Camping in the winter? Actually it’s not as mad as it sounds. Although gaining in popularity in the UK Winter camping is still a very peaceful pastime. There is certainly something magical about waking up in a winter wonderland away from the hustle and bustle.
Winter camping is not for everyone but if you are adequately prepared it can be a very enjoyable experience. Here are our top winter camping tips to ensure your trip goes smoothly.
Pre planning is the key to a successful camping trip, especially when contending with the great British winter.
Do pack with the worst case scenario in mind
No matter what the weatherman says. It might seem overkill but make sure you carry all necessary emergency supplies such as extra clothes, food and water, especially if going off the beaten track. If the weather is likely to be awful and the road conditions dangerous think about postponing your trip.
Don’t go it alone
As nice as the peace and quiet sounds, it’s not advisable to go alone. Take along some friends, if they happen to be seasoned winter campers even better!
Do as much research as you can about the area
Check what is nearby. Is there a forest for firewood? Or a village for shops and restaurants? Check how long it should take to get anywhere so that if it takes longer you know you’re off track.
Do inform somebody at home of all details of your trip…
… so someone will always know where you are and can raise the alarm if needs be.
Keeping warm and dry when you are camping in winter is the key to being comfortable and the right clothing can make all the difference.
Do wear layers
Layers are every outdoor adventurer’s best friend. A few layers are much more efficient at trapping heat and keeping you warm than a single thick layer. Make sure you stay away from all things cotton as cotton absorbs moisture which will cause you to get very cold quickly.
Don’t forget your feet
Cold feet are not pleasant so make sure you wear thick socks or a thinner pair underneath a thicker pair. Always bring spares encase they get wet. A good tip is to put your socks and insoles inside your sleeping bag at night to help heat them up for the next day. Pop some feet warmers inside your boots overnight too so they are warm and dry for the morning.
If you plan to go walking and it’s snowing you might consider walking boots with crampons. Gaiters are also useful as they will stop snow getting into your boots and act as a seal from the cold. If just walking from car park to campsite a pair of snow boots with a good tread will be perfect. Remember you need to have enough room in your boots to allow for the thick socks.
Do wear hats and gloves.
You lose almost half your body heat through your head so wearing a hat is common sense. A windproof hat is ideal for outside whilst a knitted hat will keep you warm inside and, if really cold, at night too. Take a couple of pairs of gloves, doing anything with cold hands can be difficult! A thin liner pair is perfect for wearing inside the tent.
Do wrap up at night.
Even in summer night time temperatures can be significantly lower than those in the day and in winter wind chill also lowers temperatures.
As well as wearing layers you need to make sure you sleeping bag is suitable for lowest temperature you can expect to experience. These will normally be rated as 3 or 4 season. A down sleeping bag is a popular choice for winter camping as it has a very high warmth to weight ratio. Don’t be tempted to cover your mouth and nose inside your bag as moisture from your breath can make you cold quickly. You can wrap a blanket or jacket around the bottom of your sleeping bag for extra insulation.
If very cold put some feet and hand warmers into your sleeping bag to help keep you warm.
TOP TIP: Wear your next day’s clothes to bed they will be warm and you won’t be putting cold clothes on in the morning!
As well as a warm sleeping bag there are other pieces of kit that will make you winter camping trip more enjoyable.
A sleeping bag liner is designed to go inside your sleeping bag and adds another layer for warmth. The ground will be cold and a couple of groundsheets won’t be enough to keep the cold from reaching you, use a couple of sleeping mats for insulation.
Of course you will need something to carry your kit in. You will need a larger rucksack when winter camping than in the summer months as you will need to carry extra items.Try to pack as light as you can without scrimping on the important bits. A sled can be useful for carrying kit on if you have a lot, remember though a sled may not be the easiest to pull over certain surfaces!
A snow shovel isn’t just from driveways; it can be handy for clearing a spot or snow from around the tent entrance if needed.
Take plenty of lighting as it is darker for longer in the winter. Make sure you have spare batteries as they do not last as long in the cold. Prepare for any eventually with a fully stocked first aid kit.
Even if you don’t plan on doing a lot of walking ski poles or large walking poles can help give you better balance when walking in the snow. They are also ideal for checking the depth of snow and can even be used to help peg down your tent.
Pick the right tent and the right spot and setting up won’t be quite as tricky if the weather is bad.
Do arrive early.
You don’t want to be setting up your tent in the dark. Remember daylight hours are shorter in winter so don’t get caught out.
Do use a strong sturdy waterproof tent.
Your tent may need to stand up to some pretty strong winds and driving rains and still keep you warm and dry. A flimsy pop up tent will not be enough should the weather turn bad. Consider buying some extra strong poles that will be sturdy enough to hold the tent up in strong winds or should it snow. Extra guy lines will also help keep the tent stable even in the extreme weather.
Do make your life easy.
The tent also needs to be relatively easy and quick to setup- remember you will need to be able to put it up with gloves on! It is worth practicing at home first.
Don’t just pitch anywhere.
You need to consider the following when pitching your tent:
Do pack down the snow
Where you are going to pitch the tent which will reduce the risk of it melting under your body heat. Use an extra groundsheet to help keep the tent warm and dry.
Do put an extra layer on whilst building tent
You will get cold quickly standing still.
Don’t forget to drink water
Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you don’t need to drink. You might not be sweating but the dry air means you lose tonnes of water breathing. Wrap your water bottles in clothes to try and prevent them from freezing. If you are carrying a metal water bottle don’t fill to the top, when the water freezing the bottle may expand and break.
Do take spares
Don’t rely on a camp fire or a single stove.Take a spare stove/gas as the cold can stop them working.
Do eat high energy food
High energy foods like nuts and chocolate will help fuel your body to keep you warm.
Do eat warm meals
There is nothing like a warm meal when it’s cold. Try preparing stews beforehand that you can reheat on the stove and have cup a soups to hand.
Do take a wind breaker…
… to help shield you from the wind when cooking.