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Camping

Our Top Tips for Camping in The Cold

Camping in the cold weather or freezing conditions can be a complete nightmare, but don’t let that scare you off from being in the great outdoors, regardless of the temperature.

You may want to set up camp at many different places, which can be classed as cold weather camping. It could be that you are just camping during the fall season, or you could be camping on an icy and snowy mountain where temperatures could be well under freezing.

Many people enjoy cold weather camping. They see it as an achievement to camp in freezing conditions and survive, as it can be brutal out there. Depending on what the conditions are, whether it’s rain and ice-cold air you need to battle against, or if it’s snowfall and sub-zero temperatures, completing any camping in such conditions is a test of character and shows determination and real substance.

It’s important to know how to stay as warm as you possibly can be in these types of environments, as the cold weather can have some serious impacts on your body and your health. You must always know the risks and how to prevent and prepare yourself for cold or freezing conditions.

As long as you are aware of the risks and what you might be faced with, then camping in the cold weather is a fantastic activity to do and will give you a sense of pride, you never know. It may end up being your favorite activity, and you might prefer it to camping in the warm weather.

There are people that only camp in cold conditions and have no interest in camping in warmer weather due to the thrill they get knowing that they can survive. Don’t let the cold weather put you off from exploring the world, or exploring the United States of America.

Benefits of Setting Up Camp in the Cold Weather

Snow Camping

Let’s start with some of the amazing benefits of camping in cold or extremely cold temperatures.

If you are a keen camper, one of the most noticeable differences is that there are fewer people than in warmer weather. This is perfect if you enjoy a peaceful and quiet place, and want to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday living. It can be great for your well-being and mind and may help you to relax and let the stresses melt away!

If you’re camping while you climb a popular mountain in cold weather, you may encounter more people than you would in a regular camping spot, but it will still be quieter than in the warmer weather.

Seeing the twinkling stars at night is another great benefit. The days are shorter, so the nights are longer. If it’s a clear night, you will most definitely see some stars. How amazing would that be? It can be so relaxing to stare at the sky and see the stars. Plus, depending on where you’re camping, you may even be able to see the Northern Lights – now that is spectacular!

Not all areas in the US allow you to get a glimpse of these lights. But you may be able to see them in the following states: Minnesota, Alaska, Idaho, Maine, and Michigan.

Campfires are not only a must in these conditions, but they’re also permitted in the cold weather. This is unlike warmer weather, where they aren’t in some areas. So, if you like keeping toasty and love hearing the fire and flame’s crackle, this is ideal. Although, not all conditions are right for campfires and some will need more attention than others, depending on what the weather is.

There are no bugs in the winter, which can be a huge positive for people who hate them buzzing around their heads, especially at meal-times. This also ensures that a stray one won’t get into your tent, disturbing you while you sleep or when you put the lantern on.

Your tent won’t be hot like they can get in the warmer months. If you’ve camped in the summer, you know it can be unbearable waking up in a tent you can hardly breathe in, especially if you had a few too many beers the night before!

If the weather isn’t good during the daytime, (such as heavy rainfall) or the temperature has dropped too much, a bonus is that you can have a ‘tent-day.’ You can stay inside your tent, read your book and chill out -but not too much, though!

Beware of the Risks; Awareness Will Help you to Survive

Green tent in winter mountain

It’s always a good idea to be knowledgeable about any risks of cold weather camping, as what could be worse than something terrible happening and not knowing how to deal with the situation?

The three main risks of camping are becoming dehydrated during your adventure, becoming too cold and suffering from hypothermia, and lastly, your skin suffering from frostbite.

Dehydration can be a risk even during cold weather. One of the main reasons it happens in cold weather conditions is because you won’t feel thirsty like you would in the summer, as the body constricts blood vessels to ensure your core is kept warm.

For some people, if they don’t feel thirsty, they won’t feel the need to hydrate with water. They won’t know they are dehydrating their bodies. If you are hiking during the day, it’s important to hydrate yourself regularly, so always keep your water bottle topped up and easy to reach at all times. Also, remember to hydrate even if you are having a ‘tent-day’ and are not doing any physical activity.

Hypothermia is one of the most known risks of cold weather, whether you are camping or going about your day in the fall season. Being out in the openness of the outdoors in extremely cold weather increases your risk of hypothermia greatly, so you must be prepared.

There are a few signs to look out for that may indicate someone is suffering from hypothermia. These include confusion, slurred speech, lack of coordination, slowed or shallow breathing, a weak pulse, and shivering.

