Winter Camping Hacks

Don't hibernate this winter! With these tips, you can have a successful, fun, and comfortable winter camping experience in Sunset Country!

Winter in Sunset Country can be full of magic and wonder. Below is a list of helpful tips to get you up, out and enjoying the beatuy of the boreal this winter. Many animals may be hibernating, but the twinkling stars, northern lights and backcountry campfires are very much awake. 

1. Bring lots of Lighting 

Shorter days aren't always a bad thing. Winter means longer nights for viewing stars and the Northern Lights, more time by the crackling fireside before bed, and more time enjoying the silence the snow brings. Having adequate lighting when you need it will make your experience that much more enjoyable.

2. portable Battery Packs 

Although most go camping to get away from the pull of electronics, in cold temperatures it’s important to have a safety line at all times. Having small battery packs with you will ensure your emergency devices are charged at all times. 

Extra tip: Store battery packs in inside pockets while out and about, and sleep with them in your sleeping bag at night to keep them warm and charged. If you're a photographer, know that the same goes for camera batteries. 

3. Bring Tarps 

One tarp can work as an extra ground sheet below your tent, another can be used to cover any gear stored outside that you don’t want accumulating ice and snow overnight. They can also be used to create outdoor shelters for cooking or sitting areas, and just about everything in-between. Tarps are light and can be fastened to your backpack for easy transport into your camping spot!

4. Clearing a Spot for your Tent 

Use your tents ground sheet to measure the size of hole needed for your tent and start removing snow. Keep the moved snow to the sides of your tent’s footprint to help protect from the wind. Snow is a great insulator and it’s free.

Extra Tip: Using the snow at your disposal, build small walls on the windswept side of your sitting area outside to the height of the tarp covering it. The wind will go right up and over, giving you a wind-free cooking, sitting, or common area.

5. Bring Camp Chairs 

Camp chairs these days are light, small, and easy to pack or strap to the side of your backpack. Unless you plan on spending your entire day in the tent, you’ll want a chair to keep you off the cold ground. As per #4, set up your chairs with the backs to the snow and tarp barrier for ultimate comfort.

6. Insulated Water Bottles 

Needless to say, winter is cold. It will be tricky thawing out a frozen water bottle at camp, but once there you can boil snow for more water.

7. Use a Foam Pad instead of Inflatable

For those who have used a foam toilet seat in an outhouse during the winter, I don’t need to explain why this is a good idea. For those who haven’t, here’s why a foam sleeping pad is the way to go for winter camping. 

Foam is a solid insulated material—as long as your tent is nice and dry, and even if it isn’t, the foam will keep you warm. And it’s more comfortable than an inflatable mat. Inflatable mats may be slightly lighter, but all that is between you and the cold ground is an uninsulated space of air prone to turn as cold as the temperatures it’s in.

8. Pack simple meals to use less fuel 

If you’re hiking in, it’s worth bringing dehydrated food to keep your packs light, but it’s also a good idea so you aren’t burning as much fuel on your stove. Simple meals cook quick and easy, plus the clean-up will be faster, which your bare hands will thank you for. 

Also, if you can’t get a fire going, you aren’t left without food!

9. Bring Extra Fuel for boiling water 

Snow is a glorious resource. It can be used as an isolator, wind protector, and can be boiled for water to drink or to cook in. Or, it can be boiled to help thaw out frozen gear if you’re over run with bad weather. 

Make sure you have plenty of fuel to boil lots of snow during your time winter camping!

10. Set up Camp Early 

As stated in the first tip, winter days are shorter. As such, we suggest you get an early start heading into your campsite. Setting camp up at night in the summer already isn’t enjoyable—add a significant temperature drop, snow to dig through, and much longer nights to the mix and you can see why setting up early would be best. 

Besides, by the time the sun sets you should be enjoying your backcountry fire, unwrapping those few precious marshmallows you squished into your pack with your airtight ziplock bag of hot chocolate in your favourite camp mug.

Happy trails to all of those who decide hibernating isn't for them this winter. Get out there and explore our beautiful region during the quiet season so many overlook! 

About Alyssa Lloyd

Alyssa Lloyd is a photojournalist based out of Kenora working with Ontario's Sunset Country. The outdoors has been the center of her work and personal life for as long as she can remember. As an angler, Alyssa spends most of her time time chasing multiple species on both conventional and fly gear. 

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