Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team
Top 10 Tips for Winter Camping
15, Jan, 2019
Keep getting out and about over winter with the Alpkit team's top tips...
Winter can be a truly magical time of the year, giving our local haunts and favourite spots a fresh new look and feel. And those crisp, crystal clear mornings can offer some of the most breathtaking sunrises, transporting us to what seems an entirely different place and giving us that warm and fuzzy feeling inside (even when it's below zero out there). But watching the sunrise from our living room windows, with the heating on, can only offer us so much.
As tempting as it is to cosy up with a hot chocolate and our home comforts about us, it's time to fight our natural urge to hibernate and get out to enjoy realms of possibilities that the cold season has to offer. We find that those winter sunrises and sunsets are more vibrant, intense and intoxicating when we're out there on the big hills. But that means camping... "In winter!? Are you mad!?"
No, we're not mad. We've just learnt a few handy tricks to help make camping in the colder months a little more enjoyable, so check out our top tips and make the most of camping this winter!
Tip 1 - Take dry thermals
...and change into them as soon as you get in your tent. This stops your body from trying to evaporate the moisture in the clothes you’ve been wearing all day, so you’ll use less energy whilst you’re sleeping. Wizard!
What you wear is down to personal choice, merino is great for warmth and for multiday comfort (and lack of bad smells), whilst synthetics are good for being quick drying and, for some, comfier on the skin. Here's what we'd recommend:
- Kepler Long Sleeve (Mens | Womens) Merino baselayer
- Kepler Long John (Mens) Merino baselayer
- Koulin Trail Long Sleeve (Mens | Womens) Synthetic baselayer
Tip 2 - Sticks instead of tent pegs
When the ground is too snowy or frozen to peg your tent out conventionally, a foot-long stick threaded through the pegging loop and buried under the snow should do the trick.
If sticks aren't abundant then a drybag or similar filled with snow and buried can also do the trick, or things like skis/skipoles/skidoos/slow moving elk are all equally (ish) as good.
Tip 3 - Take an extra closed cell mat
If you’re sleeping on a self-inflating mat, place a closed cell mat underneath to increase insulation (this also makes a handy back up in case of punctures). Something like the Napster 8mm roll mat would do the trick.
If you dont want to take an extra mat then we would always recommend a mat with some internal insulation (like the Airo 180 or Dirtbag) for winter. The lighter, blow up mats don't have the same insulation values as their foam filled, self inflating brethren.
Tip 4 - Eat a hot meal
...but cook it outside of your tent when possible. Cooking inside your tent increases condensation within your tent, which will freeze overnight and melt again in the morning, getting your stuff all wet, and no-one wants a soggy sleeping bag.
Its always a great idea to eat something hot and calorie rich just before getting into your sleeping bag, this ensures you are warm and means the bag heats up faster and you spend less energy shivering to warm up. Why not try Hati's stove-top Dahl for a warm and tasty winter camping meal!
If hot food isnt an option then staying hydrated is essential, so a hot drink - even hot water - and a snack high in simple sugars and fat is ideal. Things like chocolate bars, energy bars, trail mix, nuts, honey and peanut butter are ideal midnight snacks. If you've got the time and enjoy a bit of baking, have a go at Dan's apricot, cranberry and walnut ceral bars! They're the perfect snack to take along on adventures and are pretty darn tasty too.
Or you could follow Nicks simple recipe for a trailside fondue...
Tip 5 - Don’t camp under snowy trees
As much as anything laden with snow and icicles looks irresistibly idyllic, it could all fall on top of you and harm you in the night - no-one wants that.
During heavy snow, look for gaps in the canopy away from overhanging trees and branches. It's also a good idea to look at the ground where you pitch to ensure it's safe and doesnt hide watercourses or similar buried in the snow that could lead to a soaking if temperatures increase overnight.
When camping on open ground, avoid pitching in sites where windblown snow will accumulate, for example too close to a boulder or a wall. Also be aware of places that might be subject to avalanche, if you aren't sure then move to lower, safer ground.
Tip 6 - Choose the right fuel
Butane vaporises at around freezing, whereas propane vapourises at about -40°C. Thing is, no one’s got the energy to lug a big propane canister around. Instead, use ISO-butane and keep the canisters warm.
Canisters can be kept in sleeping bags or wrapped in insulated clothing, perhaps even in a drybag or similar.
Tip 7 - Air your sleeping bag
When you, er, perspire in the night, your sleeping bag absorbs moisture which freezes. Air your sleeping bag regularly to avoid a build-up of moisture.
On a multi day trip in one location, and in good weather this can be as simple as opening the bag and laying it over the tent in the morning, in bad weather just opening the bag inside the tent for a little while can help. Where you are moving everyday getting the bag out to air as soon as possible each morning can make a huge difference.
Choosing the right kind of sleeping bag for your adventure can also make a huge difference to staying at a comfortable temperature during your winter sleeps. Why not have a look at our helpful guide on how to choose the right sleeping bag.
Tip 8 - Take a dry bag
In fact, take a few, all different sizes and colours, they weigh almnost nothing and can come in very handy for lots of uses, especially for your socks and clothes, that way you can pop it in your sleeping bag at night to stop your stuff for the next day from freezing.
You can see the list of dry bags we have available here.
Tip 9 - Don’t get snow in your tent
Getting snow in your tent increases the amount of condensation. We know how tempting it is to hurl snowballs at your adventure parntner, so after the inevetable happens, just make sure you brush off your clothes before getting in your tent to avoid getting more moisture in there than you need to.
In deep snow and in very windy conditions it can also be a good idea to bury the edges of the flysheet in the snow to prevent windblown snow getting in and melting.
Tip 10 - Vent your tent
...by pitching it at 90° to prevailing winds. This creates an airflow in your tent and minimises condensation, you can also open and close the doors a little to control airflow.
Its always worth keeping a check for snow accumulation on your tent, tell-tale signs included muffled sounds and it getting darker in the tent, if snow does start to accumulate then it may be necessary to leave the tent to clear it during the night.
We're feeling a little nostalgic, so here's Col back in the day explaining how to keep you tent condensation-free...
Here are some of our suggestions for Winter Camping Product
KangriExtremely strong 2 person 4 season mountain tent. Protection against all weathers and still light enough to carry. The twin entry 4 pole classic geodesic design maximises stability and living area.£479.99
ZhotaExceptional protection with a central spreader bar to increase the living area with uncompromising strength and stability. 4 person 4 season mountain tent.£659.99
Tetri2 person 3 season geodesic backpacking tent weighing 3 kg, Strong against the elements, light enough to carry, easy to pitch with comfortable living space£149.99
Viso 23 season backpacking tunnel tent weighing 3.3 kg. A large porch gives increased living space for multi-day trips. Light enough to carry and big enough to sit out bad weather£169.99
Viso 3Large living areas and strong weather protection whilst being light enough to carry on extended self-supported trips. 3 season backpacking tunnel tent weighing 4 kg,£199.99