Severe hypothermia may be indicated by if the person has stopped shivering, or they’re not able to walk and are instead are lying down. Furthermore, they can become very irritable. Always keep a lookout for early signs of hypothermia as, once a person enters the severe stages, it can be incredibly dangerous, especially if camping in a remote spot.

Signs of hypothermia will start to show when the body temperature falls below 36°C. If you have been caught in heavy rain and are drenched, stay alert for the signs. There is an increased risk if you have become soaked.

As soon as signs start to appear, try to make the person as warm as possible. Remove wet clothes, change into dry clothing, and seek help before the symptoms get too bad.

Frostbite can be very dangerous; if frostbite becomes severe, it can even lead to amputation. It affects the skin, and as it worsens, it will damage the skin and cells. It’s caused by the severe coldness of wind going against exposed skin, although it can also affect skin that is covered, so always remember that.

The main areas that are prone to frostbite are your nose, ears, face, fingers, and toes, so keep an eye on these areas. It’s important to act fast with frostbite. You may notice a tingling sensation and a bit of numbness. The skin may look paler.

As it progresses, you may notice discolorating to the skin and, after, warming blisters may form. As it reaches its peak, the skin will become hard and cold. There may be a loss of feeling. This stage is classed as a medical emergency.

If signs of frostbite appear, medical attention is a must and needs to be sought straight away. Get the affected person to a warm place and remove any damp and wet clothing. If you can, make a hot drink for the person and cover them with a dressing. Ensure the person does not walk if the toes are affected. No pressure should be applied to the affected area, so no rubbing or massaging.

Another risk factor that you should know about before you set out on your adventure is safety around the campfire. As always, fire safety when you are around open flames is paramount, and you don’t want to suffer from any burns when you’re enjoying your evenings.

The reason this may be more hazardous in cold weather camping is due to the number of clothing layers you are wearing. This is because you may not feel how intense the heat is from the fire. Or, if you aren’t looking, you may not know how close you are to the open flames, so just be mindful and careful.

What are the Vital and Basic Necessities Needed for Camping in the Cold

Aerial view of camping equipments and map on wooden table

There are some items and equipment that are vital for camping in the cold, to ensure you safely sleep at night without the cold getting to your body. It may bring your adventure to a quicker end if you become too cold.

Depending on your needs, your vital items may increase slightly. The below items are a must for any camper in the cold.

  • Cold weather tent
  • Sleeping bag appropriate for the weather conditions
  • Sleeping pad to go underneath your sleeping bag
  • Clothing that protects you from the elements and will keep you warm
  • At least one layer of clothing that includes wool or Smartwool material
  • Hat, gloves, and scarf
  • Thermal socks
  • Good quality jacket for protection
  • Hiking boots that can keep your feet warm
  • Disposable hand warmers
  • Water bottle made from stainless steel
  • Food including high carb snacks for energy
  • Cooking equipment including cutlery
  • Waterproof matches
  • Torch or lantern and headlamps
  • First aid safety kit including an emergency blanket or cover
  • Thermometer to check temperature to monitor hypothermia
  • Spare charging device if you need to seek assistance or for an emergency
  • Sun protection if there will be strong rays in the daytime

The items above will help protect you from the cold and ensure you can eat and hydrate during your camping experience.

If you are camping in extremely cold conditions where there will be snow and ice throughout your journey, an ice pick or ice screw might be a vital tool. It will help you with various tasks throughout your experience.

Plan Ahead, This Will Ensure You are Fully Prepared

Couple of hikers orienting themselves with map
Young couple of hikers orienting themselves with map in forest

This is a must, as you should always be prepared for any camping or exploration trip, especially when it involves cold weather. Although, any extreme weather conditions or explorations would require the same level of planning, as you need to know what you’re going to be up against.

You can begin planning anytime you like, as long as you start! Even if you plan ahead of the game, you should still keep an eye on the weather forecast, as weather fronts and conditions can change rapidly.

Ideally, you should start planning your trip (or at least looking at the weather) around a week or two before you go so that you can see the changes in the conditions. Depending on how long your adventure is going to be and how difficult the terrain is, you may need to start planning for longer.

Make sure you check the weather. Have a look at what the conditions were like the previous year. The other main thing to do when planning is looking at the trail you would like to take and ensure you’re aware of any hazards. Draw a plan of the trail you’re going to take. This is very important for your safety, even if there is a group of your going. Everything should be planned and written or drawn.

