Your Outdoor Skills: Winter Camping Strategies
An old Scandinavian saying says, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.” With the right preparation and the proper gear, winter camping can be comfortable and enjoyable.
Keep Your Heat
Here at Littlbug, we try to always remember that cold isn't necessarily dangerous but it is extremely unforgiving of carelessness and mistakes. It's much easier to stay warm than it is to get warm. There are a lot of ways to help you stay warm on your winter camping adventure. First step is to avoid cotton clothing. Cotton keeps sweat close to your body which, as sweat is supposed to do, cools you off. However, in the winter you want to avoid lowering your body temperature. Instead, try fleece and polyester blends that wick sweat away from your body. Wool is another great option and will keep you warm even if it gets wet.
Next, use layers to keep a comfortable body temperature. If you get warm from moving around your campsite or exploring in the woods, you can easily shed a layer. When relaxing around camp you can add a layer to keep you nice and warm. Long johns or silk johns work great as base layers. Some other great layers we recommend are neck warmers, facemasks, a hat, earmuffs and mitten or glove liners.
Waterproof material helps keep you dry, protecting you from the winter elements. Waterproof jacket, boots, and gloves will make a difference.
An insulated sleeping pad and an appropriate temperature rated sleeping bag will keep you toasty warm at night. Down sleeping bags are typically preferred for winter camping over synthetic sleeping bags. Not only does down keep you warmer, it also packs smaller than synthetic, leaving more space for your other crucial winter camping necessities.
Make Sure to Fuel Up!
Your body uses more energy by burning more calories to keep you warm in colder temperatures. That means you'll need to bring more food with you than you would when camping in the other seasons. Hearty foods give you long lasting energy. This can include oatmeal, nut butters, lentils, nuts, and other whole grains and proteins.
Don’t Forget Your Water!
Water is crucial for your winter adventure. Pack enough water to at least get you to your destination. Heat typically reminds you to drink more water. This hint isn’t available in the winter so you need to be intentional about drinking water. You must avoid getting dehydrated. The color and volume of your urine is a good indicator of hydration. When you set up camp, you can melt all the water you need with your Littlbug Senior Stove without worrying about using up your precious fuel!
Where Will You Sleep?
Sleeping options are endless when winter camping. You can sleep in a tent, in a hammock (check out our hammock camping tips here), under the stars (make sure to check the weather before sleeping under the stars) or you can create a makeshift shelter with a tarp.
What to Pack
Wood burning stoves, like the Littlbug Senior Stove, are perfect for winter camping! They are quick and easy to set up and great for heating up water for coffee, melting snow, or cooking up a quick meal. If you do plan on bringing fuel with you, make sure to bring extra to compensate for longer cooking times due to the colder temperatures!
Extra sets of clothing, especially socks, can be helpful if your other clothing gets wet. Depending on your sleeping bag needs, doubling up on sleeping bags never hurt either. You can use the outer bag like a blanket and just pull it over you. For those of you that tend to get cold feet (like yours truly), you can put a stop on the zipper of your outer bag so it can't go all the way down and use it to create a foot pouch. If your sleeping bag comes a few degrees short, a sleep sack can help increase the temperature of your sleeping bag. This option can eliminate the need for two sleeping bags, helping you save space in your backpack.
Carrying all that stuff can become a bit overwhelming if you try to get it all in your backpack. Kent, the inventor of Littlbug Stoves designed an affordable toboggan (aka a pulk) for carrying his gear.
You can contact email@example.com for more details if you would like to construct one (hint: there are some pretty nifty features that aren't obvious in the picture!).
Things that Experience has Taught Us
- If your feet sweat, your boots will freeze overnight. To make them easier to get on, spread them as wide as you can when you go to bed.
- A warm sleeping bag is more enjoyable to get into than a cold one. Put hot water in a water bladder and toss it into your sleeping bag before you go to bed. It will stay warm all night. Be sure to check it for leaks before you use it. Your sleeping bag is also useful during the day as a place to put things you don't want to freeze.
- There are tasks that will require you to take your gloves off. When your fingers get cold, it's nice to have some way to warm them up quickly. Zippo hand warmers are pretty effective. They put out a lot of heat and stay lit for up to 12 hours. Sometimes the replacement burners don't fit well and then they go out but there's a cheap fix for that. If you're interested in the fix, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- When you are on the trail, keep your water bladder inside your jacket to keep it from freezing.
One Last Step Before You Go!
Make sure you check the weather forecast and leave a trip itinerary with a friend or family member before you head out on your winter camping adventure. Stay safe out there and have fun!
When it comes to outdoor skills, the more you bring along, the less you have to carry. Skills don't break and they're never left behind!