No, cold-weather camping is not a terrible idea – and here's why you should try it

“The forest is beautiful, dark and deep. . . ”
- “Stopping by Woods on a snowy evening by Robert Frost
The night winter sky often shimmers with penetrating, icy starlight. This is not an optical illusion. In the northern hemisphere, Earth orbit takes us to the edges of the Milky Way during the winter season. The sky is darker; The stars appear brighter. In summer we focus more on the crowded center of the Milky Way. Cold air is also usually drier than warm air, which improves atmospheric clarity.
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The winter forests also sharpen human hearing. This is because the sound continues to propagate in cold weather.
Winter campers are very familiar with these attractive phenomena. That is why we retire to the forest in winter. But they are hardly the only reasons.
A yurt provides cozy shelter in winter camp and a view of the dazzling night sky on the Gunflint Trail in Minnesota.
"Winter camping is very peaceful," explains Mark Hubner, who heads the test team at Hamilton, Ontario-based cold-weather shoe and clothing company Baffin. “But it's (also) a nice and fun activity that has many different elements than camping in other seasons. Many people enjoy the fact that without leaves and brushes and frozen lakes, there is so much more terrain and different trails to explore freely. "
Minnesota has its own brand of winter camping, which often includes white scenery and bone-free temperatures. According to Alyssa Hayes, a senior public relations officer at Explore Minnesota, potential roadblocks for the faint of heart are hardly deterrent measures for the well-prepared.
Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a dark sky sanctuary, offers spectacular views of the Milky Way.
"Winter camping in Minnesota is a one-of-a-kind experience, with serene, snow-covered scenery and a view of the darkest starry sky at prime time," said Hayes, who found the wilderness of her state's Boundary Waters Canoe Area certified as the largest International Dark Sky Sanctuary the International Dark Sky Association.
"With the right equipment, camping in winter can be an extraordinary, fun and refreshing adventure," she says.
True. However, it is important that you don't arrive at camp when the sun goes down and the temperature drops to realize that you have forgotten a critical device (such as tent poles or stove fuel). Use a checklist to avoid these inconveniences. You can find gobs of these online, including this thorough one from REI and Switch Back Travel.
However, it is best to tailor your winter camping supply to suit individual needs and your specific goal. A general rule, however, is that it is better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
The formula for a safe, successful, and fun trip is pretty simple: stay warm. Stay well hydrated. Eat well. Eat smart. Eat often. And stay dry.
"One of the most important things for winter camping is to remember that no matter what equipment you have, it is important to have multiple layers (clothes)," explains Hubner. "Layering your clothes helps with temperature management."
If you have a bike with tires that are fat and have enough profile, you can enjoy the trails all to yourself. Just make sure you can change an apartment.
The key here is to stay warm but not sweat. Even a thin layer of sweat can cool you down quickly.
“You want to stay warm, but you shouldn't sweat,” explains Hubner. "If you're wet and the temperature drops, you can get a lot colder very quickly."
Avoid cotton, which is known for its moisture. I prefer wool for socks, hats and gloves and wool or a wool blend for underwear and outerwear.
According to Hubner, some of his company's winter boots contain a layered, removable, insulated lining that allows the layering strategy to be applied to the feet. Regardless of what brand or style of winter shoes you use at camp, they are teeming with wool socks. Warm socks are the last line of defense against cold, damp feet.
"For extra warmth," he says, "boots should be paired with wool socks." Hubner's preferred sock fabric is merino wool.
Only a few winter campers simply pitch a tent and then stay in it. We wander. We fish. We watch birds. We snowshoe. We go cross-country skiing. We study the night sky.
To do these things, you need food. Lots of it. Stay warm and eat smart.
Winter camping: a legitimate reason to eat more
"For the recreational camper, you should expect to burn an average of 30 to 40% of additional calories during a full-day winter camping," notes Mark Hubner, leader of the cold-weather test team at Canadian shoe and clothing company Baffin
"Depending on your level and how long you are active, it is possible to burn twice the number of calories you normally burn per day," adds Hubner. "But for the recreational camper one should expect that he burns an average of 30 to 40 percent of the additional calories over the course of an all-day winter camping."
Nothing improves a winter campsite like a steaming cup of soup.
He recommends loading your cold camp menu with carbohydrates and electrolytes, as both provide quick energy and hydration. The menu doesn't have to be complicated, however.
"When in doubt, there is no better fuel for winter camping than soup," he says. "Soup can help keep your body warm, stay hydrated, replace electrolytes, and provide calories."
Trail mix (raisins, peanuts, etc) - whether homemade or pre-packaged - is another winter camp staple to take with you on your travels. "It's a great snack to keep handy," says Hubner. "Snacking all day is very helpful in winter camping."
There are many dehydrated, prepackaged camp meals on the market. Some of the best I've tried come from Good To-Go. The menu is quite varied and the preparation is almost child's play. Just add boiling water. You will be ready in about 10 minutes.
Dehydrated meals are your best friend on winter camping trips. Just add boiling water and wait 10 minutes.
Gear up
Your camping equipment should be in good condition, clean, and checked before you leave home. I prefer a liquid fuel stove for camping in cold weather, but canister stoves are perfect.
There are numerous winter-specific tents available. Choose one that suits your needs and budget, but pay special attention to the tent material and the quality of the flooring. Also, look for a tent with a vestibule and rain fly that will help with condensation - which can be annoying in summer but downright miserable in winter.
Preparation, including a bottom pad and a toasted sleeping bag, makes for a comfortable and safe camp in cold weather.
“One of the important materials or features to look for (in a tent) is ripstop nylon and a waterproof floor,” concludes Hubner. "A vestibule for your boots and gear is very useful so you can protect them from the elements."
Are you considering a camping trip? Tips to make sure your gear is good
Make sure your tent is firm and dry in cold weather to keep the snow from getting in.
Hayes adds that preparation is key to a fun, safe, and successful winter camp outing, but admits that it can be a little intimidating for beginners, especially those lacking specialized equipment.
"It can be a challenge for newbies to winter camping," she says, suggesting that first time campers in cold weather consider working with a guide or outfitter, or focusing on destinations with RV cabins or yurts .
It is not known how many of the approximately 42 million recreational campers in the USA are out and about in winter. But more should. It is fun. It's refreshing. It's not crowded. And there is no better way to social distance.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Cold Weather Camping: What To Know If You Want To Try It This Winter

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