Tips for Camping in the Cold
I enjoy camping off season. Many people believe that camping cannot be a good experience during colder months. This is a common misconception. If you think about it, you can find both positive and negative sides to camping in any weather conditions.
During the summer, you can have all kinds of insects in huge numbers due to high temperatures. So, you need to constantly defend against mosquitoes and ticks. Also, there are lots of people camping during summertime, which can sometimes be annoying as it makes trails and camping areas overcrowded.
During colder months, trails become less crowded and you get better views of the scenery and wildlife. In the fall, all the leaves start changing colors and everything seems to come alive. It’s beautiful. All you need is make some changes when it comes to equipment, clothing, food and shelter, which is not that difficult.
What to wear
Off-season hiking and camping will be a very enjoyable experience for you if you don’t like heat. You need to adapt to lower temperatures by wearing layered clothes. You’ll need to keep warm when you rest or sit. Also, if you start sweating, you’ll just remove some layers.
It’s best to wear a top with long sleeves made of synthetic material as a first layer, such as long polyester underwear. Over that you can wear a pullover or a vest insulated by fleece. Wear a warm down jacket, which can be replaced with a rain shell jacket if it gets rainy. When I start moving, I usually remove two layers — the jacket and fleece vest — and wear them again when I rest. You should keep the jacket and vest outside of your backpack so that you can easily wear them again, because you’ll need to take them on and off numerous times throughout a day.
You’ll also need a pair of gloves and a hat that are easily accessible without taking off your backpack, if the strength of wind starts changing. Wear thick woolen socks when the temperatures are low. During the night, it’s best to put on another pair, along with the long bottoms such as pants made of fleece, and a woolen hat. Before you go to sleep, always wear dry clothes. You can put damp stuff at the bag’s bottom so that it can get warmed up during the night.
Where to sleep
While hiking during colder months, you will plan your activities throughout the day depending on the Sun rising and setting. When it sets, you will most likely stay inside of your tent. Therefore, it’s important to retain the heat inside of the tent, ground pad and sleeping bag. When the outside temperatures are lower, it better to have a smaller tent because your body temperature will heat the tent more easily.
If you are camping during the winter, it’s best to bring a four-season tent compared to a three-season one. Four-season tents are better especially if there is a lot of snow and temperatures are really low. These will make you more comfortable and warm and the only downside is that they are a bit heavier. They have venting panels replaced by solid fabric. Their poles are also stronger, which is beneficial when it’s windy and snowing heavily.
Pay attention when you choose a sleeping bag. There are differences in body’s adaptability to low temperatures. If you get cold easily, then you need to choose an appropriate sleeping bag. If you have an old sleeping bag, you should know that they lose insulation over time and are harder to warm up.
As for the sleeping pan, it has more use than simply covering rocks on the ground. As the ground can take away the heat while you sleep, the sleeping pad is used to prevent it. It’s best to get an air-inflated pad or the one made from foam — a well-insulated pad that will protect you from low temperatures. Use a very thick one or take two pads when you go camping during the winter.
What to eat and drink
When going camping during fall and winter, you’ll need plenty of appetizers in between the main meals. Low temperatures may make you even hungrier. Also, after a hike, it’s good to always have a quick bite. These may include crackers, cheese, ham, olives or anything else that you like. Soups can be great as starters, especially because they can warm you up when you’re resting and start feeling cold.
As for water intake, the fact is that you need more of it in the winter hikes than in the summer. It helps regulate the temperature of your body, as well as hydrate you. In addition to that, it’s harder to notice dehydration when it’s cold, because there is less sweating and thirst. So, drink a lot of water. Also, to prevent your hot beverages from turning cold rapidly, take with you an insulated thermos and mugs.
I’ve learned these things from my own experience camping during fall and winter and I hope these will be helpful to you as well.