My hands get numb just thinking about it. Winter Camping is one of those things that falls somewhere between miserable and utterly enjoyable. Which side of the see saw it leans towards often relies on the knowledge you take with you when you hit the back country. Here are some tips to make sure your winter camping expedition is a little more enjoyable.
Hot hands! They’re beautiful, they really are. Take one and throw it into the feet of your sleeping bag before you hit the sack for a little boost of heat to keep those toes warm. Obviously you can use them to warm your hands too. Stuff one into each of your gloves, or drop them into the pockets of your coat if your’e not using gloves.
Heat some water, and put it into a metal water bottle. Stuff that sucker into your sleeping bag before you hit the hay. The added heat will help keep you warm, and your water won’t be frozen in the morning. Some plastics are usable for this too, but use your own judgement on that one.
Store any clothes you plan to wear the next day in the foot of your sleeping bag. By morning they’ll be nice and warm for when you suit up.
Hot Cocoa, tea, and coffee. Pack lots of it. Drinking bone chilling water isn’t very enjoyable for a lot of people. A hot cup of anything during the day and before bed is a huge boost in morale, not to mention internal body temperatures.
Keep a snack in your tent. Winter, for most areas, significantly reduces the chance of an animal encounter in the backcountry. Pack a snack to bed with you. If you wake up cold during the night a nice high calorie snack may help you back to bed by raising your internal body temperature.
Use socks and make shift mittens if your hands become cold. It’s not pretty, but you’ll still feel your fingers.
Pack your water bottle close to your body to help keep the temperatures above freezing. You can also wrap your bladder in a shirt for insulation, or pick up an insulation kit. You don’t want that thing freezing on you. Keep your water bottles and bladders in your sleeping bag at night to avoid any chance of them freezing.
Dry moist socks and clothing by sleeping on them.
Melt snow faster by adding liquid water to the bottom of the pot first. It will greatly reduce the boiling time.
Dust off any snow or frost from your body before climbing into your tent. It will eventually melt and get your precious sleeping bag wet.
Beat as much snow and moisture off your boots before sleeping. If they freeze, they’ll become stiff and won’t be as comfortable in the morning.
Wear gaiters to keep the snow out of your boots. No gaiters? Use a gentle rubber band to hold your pants around your shoes instead. Or even break out the para cord. Wet socks aren’t fun.
Pick a camp spot above the valley floor, but below the tree line. Cold air settles. You don’t want to be sleeping where it falls. Tree cover will protect you from the wind, which will significantly help to keep the chill off. Choose a spot that is shielded from the east, the direction that wind normal blows from.
Frozen ground can make driving in tent stakes a pain. Try to set up shop before it does. Otherwise, bring some tough stakes or snow anchors.
Resist the urge to slide completely into that fluffy sleeping bag. Your breath will release moisture into the bag and you’ll end up colder than before. Instead try a balaclava or Buff over your face.
Curl up against a camp buddy. Winter make even the manliest of bros snuggle when the mercury drops to the teens.
Cold weather means you can get more creative with your food packing. Everything is refrigerated! Think about it. Back country cheesecake? Worth the weight.