When Is It ‘Winter Camping’ ?

Winter is associated with migration, hibernation, changes in animal behavior, plants becoming dormant, and humans experiencing 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). Descriptions of winter camping depend on geographic location, opportunities to go camping and 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 the most 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 decide that winter camping is camping which requires specialized cold weather gear such as snow 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.

Winter camping has been described to me as a time when one switched from “camping to enable hiking to hiking to enable camping.”

Regardless of the definition you chose, winter camping provides an opportunity to be out of doors 24 hours a day. Winter camping is not an end in itself; it is merely the vehicle that allows us to enjoy being outside. Everyone fears being cold. I dislike being cold just as much as the next person and so I take care to prevent that from happening. When winter camping is done right you won’t be cold. .


Follow our occasional Tweets @WinterCampers and visit us on Facebook.


A Ruffed Grouse’s Kieppe

Ruffed grouse require a specific combination of habitats to survive.  They live in mature deciduous forests that include nearby stands of poplars or birches.  During most of the year, they eat the buds and twigs of these trees. They roost in coniferous trees when they’re available, but they also roost in large deciduous trees.

In the fall Ruffed Grouse layer in stores of fat, grow a long downy covering for body and legs and put on their snowshoes, which consist of little horny comb-like appendages (pectinations) that grow from the sides of the toes to help support the weight of the body on the snow.

Ruffed grouse survive winter snow storms by diving full speed into deep snow at dusk to sleep.  They may tunnel a short distance (10-14″) to form a burrow, known as a kieppe (kee-ep-ee).   Falling snow can hide the evidence of its entry.  The insulating qualities of both their feathers and the snow itself prevent the birds from freezing.  In the morning, the birds break out of their caves and take off again. If there is a cold snap or heavy snowfall, the ruffed grouse might remain in a snow cave for a few days, making them vulnerable to predators such as foxes and bobcats.

A grouse bursting at one’s feet from flat snow covered ground can be quite startling. This grouse had left before I approached on snowshoes, but one can see the faint feathery outlines of it’s wings and tail around the escape hole.

Follow our occasional Tweets @WinterCampers and visit us on Facebook.


Snow Walkers Rendezvous 2017 Presentations

1. Willem Lange – Author, Vermont Public Radio Commentator, New Hampshire Public Television host, and an Intrepid Winter Traveler ~ Readings http://willemlange.com
2. Jon Turk – “Crocodiles and Ice” Jon has kayaked across the North Pacific and around Cape Horn, mountain biked through the Gobi desert, made first climbing ascents of big walls on Baffin Island, and first ski descents in the Tien Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzia. In 2011 he circumnavigated Ellsmere Island with Erik Boomer. Jon will share pictures and stories of his travels in the Arctic. http://www.jonturk.net
3. Dave Freeman –“A Year in the Wilderness: Gear for a Year” focusing on equipment used during the year with an emphasis on winter and traveling during the shoulder seasons as the lakes are freezing and thawing. Dave and his wife Amy spent a year living, learning and teaching in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. https://www.savetheboundarywaters.org/wildernessyear
4. David Pelly – “How Inuit Find Their Way – Navigation in the Trackless Arctic” http://www.davidpelly.com
5. Sahra Gibson and Laura Montanari- College of the Atlantic – “First Time Across Moosehead: Reflections on Traditional Skills in the Modern World”
6. Don Tedstone –“An Adventure in the Mealy Mountains (Oops, the GPS says we are here!)”
7. Kate Ford – “Dogsledding Across the Canadian Tundra” Kate was part of a team that traveled by dog team on the Hudson Bay Coast.
8. Tom Jamrog – “Walking Matters” Tom Jamrog is a Maine Guide with Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures and author of In the Path of Young Bulls: An American Journey on the Continental Divide Trail From the ages of 57 – 64, “Uncle Tom” Thru-hiked four National Scenic Trails. Tom reviews the latest research on the physical and mental health benefits of walking and discusses training and cognitive techniques that bolster a greying snow walker’s experience on the winter path. https://tjamrog.wordpress.com

