Are you planning a trip into the tundra this winter? Do you love the allure cold-weather camping — a crackling fire, snuggling in a sleeping bag, roasting marshmallows? Do you worry about weather you’ll be equipped well for surviving a winter camping trip?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you certainly are not alone. Tens of thousands of people camp during the winter season every year — and not only do they have a great time, but they’re able to stay warm and comfy. You can follow in their footsteps by packing the right materials and items to get you through the trip with efficiency and safety.
Read on to learn our eight pro tips for surviving a cold-weather camping trip. Whether it’s your first trip or your twentieth, there’s something for you to learn in this guide.
Let’s get started…
Tip #1: Thinking About Fire Won’t Help You
Let’s get things straight from the start. When you are out in the cold freezing your…toes…off, just thinking about fire isn’t going to help you. You actually need a source of heat that is legitimate, safe and dependable. To that end, make sure you have a primary heat source and a backup.
An example of this would be to purchase a butane lighter that is pressurized as your main heating source. You can immediately spark a fire without a lot of effort. Your secondary source could be to go old school and pack dryer lint in plastic baggies along with matches in another one so that you have a source of fire and a way to keep it going.
Make sure you pack enough of your fire-starter kit for the duration of your time at the campsite — so five matches and one baggie of dryer lint a day should do.
Another option if you have room is to pack a small battery-operated cooker so that you can warm up fish, beans and other food that you have caught or packed for the trip.
Tip #2: Plan Your Actual Campsite
In the winter especially, it’s important to pick your campsite carefully. That’s because if the sun isn’t shining your way, you’re more likely to be colder — or to have to overcompensate with a roaring fire.
One each thing you can do is to note where you see the sun first when you wake up at sunrise. From there, re position your tent so that the sun is shining directly on your tent. Also, pay attention to how the wind is blowing. You want to angle your tent so that the door is not in the direct path of the wind. Overall, these two simple adjustments will help you stay warmer at your campsite by taking advantage of the sun’s natural state.
Tip #3: Don’t Hibernate in Your Sleeping Bag
What you say? But yes, it’s true. Some of the most experienced winter campers don’t bury their heads in their sleeping bags at night. Instead, they wear three wool hats and wrap their neck with a warm gator. When you cover your head in your sleeping bag, you will inevitably breathe into the sleeping bag and make it wet. This then makes you cold and clammy.
Instead, get into your sleeping bag, zip it up, cover your head and neck with sleep-safe, warm gear and keep your mouth exposed. You’ll stay warm and dry throughout the night.
Tip #4: Don’t Go to Sleep with the Sun
It’s a novice camper’s mistake to try to go to bed as soon as the sun goes to sleep. But what you’ll find when this happens is that you wake up at 3 a.m. and you’re ready to eat or go to the bathroom! You don’t want to have to do this because winter camping means it’s cold!
Instead, try to extend the amount of time you stay awake at the campsite by playing a game with fellow campers around the fire, telling ghost stories, roasting marshmallows and even reading with a headlamp in your tent. Turn in about 9 or 10 p.m., and you’ll be golden — ready to rise with the sun on a winter’s morning.
Tip #5: Leave Your PJs at Home
When camping during the winter, there’s absolutely no reason to strip down from your day clothes and get into pajamas. Instead, just wear your clothes to bed. You’ll stay warmer — and you always can get showered and freshened up in the morning if you need to at the campsite.
Another great way to add warmth to your sleeping experience: Fill a heatproof hot-water bag with water heated on the campfire and put it in the bottom of your sleeping bag. You’ll be warm for several hours with this economical and easy trick.
When you get up in the morning, just remember to hang up all of your clothing and your sleeping bag to dry. It’s likely that condensation and sweat will have made these items moist and you cannot go back to bed with them wet if you want to stay warm.
Tip #6: Stay Warm and Cozy By Packing the Right Clothing
There is nothing worse than getting wet and cold on your camping trip and not having enough to change into to stay warm. To this end, make sure you are packing many layers that can be added and stripped away based upon the weather.
In addition, don’t forget about the material that your clothing is made of — as this can greatly enhance your camping experience. For example, wool socks are excellent for cold nights and hiking throughout the day. You’ll want long underwear to wear beneath your clothing most days. In addition, any clothing item made of moisture-wicking material will help keep you dry. What happens when your clothes get wet because of sweat is that you actually get cold. So avoid that with a moisture-wicking pair of underwear or shirt.
Tip #7: Add Warm Accessories
Your clothes will keep you warm, but did you know you could still be cold? You lose most of the heat from your body, for example, when you head isn’t properly covered. To help lessen the chances that you’ll still feel a chill, make sure you add warm accessories to your packing list.
For example, you’ll want a soft wool hat for your head. Purchase polyester liners for your gloves. Buy packets of toe warmers to throw into your boots, and finally, wrap your ears with a pair of warm shooter’s earmuffs that will not only shield your ears from the cold wind but will cut down on the amount of noise you hear as you are hiking and hunting. With the right accessories, you’ll be toasty and comfortable no matter where you find yourself camping during the winter.
Tip #8: Gulp Your Water
There are few things you actually can survive without in the wild. You can go without food for a good amount of time — but you cannot live without water. Without water, your body will get dehydrated and you will become weak. You’ll need to make sure you have more than enough water around you at all times.
If you think you may be going into an area without a freshwater source, then go ahead and invest in a water bottle or bag that can purify any stream of water. You’ll simply need to have a good sun source so that the sun rays can reach the water directly and start the purification process. Another option is to start a fire and boil all of the water at your campsite to make sure it is free of impurities. It’s always better to be safe than to get sick from drinking contaminated water.
Don’t Leave Home Without These Items
If you’ve forgotten a cold-weather item on your camping trip once, you’ll probably never do it again! That’s because when it is cold in the wild — it means pain is certainly coming for your body. So make sure you are prepared by keeping this guide of eight pro tips with you as you pack. Then, check it twice before you head out on your trip.
Many of these items are lightweight, so you won’t be adding a ton of weight to your pack simply by throwing in that extra pair of polyester liners for your gloves or that extra pair of pure-wool socks. Do yourself a favor and stay warm and safe on your next winter camping trip!