How Do You Define Winter Camping?

Winter is associated with migration, hibernation, changes in animal behavior, plants becoming dormant, special health concerns ranging from hypothermia to seasonal depression. Winter even invokes its own special vocabularies to describe the conditions (e.g. black ice, whiteouts, and corn snow).

How you define winter camping depends on your geographic location, your opportunities to go camping and your desire to impress your friends and relatives. There are groups from northern Canada to the Ozarks that claim winter camping experience, although I am sure their conditions and experiences are greatly different.

How you define winter camping might depend on your definition of ‘winter’.

Meteorological or thermological winter is defined as the three month period associated with the coldest average temperatures so the start of meteorological winter can change depending on how far north one lives. This corresponds to the months of December, January and February in the Northern Hemisphere and June, July and August in the Southern Hemisphere.

Astronomically, winter can be defined as beginning on the winter solstice, the day of the year which has fewest hours of daylight, and ending on the following equinox. In the USA this defines winter as roughly beginning December 21 or 22 and ending about March 20 or 21.

The organization with perhaps the most winter camping experience or at least participants, the Boys Scouts of America, define cold weather camping as taking place when the temperature is below 50F and involves cold, wet and/or windy conditions.

Many view permanent snow cover and/or ice as a critical aspect of winter camping, requiring cross-country skis or snowshoes to traverse the winter landscape.

One might think decide that winter camping is camping which requires specialized cold weather gear such as show shovels, white gas stoves, crampons, insulated clothing and four season tents and/or require specialized skills such as building snow shelters.

Regardless of your location, most agree that nighttime dominates the winter season and lower temperatures are part of the equation. Dealing with the weather, cold temperatures and inclement conditions challenge a winter camper’s physical comfort.

I heard someone describe winter camping as when he switched from “camping to enable his hiking to hiking to enable his camping.” Regardless of the definition you chose, get into it.

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1 comment to How Do You Define Winter Camping?

  • Rj

    Last year on our January trip in northern Clarion County Pa on the North Country Trail the low temperature was 52°. Foggy and sloppy; great trip!