Lightening Your Winter Camping Load

It may be stating the obvious but the ultralight concept just isn’t a viable option for winter camping conditions. I can’t imagine anyone venturing out with an uber-light pack and expecting to have a safe and enjoyable experience. You need extra insulation and food especially if you are going to spend more than one night out.  That said, there are reasons to try to lighten your load.  The benefit is a light pack that makes outdoor travel easier, safer, and more fun.  Packing light may offer the aging participant who has to deal with knee, hip and/or back injuries the ability to continue backpacking.

Packing light requires careful planning and self-discipline to assure that every item of gear and clothing is truly necessary, and that each item is as light as possible. To lighten your load start by reducing the weight of the big three: tent, sleeping bag and stove/cookware.

  • Tent. Selection of a tent involves making a tradeoff among price, space and weight.  Accepting a snug interior and/or paying a higher cost will yield a lighter tent.  Aim for a per-person weight of less than 3 pounds.  Single wall tents made waterproof/breathable fabrics such as Gore-Tex, Epic or eVent don’t require a rain fly and are subsequently lighter than traditional double wall tents.  Designed for alpinists they usually do a good job of shedding snow. A typical complaint on single walled tents is moisture and condensation which is best countered by keeping windows and doors open as much as possible to eliminate internal condensation at night.
  • Sleeping bag. Try to acquire the lightest and highest quality sleeping bag.  This usually means a down sleeping bag.
  • Stove/cookware. Winter camping makes it easy to minimize the amount of cookware that you bring on a trip. Melting snow, heating soup and making one pot meals can easily be satisfied by one medium sized cooking pot.

Think about lightening your food supply by substituting freeze dried foods for heavier items.

When packing your gear examine each item and ask yourself if it is necessary or if something else can perform its function.  After your trip make a note of the items that can be eliminated or replaced to lighten your gear.  Take care of the ounces and the pounds will take care of themselves.

While this discussion is focused on reducing the weight of your backpack it also applies to the load you might pull on a toboggan, sled or pulk.

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