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Winter camping

You must be wondering why any sane person would want to go winter camping. The obvious negatives are myriad: it’s cold, wet, icy, windy and pathetic. Why would you like to experience it? Well, the positive is also that it is cold, wet, blizzard, windy and pathetic. Positive or negative.

Everyone has been on a vacation that was “ruined” by bad weather or crazy misfortune, only to become one of the most vivid, best memories of their lives because it was so intense, difficult, and out of the ordinary. It becomes a story you can tell years later. Even though it is “bad” in the moment, it is a source of joy for the rest of your life.

There are more reasons to winter camp, of course:
  • To harden oneself. Instead of waiting for them to happen, we should prepare for difficult situations before they impose on you. Consent, like camping in the winter, sets you up for the unexpected.
  • To improve your metabolic health. Exposure to cold weather is beneficial in itself, increasing metabolically active brown fat deposits, improving your cold tolerance, and enhancing mitochondrial function.
  • Learn to enjoy all the seasons. It’s not as easy as warm season camping, but winter camping is a way to appreciate and cherish the three months of the year that most people write about. If you can appreciate winter camping, it’s the extra time you get to spend in nature. That’s three more months .

Winter camping is not the same as winter backpacking. There is some overlap, but camping means access to a car, while backpacking means serious weight limits. This post is about winter camping – so it assumes you have a little more room to pack things.

What to Remember When Winter Camping
Accept that you will be cold and uncomfortable

To begin with, the most important part of winter camping is preparing yourself for the physical reality of being outside in the cold. It’s going to be cold and possibly wet, but you’re up for it. You can handle it. It won’t break you. You need to know what you are signing up for. Embrace the realities of the climate, and you’ll be able to transcend them and focus on having fun.

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be active

You can’t just sit around in the cold and expect to have a great time. You must be active. You will have to go hiking, snow-shoeing, cross country skiing, skiing or snowboarding or sledding. You must fight snowballs and build snow forts. Staying active maintains your body temperature and makes eating more satisfying.

maintain calorie intake

This will go away on its own if you stay active like you are, but maintaining a high calorie intake will help you tolerate higher body temperature and cold.

Know how to put out a fire in the snow

With a big enough fire you can handle any amount of cold weather. If you’re lucky, your campsite will come with a ring of fire. If you’re not, you’ll have to fire straight into the ice. You can’t just set fire to ice. It will melt and put out the fire. Instead, spend some time until the ice is compacted and flat, then lay down a piece of sheet metal or a “floor” of heavy logs on which you can start a fire.

If you haven’t brought your wood, you’ll need to find it in the area. Keep these tips in mind to identify wood that is burnable in winter:

  • Small branches or twigs should be cut clean and audible when bent.
  • Large logs should be “light” for their size and have long vertical cracks.
  • Standing dead trees will usually be dry and burnable (that’s where your ax and saw come in).

This is a cool foldable fire pit you can throw in the car and go camping. It is a decent one with a grill attached.

choose the right location

The ground should be flat and firm, so you may need to store snow until it is flat and compact. You must have a windbreak, either natural (large trees, rocks, etc.) or man-made (build your own out of snow), to reduce the amount of wind hitting your tent.

Avoid camping under dying or decaying trees that may break in high winds or drop a 20-foot branch on you. Find a location with ample sunrise views. Nothing like the rays of our sun to cheer you up on a cold morning.

cover your ends

If you can only cover one thing with a warm cloth, pay attention to the ends. Keeping your head, hands, and feet warm and dry is the most important part of surviving winter camping. You can be in a T-shirt and shorts and as long as your hands are warm and dry (and you’re staying active), you’ll feel fine.

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Use synthetics sparingly, but use them

Synthetic water repellant gear is extremely helpful when layered on more natural materials. So take a plastic rain jacket, but put a layer of fleece under it. You also want the most synthetic rain fly you can find for your tent.

winter camping essentials
pack basic tools

You’ll want a few things to survive and thrive in the winter:

  • Shovel: to move the snow, dig in (and out), prepare the campsite
  • Hacksaw: chopping wood, branches
  • Ax: chopping wood, burning
  • Firestarter (various types: matches, lighters, magnesium)
get the right shoes

If there is no snow or just a few inches, you may be fine in boots. I’d recommend sticking to minimalist waterproof shoes; Look here for one of the debate ‘s best ones.

If there’s a lot of snow, my favorite way to get around is on a snowshoe.

wear wool

Wool was designed by the hand of natural selection over millions of years to provide breathable protection against cold weather. Then humans take that raw, near-perfect substrate and turn it into fabric to make it even more perfect. If you want to avoid cold weather, wear woolen clothing, wool socks, shirts, gloves and sweaters. Use wool blanket . Use wool soles.

If you really want to splurge, you can even get a sleeping bag made entirely out of wool (with a little cotton).

sleep in a four-season tent

Four season tents have stronger poles (to withstand wind), thicker material (to keep out cold and heat in), and better/more extensive water and snow resistance than three season tents. It’s a solid option that I’ve heard good things about: the REI Co-op Basecamp Tent.

To really live it up, splurge for the “glow” tent, complete with heat-resistant jacks for the wood stove. Go Hemingway-on-safari style.

use two sleeping pads

Start with a foam pad directly on the ground, with an inflatable on top of it. It reduces body heat loss on cold ground.

The cell should be foam pad .

indoor propane heater

Indoor-safe propane heaters can increase the efficiency of your camp even in the harshest of winters. This one is good—it’s a good price, it’s reliable, it has great reviews, and it’s a quick stop when knocked over.

Get the Right Cook Stove

You need the ability to cook food reliably on the stove if the fire is not going out. Trangia from Sweden is considered very good. Glue some aluminum foil to a piece of plywood and use to cook on it.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself. You come from a long line of ancestors who braved the cold weather and lived their whole life outside in the cold. You can do weekend camping in the snow.


Mark Sisson, Mark Daly Apple

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