Any average Joe can slap on a pack and trudge into the wilderness for a summer camping trip, but few have what it takes to rough it out in an ice-cold winter tundra. Or, really, any place where the temperature drops below 50 degrees. If you’re not ready to go into hibernation for the winter and still want to get that campfire burning, here are some things to help you prep for the trip.
Know Your Forecast
An occasional downpour in the middle of July isn’t likely to mar your camping trip, but a blizzard in January can cause your weekend getaway to go downhill quick. If you’re not prepared for it a rescue team might be digging your body out from under six feet of snow, so it’s essential to have a very good idea of how the weather is going to act before you head off.
Light flurries? No much of a problem. But if the forecast is calling for a few feet of the white flakey stuff then it’s best to call it off and try another day. You camping trip can wait, it’s not like you’re prepping for Everest here.
Plan Your Route
Chances are you’re going to be hiking over some rough terrain, so be sure to plot your route out in advance. Remember that wintry conditions can freeze over paths, rocks and riverbeds that you might’ve been planning to use and make them impassible. Now’s not the time to show off for your buds, so take the safe route and try the daredevil antics during the summer when you’re not as likely to slip on some black ice and break your back.
Also, invest in a good pair of snowshoes and throw some chains on your tires if you need to. Better safe than sorry.
Switch Up Your Equipment
Keeping dry should be your main concern when it comes to choosing your gear. Merino wool coats are a great option because they’re able to function in almost any environment. Look for clothing that contains polypropylene and hyrdrophobic fabrics that will wick moisture away from the body and keep you dryer longer.
A hat is essential to winter camping because most of the heat in your body leaves from the top of your noggin. Avoid the ball caps, there isn’t much protection there, and go for an insulated balaclava or other face mask for the long trip to camp.
For the feet always wear multiple layers of socks, preferably made of polypropylene material, and cover them with insulated boots or snowshoes. The toes are usually the first part of the body to suffer from extreme cold, so you’ll want to shell out extra money for great footwear.
Your summer sleeping bag isn’t going to cut it, fellas. You’ll want to invest in a bag that is rated to -30o Fahrenheit at least, depending on how cold it gets in your area. Choose one that hugs tighter to the body rather than a large, loose bag that will allow currents of cold air to seep in.
Odds are you’ll have to manually insulate your bag to put an extra layer between you and the snow. Foam pads or inflatables work nicely here and should be at least half an inch thick to protect from the frosty floor.
Finally, though it takes away from the experience a bit you might want to consider purchasing a stove rather than counting on a campfire. Good firewood is next to impossible to find in the winter and a stove will provide you with more than adequate heat without the fear of it burning out in the middle of the night.
Last, but not least—don’t eat the snow! Especially if it’s yellow.