Winter camping is an easy activity to warm up to as long as you stay snug. Here are our essential cold-weather camping tips and gear recommendations to keep you toasty.
A Canadian pastime
Trekking over the snow in the middle of a campground or park, in an otherworldly, ice-hung landscape you have all to yourself, is a particularly Canadian pastime. It’s all about feeling warm and alive in the pristine cold.
When planning a winter camping trip, give serious thought to how you are going to get around. Trails and signs may all be covered in snow.
- Take a good map and an even better compass, and study your routes in advance.
- If using a GPS, make sure you program in lots of waypoints.
- For footwear, traditional hiking boots may do, but it would be better to have specialized winter or mountaineering boots that are warm and water-repellant.
What you wear, in layers of course, may be the biggest determining factor of how warm you stay.
- You need to choose clothes that will wick moisture, dry quickly, insulate, breathe, and are waterproof.
- Breathable fleece is always a good choice or, if you prefer natural fibres, non-itchy Merino wool and wool-fleece blends will do the trick.
- The base layer could be a pair of good polyester thermal underwear.
- The middle layer is the insulating one and might include expedition-weight fleece or micro-fleece shirt, pants, and jacket.
- The outer layer, or shell, should be waterproof, windproof, and breathable. Make sure the shell has core and underarm vents that will siphon off excess heat and moisture.
- For socks, forget about cotton and use Merino wool or wicking polyester socks designed for the activity.
- Since most of the heat escapes through your head, have a good fleece or wool stocking hat.
- For your hands consider polyester glove liners worn inside polyester mitts or gloves.
For winter camping, you’ll need a four-season or mountaineering tent that’s fast and easy to set up, even in nasty, snowy weather.
- These single- or double-wall tents do carry a bit more weight but offer much better snow and wind protection than fairer-weather models.
- If it’s not unbearably cold, keep the vents open in your tent to help prevent breath condensation on its ceiling (and snowing down on you the next morning).
Always choose a sleeping bag that’s rated colder than the coldest temperature you expect to encounter. You can unzip it if you get too hot.
- The bags should be amply stuffed with goose down or synthetic insulation.
- Winter sleeping bags usually have draft tubes above the shoulders and zippers, as well as hoods, to keep heat in.
- You can add extra warmth with a sleeping bag liner. For further cushioning and insulation be sure to use at least two full-length sleeping pads.
One last piece of advice
Change into the full set of dry clothes that you are going to wear the next day and go to bed in them, keeping both the clothes and you warm.