated foam pad!
- Bring a stove stabilizer with you if you’re packing a heat-generating stove. Nothing is worse than cooking and having it falling over halfway through because of snow melting underneath it.
- Eat late at night. This will ensure that your body has something to burn to keep you warm.
- Wrap both any fuel bottles you may have and your water bottles in duct tape. This keeps you from getting frost bite.
Finally, always bring wooden utensils with you as these drop in temperature really quickly and heat up really quickly. This makes it way easier to actually deal with the food you are making and eating. If you have to, plastic will work but be careful with these as they can get brittle and break easy.
Other Neat Must-Know Tips!
- Create your own hand warmers out of ziploc bags and calcium chloride ice-melt pellets. Fill your first bag about 1/4 of the way, then place a second bag with water inside of it. Squeeze the interior bag until it pops and then you’ll have heat from anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour.
- Bring tinfoil to make an easy grilling apparatus out of sticks!
- Use snow to wipe – no toilet paper needed. Just make sure not to squeeze it too tight as an ice block won’t do the trick!
- Use lithium batteries as these will actually stand up to the cold temperatures.
- Keep your matches in a plastic waterproof container.
- Keep your tent ventilated, always!
- DO NOT hold your pee. This makes it so your body has to expend energy on holding it in and keeping it warm. Instead, get it all out!
- Make a wind wall if you bring a tarp with you. This will help keep your tent warmer.
- Tie key rings/binder rings to your zippers to make opening and closing easy without removing your winter gloves!
- Wear sunglasses so you don’t get snow blindness!
- Coat a cotton ball in Vaseline, place it within tin foil and then make a small square opening. Pull a bit of the cotton ball out to make a wick and then take a match to it. This will light almost every single time and will give you 10-20 minutes of heat.
- If you’re planning on using a hammock instead of a tent, bring an under-quilt for insulation purposes.
If you are planning on taking a winter camping adventure, make sure you know what your body can handle and how it works under cold temperatures. The worse thing you can do is underestimate how cold you’re going to get and not bring enough insulation with you. Winter camping doesn’t have to be miserable, cold, wet or uncomfortable! Instead, it can be enjoyed as long as you are smart with what you bring with you! Don’t let Jack Frost stall your winter camping fun, this year get out there and enjoy the winter wonderland!
Check out this article on mustgocamping.com with tips on winter camping gear.