The well respected SectionHiker posted an interesting article entitled Winter Backpacking on a Budget. His basic premise is that winter gear is very expensive and while it may last a life time, the up front cost can be considerable. He maintains some 3 season gear is appropriate for 4 season use, but identifies many items that specifically for winter use including an ice axe, crampons, snowshoes, a liquid fuel stove, a thick sleeping pad, a winter sleeping bag, and a winter tent. He also recommends, depending where you hike, you may need to acquire plastic or synthetic mountaineering boots, a winter pack, a shovel, a windproof balaclava, 1 or 2 pairs of goggles, 2 pairs of mountaineering gloves, high gaiters, and a goose down parka. SectionHiker wisely recommends renting equipment or borrowing it from friends. The list of recommended gear is a staggering cost of $2,770!
At WinterCampers.com we recommend an alternative approach – find out if you enjoy “winter camping” before making a permanent investment.
Now this is drawing a fine line between winter backpacking and winter camping. Winter backpacking can involve covering long distances and traversing rugged terrain, usually with a mountain top as the designated goal. Winter camping is the art of simply camping outdoors during the winter and the experience is irrespective of distance covered or destination. WinterCampers.com suggests experiencing winter camping as part of the decision process before making the leap to purchase winter backpacking or mountaineering gear.
Using this approach the start up costs are considerably less. The rationale for eliminating or substituting gear is presented in the column labeled Winter Camping.
By employing a ‘try winter camping’ approach the list is boiled down to a few essential items some of which most snow country residents already have: snowshoes, gloves and good mittens, and winter parkas.
This approach draws a distinction between winter backpacking/mountaineering and winter camping with winter camping simply being the experience of camping out over-night during the winter. The two approaches are not exclusive of one another, but for the basic purpose of getting people to experience the winter outdoors, it is an important distinction.