Draft Workshop Schedule Saturday afternoon Workshop Session I
1. Marge Shannon – How to make an Inuit hat
2. Jon Turk – Essential Survival After Everything Has Gone Wrong
3. Dave Freeman – Bear Witness Screening and book signing. Bear Witness is a 12-minute film about A Year in the Wilderness and our book comes out September 23rd.
4. David and Laurie Pelly – Land Claim Issues/Inuit of Nunavut

Workshop Session II
1. Jon Turk – Snow Physics and Snow Travel
2. Marge Shannon – How to Make an Inuit Hat
3. Dave Freeman – Bear Witness Screening and book signing. Bear Witness is a 12-minute film about A Year in the Wilderness. Our book came out in September.
4. Dave Brown – Contact Wood Splitting
5. Film – TBD

Sunday Morning
1. Bill Novacek – “Make your own Snowshoes” Preregistration required!
2. Q & A with Jon Turk
3. Geoff Burke – Demonstration of How to Make an Ammo Box Stove.
4. Film – TBD

Snow Shoe Building Workshop. A great opportunity to make your own wooden snowshoes! Join us on Sunday morning November 12, 2017 from 8:30 – 11:30 for a Snowshoe Making Workshop. Bill Novacek has been working for over 20 years as a woodworker and snow shoe builder. Bill will provide all of the materials to make your own snowshoes. You will be able to begin the process and finish the project once you get home. The fee for this workshop is $240 Limited to 6 students. Here is what Bill says about this workshop: I will provide all the frames and precut rawhide ready to use. I will provide instruction and demonstrate how to do it and oversee and help everyone for the duration of the class. It’s not likely anyone will finish in one session so I will send you home with your partially finished snowshoes and printed instructions that would enable you to finish at home at your leisure. http://www.cooscanoeandsnowshoe.com/About-Us.html

To register on-line: http://webreserv.com/wildernesstravellers
Questions? Wendy Scott, dwscott23@gmail.com Andy Williams, awilliamsvt@gmail.com



Ten Basic Rules for Adventure

Brendan Leonard put together a list of tips and ideas published in Outside Magazine to help people 1) Stay alive and 2) Not piss off their friends.  The 10 topic areas are:

  1. Get Your Priorities in Order: don’t die, have fun, get to the summit/campsite/lunch spot/waterfall/whatever
  2. Avoid Failing to Plan
  3. Avoid Just Hoping Someone Will Find You
  4. Avoid Spending the Night Outside Freezing
  5. Avoid Getting Lost
  6. Avoid Not Being Able to MacGuyver It
  7. Avoid Lightning
  8. Avoid Critter Encounters
  9. Avoid Ending Friendships Out There
  10. Don’t Be Afraid to Bail

Worth reading…..

Follow our occasional Tweets @WinterCampers and visit us on Facebook.


Snow Walkers Rendezvous 2017

Snow Walkers Rendezvous 2017  

Hulbert Outdoor Center ~ Fairlee, Vermont  

Friday, November 10 – 5:30pm – 9:30pm  Saturday, November 11 – 8:45am- 9:00pm

November 12 ~ Sunday Morning Workshops 8:30 to 11:30


Inline image 2
For program details:  www.wildernesstravel ers.org 

To register on-line: http://webreserv.com/ wildernesstravellers

Questions? Wendy Scott, dwscott23@gmail.com   Andy Williams, awilliamsvt@gmail.co m
Please drop us a note if you need a paper registration mailed to you. 

Andy Williams

P.O. Box 1031
Norwich, VT 05055
Cell  802-356-0798


A Chionophile is any organism that can thrive in cold, snowy winter conditions.  But it can also be used to describe a person who loves cold wintry weather – (“a snow lover”).