Winter camping: no insects, few people and the cold
“If people know they have the ability to warm up, they’ll appreciate the cold a lot more,” said Joe Meyer, who along with his wife, Mollie Foster, runs Crossing Alaska, an outdoor adventure company based in Denali Park, Alaska. “It ranges from ‘I’m miserable’ to ‘I’m going to stay outside and enjoy the Northern Lights a little longer, even if it’s 20 below zero. “”
Regardless of your level of camping expertise, enrolling in winter-specific classes or classes is a smart first step. The courses offered by the ADK Winter Mountaineering School, the sierra club and other wilderness organizations often combine classroom time, learning compass and map navigation, what to pack, and safety skills, with field trips of varying lengths to test what you have learned in the elements. (Avalanche safety course are highly recommended if you want to up your winter camping game).
You can also familiarize yourself with the elements.
“Try camping in your own backyard to get started,” said Alysa Arnold, a stay-at-home mom and entrepreneur who splits her time between Concord, Mass., and Saratoga Springs, NY and is the assistant manager of the ADK Winter Mountaineering School. “I’m going to do it with my kids, and if it doesn’t work out, we can just go back inside.”
Guided trips like those led by Mr. Meyer and Mrs. Foster in Alaska are great resources for those who want to explore further afield and don’t want to go it alone. Additional trips can be found just about anywhere you are interested in winter camping, including Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Canada, Svalbard and more.
Many organizations, including the Winter Mountaineering School and the Sierra Club offer online resources not only for best practices, but also suggestions for appropriate equipment, including clothing and stoves.
“People think the cold is your enemy, but it’s not. Moisture is your enemy,” Eis said, referring to a common pitfall of layering too much when snowshoeing, hiking or skiing, which leads to sweating. Wearing materials that wick away moisture and dry quickly, including synthetics, wool, and fleece, is key, as is avoiding cotton.
A sleeping bag suitable for cold weather is a must, as is a lightweight camping stove, fuel (the Sierra Club recommends white gas for winter camping), and camp cooking utensils to melt the snow to get water and prepare hot food and drink. An emergency fire starter, such as a lighter or waterproof matches, is also a requirement. Depending on your trip, snowshoes, skis, ice axes or crampons may be required. Retailers love Eastern mountain sports, sports basement and REI rent hiking and camping gear, from clothes to tents.