Camping is such a fantastic way for a family to bond and spend quality time together. While many families wait until the summer to camp, it can be fun year-round. So we asked one of our expert camping friends to share some tips for winter camping.
Camping in the Fall and Winter tends to bring some unique challenges. The hours of sunlight are shorter, and the weather is cooler and less predictable. Being prepared for the special challenges of cooler season camping can make the difference between a successful trip or a miserable time for all.
Here are 10 tips for winter camping…
- Be prepared for weather changes. Very often, the weather may change from a sunny day with a light breeze to cold rain or even snow. Be prepared for these changes by making sure that you are set up on a high flat spot with good drainage.
- Bring extra tarps. Winter camping usually means cold and wet weather, so you’ll want to have extra tarps with you.
- Use a winter-worthy tent. Try to find a tent that is at least 3 season rated, if not 4 season rated. They generally have vents and extra shields from wind and weather.
Your breath will condense inside the tent at night; make sure to dry everything out in the morning when the sun is out. Open vents, air out sleeping bags.
- Buy the right bag. Make sure your sleeping bags are rated for the colder weather. Those lightweight summer bags will not hold up to the cooler weather and ground temperatures. If you’re camping in the winter, a good down bag will keep you warm and toasty all night!
- Sleep in tomorrow’s clothes. If you choose to wear clothes to bed, dress in your next day’s clothing instead of wearing today’s clothes. Today’s clothing will have moisture and perspiration trapped in the fibers, actually making you colder.
Changing into clean clothes will make a big difference, especially t-shirts, jeans, and other garments made from cotton. Cotton is great for absorbing perspiration, but holds the moisture long after you can feel it. This tiny bit of moisture will then make you colder while sleeping.
Wear a knit cap to bed to help prevent the loss of body heat through your head.
- Get off the ground. For extra comfort, use inflatable air mattresses or even yoga mats under your sleeping bags. This will help to insulate you against the cold ground, and will make a world of difference.
- Dress in layers. Peel off layers during the day, and add layers as it gets cooler. Wool is a great insulator; try to make at least one layer a wool sweater (it also is naturally water repellant).
Make sure you have gloves and warm hats for everyone, as well as plenty of dry socks. If you are wearing sneakers or athletic shoes, bring an extra pair of shoes for each person; it’s hard to stay warm if your feet are wet and cold.
- Plan larger meals. Cold weather revs up your metabolism. Plan heartier meals and brings plenty of snacks. Go heavy on carbs and fats; your body will burn them off from the exercise of camping. Plan large one pot meals like chili to keep everyone well-fed.
Also, have a hearty snack before bed; your body needs energy to keep warm, and this will help.
- Drink hot beverages throughout the day. Try to keep a pot of water on the fire for coffee, tea or hot chocolate. This helps stave off hunger as well as warms you up from the inside out. Keep an insulated cup for each person, so they can have a warm beverage at their disposal.
You’ll also want to keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water during the day. The cooler temperatures and increased exercise require your body to use more fuel of every type, including water.
- Be prepared with an alternate plan If you get rained on and can’t keep a fire lit to cook your dinner, or everyone is cold and miserable, it’s okay to bail on your winter camping trip for a more pleasant experience.
Make a plan for ‘just in case’… stay at a motel, eat a meal in town, or even go home and laugh about it once everyone has warmed up. Part of the experience is the adventure; and the adventure can change whenever you choose.
Whatever season you choose to go camping, the goal is to have fun. We hope these tips help make all your winter camping trips fun for the whole family.
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