An Outdoor Guide To Snow Camping

Snow Camping
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Snow camping is adventurous and with the right preparation and equipment, it can be exhilarating and fun. It’s not for everyone but if you have a sense of adventure and want to try something new, this could be a winter experience with a challenge or two. Keeping warm is vital as is being prepared for the unexpected. This guide gives some top tips on how to go camping in the snow safely so you get to enjoy the experience and would want to do it again.

Snow Camping
Image by Sam X on Unsplash

Plan Ahead

One of the most important things to do when preparing for a snow camping trip is to plan ahead and take significant time to cover all areas. This includes a map and knowledge of the area, preparing appropriate equipment to take, and checking the weather forecast. With snow camping, the conditions can change very quickly. What initially looks like an idyllic camping pitch can quickly turn into a very dangerous situation. Always check out the terrain and any specific risks such as avalanche zones and plans to keep warm.

Keep In Touch

When camping in the snow, always ensure that someone has details of where you plan to go, when, and for how long. Make sure someone knows you’re out snow camping, for if you get stranded and are unable to call for help, they should be alerted that there could be a problem. Also, arrange to check in with them once a day so they are alerted to a change in arrangements. Camping in winter is not easy so you should also go with someone else and not do this alone.

Pack For The Cold

When you gather your camping equipment together, you need to be prepared for two things: one is the cold weather—especially at night. The second is to be prepared for the worst possible scenario. This means taking clothing designed for cold conditions to keep you warm, including a down jacket and waterproof clothes. During the winter months, the temperature drops significantly once it is dark and at night.

Clothing for Cold Weather
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It is vital to have the correct clothing to stay warm. Additionally, use layers so you can adjust your clothing to adapt to the conditions. Clothes with wicking in them work well as they direct sweat away from your body. Don’t forget your hat as heat is rapidly lost from the head in cold weather.

Know What To Bring

Having the correct equipment on a snow camping trip is vital. You need a four-season tent with double walls. These are constructed to stand up to wind and snowy conditions. The double-wall prevents excess condensation in the tent. Also, note that a summer tent is inappropriate for snow camping. For comfort and warmth, you should use a groundsheet and sleeping mat in the tent. This will avoid the cold from the ground passing to you when you are in the tent. In cold weather, several layers of sleeping mats create a warmer atmosphere in the tent. 

Proper Equipment for Snow Camping
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A snow shovel is a vital piece of equipment, especially when there are piles of snow to shift from the front of the tent. You can also use it for digging your car out from a snow pile once your camping experience is over. Furthermore, you need a larger than usual rucksack as you will be carrying supplies and bulkier clothing. A sealable dry bag is useful to prevent vital kit and belongings getting wet.

Moreover, when you are camping in snow, you need a four-season sleeping bag and a liner. Look for a quality design for your sleeping bag as this is not an area to cut corners. You really do need a good sleeping bag to keep you safe. A sleeping bag liner gives you an additional layer of insulation, preventing heat loss in the cold.

Pitch Your Tent In Daylight

Propped Tent
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There are several safety aspects for pitching a tent in the snow. First of all, make sure you do this when the sun is at its high point at midday. This conserves your light stores and ensures you have shelter secured during daylight hours. Additionally, check the area and ensure it is sheltered facing away from the wind. Find out where the nearest water supply is or whether you will be reliant on melting snow. You must also ensure you are not located in an avalanche risk area. Also, make sure you are not directly under trees where a branch could fall on the tent. Finally, do make sure you are able to find your tent again, should you go snow trekking. Are there landmarks close by that will guide you back to camp?

Emergency Equipment

If you are in a remote area or wild camping, always make sure you have a first aid kit on you and can call for help if needed. Carry a whistle and know how to summon help by using the international signal (6 short whistle blows).

Take Ski Poles

Even though you may not be going skiing, do take a pair of poles. They help to give you balance and will be really useful in icy conditions or to assess places where the snow is possibly deep. Ski poles can also be used to peg down a tent, so they have multiple purposes. You should also take sunglasses or goggles for the sun glare, for even though the sun is up, it will be bitterly cold. Don’t forget to bring gloves and thick socks to keep the limbs you’ll use most warm. Take spare socks in case they get wet. 

Keep your boots inside the tent when you snow camp as this will stop them from getting frozen overnight and impossible to wear in the morning.

Boots for Winter
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Know How To Heat Tents Safely

Although you have a four-season tent and sleeping bag, keeping the tent warm is vital, especially at night. Never use a candle or heater inside the tent as it can lead to fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. Stuff your rucksack into a corner to keep heat inside. Use additional blankets over sleeping bags and layer up on clothes.

Pack The Snow

Once you have pitched your tent, spend time packing down the snow in the area outside your tent. Make sure it is compacted down by walking on it and around the tent area. If you have boots, it will take time to complete but it’s a necessary job. If this isn’t done, then your tent can tear if someone steps in soft snow as the tension will rip the fabric.

Snow Camping
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Know The Area

One of the most important things for people going snow camping is familiarity with the area. This is not the time to discover an entirely new region. You should study maps, visit the area in warmer weather, and be aware of significant risks. Examples of risks include rivers, exposed areas, places where there is a heightened risk of avalanche, and places near sheer drops.

Take A Light

A vital piece of equipment is a flashlight. In winter, it gets dark quickly and you will need to be able to see clearly. Make sure you have head torches, a flashlight, and spare batteries. A spare power pack to keep your phone charged is also useful to have when camping in snowy conditions.

Think About Food

Camping Food
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Keeping energy levels high is very important in cold weather. Your body will burn calories twice as fast in cold weather conditions. Make sure you eat high-calorie foods which will convert to energy while you sleep. If you eat just before sleeping, it helps generate heat as the body metabolizes the food. High-calorie snacks include nuts, chocolate, and energy bars. Ensure you have food supplies with you, and be prepared for additional days if you are unable to move due to adverse weather. Also, keeping hydrated is really important when snow camping. One way you can stay hydrated and maintain energy levels is to alternate water with an energy drink.

Light A Fire

There’s nothing like a fire to create a beautiful setting for snow camping. Make sure you take matches or a lighter to get things going and gather wood to create a campfire. These are perfect on a still winter night and create a real atmosphere. Toast a few marshmallows or cook up a fried meal over the flames. Camping in the snow can be a magical event, especially once you have all the proper equipment on hand and are prepared for being outdoors. Make sure the fire is out and not able to spread once you have finished for the evening. An alternative approach if you have space, is a compact gas stove which will help you heat up a hot meal.

Camping in the Snow
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When Is It Too Cold To Camp?

There are lots of ways of staying warm outside but it is just as important to know when it really is too cold to sleep outdoors. Most organizations do not recommend camping when the temperature drops below -10 degrees Celsius. If the conditions are windy, this adds to the chill factor so the temperature can be much colder than you think. It is vital to check the weather conditions before heading out on a snow camping trip.

Stay warm and have a great snow camping trip!


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