It’s time to have fun in the snow! If you are thinking about winter camping and this is your first time planning for it, then this post is for you. We explain the basics of winter camping and backpacking.
Where To Camp
Carry out a thorough research of where you are going to camp way before the trip. Make sure you know the terrain and are familiar with the area. Once you have settled on your campsite, keep checking the weather forecast prior to the date of setting out, and keep checking even after you have left.
Ensure that your campsite is not at a hilly place. You should check for a flat area that has tree shades that will protect you from the wind and then set your tent to face the east side so that you can get the first rays of the sun to beat the morning chills. Avoid setting up at hilly places, as there are no windbreakers. Don’t settle at the bottom of the hills either, where frozen air converges in the deep of the night.
When You Get To Camp
When you reach your campsite, step on the snow cover with your feet. Ensure that the snow is packed instead of flaky. It is easier to set up camp on stepped-on snow cover. Also, look for a site that is close to a stream to get access to water. Look for firewood as well. You will need more firewood for the campfire than what you would use during summertime.
Once You Have Prepared The Campsite
After prepping your campsite, you are ready to pitch a tent. Before you start, you can first look for firewood and start a campfire or light the gas stove to boil water. You can achieve this as you pitch a tent. By the time you finish, your water should be ready. You can use some for hot water bottles and others to prepare hot drinks. Always keep yourself hydrated. Avoid standing around and always keep yourself busy with activity to avoid getting cold.
After Rigging The Tent
Once you’ve set up your tent, stow away your gear and roll out your sleeping pads. Inflate sleeping bags before you sit back and relax around the campfire or gas stove to start preparing your meal. If you are staying on the campsite for a couple of days, then you may consider building a makeshift kitchen and look for a suitable location for a pit latrine. After you get an appropriate location, dig the latrine and make the kitchen. The latrine should be at a location further away from water. Also, dig it at least 6 inches deep as you will also dispose of debris there.
Once Your Camp Is Set
Once you’ve set up your campsite and have everything secured, you can relax and enjoy the evening or explore the surroundings of your campsite. However, do not veer too far off that you get lost in the dark. You can also decide to read a book or sit back and listen to the radio or podcasts. Remember that gadgets also use up lots of battery life when exposed to the cold. Because of this, you have to make sure that your gadgets are somewhere warm and you’ve brought extra batteries.
When it’s time to rest, countercheck that everything is in place and nothing has been left out to be taken away by straying animals or you may find them buried by overnight snow. Prepare some water from melted snow and then pile up some snow around your stove so that you can have enough to melt in the morning.
Once You Are Ready To Sleep
When you want to retire for the night, put your boots away in a waterproof bag and keep the bag under your sleeping bags. This ensures that they do not get frozen at night. Furthermore, should you feel like going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, have your pee bottle or urination device close to you.
When morning comes, there are so many options for activities to do depending on your preference. You may opt to wake up and go for a jog to warm up your body. You may also opt to stay in the tent and prepare breakfast before emerging outside. This is all up to you.
Things To Carry
Camping gear can be very expensive and with good reason. Any mistake made for not carrying the proper gear or enough gear can affect the way your winter backpacking trip will turn out.
When it comes to packing clothes, avoid cotton material garments as they absorb moisture and the last thing you want to happen is being wet and cold. The rule for any camping trip is to always keep warm as opposed to rewarming. It is harder to re-warm your body once it gets cold. Buy insulated clothes and pack as much as possible. You can never overpack for a winter camping trip.
Keep your trainers at home. You will not need them for the winter trip. You need your toes to stay warm as much as possible. In this regard, pack enough socks, a pair of waterproof hiking boots, and a pair of snow boots. You may also want to avoid wearing too many socks to keep warm. This will not help, instead, it will stop blood circulation. If you want to layer your socks up, it is advisable to get a pair of boots that are a size bigger.
Carry at least two pots; one for boiling water and another for preparing food. Pack enough snacks and stay hydrated with pleasant drinks such as tea, coffee, and soups. The winter nights are long and therefore you may want to consider carrying a book to read. Also, it is best to shop for a winter-specific sleeping bag.
As you go winter camping, you will need adequate padding. Do not, under any circumstances, sleep on the snow without padding. You will get very cold, and it will be even harder to get back your body temperature. You may consider combining several sleeping bags. Ensure that they have extra padding. It is advisable to sleep with your gear in your sleeping bag to conserve heat. If you are combining these, then it is better to try the gear and the combined sleeping bags to see how comfortable you will feel.
Also, remember to purchase and pack a hot water bottle to help keep you warm overnight. They will help keep your toes warm and if you are sitting around the campfire, you can slip it into the core of your body to help maintain body heat. Expect long nights for you will be spending a considerable amount of time in your sleeping bag.
What To Do
Stay on top of the weather. If it gets humid, reduce the layers of clothes to avoid sweating. If it gets cold, add the layers to avoid the cold getting into your body. Keep your body warm always. Ensure your torso is properly layered. Your head and ears should always be covered in a hat and earmuffs. Keep your hands likewise tucked in mittens or gloves. In the process of planning your meals, avoid packing fresh fruits as they will get frozen. Also, avoid any food that freezes when it comes into contact with ice. Buy lots of snacks to eat at night and during lunch breaks. For dinner, keep it simple by preparing a one-pot meal.
Plan Your Route Well
You can do this by checking the weather in the area where you are camping. Estimate the distance between each trail you take. As you start your hiking trip, keep checking the surroundings every few minutes so as not to lose direction. In most cases, the trail will disappear as the snow sweeps away your tracks or wild animals cover your original tracks.
Look Out For Landmarks
Stay on familiar course and avoid going to places where you are not sure of. If you are going winter camping and hiking for a couple of days, make the first day easy. Keep the trail simple and understand the terrain and the weather. Your itinerary, map, and compass will be your best friend. Counter check that you have them packed before you leave. Keep them in an accessible place.
You Can Buy Or Print The Map
The map will help you draw up a practical itinerary. Also, check that you get emergency numbers for the area personnel that manages the campsite. Remember to have your emergency contact’s number with you. Have two copies of the map and the itinerary and leave it with a friend or family before you leave.
Additionally, always pack extra gear—from clothes, to shoes and accessories. Whatever you feel you do not and will not need at the moment, you can always leave them in your car so they can be accessed easily, just in case. You never know, the weather may change when you reach the campsite.
Do you have any other handy tips for winter camping and backpacking? Share them in the comments below.