Winter Camping Best Practices
November 10 2021 – Avril Geaney
It is that time of year again. There is nothing quite like being the only one overlooking a frozen, alpine lake, surrounded by snow, ice and the whistling wind through the pines. Yet, even these moments can’t justify a terrible night of camping.
Camping in the winter needs to be treated with the right amount of respect since freezing temperatures while you sleep can kill.
You need to prepare and use winter camping best practices to ensure you are ready to combat the cold. That way, you can make those picture-perfect alpine memories without remembering a miserable previous night camping in the cold.
Here are our top tips and best practices for camping in the winter like a pro.
Best Practices for Winter Camping Like a Pro
1. Find a sheltered spot
Start by finding the right spot to camp. You want to try and find a location that is reasonably dry and flat. You also need it to be relatively sheltered. Protecting yourself from the cold wind or flurries stacking up around you at night is essential. If it is a worry in your area, avoid locations in avalanche risk zones.
Once you have found your area, tramp on it to ensure no soft spots in the snow. You could rip the floor fabric when your tent is up by accidentally stepping on a soft spot.
After setting up your tent, get inside and use your knees to flatten the area even more. You should do this right away since the snow will melt and freeze into ice once you spend only a couple of minutes in the tent on top of it. You can also create a hollow for yourself to sleep in to stop from rolling around.
2. Use gear meant for winter camping.
For those of you accustomed to camping in warmer seasons, it is essential to understand that winter camping gear is different from gear for any other season. Here are some of the pieces of gear you should consider bringing on your winter camping trip..
Having a well-staked tent is always important, no matter the season. You can stake your tent with typical tent stakes if you are in the snow. Pack the snow down before planting the stakes. You might need to reinforce it with sticks, a stack of snow, buried skis or whatever you have with you.
If there isn’t a lot of snow, you need to get stakes you can push into the frozen ground. Our storm stakes are crafted with a super-strong aluminium alloy, so they don’t bend when inserting them into the ground. We also tested them on soft soil, snow, and sand to ensure they are a suitable stake anchor.
Boots with Removable Liners
Wear hiking boots with removable liners. That way, you can take wet liners out at night and put them in the bottom of your sleeping bag to dry. Then, the next day, you start your hikes with dry feet.
Make sure you have your lights readily available as it can get dark quite quickly in the evenings. The Crua LED light is perfect for your tent or hammock, thanks to the quickdraw styled clip or magnet. This feature allows you to clip the LED light to the top of your tent with ease or stick it to a stake. Rope lights are also and easy option to keep your tent lit.
Another piece of gear you should sleep with is your tech. The cold tends to drain battery life from phones and GPS devices. Keeping them warm prolongs their life. You could also consider using lithium batteries since they perform much better in freezing temperatures and are lighter than other batteries.
3. Wear plenty of layers.
Layering might seem like one of the more apparent aspects of staying warm in the winter. We can’t stress it enough. Not only should you wear layers, but only sleep in dry layers.
You must wear the right kind of clothes when you sleep. Avoid wearing too tight-fitting clothing, so it doesn’t restrict your blood flow. Wear wool or polyester but avoid cotton. There is a reason that hiking experts say cotton can kill.
Don’t forget the accessories. Wear warm socks, fingered gloves and a warm hat to bed to keep heat from escaping. Don’t bury your face in your sleeping bag since it will increase the moisture in your bag.
4. Consider adding a hot water bottle.
If you can spare the time outdoors to boil water, you could bring along a hot water bottle. Boil the water and fill it right before you head into the tent to sleep. It will be like a mini-furnace inside your sleeping bag and help dry out the wet clothes you leave at the bottom of your bag.
The risk of this is that moisture will get trapped in your bag. Moisture in your sleeping environment is the enemy of maintained warmth.
5. Stay hydrated and fed to stay warm.
Keeping yourself both hydrated and fed is an excellent way to stay warm. As long as your body has the nutritional means to function correctly, it will fortify itself against the cold.
If you are on a long trip and don’t want to worry about bringing lots of water, you can boil snow. Yes, it is necessary to boil it. Snow occurs by sticking to pieces of dirt. These can even be viruses or bacteria. Thus, even in glacial environments, it is necessary to boil it.
6. Be willing to use a pee bottle.
One of the negative aspects of staying hydrated is the increased need to urinate more often. It is exceptionally inconvenient for women to leave their sleeping bags, tent and at least partially disrobe to pee outside.
Luckily, there are plenty of options for those that are willing to use them. For example, you can use a pee bottle and accessories that allow you to pee while standing in the warmth of your tent. Just make sure your pee bottle is extremely well-marked.
7. Tempt yourself into the cold mornings with hot coffee.
If you have managed to successfully stay warm all night, it can be even harder to come out of your tent in the morning. Prepare yourself for it by bringing some kind of method to make hot coffee in the morning. You can bring along a backpacking coffee maker or you can make cowboy coffee.
8. Slather exposed skin with Vaseline.
Take a page out of the Inuit’s book. They have made their home in some of the world’s coldest climates. They use animal fat to protect any exposed skin from losing circulation and suffering from frostbite. Our modern iteration of this is Vaseline.
Although it might not feel very comfortable, it is better to be safe than very sorry. While you sleep or hike in sub-zero weather, spread Vaseline over any exposed skin.