Once you have written your route out, make sure you give it to someone who is not going on the trip. Also, include when you expect to return. Safety first – this should be your number one priority.

What type of Clothing Should You Take With You

Woman hiker nordic walking, healthy lifestyle in Himalaya Mountains in Nepal. Trekking and hiking on snow white winter nature, beautiful inspirational mountain landscape.

You will need to pack clothing that will protect your body from the elements as best they can. Warm clothing is a must, but also clothing made from the right material to ensure that your body is kept free from moisture.

For daytime clothing, follow a three-layer clothing system: base layer, middle layer, and the external layer.

The base layer is to provide warmth but also moisture control; the main points are:

  • Moisture-wicking material is paramount such as wool
  • Do not wear cotton
  • Snugly fits the body
  • Long sleeve and long bottoms are a good choice

The middle layer is for insulation to trap the heat inside; materials like wool are also good for this layer.

The external layer stops the weather from getting to your body, so waterproof and windproof jackets are an ideal option. Before buying a suitable jacket, check out its features and what protection it will give you. If you are camping in extremely cold conditions, make sure the jacket is designed for that environment.

Clothing for the nighttime is slightly different. You won’t require the outer layer; your tent should be able to provide you with the same protection as an outer layer. The key points for night clothing include:

  • Don’t wear anything that will make you sweat as you will feel colder when you stop sweating.
  • – Remove any clothing that makes you feel too warm
  • – Wear a hat to keep your head warm and prevent heat loss

A few points to remember: beware that waterproof clothing can trap moisture inside. Watch out for hypothermia if your clothes become wet inside. However, waterproof clothing is essential to prevent you from getting wet if there is a heavy downpour.

Types of Tents That Are For Cold Weather Camping

Tent with snow

There are a range of perfect tents for cold weather camping, with various features to protect you while you sleep – or even if you are just relaxing inside.

One of the main things you need to know before you buy your tent is that you shouldn’t buy the biggest one you can find. The idea here is not to have too much additional space than what is needed, as this will cause a problem when camping in the cold.

An option may be to have more than one person in a tent. However, the additional space still needs to be as small as possible.

Tents for cold weather camping range from insulated ones (kind of like having a nice, warm coat), to regular-looking ones that are waterproof and windproof. These protect against the elements.

The benefits of an insulated tent are:

  • They are easy to put together – great if you’re racing against the sunlight
  • Durable
  • The frame is air-filled – you don’t have to thread poles with cold hands
  • Can be used in the summer if that’s your thing
  • Will protect you from sun rays in the morning
  • Waterproof
  • Will fit three people

If the weather is exceptionally cold and you’re camping with a group of four, you can buy tents with a stove burner instead. This would be a static tent as you wouldn’t want to take it with you when hiking up the mountain. The key features are:

  • Yurt design
  • Stove burner capacity and hole for the pipe for extraction
  • Fabric is made of cotton
  • It’s only partly waterproof, but if used in snowfall, this is adequate

Regular looking tents are great if you’re moving locations frequently as they’re easy to transport, unlike yurt style designs. The main features to look for when selecting these tents are:

  • Waterproof
  • Windproof
  • How many people does it fit – ensure you fill the space
  • Lightweight (if moving around)
  • Easy to assemble (you will be thankful if you move a lot and or if you’re in extreme weather)
  • UV protection (not a necessity but nice to have if you want a longer sleep)

If you move around a lot or are camping during very cold conditions and on uneven terrain, it may be worthwhile investing and bringing a tent repair kit just in case. You don’t want to be halfway through your journey and have a faulty tent preventing you from completing it.

Additional Information to Ensure an Amazing Experience

Man winter camping

Here are a few extra points to know before you set off to ensure your adventure is as fun and exciting:

  • Never sleep with your head inside your sleeping bag – this can cause moisture build-up
  • If you need extra heat when you sleep, fill a stainless-steel bottle with hot water and hold it
  • To keep your boots from being ice cold pop them at the foot of your sleeping bag
  • Nuts and chocolate are great to eat before bed
  • Place your bags and belongings around the parameter of your tent – this adds insulation
  • Put your belongings on a pad too – this prevents them from getting too cold
  • You can use snow or ice for fluid. But boil it first and stay away from any yellow snow!

Whatever type of cold weather camping you plan to do, just remember to stay aware, look for signs, and keep warm! You’re sure to have an amazing experience that you will never forget. Enjoy!

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