There are a few simple things that can make camping in winter a great experience.
Firstly keeping everything dry is a major part of surviving and enjoying the winter experience. Your pack should have a waterproof liner something similar to heavy duty garbage bag will do the job although you can buy commercial pack liners. The liner should allow you to make your pack watertight. I use mine all year round as you never know if you will have to cross a river or fall into a tarn (personal experience there)
Inside I normally pack my clothes in a stuff sack and have a couple of waterproof ones for the essentials. I have floated my pack over a river with camera gear and a cheque I didn’t want to leave in the car.
So you have arrived at your camp site and all your gear is dry, there is a foot of snow on the ground and you want to set up. Firstly find a sheltered spot for your tent and stamp out a level platform for your tent so you have a firm base to lay on and compacted snow to put your snow pegs into. Think of the prevailing wind and pitch the tent so when you open the door your tent doesn’t fill up with wind blown snow. In winter I carry a small piece of tarp about 3×3 feet so I can lay my gear on it whilst I set up my bed. The first thing once the tent is up is to lay out your mat and sleeping bag. This gives your bag a chance to fluff up and if there is any sun a chance to warm up.
Depending on how much snow is on the ground it can be beneficial to build a wind block out of snow to protect your tent. However your tent is most likely designed with ventilation in mind, so take care not to block this completely as no air circulation will add to condensation build up.
The aim is to keep everything dry, so before getting into the tent shake any snow off your clothing and change into your dry set of clothes, if you have to go out again as awful as it sounds put the wet socks back on and keep one set dry.
Speaking of those damp sweaty clothes you wore all day, what are you going to do with them? Personally I place them in a stuff sack and place them inside my sleeping bag so they don’t freeze overnight and are at least not cold when I put them on the next day.
Have you ever tried to cook in the snow? I have seen people with Trangia stoves who can’t get the metho alight due to the cold and when they do, watch it melt into the snow. Same with some liquid fuel stoves. In winter I prefer gas or liquid fuel stoves and love using the Jetboil stoves as they are fast and reduce the time your stove has to sink. An easy solution for a sinking stove is to take along a small piece of fibre board (something designed for outside) that won’t turn to cardboard when wet and sit the stove on that.
So you’re set up, have had dinner and gone to bed, it’s 2am and nature calls for you to void your bladder. Getting up is not inviting, use a pee bottle. I have a designated drink bottle that I use solely for that purpose. Be careful as your don’t want yellow ice in the tent and make it easy to distinguish from your actual drink bottle. I wrap some cord around mine and stick it in place with gaffer or sports tape so I can feel the difference in the dark.
In the morning you may notice the inside of your tent is wet or frozen, that’s the condensation from your breath. Be careful not to knock it all over you. I normally have a small sponge I can use to soak it up so when I fold up the tent is not all wet.
Congratulations you made it through the night and all you need to do is empty your bottle and continue to the next camp site and repeat.
Categories: Skills and Experience