The last warm days of fall are behind us and the days are getting shorter—but that doesn’t mean that your Section can’t still have a great time camping! Your favourite sites and trails are no longer as busy with other campers and hikers—so get out and enjoy the peace and solitude of nature in the crisp air of late fall! With the right preparation, your Section may discover an affinity for camping in the cold that you never expected. Check out our top 14 Cold Winter Camping Hacks to make your next trip a success.
1. Check the forecast.
Knowing the forecast and being prepared for conditions becomes more important as temperatures drop. The real hack when it comes to weather is having a flexible plan. If you can shift a planned camping trip from one weekend to another based on the forecast, you’re more likely to have a good time when you head outdoors.
2. Keep moving.
The easiest way to stay warm on a cool day is to keep moving. Pack your itinerary with plenty of activity geared to match the weather: hike, play active games (like Survival), gather and split firewood, or take on a pioneering project.
3. Insulate your water bottle.
Staying hydrated in cold weather is important. Cold air tends to have less moisture than warm air, which means that you can get dehydrated in the cold faster than you expect. Insulate your water bottle with a thermal sleeve to keep your water from freezing or getting too cold to drink comfortably.
4. Treat yourself.
Your body needs to burn calories to keep warm, which means that it needs more calories in cold weather than it does in the heat. Treat yourself to hardy, calorie-dense foods like chocolate, cheese and nuts.
5. Enjoy a campfire.
Forgoing a campfire can be a good idea on a hot summer evening, but there’s nothing like the warmth and glow of a fire on a cold night for keeping spirits high.
6. Make your tent a nest.
While it can be a good idea in the summer to keep your pack outside of your tent to create extra space, this isn’t a great idea in the fall. Bring your pack into your tent and put it next to your tent wall for a little extra insulation.
7. Use a closed-cell sleeping pad.
Air mattresses and cots can be comfortable in the summer, but they don’t provide any of the insulation you need for a good night’s sleep in colder temperatures. A closed-cell pad will provide better insulation between you and the cold ground.
8. Pack a candle lantern.
A candle lantern is great way to both light and warm your tent. The cozy glow of a candle lantern is perfect for playing cards with your tent-mates. Light your lantern a half-hour before you plan to turn in, and your tent will be a little warmer than it is outside when you crawl in to get changed for bed. Be sure to check out our tips for fire safety.
9. Change before turning in.
It’s tempting to simply strip down to your base layers before getting into your sleeping bag, but the clothes you’ve been wearing all day contain moisture that will make it harder to keep warm through the night. Change into dry wool or synthetic base layers before you go to sleep, then tuck your clothing for the next day between your sleeping bag liner and your sleeping bag so that you don’t have to put on cold clothes in the morning. Don’t overdress—heavy layers might make you sweat, which will make it hard to keep warm as the air cools the moisture in your clothing.
10. Wear a toque to bed.
Your head is the most exposed part of your body once you’re in your sleeping bag. A toque will do a lot to keep you warm and help you get a good night’s sleep, even in the cold. When temperatures really plummet, you may even want to sleep wearing a dry pair of gloves or mittens as well.
11. Bring a book.
Winter days are short, and when the sun goes down, it’s pretty tempting to head to your tent—but you probably won’t be able to sleep from sunset to sunrise. Be prepared to keep yourself happily occupied with a good book while snuggled in your sleeping bag before flicking off your headlamp.
12. Bring a hot water bottle to bed.
Before putting out that campfire, fill a stainless-steel water bottle with hot water and tuck it at the end of your sleeping bag to keep your feet warm through the night.
13. Snuggle your electronics.
Cold temperatures will drain batteries in a hurry, so keep your electronics close to your body for warmth. The foot of your sleeping bag can be a good place to stow your phone, camera or GPS device on a cold night.
14. Sweep off morning frost.
Use a tent brush to sweep away dry ice crystals before you pack up your tent. Don’t mistake a cold, frosty tent for a dry tent! Sweeping frost off a cold tent is faster than waiting for the frost to melt and then evaporate in the morning sun.