10 Winter Camping Rules To Live By


Writer James Bishop  published an article based on his first winter camping trip with Mike Langlois on a frozen Wisconsin River island.

1st – Plan for the coldest possible temperatures in your area. Whether it starts in October or ends in April, winter can be brutal.
2nd – Winter camping begins with a good night’s rest.
3rd – To tent or not to tent? With a sleeping bag to match conditions, however, tents are not necessary in the winter.
4th – Liquid intake is critical in winter camping.
5th – A good night’s rest depends on more than just a sleeping bag.
6th – The hardest thing about winter camping is getting out of bed.
7th – Prepare nearly all your food at home and make twice as much as you normally eat.
8th – Keeping warm during the day depends on your clothing.
9th – Take care of your extremities with the proper hats, gloves and boots.
10th – Have fun!

While most of  the ‘rules’ are worth noting I take issue with a couple of James’ premises:

For item#8 James states “Raingear goes on every trip with me regardless of the forecast.

While I applaud his goal of staying dry to stay warm, packing rain gear is an unnecessary burden when a lighter wind breaker will suffice during true winter conditions.


For item #9 James mistakenly states that “Seventy percent of heat loss can come from your head, so a good hat must provide warmth and wick moisture. I believe in being prepared and take a musher’s hat, wool watch cap, fleece headband and fleece balaclava.”

While the face, head and chest are more sensitive to changes in temperature than the rest of the body, covering one part of the body has as much effect as covering any other.  The head is only about 10% of the body surface area.  Thus the head would have to lose about 40 times as much heat per square inch compared to the rest of the body.  Wilderness Medicine took volunteers, wired them to monitor their core temperatures, and discovered humans lose heat through any exposed part of the body and the amount of heat we lose depends on the amount of exposed surface area.  The rate of heat loss is relatively the same for any exposed part of the body not simply the head. You do not lose heat significantly faster through the scalp than any other portion of the body with the same surface area. The idea that we lose heat faster through out scalp because of the constant blood supply to the brain is simply a myth.

bald head

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