Where does one start if you have discovered that you enjoy overnight camping in the summer but now want to try winter camping? This list assumes you have some camping gear (backpack and sleeping bag) and at least some summer time camping experience.
- Making the trip enjoyable should be your primary goal – not how many miles you cover or how fast you get to your destination. Some of our most enjoyable trips involved falling short of our intended destination. Frame the trip as winter camping, not winter hiking.
- Be prepared. Research books, internet web sites, discussion boards and blogs devoted to winter camping for tips and recommendations.
- Borrow, rent or improvise gear for your initial trips. Winter camping can be gear intensive. Snowshoes, sleeping bags, down booties, extra clothing can be expensive – especially if they are only used once. If you can’t borrow gear improvise; use two summer sleeping bags instead of an expensive down winter bag. Quality gear tends to last years so you can be stuck with something for a very long time.
- Start by extending your camping season. Try winter camping in late March or early April when there is still snow, but temperatures are moderate and there is more daylight.
- Take extended day hikes and prepare a meal. This is a great way to introduce kids and novices to the winter camping skills without worrying about sleeping over-night in cold temperatures. An extension of this would be to try a hut-to-hut excursion.
- Join experienced friends and/or hiking organizations to learn the ropes. You can also use these contacts as a source to borrow your initial gear.
- Keep it close. You only need to be outside in the woods, you don’t need to go very far in the winter to escape civilization. The closeness of your home or vehicle gives you a bail-out option if things go badly.
- Consider a sled. If the trip is short and level you can bring additional gear by towing a sled. This lets you start with heavy gear and transition to lighter gear as you get more serious. For example, if you don’t have lightweight down booties for the initial trip you can add your Sorel Pacboots to the sled and ensure warm feet in camp.
Do you have suggestions for a beginner?
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