Written by: Jim Muller, special guest contributor from Wintercampers.com
01/15/2012 7:40 PM
Winter camping has several advantages over summer camping:
We have done a wide range of trips, from simple hikes to lean-tos while pulling a plastic sled to backpacking trips and multi-day dog sledding adventures. Our experience has led us to compile some suggestions for those interested in extending their camping experience.
Preparation is key
Before the trip you need to plan what clothing to bring, your mode of transportation, the type of shelter, your food and gear. You need a wider range of clothing for winter camping than for a day hike during the winter. While snowshoeing with a backpack, you rarely need more than a light shirt and windbreaker; but when sitting around the fire at night with temperatures plunging, you need to bundle up in multiple layers. :Make sure you pack a second base layer (shirt, long underwear and socks) to change into when reaching your destination; replacing the damp clothes of the day. Warm hats, mittens and gloves are a must. Keep your torso warm with a down or synthetic jacket or vest or a jacket worn in combination with fleece. Nylon or waterproof pants over fleece do the same for your legs.
Traveling and shelter
Our recommended travel mode while carrying a backpack is on snowshoes. Backpacking with cross-country skis through woods and over uneven terrain can be difficult. Plastic sleds or pulks can be used, but they require relatively wide, smooth and even trails for easy sliding. Shelter options include Adirondack lean-tos, bivy bags, snow caves and tents with or without stoves. Lean-tos offer the advantage of holding up to six campers and giving a place to stand and change clothes. Lean-tos also provide a convenient place to sit at night in front of a fire. Snow shelters are warm, but require sufficient snow and are time-consuming to build and constrictive for sleeping. Tenting offers the greatest flexibility and some tents come equipped to hold a small wood stove and stove pipe.
Food and water
Food and water for fuel is important when over-nighting in the winter. Trail mix, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, energy bars and chocolate snacks consumed at regular intervals go a long way in keeping you warm. Most winter camping meals are simple, no-fuss affairs. One-pot stews or soups that can easily be cooked are preferred - washing dishes is definitely something to avoid while winter camping.
Additional recommended gear includes a headlamp for hands-free operation, fire starters, water bottles, a sleeping pad and sleeping bag. One alternative to purchasing an expensive winter sleeping bag is to use two sleeping bags, one inside the other, hopefully with zippers aligned.
While it is difficult to learn to winter camp safely from a book or Web site, there are helpful resources available to those interested in this pursuit. Hopefully, the tips we have compiled will assist in improving your winter camping experience.
Planning a Winter Camping Trip
During the day
In the morning
Winter camping expert Jim Muller has written this month's Healthy Outdoor Living article. You can catch more of his great articles at WinterCampers.com
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