There are benefits to winter camping in an Adirondack Lean-to. Foremost, is that you don’t have to carry your shelter with you. They are spacious; although each lean-to can be different typically there is adequate room for 5. The lean-to provides a level, dry platform for changing clothes, setting up a stove, mixing food, or just plain sitting.
Finally, there is always the added benefit of reading the lean-to register for entertainment as captured in No Place I’d Rather Be: Wit and Wisdom from Adirondack Lean-tos by Stuart Mesinger. Stuart took several years and read hundreds of registers to compile his book. Stuart received permission (and sponsorship) from the ADK to go through the register archives. Stuart flagged the interesting entries, had a High School student type them up and then organized the book into themes: love stories, tall tales, partying, complainers, weather, critters, bugs, food, the privy, the campfire, the long walk, adventures, culture clashes, hunting and fishing, companions, religion and solitude.
On the other hand, lean-to’s aren’t particularily warm – even if you close off the open side with a tarp. They are usually situated in high-use areas. And the sleeping arrangements can leave you laying wide awake between two predigious snorers.
In the past 12 years of winter camping only once have we encountered a lean-to in use by others. On Martin Luther King weekend in 1997 at the popular John Pond lean-to in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area a boy scout troop had hiked in before us and were staying at the lean-to, so we tented.
Below Mark wields a saw, Matt practices his gang signs, and Sparky breaks up kindling for a night time fire in front of the lean-to at Cascade Pond.