No Off-seasons: 7 Winter Camping Tips to Keep You On the Trail Year Round
Offroading doesn’t have an offseason, and wheeling in some snow and altitude can be even more fun than exploring on a warm summer night. The trick is knowing how to get warm and comfortable when you’re done wheeling for the night, and it’s time to settle into camp. We’ve taken some of the guesswork out with this list. Read on for 7 of the easiest ways to stay warm on your next winter excursion.
- Build a Fire
This one sounds pretty basic, but it can be critically important, depending on how cold it is where you’ve chosen to go adventuring. Having a warm fire to hang out around when you’ve hit the end of the trail for the day can give you a way to warm up and enjoy a hot meal with friends. Since you’re an avid blog reader, we’re sure you’ve already read up on which firestarter you’ll want, but just in case you need more information, you can read all about that here.
The big takeaway though: make sure you can start a fire without too much stress, before you actually need to. Yeah, your homework is to build a fire in your backyard. Invite some friends over, it’ll be fun.
- Make sure your outerwear is fireproof.
On a cold night, when you’re sidled up close to the fire, you are going to want to have taken this one into account before you did your packing: is your winter outerwear meant for hanging out around a fire? If it’s down, the answer is actually a pretty resounding, “nope!” Make sure that you’re hanging around in warm, natural fibers (like wool), or that you’re keeping a safe distance from the heat (synthetics like those in your favorite down puffer can literally melt to your skin).
Speaking of which: you still have that first aid kit handy in your rig, right?
- Pack down the snow under your tentsite
Once you’ve chose your campsite, you’re going to want to get your tent up to avoid doing it in the dark, if at all possible. Before you jump head first into that, tamp that snow down in the spot where your tent is going to be. If you’re sleeping on the ground, you’ll find that packed snow insulates much better than the fluffy stuff. If you’re using your truck to tent camp in (like the Rightline SUV tent), it will help you to not step through the bottom of your tent thanks to less than stable ground underneath.
- Upgrade your tent stakes before it’s time to use them
If you’re going to be out exploring in an area where the ground freezes during the winter, make sure that your tent stakes are up to the task. The ones that come standard with most tents are made out alloys that are just too flimsy to deal with the frozen ground. Make sure you go with steel or titanium, like those from Vargo. Staking your tent in inclimate weather is even more important than normal to keep you from dealing with excess condensation in your tent (and waking up to a frozen sleeping bag).
- Sleep with a warm water bottle
This one’s pretty old school, but some of the best camping hacks are. When you’re getting ready to hit the hay, throw some water (or snow!) into your cook pot and let it get hot. Carefully pour into your Nalgene (check out this Olicamp Cook Cup and Bottle combo for an easy solution). Think about where your first aid kit is stored (you obviously still have it). Carefully seal that bottle up, and throw it in the bottom of your sleeping bag while you clean up and get ready for bed. When you crawl in, it’ll pre-heated and ready for you to cozy up and call it a night. If you’re planning to drink the water at some point, make sure the bottle you use can handle hot water without loading it with toxins. Even the nicest first aid kit we have won’t stop those effects.
- Keep a couple of extra dry bags handy
Nothing is worse at the end of an amazing, but cold on the trail than realizing that your pants are still soggy from digging out that one buddy of yours who always thinks his truck is more capable than it actually is. Make sure you’re not stuck with hypothermia-inducing clothes at the end of the day. Pick up a couple of dry bags. You’ll find uses for them, we promise. Our favorite use, though, is for a change of clothes for the end of the night. Throw your warm clothes in, roll up that bag, and know that whatever water crossings or overconfident friends might come your way, you get to be warm and dry at the end of the day.
- Cook a hot meal at the end of the day
When you get to camp, and your tent is setup, and the fire is going, it’s time to cook a hot meal. Warm up from the inside out, and get some extra calories in (you’re burning them like crazy in the cold anyway). You can go full backcountry gourmet, packing in meat with a fridge (like the ARB Elements Fridge Freezer) or cooler (like the Grizzly 40 Outdoor Everything), plus skillets or grill grates, but you definitely don’t have to. Check out some dehydrated meals like the ones we carry from Mountain House (they’re actually good – we swear). Some boiling water and ten minutes, and you can pretend you have some cooking skills over a hot meal.
Along the same lines, you can make coffee on the trail using Jiva Coffee Cubes instant coffee (again, it’s actually good). Even if you’re not a big coffee drinker, you’ll still probably be ready for something warm on a cold winter morning. Take some cocoa, and warm up before hitting the trails.
As always, if there’s anything we can do to make it easier to get on the trail, don’t be afraid to give us a call or shoot us an email. We have a team of experienced ready to help you choose the right gear to get on the trail.