When I first moved to Alaska, my friends talking about going camping in the dead of winter out in the snow. I looked at them like they lost their damn minds. During my 200 nights camping around the US, the coldest night got down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and I was so terribly cold and miserable. I love to camp though and have wanted to venture out when there was snow on the ground. Idealistically, I’d love to be out there with the Northern Lights dancing across the sky. I started asking my friends for tips for winter camping so I wouldn’t die out there. What stuck with me though was them saying that people consider winter camping anything below 40 degrees, it doesn’t necessary mean the kind of cold we have up here in Alaska. Cold weather camping is much different than summer camping, and the gear is different too. If you don’t have the gear, don’t attempt it though – that was stressed to me more than once. If you are like me and want to learn to go winter camping, be sure you are prepared, you know, so you don’t die or anything.
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Tips for Your Winter Camping Trip
Pack extra hats, gloves, and socks. Let’s start with the basics – have extras for those areas of your body that lose heat the fastest – your head, hands, and feet. Losing your hat or gloves during a winter camping trip can make the difference between a miserable camping trip cut short and a fun one that goes the length! Invest in good wool socks first and foremost, too!
Bring Heat Warmers. These little heat warmers is what winter camping dreams are made of. They can go in your boots or in your gloves during the day and can keep you toasty warm at night. Highly recommend bringing a box with you if you tend to get cold like me. Who am I kidding, I also bring these when I’m camping in the summer in case it drops down too low at night.
Pack the snow. Before setting up your tent, be sure to pack down the snow that you will be sleeping on. This gives your tent more stability too. The last thing you want to do is step onto a soft patch of snow and sink down, ripping your tent. Use your snowshoes or skis to pack it down. Remember as with summer camping, put a tent footprint down to add a layer of protection from the cold.
Invest in a great tent. Not a basic summer tent, but one that is built to withstand fierce winds and cold temperatures. These are often called expedition tents and are pretty lightweight and easy to pack up and carry. They are not cheap, but if you are going to be camping in freezing temperatures, then you need to invest in a great tent.
Boil the snow. Just because it is snow, does not mean that it is safe for hydration. It still needs to be sterilized, but the water filtration bottles and straws don’t do much good in snowy, freezing conditions so be prepared to boil. Having the JetBoil Flash Cooking System makes it easy to boil snow or heat up water for your dehydrated meal kit.
Bring candles. Candlelight is a great way to light your tent and warm it at the same time. Of course, be sure it is positioned far enough away from the walls that it doesn’t create a fire hazard and you don’t fall asleep with it burning.
Sleep with your boots. Go ahead and bring those boots into your sleeping bag for a nice cuddle! Seriously, have you ever tried to put on frozen boots in the morning? It does not make for a comfy morning. Let your body heat keep them warm too!
Pee in a bottle. This one goes for both men and women. When you’re camping in the winter, you will want to learn to pee in a bottle and keep it handy in your tent. Trust me.Once you are warm and cozy in your sleeping back, you will not want to get all bundled up to go outside and tinkle. There are female urination devices on the market that help women pee standing up and they are well worth it for these adventures.
Double layer your sleeping pad. We all lose a little heat while we sleep, right? Well, imagine how much heat we can lose sleeping just one layer away from the snow. To avoid this, bring two or a thermal sleeping pad to sleep on. It will make a huge difference in your warmth.
The best tip though is to go outside and look up. Be in the moment, listen to the silence of the snow and then hear what your surroundings are saying. Camping for me brings a sense of peace and balance that soothes my restless soul. I’m looking forward to my first winter camping trip and many more summer camping trips in Alaska this year! #GetOutside
Are you a winter camping enthusiast? What are your best winter camping tips?
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