Setting up your winter campsite is nothing like setting one up any other time of the year. There’s a lot more that goes with putting your sleeping quarters together when it’s freezing cold outside. Things like pitching a tent or starting a fire are definitely more difficult in the winter backcountry. But, like with anything outdoors, if you can will it, you can do it. And, you will do it! Following this four-step guide, you should have your winter campsite going in no time!
Step One: Choose Your Campsite
Choosing your campsite is the very first step when it comes to any camping trip. After all, some places are more desirable than others, especially when weather is a factor. Some campsites are also not open this time of year, so it’s important to check all that before you plan your visit. Either way, you need to find a place that’ll keep you as warm as possible while you camp. This includes avoiding low grounds where cold air likes to settle, finding a place with tree cover to protect against wind, staying off of slopes to prevent avalanches, as well as making sure your site has access to a water source.
Step Two: Make Your Tent (and Things) Strong and Secure
Your tent isn’t going to hold down the way it would in summertime. You have a lot of elements going against you, like wind, heavy snow, frozen snow and lots of cold. Anchoring your tent down will be a lot more difficult if the ground is frozen. However, there is a solution. Using cheap nylon paracord or any strong rope, seal up the ends and use this rope in place of a stake. Tie one end to the tent where the stake would be tied, and situate the other end to a rock or very heavy object. Then, bury that heavy object underneath some snow. Do this for all other stake points on the tent, and it won’t fly away or let in the cold.
There are other tricks to keep your tent in good shape when you’re setting up your winter campsite. One is that you allow some ventilation into your tent. This is because there is a lot of moisture this time of year, which can cause condensation and ultimately a lot of dampness within. To solve this problem, you can dig some holes under the sides of the tent to let some air in. In fact, any way you can add some airflow into the tent will help with this problem, without causing you to feel too chilly.
Step Three: Get Cookin’
Once your tent is set up, you’re almost there. If things get really uncomfortably cold, at least you have a place to step into and recharge your batteries. The hard part (for the most part) is now over. Now it’s time to get cookin’! Though most canister stoves should work in the winter, you can try the MSR Whisperlite International. Just make sure you keep your fuel insulated along your journey or at your campsite so it doesn’t freeze up.
If you choose to make a campfire (which you should, since ya know, you’re camping and it’s cold outside), that’s a good idea, too. The campfire needs to be built upon a platform of some kind so it doesn’t sink into the snow. If you choose to cook over that campfire, make sure you have good cookware for the weather, like the Snow Peak Cook and Save Titanium Pot. You’ll also need a wind screen to help you get your fire lit faster and stay lit longer. And, let’s not forget recipes for some delicious meals!
Step Four: Stay Warm
Your tent’s set up and your fire is ready to go. You almost have everything you need to finish setting up your winter campsite. But, there’s one more task to face: Staying warm throughout the night. First of all, you need to have all the right gear. A light sleeping bag isn’t going to help you this time of the year and neither are your favorite pajama pants. But, thick clothing, outerwear, and a sleeping pad will. Warm gear means warmer nights.
Beyond that, there are more ways to keep yourself warm. Have hot liquids before you get into your sleeping bag at night. Also, eating right before you go to sleep will help you fall asleep faster and sleep throughout the night. And, of course, if you’re really cold, don’t be afraid to snuggle up to your friends to utilize that body heat!
Setting up your winter campsite may be a little harder than it would be in other seasons. But, with a few pointers, your campsite will feel just as comfortable as anything else!