Your winter camping site and shelter will be a major determinate to your comfort during the evening hours. On winter’s long nights, the campsite is where you will spend considerable time cooking and eating meals, relaxing with companions and sleeping overnight. Your will want to consider site selection factors as well as choose an appropriate type of winter shelter.
Selecting a comfortable camp site is a useful skill for all campers, regardless of the season. Here are factors to evaluate when assessing different camping locations:
- Does the site conform to camping regulations?
- Is there available water or suitable snow to melt?
- Is your campsite at least 150 feet away from a water source?
- Is your campsite safe from hazards such as hung or dead tree branches, rock falls, snow slides or avalanches?
- Is the campsite fairly level?
- Is the campsite set off from hiking trails and game trails? Is the campsite private and quiet?
- How exposed is the site to wind? You will want to avoid the lowest ground in the area as the coldest air will settle overnight. Atop a slight knoll protected by trees is best.
- Evaluate the site in context of a storm. Will the site remain safe? Will you be able to easily evacuate?
- If you plan on having a fire is there a pre-existing fire ring or suitable site for a fire pit. Is there suitable and available wood?
- Is there a useful (e.g. protected, comfortable) site to cook and eat your meals?
Select a protected campsite out of the wind and off the valley floor and other low areas where cold air settles. Look for natural wind blocks like large boulders, rock outcroppings, or dense stands of trees protect against wind. Breezes blow up canyons or mountains during the day, and down at night. If you camp near a steam, cold air travels down water corridors. Don’t set your tent or build a fire under trees that have snow on their branches.
Consider orienting your site toward the east to catch the sun’s early morning rays. If you want to get an early start or capture early warmth this tactic may help in the morning.
If you are sleeping in a lean-to you should consider hanging a tarp across the opening to help eliminate breezes. Similarly, if you are sleeping in the open, a snow wall or tarp can serve as a wind block.