Camping is one of those things that bring great joy in the simplest of ways. You’re completely in your sincerest of elements and connecting with your most natural self. This joy is one that must be experienced to truly appreciate the magic. Add to that, cold weather, and you’re in paradise. However, in order to truly extract the best from this experience – there are certain things you should do that will ensure in a near-perfect trip.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
You should be prepared mentally to understand you’ll be without a lot of materialistic comfort. If you’re in the right mind space, you’ll be able to take everything in your stride and enjoy the difficulty of the situation in its most poetic sense.
Essential Items for Camping Trip in Cold Weather
With mental preparation cards on the deck, now let’s move on to making the camping as physically comfortable as possible.
The key to staying warm is choosing the precise outfits that will aid in shielding. For this, you must keep in mind the basics – a base layer, middle layer, and outer layer. Try to look out for insulation through a good pair of tights, wicking underwear, or long johns.
Now with the layer of what touches you, the middle layer is typically what helps insulates. Find a good puffy down jacket or a synthetic insulated jacket to keep you warm. For the last layer – you should have something that is durable and waterproof. Also, keep in mind that your bottoms are not denim – those don’t provide any comfort what so ever! Be in athletic clothes.
Cold Weather Sleeping Bag
You won’t be able to sleep if you’re shivering. Even with warm clothing, you’ll still need a comfy and warm sleeping bag. Ensure this is as per your specifications – do your research properly. A good trick to keep in mind when purchasing a sleeping bag is to assume that the temperature would be lesser than expected. And, this way, you’ll be sure to be protected – with wind chill and all!
Sleeping pads are especially important if your cold-weather camping trip involves a lot of snow on the ground. These sleeping pads block the cold beneath you so that you don’t lose too much body heat.
There are many different kinds of sleeping pads to choose from. Styles can range from inflatable (similar to an air mattress) to foam pads. If you already have a summer sleeping pads on hand, you can always double them up to create sufficient insulation. This is my preferred method and has saved me money in the past.
The key to carrying food is to ensure that you plan, plan, plan!!! Figure out the length of your trip. Now, figure out the items you will need and ensure that you’re carrying good nutrients with you! Also, make sure the food is not too heavy to carry and allows you maximum energy, i.e. the biggest bang for your buck! Nuts, granola bars etc. make for good pick-me-ups in times of need!
In terms of water requirements – drink more than what your body tells you! In freezing temperatures, it is difficult for the body to signal to you when it is thirsty. There’s a risk for dehydration and you must always keep your organs well-fed with water.
Insulated Water Bottles & Coolers
Another thing most people don’t think of when packing for cold weather camping is that there is a severe risk of dehydration. I truly suggest that you should have insulated water bottles with you – it will help in keeping water at drinkable temperature!
Also, remember if you’re carrying canned drinks – they are at a higher risk of exploding at freezing or sub-freezing temperatures! You will not want to be stuck somewhere with frozen food or drinks that have exploded, would you?
Skills to have when cold-weather camping
With essentials out of the way, now, let’s talk about handy skills you must possess when undertaking cold-weather camping.
Know how to build a fire
Learning how to build a fire can be tricky, especially in the hills. If you’re at a developed campsite that has a fire ring or grill, then it wouldn’t be much of an issue. But, in the hills –this might be a daunting task. Ensure that you mark the area properly and also that there is no risk of any forest fires.
A few essentials to make this job easier are matches or a lighter, a waterproof container for your matches. If this is your first time building a fire, do your research ahead of time to know what to do so that it is done with efficiency.
Know your route, know your navigation
If you’re out hiking in the winter months – know that you’ll be exceptionally isolated. A lot of people avoid heading out in the wilderness, especially with the added challenge of weather. Thus, when you embark on this trip –you should know the route well and be prepared to not find a lot of help. Also, do remember you can get lost easily.
So, knowing your routes is important. Carry physical maps if need be. Having a guide might ease your burden to a great extent. The other tools to help ease your worries include a map, compass, and digital GPS. However, using a GPS can sometimes fail, so it’s important to learn basic map and compass skills, the old school way!
Make sure you are staying warm, drinking water, eating along the way. Also, do keep confirming and rechecking your location on the map regularly.
Pro-Tip – True north and magnetic north are different. A compass will point to the magnetic north, but true north is the direction of the North Star. This difference is called declination and changes pretty often. You should learn more about this to ensure you stay safe along the way.
When nature calls, don’t hold your bladder in the middle of the night. Slightly TMI – but do note that in order to keep urine warm, your body has to burn calories, so you need to let it out.
But, it can too cold to leave your tent and you might not want to get out of the coziness of your sleeping bag (been there!). It is definitely not the most fun part of camping, but, it is a necessary evil. You can get devices such as pee-buddy to help you get through the ordeal.
I hope this has been helpful in understanding what steps you need to take and the equipment you need to invest in so that your camping goes to plan. These are some of the tricks I have learnt through trial and error over many years of travel and I hope this helps in making your travels more comfortable.
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So, the best is to start with this guide and keep adding what works best for you and what makes you the most comfortable. Heck, do me a favor and share your tips below – let’s add to the travel dictionary! Keep camping and be safe out there.