When people think of winter (or winter-like conditions in Spring) the last thing that often comes to mind is sleeping outside, whether in a tent, snow pit or a simple backcountry hut. In fact, the first words that often come to mind are cold, uncomfortable and not fun.
What if I told you that you could happily and comfortably head out into the depths of winter to camp? What if I told you that I could change the former words to fun, comfortable and even cozy?
The difference between a good night and a bad night out in the mountains during the colder months comes down to a few basic things. We have personally learned these things through trial and error, which by the way meant some cold nights out. Hopefully through sharing these tips we can help you to avoid those harsh nights out and start you off on the right, warm, foot!
TOP THREE TIPS:
1) Eat Right and Stay Hydrated
Not all calories are created equal when it comes to spending time in cold temperatures. Higher fat foods and complex carbohydrates are your friend as they are a slow steady form of energy, keeping your core temperature warmer for longer. Complex carbohydrates like hot oatmeal or granola are a fantastic simple start to the morning. Add in some of your favorite nut butter to up the fat and calorie content and you have a breakfast that will keep you warm and satisfied for hours.
Our new favorite is the Good To-Go Granola which can be made hot or cold. For a warm, spicy version try the Oatmeal—it’s loaded with chia, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, hemp hearts and spices like cinnamon, turmeric and cardamom. Try adding freshly sliced apple to the oatmeal for an amazing breakfast!
Keep snacking and don’t let yourself go hungry. Snacks like cheese, sausage, dried fruit and nuts are all great, tasty, high calorie options to keep you warm and feeling satisfied throughout the day.
Keep up your fluid intake by constantly sipping on fresh water throughout the day. When you are at camp drink hot fluids—tea, hot chocolate, cup of soup—these will keep your core temperature warm and they are delicious.
2) Stay Warm
Having the right gear is the biggest factor in either enjoying winter camping or never wanting to do it again. Layering is the best way to manage warmth. Instead of only having one large insulated jacket, it is important to have a system that allows you to remove articles of clothing as you are on the move and need to dump heat, but also gives you the opportunity to layer up as the need arises. Here is an example of my winter setup:
1x Merino Wool Base Layer long sleeve shirt
1x Merino Wool Base Layer long john’s
1x Down Puffy Jacket
1x Synthetic Puffy Jacket
1x Gore-Tex Shell Jacket (windproof and waterproof)
1x Toque (wool hat)
1x Buff (to use while moving)
1x Merino Wool Socks
1x Thick Gloves
1x Thin gloves (to use while moving)
When camping always make sure to bring extra, dry base layers. Since it is inevitable that you will sweat during the day, it is very important to have dry layers to change into once you reach camp. Don’t forget when it comes to staying safe it’s worth it to invest the extra money in good quality gear—buy cheap, buy twice!
3) Be Safe
Snow not only changes the look of a landscape, it also changes how you travel in that landscape. It’s not as simple as heading out onto the same trails that you would in the summer. Travel is now slower, especially if you are pushing through deep snow, the amount of daylight in a given day is less and slopes are now loaded with feet of snow. This all means that we need to head into the backcountry fully aware of conditions and consequences.
Take a basic Avalanche awareness course, head out with the appropriate gear and know how to use it. Take into account the dwindling daylight and the time it takes to break a trail in snow. The more we can learn the safer we can be and this means we can enjoy winter that much more!
So there really is no need to pack away your tent for the winter season. All it takes is a little preparation, a positive mindset and some tasty food to make winter camping a regular part of your outdoor life.
Story and photos by Spring and Leigh McClurg | pebbleshoo.com