That sure was a nice long stretch of warmer weather we just had here in Ohio in the middle of December. Got me thinking about winter camping. And the time a group of us friends went camping in the same type of dry weather. The days were close to 50 degrees, it was sunny, no breeze & we just needed to get outside & have some fun. But the night quickly became 22 degrees!
Winter camping, if prepared, can be lots of fun. Yes, you’ll be wearing layers & coats, but there’s advantages of camping in the winter. There are less people, so solitude is pretty much all yours. Stars are brighter, there are no bugs & if it snows, you’ll be able to track animal footprints easier.
So here's a few compiled tips for your winter camping. But first, it helps to know the signs of frostbite & hypothermia. Burning, stinging, numbing, clumsiness, swelling, shivering, pale skin, slurred speech, confusion. Still ready for winter camping? You betcha!
Pack an extra knit hat, extra gloves & extra thermal socks. You can throw these things in your sleeping bag, especially the gloves so your hands don’t get frostbit when you adjust that pillow in the middle of the night.
Bring a backup stove because freezing temps can cause poor performance & bring extra fuel which burns more quickly in the cold. White gas is supposed to burn better than canister at freezing temps.
Bring a flannel sheet for a sleeping bag liner. I like the flannel pillowcases, gotta have just a little glamping.
Wooden utensils will work better than cold metal ones.
An extra cooler can be used to keep hot things hot longer.
Choose a flat campsite. Tops of hills will be exposed to wind, & the bottom of hills is where cold air collects. Might be able to use your car as a wind barrier if needed, which will help prevent dehydration. Camping next to a river or lake can be brutal with all the moisture in the air.
Bring a small 4 season tent. Smaller tents will lock that heat in. Hang a fleece or thermal blanket inside the top of the tent to lower the ceiling to keep warm air lower. Open a couple vents in your tent to reduce condensation buildup & frost. For less than $1 each, attach with duct tape a weatherproof & waterproof foil Mylar thermal blanket on the outside of your tent to help retain heat.
Use a tarp under the tent, cover the floor with blankets.
Hooking a key ring on zippers makes it easier to unzip with cold hands or gloves. Rubbing a bar of soap on the zippers keeps them easier to open & close.
If you use a Mr. Heater or Heater Buddy, please read up on ventilation, please don’t use it while sleeping & please make sure the heater has an automatic shut off function in case it tips over. Heaters can cause moisture in the tent, but a fan will circulate the hot air at the top. Dispose of empty propane tanks outside of your tent so they don’t discharge that last bit of gas. And be even safer & bring a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm!
Create a barrier of insulation between you & the ground, like Reflectix, foam padding, inflatable pad, or even a yoga mat.
Wool is way better than cotton. Wool blankets, wool socks, wool hat. An orange hat is ideal if you are camping nearby hunting areas. And, it’s true when Mom said all the heat will leave my body thru the top of my head & to wear that neck scarf so that the cold can’t attack my chest.
Wear fresh socks to bed. Put your next day clothes in the bottom of your sleeping bag so they are warm in the morning. Who cares if your clothes are wrinkly, you’ll be warm! Go ahead & use my favorite go outside saying – “leave me alone, I’m camping!”
Put boiled water in your reusable water bottle & place in your sleeping bag 20 minutes before you get settled in. If you get cold in the middle of the night, eat a candy bar for quick energy. You do stash that Hershey’s chocolate, don’t ya?
Don’t be like me. Wear less clothes to bed. I slept in ALL my clothes in that 22 degrees & then I didn’t have anything else to layer on when I got outta bed. Duh…
Wear layers. Panty hose really does add a good layer (don’t laugh, I’ve known some macho, macho men who wear them during deer hunting), wear some thermals & avoid cotton on that first layer. Synthetic materials will retain heat but watch your coat around a blowing campfire that follows all that beauty. And synthetics are made from chemicals but that’s another story.
Cold air will suck the life out of batteries & phones. Store them in your chest jacket pocket during the day & in your sleeping bag pocket overnight. Lithium batteries work better in cold weather.
Cold weather tends to make me pee more, especially when enjoying those campfire beers. Take that pee bottle to bed with you & good luck not mixing it up with your drinking bottle. Girls! Amazon has those portable urinals with female adapters for less than $10.
Cover exposed skin with a thin layer of Vaseline for extra protection to ward off windburn & frostbite. I add a little water to make that petroleum spread easier & it doesn’t feel as greasy. Use foot & hand warmers but not directly against your skin so you don’t slowly burn, yikes.
Store your water upside down since ice forms from the top down. And the stove fuel too!
Oh, and my favorite tip – add peppermint schnapps to your hot chocolate & whiskey in your coffee! Which reminds me that I still haven’t tried cooking that big marshmallow, scooping out the insides & adding a shot of Baileys, hmmm.
Even tho a good hearty stew or soup would be ideal, I would not take my Dutch ovens camping in the winter. I just know those prized possessions would crack & then my tears would become icicles. Gotta change up the cooking gear.
So, even tho we survived those 22 degrees & no one got frostbite, I’d go camping in the winter again. Now that I know how to better prepare.
But I don’t think I’d take my Rascal dawg. He’d be all excited when he sees me packing for a camping trip. Where’s my water dish Mom? Why didn’t you pack my food? Oh yeah, he’ll be mad, he will howl, I’ll feel guilty, but I don’t think I can protect him from the cold. Of course, I’ll give him extra attention when I get home & we’ll be all good until spring camping comes along...