Cold, Cold and very Cold
"It's cold." is probably the No. 1 reason why people say no to Winter Camping. However,
in my opinion, conquering coldness is the easy part in winter camping. It is all about
My first winter camping experience was in -40°C.
I didn't feel that cold because there was so much chores that I could do to keep me warm.
From all my winter camping experiences, the following are what I like most:
- Absolutely no bears and no bugs !
- Generally very clean campsite.
- Very convenient to go to bathrooms.
- You don't need a flashlight at night.
- You can eat more, you'll burn it off
- Fellow campers don't smell as bad
- No crowds
Layering will keep you warm
The key to effective insulation is through wearing a number of layers of clothing.
Each layer provides dead air space and this allows you to add or shed layers to
increase or decrease your accumulated dead air space as the temperature changes and/or as
your activity level changes.
Remember, your body is the heat source, the clothing layers only serve to trap the heat and
slow down your heat loss to the cold environment. If you have too much clothing on, you will
overheat and start to sweat. You need to find the proper heat balance between the number and
types of layers and your activity level.
And seriously, please DON'T bring and wear cotton-made clothing, including bras and underwear.
If you sweat (which you definitely will), the cotton will soak up the sweat. Instead of
letting the sweat evaporate, it will hold up the mositure and become a cooling agent. You
can get hypothermia just because of that.
It's all about being Prepared
- Always wear a toque (or hat). Up to 70% of your body heat can be lost through your
forehead and ears if you don't wear one in cold temperature.
- It will often be cold and dark when you are preparing breakfast and dinner. For that
reason it helps if food is well organized in stuff sacks with easy-to-read labels.
- Pack your one-pot meal in one plastic bag to avoid the frustrating task of opening
many bags with mittens on.
- Increase fats content in your dinner. Fats can release energy over a longer period
of time. It helps keeping you warm at night.
- If temperature is below freezing, more unpackaged meat can be brought without worry
- Store your water bottles upside down. It's always the top part that contacts with air
will freeze first. By putting the bottle upside down will prevent freezing and enable
you to easily open your bottle.
- Warm your sleeping bag by a hot water bottle before you climb into it.
- Bring at least one extra full meal, just in case weather get worse and you got stucked.
I cannot impress upon you enough the importance of preparation. Although beautiful and serene,
winter camping can be quite dangerous. There is no substitute for experience! If you are
a first time winter camper, take your first trip with someone who has winter camped before.
Lastly, prepare yourself by reading about how to prevent hypothermia and what to do in case of
frost-bite. Think of safety first, everything else is second.