Camping during the winter months is a lot of fun, but it takes more preparation and training than camping during the heat of summer. If you are considering a camping adventure this winter, make sure you do some research ahead of time. Here are some common winter camping mistakes that you should avoid to make your trip safe, fun, and successful.
Selecting the Wrong Campsite
If you pick the wrong campsite in the winter, you could end up with some major problems. One of your immediate concerns should be wind protection. Look for big trees and outcroppings to give you adequate wind protection. Just make sure you don’t put the tent under branches that are loaded down with snow or they could break and crash down on top of you. Avalanches are another winter camping concern. Don’t set up your camp at the bottom of any sloping areas where there is a lot snow or overhanging cornices.
As you select a place to set up your tent, keep in mind the distance to water sources. If you can find a nearby stream that isn’t totally frozen, this will be a great help to you. Otherwise, you will waste a lot of time and firewood melting snow to use as water. You should try to find a flat area for your campsite, but if there isn’t one available, make a platform by digging out a place in the snow. Take care of this immediately while your energy is still up and you aren’t overwhelmingly cold.
Setting Up Your Tent the Wrong Way
Even if you are an experienced camper, setting up in winter requires some different methods. Start out by creating a level platform for the tent and then place the entrance side facing downhill. If the entrance faces uphill, cold air will flow in and keep you even colder at night. Try to position your tent at ninety degrees to the wind to avoid drifts of snow building up in front of the door. You will need to stake your tent with specially designed snow stakes, but ski poles will work in a pinch. Lastly, dig a small square hole beside the front door or your tent. Use this like a porch stoop to brush the snow off your boots.
Wearing the Wrong Clothes
Having a lot of layers will be crucial during winter camping. In the beginning when you are busy setting up your campsite, you will stay warm from all the exertion. But eventually, your activity level will slow down and you are going to get cold. At this point, you need to stop and put on dry, warmer clothes before you get too chilled. Layer dry socks with fiberfill booties and then top those with water-resistant overboots.
Cooking the Wrong Food
When you camp in the winter, forget the traditional campground dinners. The first thing you need to make is warm beverages. Keep hot water going on the camp stove all the time and use it to make hot cocoa, tea, warm jello… whatever you like. The biggest thing to remember is that you need to drink at least a gallon of fluid each day. If you can get those fluids with warm beverages, you will get double benefits because you will also stay warm in the process.
For your meals, stick with simple options that you can cook in minutes. Freeze-dried meals are always a good choice in winter because you only need to drop them in hot water for a few minutes and they are ready to eat. Soups and stews are a great choice for winter camping. Add a spoonful or two of butter on top of your dishes to raise caloric value.
Getting Too Cold
Freezing to death is the biggest fear among first time winter campers. The good news is that it’s not likely if you have the proper gear and know what you are doing. The first thing you need to remember is to get into your sleeping bag. If you are already cold when you climb inside your bag, it will take you longer to warm up. If you’re already freezing when you get inside, immediately drink something warm to help you get your temperature up. It also helps to eat a little snack right before bed. This will activate your digestive tract and increase circulation. Plus, you get a little boost of energy.
If you are camping with friends, put your sleeping bags close together to take advantage of body heat. The most important thing to remember is to wear your clothes! It’s okay to sleep in a hat or even a coat if you are cold. Keep on your down booties and mittens if you are more comfortable. Keep your bag sealed up closed with only a small opening for you to breathe. By keeping the hood up, you will retain more warmth in your head and neck.
Never Trying It At All
Don’t make the mistake of avoiding camping in the winter months just because you are afraid. Winter camping is a lot of fun and the views can be absolutely breath taking. Just take some precautions and take the right gear with you and you will enjoy your winter camping trip.