The colder months of the year may not immediately be associated with camping, but there is tent pitching fun to be had if done properly. Check out these 6 Valuable, Major Winter Camping Tips.
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*Always consult a physician before you engage in outdoor activities such as winter camping and hiking.
Layering is Key
When you layer, it is easy to adjust to changing weather conditions and your own physical demands. For your base layer, near your skin, look for clothing made of synthetic fabric, wool, or silk. Avoid cotton because it is not particularly good at wicking away moisture. In cold weather conditions, thermal underwear can be a great option. It comes in a range of styles and fabrics.
The middle layer serves as your insulator. Wool or fleece make great choices. And for your outer layer, which shields you from the snow, water, and wind, chose waterproof options from head to toe.
Also, don’t forget to protect any exposed areas with sunscreen and your eyes with appropriate UVA and UVB blocking sunglasses. Snow especially can reflect a significant amount of the sun’s rays.
Right Equipment Means Everything
In addition to wearing appropriate winter camping clothing, bringing along the right camping gear for conditions is crucial. Here are some of the items that you will need for winter camping in an established campsite or near civilization. Significant back country camping often requires more specialized gear and safety equipment.
- A Three or Four Season Tent-Depending on the temperature range and conditions, you may be able to get away with a three season tent with a tarp or snowbank strategically placed to serve as a wind break. Or you may feel more comfortable going ahead and investing in a four season tent.
- A Sleeping Bag With Good Insulation-Pay attention to the temperature range that the sleeping bag is rated for. Also, consider your ability to snuggle down into the bag and still have some room at bottom to store items if you need to.
- A Sleeping Pad-For comfort and additional warmth/protection between you and the ground.
- Headlamp-Shorter days means more time spent in the dark. Look for a headlamp that uses lithium batteries as they perform better in cold conditions than alkaline.
- Camping Stove-Simple and streamlined is best for winter camping.
- Collapsible Shovel–If you expect to encounter situations were you need to move snow around or tamp down an area to set up a tent, this tool is indispensable.
Other gear worth bringing along includes hand and feet warmers, matches in waterproof case and lighter, cooking pot and eating utensils, and first aid gear. Many of the major camping gear suppliers offer comprehensive checklists for winter camping. I recommend that you peruse a few out to make sure that you don’t forget anything.
Tent Placement Is Critical
Several major considerations should factor into where you set up your tent when winter camping. First, you want to find as level, impediment free ground as possible. If the ground is covered with snow, find a relatively flat area on which you can tamp down the snow to provide a mostly level surface on which to place the tent.
Be sure to look around you and make sure that you are not placing your tent in sloping or bowl areas that are potential avalanche zones. Also, avoid camping under tree branches that are laden with snow. One could snap off and come right down on your tent.
Keep The Water Coming
Getting dehydrated in winter conditions can happen much easier than you might think. Often we forget because we are not sweating profusely or feeling thirsty, that we still need plenty of fluid intake. The site SectionHIker offers some great tips for keeping your water bottles from freezing in frigid temperatures. These tips include burying your full water bottle in snow as it is a great insulator, putting a sealed water bottle in your sleeping bag, and turning your water bottles upside down.
Also, many experts recommend carrying an insulated water bottle. Some options include bottles such as a Hydro Flask Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle or pairing a Nalgene Wide Mouth Bottle with a Nalgene Bottle Carrier.
Where heat exhaustion and heat stroke tend to be the most significant issues during summer, frostbite and hypothermia rein supreme in winter. Don’t get me wrong, you can easily overheat if you have too many layers for conditions on, but frostbite and hypothermia are the most formidable foes during prolonged time in frigid conditions.
Make sure that you know the warning signs of these conditions and how to treat them properly. Also, make sure that you are aware that exertion in the cold weather burns lots of calories. Adjust your intake of nutrient dense foods accordingly.
Overestimating Can Be Killer
Don’t make the mistake of overestimating how much that you can do in cold/snowy weather. A hike or activity may take significantly longer in the cold (especially if trudging through snow) than it would in warmer weather conditions. Significant exertion in the cold can be taxing for your heart, lungs, etc.. so check with your physician and make sure that you are in good health to participate in these outdoor activities.
By properly preparing and following vital Winter Camping tips, you can have a good time exploring the outdoors in a whole new way.
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