Winter Camping 101

The fall season has been very friendly to us this year in terms of sunny days and warm temperatures. Avid campers who were not ready to pack in their trailers for winter have taken advantage of these final weekends of nature and adventure.

Year-Round Camping in Alberta Winter Camping Tips

But alas, winter is just around the corner, and reality hits that camping is once again done for the year. The time has come when campers are grudgingly winterizing their trailers and storing them away for the winter season, dreaming of next year’s camping season. But, perhaps you enjoy camping and getting away on the weekends to the mountains too much to pack it in? Have you wondered what winter camping is like and how to prepare for it?

Winter camping can be a fun adventure as long as you are prepared. After all, if young boy scouts can do it and have a great time, it’s definitely worth trying at least once! Preparation is key. Here are things to help you prepare for a weekend in the glistening snow and cool mountain air.

Trailer Winter Camping

  1. Be sure that the trailer is well insulated and rated for Canadian winter temperatures. Talk to a trailer dealership to confirm and find out if a trailer can handle winter camping or what the cost would be to add those features.
  2. The furnace is not typically used while camping in the summer, so if you haven’t been using it, make sure that it runs and any maintenance needed is done. You will not be impressed if you turn on the furnace and it doesn’t work!
  3. Remember that the water lines can freeze during cold temperatures. Extra care and protective measures must be taken to use the taps or toilet without the fear of a pipe or line bursting. Talk to a trailer dealership to make sure that your pipes are winter camping ready to avoid a wet soggy mess and any permanent damage to your trailer.
  4. Be aware of your camping location and roads. While many campgrounds are closed for the winter, there are a few open, and they often keep the roads clear. Be prepared with shovels and your AMA card if it snows and drifts… you may get stuck!

Winter Camping

Tent Camping in the Winter

  1. Be sure that your sleeping bag is rated for extremely cold temperatures. Not all sleeping bags are rated the same. It’s a worthwhile investment to pay for one that won’t have your body going numb and frigid in the middle of the night!
  2. Be sure to have a high-quality tent that can withstand a night or two of snowfall. The stories of winter campers waking up to a tent that has caved in from the weight of snow are real, and while it may provide laughs later, the reality is that the scenario is not a fun one to endure at the moment. Bring extra tent poles and a patch kit just to be on the safe side.
  3. Wear a toque at night. This will help keep the heat from escaping your body. Gloves and extra bedtime layers are a must. A foil mat or some form of barrier between your sleeping bag and the ground will also keep the cold ground from stealing your heat. Blow-up mattresses don’t fare well in the cold weather, so keep those at home.
  4. A great tip is to put your clothes for the next day in your sleeping bag while you sleep. It will keep them warm and much more pleasant to put on in the morning!

What to Pack for Winter Camping

Warm clothing is a must. And bring extras in case something gets wet or extra layers are needed. Wool socks will keep your feet warm, and waterproof and well-insulated boots will keep your feet dry. There is nothing worse than wet clothing in -20 weather! Wear layers. That way if you get warm while hiking or the sun comes out, you can take off a layer under your coat.

Tarps are great to put up and act as a windbreak, especially if you don’t want your fire to go out. They also are great to put under a tent to keep the moisture and cold off the bottom of the tent.

Firestarter and other aids to keep a fire strong and going are great aids to have along with you when things are wet. Dig a hold in the ground so you have a dry base, and avoid using wet wood that will smother and smoke.

Food. There are amazing products on the market now, as easy as just adding boiling water to freeze-dried meal packages! Light a fire, boil water, and you’re are set to go! Remember to pack food that will keep you warm, such as canned chilli, soups, and stews. Don’t plan big fancy meals or food prep that wearing gloves could get in the way of. Foil-wrapped meals are a great option and can be cooked in glowing embers or on a grill above the fire.

First Aid Kit. You never know when you’ll need one!

Are You Ready to Try Winter Camping?

Camper Vans are becoming increasingly popular and may be the perfect medium between trailer and tent. You won’t have to worry about getting stuck pulling a trailer, and it will be warmer than sleeping in a tent! There’s no set-up or takedown which is convenient.

Winter camping may excite you, or make you nervous. It may be your thing, or it may not. But either way, you won’t know until you experience it yourself!

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