Did you have a blast camping this summer? The upgrades you made to your gear were fun to buy, and the family enjoyed the camping more than ever. Now, every time you open the garage door, you see your camping gear still stacked in the corner. You know you should store it away for the winter — or should you? Maybe the reason your camping gear is still in the garage is because a winter camping trip is in your future. Here are a few winter camping tips to make your trip a blast.
At the top of the list of winter camping essentials is keeping track of the weather forecast. If the blizzard of the century is on the way, you may want to wait. If it’s just going to be cold, then go for it. You will want to check your weather app regularly; you don’t want to be surprised by a freak snowstorm.
Plan on needing layers and pack accordingly. If you are out early winter bass fishing, you will want to wear more layers; you may need to take a layer off as the day goes on. It’s a good idea to bring a few extra items like an extra hat, socks and gloves. Be sure to pack extra clothes, socks, hats and gloves for everyone going.
Spend the extra money and make sure your electronics have lithium batteries. Lithium batteries work much longer than alkaline batteries in cold temperatures. It’s also a good idea to charge all electronics before you leave. Throw a portable charger in your backpack for phones and tablets.
Avoid the Crime Scene
You wonder what was going through some campers’ minds when they chose their campsites. The snow is drifting five feet high, there is no way they will get their car out and they have to pipe in sunshine.
It is wise to avoid low-lying areas where the cold air stays and avoid hilltops where the strong wind blows. Choose a flat site and pack the snow where you plan to pitch your tent. Packed snow is a better insulator than loose snow. When you pitch your tent, securely stake it down and make sure the door is not facing the wind.
Make sure the sleeping bag you are taking is rated for the temperatures you will be camping in. A sleeping bag that is dark on the inside is much better for winter camping. You can dry it by turning it inside out, and the dark color will warm up quickly. A sleeping bag liner can make your sleeping bag a little warmer for those really cold nights. Hopefully, your sleeping pad has an r-value of four or more. You will want more insulation under you than over you.
What Are You Sleeping With?
It’s a good idea to have a cold-weather sleeping bag that is a little too big. You can put gear you want to keep warm in the bottom. For instance, remove the liners from your boots and stuff them at the bottom of your sleeping bag. Put your boots in a bag and put them in your sleeping bag too. Last, don’t forget to sleep with your phone or other electronics. The cold is not good for them, and their battery life will last longer in the warm sleeping bag.
Fight the Freeze
There is nothing fun about ice in your sleeping bag. When you are using your sleeping bag for an extended time, sweat and moisture from your body can freeze in the top of your sleeping bag. It doesn’t take long for your sleeping bag to be frozen stiff. Adventurers trekking their way across the South Pole often have to beat their sleeping bags with hammers to break the ice. A vapor-barrier-liner can help prevent this; they are not a joy to use, but it’s better than beating an expensive sleeping bag with a hammer.
By the Light of the Candle
You wouldn’t think it, but keeping a candle lit in your tent will reduce moisture and keep you surprisingly warm. Of course, you want to keep it in a safe place, so you don’t catch the tent on fire. You also want it somewhere that a breeze through an open door won’t blow it out.
This may seem crazy to inexperienced winter campers, but keep a capped bottle in the tent to pee in at night. Make sure everyone knows how you are marking your pee bottles, or the camping trip will be a short one. Drinking coffee to keep warm will make you pee, so use the pee bottle. The last thing you want to do is open the door of a warm tent and go out into the cold night to pee.
It is essential to stay dry when it’s cold. If you are layered up for a cold morning and then find yourself sweating bringing up firewood, you should remove a layer of clothing. The same goes for snowmobiling, hiking or a big snowball fight. It may mean bringing more clothes than you want, but cold weather and wet clothes can cause hypothermia.
Before you climb in your sleeping bag for the evening, turn your water container upside-down. Ice freezes from the top down, so now the ice will form at the top of the upside-down container. Flip it over in the morning, and your spout should work fine, especially if you stashed it in your sleeping bag. Of course, if it’s frozen solid, you may be boiling snow for your morning coffee.
Enjoy the Adventure
It’s time to pull the car out of the garage and load the camping gear. There is nothing more fun than a winter camping trip with family and friends. With these tips, you can have a safe, warm and fun winter camping adventure. Of course, when you get back, you can stack it all back in the corner of the garage.