Getting You Started with Winter Camping

Being in the outdoors in the winter is such a magical experience. It's one of my favorite times to adventure out!

The bright moon brings a glow to the snow-draped forest, and the lack of people means I have plenty of space to myself. It provides a deeply restorative feeling of quiet and solitude.

So often women share with me that they don't go outside as often during the winter months. I get it... it's cold, it's wet, and it can be uncomfortable.

But when you learn how to be in the outdoors no matter what the weather is you gain new levels of strength and resilience (in every area of your life). They key is to get equipped with the tools, tips, and gear that will keep you comfortable.

I’m excited to share a few pointers to get you started in the right direction! There’s a lot that goes into being able to travel outdoors overnight during the colder months, so I’ll be sharing 2 areas that are most important for getting started - making the plan and setting up camp.

Step 1: Plan Ahead + Prepare (yes, this is always the first thing - thank you LNT!).

  1. Check the weather forecast before you go. Take time to both read it and understand all of it: overnight low, day time high, wind speed and direction, and precipitation. Also know that weather patterns change quickly in the mountains, especially during the winter. Don't be surprised by a sudden storm, wind gust, temperature drop, or even a warm afternoon that will make for soaking wet conditions.
  2. Plan to go with a friend or two. Traveling solo on your first winter camping trip is not ideal as there are so many more challenges than summer camping: more gear, shorter daylight hours, and chances for severe weather. Now, I'm not saying you can't go solo in the very near future, but in the beginning invite friends along to share in the adventure and the responsibilities. Especially those who have expertise in different winter skills.
  3. The first time you go, pick a sheltered destination that’s not too far from civilization or a major road. Go just far enough to feel like your in nature, but not so far that you’re not able to get out within 10-15 minutes. That way if things go wrong or if a big storm comes in, you can bail. Car camping is a great first winter overnight adventure, where you have everything close enough to give you the security and safety you need.
  4. Find a location with available firewood (don’t bring it form home). You may not want a fire, but in the winter having one is often a safety measure. Just in case you need one, you want to make sure it’s available.
  5. If possible, camp near an open water source that’s not frozen. That way you don't have to spend all your time melting snow over your camp stove. However, if do need to melt snow, bring extra fuel. You’ll want to plan on using three times the fuel you would for a normal summer camping adventures.

Step 2: Setting Up Camp

Now that you know what it takes to Plan Ahead + Prepare, it’s time to talk about a few things you can do once you arrive at camp to ensure that you’re not only safe, but comfortable.

  1. When setting up a tent on snow, you want to start by stomping out a tent platform immediately using your boots, a shovel or snowshoes. Make it larger than you think you'll need, and be sure to pack it flat. Once you have your platform, let it set up hard and then lay a tarp down before pitching your tent.
  2. Upon your arrival at camp, put on all your warm layers of clothes right away. You want to preserve the heat you generated on the hike in or from setting up your camp.
  3. If you start to get old, don't just sit there miserable and shivering. Go on a brisk walk, do a few sit-ups, jumping jacks or squats. This will help you generate metabolic heat and I always do this before getting into my sleeping bag on cold nights.
  4. To keep you warm and cozy at night when temperatures are at their lowest, heat some water, pour it into a heat-proof water bottle, and slip it into your sleeping bag. Place the water bottle in between your thighs or on your belly. Just make sure you avoid putting it directly on your skin by placing it outside your clothing or wrapping the water bottle in a t-shirt.
  5. Plan to spend lots of time in your sleeping bag, especially in the evenings and mornings. Bring something to do to pass the dark hours like a book, cards, coloring book, or your journal. And don’t forget to bring a good headlamp with fresh batteries - you'll want lots of light for the long nighttime hours.

Remember, when you learn how to be in the outdoors no matter what the weather is you gain new levels of strength and resilience (in every area of your life). They key is to get equipped with the tools, tips, and gear that will keep you comfortable.

Happy winter camping!

Warm hugs,