Winter Camping Hacks

Camping in the Winter

The fun is far from over when the tem­per­a­ture drops below freez­ing. Win­ter camp­ing brings new pitch-a-tent pos­si­bil­i­ties and scenic sur­round­ings to explore. Thanks to the seem­ing­ly daunt­ing con­di­tions of cold weath­er camp­ing and short­ened sun­light in the day, it’s impor­tant to pack prop­er­ly for win­ter con­di­tions and pre­pare for the ele­ments. Besides hav­ing the right win­ter gear for your activ­i­ties, know­ing a few win­ter camp­ing hacks can trans­form your overnight expe­ri­ence from bat­tling the ele­ments to thriv­ing in a win­ter wonderland.

Cre­ate the Per­fect Campsite

When pitch­ing a tent for win­ter camp­ing, you need to avoid dead­fall, decrease your expo­sure to the wind, and choose a spot where you won’t wake up in a pud­dle of snowmelt. After find­ing the per­fect spot, you can begin shap­ing your win­ter retreat. With an avalanche shov­el or equiv­a­lent tool, dig a pit below your ten­t’s vestibule. This dug-out space should pro­vide plen­ty of room to orches­trate the evening rou­tine of tak­ing off boots or the morn­ing shuf­fle of redress­ing. After dig­ging a vestibule pit, it’s reward­ing (and warm­ing!) to con­tin­ue dig­ging out a kitchen space, com­mu­ni­ty pit, or cozy fire ring.

Upgrade Your Food for Cold Storage 

Due to the tougher trav­el con­di­tions, cold­er tem­per­a­tures, and extra chores involved with win­ter camp­ing, it’s impor­tant to pack some calo­rie-dense foods. One major ben­e­fit of cold-weath­er camp­ing is the nat­ur­al refrig­er­a­tor you’ll be spend­ing your time in. This means you can sub­sti­tute some usu­al sum­mer camp­ing fare and upgrade to more per­ish­able items, includ­ing pre-cooked meals, deli meat, and even bacon. Quick prep meals will keep you from sit­ting in snow­banks too long, and hot ther­mos drinks nev­er taste as good as they do when win­ter camping.

Cooking in the WInter

Boil Snow

Water sources can often freeze over dur­ing win­ter camp­ing sea­son, and water fil­ters don’t always per­form quick­ly in cold con­di­tions. Boil­ing snow is one of the best options for hydrat­ing on win­ter adven­tures. Liq­uid-fuel stoves are more depend­able in cold-weath­er con­di­tions than fuel can­is­ters. It’s rec­om­mend­ed to test any stove at low­er tem­per­a­tures before pack­ing it into the back­coun­try. Regard­less of what type you use, it’s impor­tant to bring an abun­dant amount of gas to heat all that snow. In fact, hav­ing an entire back­up stove sys­tem can be a life­saver, keep­ing you from los­ing your pri­ma­ry source of water and food due to a malfunction.

Go to Bed Warm

The biggest trep­i­da­tion for win­ter camp­ing often comes from the idea of spend­ing the night in the cold. With the prop­er gear and appar­el, includ­ing a qual­i­ty sleep­ing pad to insu­late you from the ground, stay­ing warm should be easy to do—especially if you hit the sleep­ing bag already toasty. Before going to bed, con­sid­er doing some light exer­cise (while avoid­ing exces­sive sweat) or eat­ing an ener­giz­ing snack that can act like fuel for your fur­nace. If you need a lit­tle extra heat though, a clas­sic hack works just as well in the out­doors as at home: fill a water bot­tle with hot water (not boil­ing!) and stick it into your sleep­ing bag near your feet.

Stay warm

Add an Extra Lay­er Beneath You

The ground will zap any warm feel­ing you have right from under­neath you. Hav­ing plen­ty of insu­la­tion between you and the tent floor is just as key as a good sleep­ing bag in stay­ing com­fort­able through a long win­ter night. Con­sid­er adding an extra lay­er under­neath your usu­al sleep sys­tem, such as a yoga mat or rug. Pil­ing non-sharp gear into the tent can also help trans­fer the sub­ter­ranean chill to objects that aren’t your warm sleep­ing body.

Sleep with Your Clothes 

Keep­ing essen­tial items from freez­ing can be a mind­ful chal­lenge of win­ter camp­ing. Pil­ing tomorrow’s clothes into your sleep­ing bag not only adds extra insu­la­tion to your sleep sys­tem, but it makes putting on tomorrow’s undies much eas­i­er. Water bot­tles should also be kept some­where insu­lat­ing and stored upside down so that if they do begin to freeze, the caps won’t be first to ice over.

Rein­force Your Zippers 

By adding an extra key ring to your zip­pers, not only can you rein­force some of these essen­tial pieces of micro-gear, but you can also make them much eas­i­er to oper­ate with gloved hands or cold fin­gers. Oth­er micro adjust­ments you can make while win­ter camp­ing includes uti­liz­ing draw­string bags instead of ones with buck­les, switch­ing out cold-weath­er intol­er­ant alka­line bat­ter­ies for lithi­um pow­er sources, and con­vert­ing cold-con­ducive met­al sporks to wood­en utensils.

Oth­er Quick Win­ter Camp­ing Hacks

Keep Your Mouth out of Your Sleep­ing Bag: Ven­ti­la­tion is key for sleep­ing in a win­ter tent, and by keep­ing your breath­ing holes out­side of the sleep­ing bag you can min­i­mize the time you need the next day to dry out your sleep system.

Pee When You Need To, use a Bot­tle if You Want To: A build-up of urine inhibits the body from warm­ing up effi­cient­ly, which means that as hard as it might be to crawl out of your cozy sleep­ing bag, reliev­ing your­self will aid in stay­ing warm and sleep­ing bet­ter. For eas­i­er moti­va­tion, embrace the pee bot­tle or a fun­nel system.

Wrap Fuel Bot­tles in Duct Tape to Pre­vent Frost­bite: the stick of a warm hand against a cold fuel bot­tle is less than fun, and by wrap­ping these cold con­ducive con­tain­ers in duct tape, you can pre­vent this frost­bite and pack along some extra utility.

Pack It Out: Pack­ing out waste mate­r­i­al, includ­ing human waste mate­r­i­al, is very impor­tant when camp­ing atop snow­pack. Bring a seal­able dis­pos­al bag and plen­ty of “pro­vi­sions” to make quick and effi­cient work of the process.

If you are look­ing to prac­tice some win­ter camp­ing hacks, or per­fect your cold-weath­er camp­ing tech­niques, the Unit­ed States is stacked with unbe­liev­able places to dis­cov­er cov­ered in snow. From the snow-rimmed caldera at Crater Lake to the frozen bod­ies of water of the Bound­ary Waters, these 8 Win­ter Camp­ing Des­ti­na­tions deliv­er on win­ter wonderlands.