Personally I love winter camping! Down here in Louisiana, it’s so hot and humid in the summer, and we usually don’t get much of a winter. It get’s pretty cold between December and February but that’s it. So I get really excited when December comes around because I know it’s camping time! And it’s important to know how to camp in cold weather without freezing to death.
So if you’re thinking about heading out to camp in freezing temperatures, here are some tips to remember that will keep you safe and warm in the wilderness.
Choose The Right Campsite
Its all about location, location, location. The ideal spot will have plenty of natural shelter from the wind like trees and shrubs. However, you don’t want to set up camp under any trees that appear to be dying and may fall over in the event of high winds or heavy snow fall. If there’s enough snow on the ground, you can even build a snow wall around parts of your tent that will act as a wind barrier.
Its also important to have plenty enough room to guy out your tent. If there’s snow on the ground, stomp out a spot a bit larger than your tent. Doing this will help you avoid sinking into the snow when you’re in your tent.
Another helpful hint is to find a spot that is sunny. That warm sunshine will help while it’s shining bright in the sky. But when it goes down, you’re definitely going to have a nice campfire going.
Different Campfire Options
Its important to remember that in rainy/snowy conditions, it may be difficult or impossible to find some dry wood to start a fire. So here’s a trick I learned one day surfing the web. Take some cotton balls and soak them in petroleum jelly. Bring them along with your gear and use them as a fire starter.
Another neat trick is to take some toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls, fill them with drier lint. Light a couple of these at the bottom of the campfire and you’ll have a nice fire going in no time!
If you know ahead of time how dry or wet the climate is, you can bring some of your own dry fire wood if you have room for it. Sometime you just never know if you’ll be able to find enough dry firewood or not.
Use A 4-Season Tent
It may cost a little more than your average 3-season tent, but trust me when I tell you it’s worth it! 3-season tents are fine for spring, summer and fall but you need something more durable to hold up in the harsh winter elements.
A 4-season tent is designed to withstand the harsh wind and snow. These tents are made from durable polyester or nylon and usually not from mesh or anything like that. The poles that make up the frame are more durable too. And the rain fly usually sits further away from the tent in order to block out the elements better.
Marmot make a really great camping tent in my opinion. Check out my review of the Marmot Tungsten 4-person tent!
Bring The Right Gear
I know this one is pretty obvious but take as much time as you need to think about what’s on the itinerary for the camping trip. Will you be hiking while you camp? If so, what’s the terrain like? You may need to bring snow shoes if there’s going to be a lot of snow on the ground.
You may have to get creative when it comes time to tie your tent down. If the ground is frozen, it will be difficult (even down-right impossible) to drive stakes into the soil. When that happens, try to find some rocks that are about fist-size. Loop your tents guy-lines around the rocks. As long as it’s not real windy out, these rocks will act as above-ground tent stakes and they’ll support your tent.
These are just a couple of examples of the type of gear you may need.
Cotton-Free Is Your Best Bet
When you’re trying to stay warm in the wilderness, you need to retain body heat. So while it might be tempting to wear your favorite pj’s to sleep in….that cotton material is definitely not a good idea. The cotton material will absorb your sweat while you sleep and end up all wet. The only thing worse than freezing cold temperatures is having wet clothes on in freezing cold temperatures.
I recommend some dry-fit shirts and pants. Make sure your clothing is made from synthetic fabrics like merino wool, polyester and polypropylene. These materials are moisture-wicking and will not only keep you warm and cozy, but dry too.
I love a good winter camping adventure as much as the next camping enthusiast. But just remember to always play it safe. Some of these tips that I have listed may be common sense. But you can never be too careful.
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