Snow camping doesn’t have to be cold and miserable, even if some of us had to learn that the hard way. Imagine spending the winter months in crystalline snow-covered fields, warming up with hot chocolate by the fire, waking up to a pristine, private winter wonderland just outside your tent. Snow camping can be comfortable and cozy, and we’re here to help you find yourself outside all winter.
My first experience winter camping was in the deep backcountry, miles from my warm bed or any sign of civilization. While you’ll need to do a good amount more prep than you would for warmer temps, stay close to a backup plan — whether that’s a hotel or your own home — if you’re concerned the cold might get the best of you.
Make sure to check weather reports ahead of time to see how cold it will get overnight. If you’re able to drive right up to your campsite, bring more than you think you’ll need if possible. If you’re hiking in, try not to sacrifice anything you could potentially utilize if it gets colder than expected.
Base layer: This is the layer next to your skin. Synthetic or wool materials work best for wicking away perspiration, while cotton — when wet — can actually make you colder. Double up if need-be on base layers.
Middle layer: Fleece and down will be best for insulation and keeping your body heat in.
Outer layer: Also known as a shell, this is your protection against the elements. Common shell materials like Gore-Tex have a breathable membrane that also shelter you from rain and wind. For cheaper options, try polyurethane-coated fabrics that are waterproof, but less breathable.
Stomp out your tent site using your boots, a shovel, or anything you’ve got. Make it flat and big! Then start with a ground cloth or tarp underneath your tent — this will protect against any water that seeps in from the snow below.
Shelter your cooking area from the wind. If you’re cooking in your tent’s vestibule, make sure to properly vent it so you don’t start a fire. If you’d prefer to cook outside, dig a trench to shelter your stove from the wind or use a windscreen.
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Photo by Peter Amend in Sequoia National Park
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