Wanderlust February 1st, 2018

How To Win At Winter Camping

I love camping; the fires, stories, games and those delicious s'mores make it so much fun.

Too bad it's freezing outside!

Unlike global adventurer and major hunk, Bear Grylls, I once refused to shiver the night away in the cold. But through trial and error, my friends and I have found ways to make cold weather camping more comfortable and tolerable. Here are some tricks from my own experiences (and a few handy camping tidbits) to get you outdoors and camping during the winter.

Research the location

With the snowy season in full effect, some sites may restrict camper access after a certain calendar date. Research online or call ahead to make sure the grounds are open before planning your trip. Campsites that experience heavy snow or wind will let you know about watches and warnings before you start your journey.

It’s also a good idea to read campsite reviews of others. What are the road and trail conditions like? Are tire chains required? Where are the nearest emergency services? Furthermore, have your routes pre-planned. Due to spotty service and a lack of electricity, consider purchasing a physical road and topographic map for backup GPS assistance.

Dress appropriately

Everyone, meet Mr. Thermal and Mrs. Breathable. They'll be your guides when looking for what to wear on your camping trip. I suggest inviting their friends, Windproof and Waterproof on your trip as well. Also consider working in three layers: a base layer, a mid layer, and an outer layer.

Your base layer is in addition to your underwear. You want something breathable that can wick perspiration away from your body. Try to avoid full cotton fabrics, as this can make you feel colder when your sweat saturates.

For the mid layer, you'll want something insulating. Fleece or micro-fleece jackets and pants, goose down jackets and snowboarding clothing are all great types to look into. Most of those will help you keep your body heat.

You’ll want to find waterproof/windproof materials for the outermost layer. Look for GORE-TEX, eVent or brand-specific technology that traps heat but is breathable.

Feet are important — they got you to your campsite, and you'll need them to get back home. Make sure your weatherproof boots are snug and properly fitted. Break them in before your trip to avoid any discomfort. Most websites will let you search for winter clothes. Include keywords like “waterproof” and “insulated” to find the best boots for your trek.

Load up on extras

If you're staying out in the wilderness for more than a night, you'll have already packed some extra clothes for your trip. However, those one-night runs can sneak up on you. If you plan to camp where there's snow or frost on the ground, your clothes will grab onto the dampness fast. Pack extra socks and pants just in case some snow sneaks in. Don’t forget to grab duplicates of gloves and hats. Sleeping through the night with wet hands and feet is never a good idea when you’ve got a morning hike. Extra tip: If your sleeping bag gets a little moist, flip it inside out on top of the tent. It'll dry out and be warm just in time for bed.

Pack proper blankets

I know; “Is this girl really going to tell me to bring blankets?” It might seem silly, but I have made this mistake before. Once, I only brought my sleeping bag with me on a camping trip, and I was a miserable popsicle the entire time. The fire only gets so warm, and then you’re walking around with your sleeping bag like you’re in a potato sack race.

Stuff a couple of extra wool, cotton fleece or cashmere blankets in your tent. The spaces between the fibers in a fuzzy or napped blanket help trap warm air, keeping you cozy ‘til the morning light.

Bonus Warming Tips: Portable heaters are amazing inventions! When the campfire is put out for the night, these will keep you toasty warm. Attempt to find one that has a smaller tank, as it'll be easier to carry to the campsite. A lot of these are safe for inside your tent, but pay attention to the warnings and specifications when you’re looking for one. You can also keep things warm, simple and straightforward with a hot rubber water bottle. Just simply fill it with boiling water and place it inside your sleeping bag. Soon, it’ll radiate heat and keep you comfy long into the night.

Eat and drink responsibly

Make sure you pack plenty of food and have a meal plan before going in. Nothing’s worse than getting to your spot and realizing you packed 20 frozen hamburger patties ... and that's it. Once you’ve figured out the menu items for breakfast, lunch and dinner, be sure to add in a few snacks for on the trail. Protein bars, trail mix and dried fruit are most common.

Eating well-balanced meals will help keep your body fueled and your tummy full. Here are a couple of camping staples to consider:

Proteins: meats, dairy, eggs
Fats: nuts, meats
Carbohydrates: cereals, lentils, vegetables, fruits, bread

Now, to wash it all down! I know this is a fun escape with friends and family, but try to keep the alcohol level low. You’re still in the wild, and if something wrong happens, you’ll be trying to find help when you can barely see straight. Pack plenty of water and a few warm, tasty drinks, like cocoa, lemonade, cider or soup.

Stay entertained

This one is the most fun to plan! The campfire is perfect for great talks, scary stories and UNO battles. Make sure you have enough activities to stay active during the day, and then at night you'll be able to just relax by the fire. Think about packing a book or two if you need alone time or want to read before bed. Remember, there’s no television, so if you have trouble drifting to sleep this may be a suitable alternative.

Bring added essentials

There are countless things we could list that would be good to take on a campout. Instead of pulling at that thread, REI's Expert Advice blog, “The Ten Essentials,” gives you the perfect list to get started.

• Navigation (compass/map/GPS)
• Sun protection (sunscreen/hat/sunglasses)
• Insulation
• Illumination
• First-aid supplies
• Fire
• Repair kit and tools (pocket knife, tent poles, sewing kit)
• Nutrition
• Hydration
• Emergency shelter

The winter sky is out there and waiting for us. Exploring doesn't have to stop when the temperature drops. Camping during the winter is such a great time and can save you some money during the busy season. It’s now time to plan your trip, so get your supplies and have fun making memories.

Heck, maybe I'll even see you across the campsite!

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