Intimidating for many, freezing for others, winter camping can be tamed with a minimum of preparation and a few insider tips.
To enjoy winter in a tent, take advantage of our 10 winter camper commandments.
1. THE HOT WATER BOTTLE YOU WILL USE
This is definitely the most heartwarming tip of the bunch. Shortly before going to bed in your sleeping bag, insert at the bottom of it a sealed one liter bottle – Nalgene type – filled with boiling water… and tightly closed!
Even better, also use an insulating case to prevent burns and maximize the effect.
When it comes time to go to sleep, the sleeping bag will already be warm and you can place the bottle at your feet or on your abdomen, as needed during the night. In the morning, a lukewarm drink will be ready to consume even before you step out of your cozy cocoon!
2. THE SLEEPING PAD YOU WON’T FORGET
It is too often the neglected accessory. Even more in winter camping, when isolation from the cold ground is essential.
So pay close attention to the type of mattress you will be using, as the best sleeping bags become nearly ineffective when conduction cooling does its work.
Choose a model adapted to your morphology and do not hesitate to pair mattresses together for more insulation. A closed-cell foam mattress such as Evazote, combined with an inflatable mattress such as Exped or Therm-A-Rest, will prevent you from waking up with a shiver.
3. THE HUMIDITY YOU WILL CONTROL
The idea is counter-intuitive: leave the tent open at -30 ° C. In fact, it aims to ensure that there is adequate ventilation in the passenger compartment, in order to prevent humidity from becoming a problem.
Moreover, winter tents often have openings judiciously placed to allow air circulation. Also carry a soft brush (a nail brush works well) to remove frost from clothing, sleeping bag, and other accessories as needed. This will prevent the ice formed from melting and complicating your life. Finally, a golden rule: never fall asleep while breathing (and especially while exhaling) in your sleeping bag!
4. THE CALORIES IN QUANTITY YOU WILL CONSUME
Away from any source of heat, you will have to rely on your activation and the consumption of food for your body to create heat. Hence the importance of providing fuel in quantity to your body.
Don’t neglect your calorie intake while winter camping. Lipids and carbohydrates will be the essential fuels of your internal furnace!
Adapt your diet accordingly and increase the number of calories ingested according to your adventures. Think that if 2000 calories are enough daily for the average person, the polar explorers ingest up to 7000 calories per day, in extreme cold and with the effort …
5. THE DOWN JACKET YOU WILL PUT ON
The centerpiece of the clothing system for winter camping, the synthetic or down puffer jacket is a must-have.
A real “thermos” when stationary, the insulated coat helps conserve heat and, above all, it makes drying other clothes possible. Because the real way to do it in winter camping is to dry on yourself clothes that have become damp in the action.
Once at camp, put on your down jacket; clothes will gradually dry out as camp is prepared for the night.
Avoid cotton absolutely and take advantage of the combination of synthetic and merino wool clothing.
6. ENOUGH FUEL YOU WILL PLAN
An external heat source essential for the preparation of meals, an efficient stove in cold conditions (which will have been tested beforehand) will quickly become useless without sufficient fuel. Hence the importance of doing your calculations well before leaving and planning for the extra.
In winter, when snowmelt is necessary to obtain water, it is generally necessary to calculate 1/3 of a liter of white gas (naphtha) per person per day.
In general, forget about cartridge stoves: below freezing, the cold prevents butane-propane mixtures from vaporizing effectively. Liquid gas stoves should therefore be given priority.
7. A STURDY TENT YOU WILL CHOOSE
For an occasional night of winter camping, virtually any tent will do. But for more regular use, it is better to get a real all-season tent, much more efficient and comfortable.
More robust and larger, this type of shelter also offers better protection against the wind, and its surfaces are designed to minimize snow accumulation.
Necessarily more expensive to buy, these tents nevertheless have properties that will be worth their weight in gold by -40 ° C or if 1 meter of snow falls overnight.
8. YOUR EXTREMITIES YOU WILL PROTECT
When the cold days and nights accumulate, preventing frostbite is high on the list of essentials.
Protecting hands and fingers is a priority, especially taking into account the many tasks to be performed in winter camping: pitching the tent, removing the stove, handling equipment, eating …
Practice before you get in the cold action. You can then test your gloves or mittens – and also all your equipment, as long as you do – to determine if they allow you to remain agile at all times without discovering yourself.
9. A SHOVEL YOU WILL TAKE
Without turning it into a War of the Toques fort, you can easily make your winter camp spacious and comfortable with a little imagination.
Using a good snow shovel (those intended for avalanche safety are perfect), dig one or more vestibules in front of the access (s) of your tent to save space, or even build a large kitchen. group, including counter, inside the passenger compartment.
Need to put up a low wall to counter the storm, cut blocks of snow to melt or simply level the ground under the tent? This tool will be a valuable partner.
10. SLOWLY THE NIGHTS YOU WILL ACCUMULATE
Before dreaming of Antarctica solo, carefully plan your winter nights. Start with adventures near an accessible and heated location, such as in your backyard, on your cottage grounds, or in a park near you.
Test different conditions and temperatures, as well as your resistance to the cold, then gradually increase the commitment to your outings and the number of nights, alone or accompanied.
You can then see bigger and plan independent stays in the wilderness, far from it all …