8 Winter Camping Tips - Panergy
Winter wonderlands can be beautiful. An empty landscape dusted in snow, still and quiet, is the kind of scene that outdoors enthusiasts long for. However, camping and hiking in the winter months can also be dangerous if you go unprepared. Here are eight winter camping tips that will help you stay safe and warm.
1. WEAR AT LEAST THREE LAYERS OF CLOTHING.
You've probably heard the advice to "dress in layers." What layers should you be wearing, and what is the purpose of each?
The base layer is the layer directly against your skin. Do not wear cotton! Cotton gets wet and stays that way. When you're hiking, even in the winter, you're likely to perspire. This perspiration will soak your cotton and make you colder rather than warmer. Instead of cotton, use a synthetic material or merino wool.
The middle layer is the layer that's actually keeping you warm. This is something thick that's designed to retain heat, such as a fleece or a down jacket.
The shell, or outer layer, protects you from the wind and water. This should be a material like Gore-Tex or a similar waterproof material.
2. DON'T GET COLD.
Getting cold in the winter is easy; warming up again can be very challenging. Therefore, don't get cold in the first place.
When you stop to take a break along the trail, you'll be tempted to start peeling layers off. However, don't take off so many layers that you allow your core temperature to cool. Once your body gets cold, it will be very hard to get it warm again.
3. BE PREPARED FOR SLIPPERY TRAILS.
You might set out in the fall for a hiking trip, thinking that there will be no snow and no ice. However, an unexpected storm can quickly change the environment, making trails treacherous. Be prepared for snow and ice. Carry crampons for your boots, along with snowshoes, ice axes, nylon rope, and poles.
4. CARRY EXTRA SOCKS, BUT DON'T WEAR ALL OF THEM AT ONCE.
Having cold feet can be miserable. Your feet will sweat inside your hiking boots even in quite cold temperatures, which in turn gets your socks wet. In cold air, the socks don't always dry to a comfortable level, which means you put cold, wet socks back on in the morning. Therefore, carry plenty of extra socks to avoid this problem, allowing you to keep your feet warm and dry.
But resist the temptation to wear all of your extra socks at once. When you wear too many socks, you can constrict blood flow to your feet. Constricting the blood flow means that your feet will stay cold regardless of how many layers you put on them. Ironically, your feet will stay warmer wearing one or two layers of socks that don't constrict your blood flow than wearing three or four layers that do.
5. BRING MORE FOOD THAN YOU NORMALLY WOULD.
Your body burns more calories when it's cold. Hiking outside in cold weather is like the ultimate weight loss plan, because your body will be hard-pressed to replenish what it's losing. Knowing this, bring more food than you normally would for a trip of the same length in warmer months.
6. WATCH OUT FOR DEHYDRATION.
It's easy to be aware of the dangers of dehydration when hiking in summer months. With the sun blazing overhead, you can feel dehydration coming on a mile away.
Dehydration is a much sneakier foe in the winter. During cold months, we don't feel we need to drink because we're not hot and we're not sweating as much. For this reason, hikers often allow themselves to get dehydrated in the winter without realizing it.
Drink -- even if you don't feel like it! One trick is to carry warm water with you in a thermos. It's not pleasant to drink something cold when you're already struggling to stay warm. By carrying warm water with you, drinking will not only hydrate you, but will also help you warm up.
7. SETTING UP A TENT IN THE SNOW.
When you set up a tent in the snow, your first job is to pack the snow down around the footprint of your tent. If you don't pack the snow, your body heat will melt the snow underneath you. You'll wake up in an uncomfortable ditch of your own making.
Look to set your tent up in a place that doesn't take the direct brunt of the wind. You can use snow to your advantage when it comes to wind; create a snow bank around your tent that functions as a wind barrier.
Finally, make sure you have extra line and extra stakes to prevent your tent from blowing away. Use trees and heavy rocks as anchor points.
8. DON'T FREEZE AT NIGHT.
The hardest time to stay warm, of course, is after the sun goes down. Once inside your tent for the night, make sure you have at least one if not two pads beneath you. Insulating yourself from the cold ground is more important when it comes to staying warm than insulating yourself from the cold air.
Warm your sleeping bag up ahead of time by placing a hot water bottle at the foot of the bag. And even though it may be tempting to cover even your face with the sleeping bag, don't breathe into your bag. Breathing produces moisture, and the moisture will cool your bag down. Instead, place a bandana over your face at night.
Speaking of freezing, it's common for your hiking boots to freeze overnight. The sweat the boots accumulated during the day will freeze them during the night. To prevent this from happening, put more hot water bottles inside your boots. Your boots might still be cold in the morning, but at least they won't be frozen.
What Winter Camping and Hiking Tips are We Missing?
This list of eight tips only scratches the surface of all we could say about camping during the winter. What tips do you have? Share your ideas in the comments section below.