Chat Rooms (0 Chatting)  |  Search  |   Login/Join
* For the benefit of the community, commercial posting is not allowed.
Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
   Winter Camping and Activities
      Top 10 Tips     

Author

Text

01/06/2016 09:14PM
My co-worker and I are going to be adventurous this year and go winter camping!

We are going to cold tent it as we both have zero degree bags.

We don't plan to go into the BWCA as we're just trying it out - we don't want to get too far from a camp just in case the weather turns nasty or we need to warm up.

What would be your Top 10 or at least top tips for newbie [winter] but very experienced campers?
 
Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next
bobbernumber3
distinguished member(1332)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/07/2016 07:27AM
Cut and pasted from my notes spreadsheet:

Set up in the trees for shelter from wind. Do not use open camp sites.
Needing a hot water bottle means your sleeping system is not warm enough.
Down mat worked good!
Best to camp at the full moon for light and sights
Should try to position tent so door is on the downwind side.
Hung sleeping bag from tent poles to help dry out moisture. Need to improve this idea.
Glad that I replaced the missing whisk broom… it is handy
Hot chocolate was great, instant coffee not so good.
Whisk broom was very handy… on packing list
Need location with fishing for day activity.

#11. Use a hot tent to really enjoy winter camping...
SevenofNine
distinguished member(2381)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/07/2016 07:59AM
1. Always dress in breathable layers
2. Expect tools, equipment and people to work slower/take longer in cold weather
3. Expect everything to freeze (especially food) and possibly break
4. Expect dehydration (which chills you) if you aren't constantly drinking water.
5. Don't be macho and think hand warmers should stay home, they're a great backup when you can't get your hands warm near a fire.
6. Traditional clothing and gear almost always is better than the newer stuff.
7. Insulating yourself from the ground during sleeping is as important as your sleeping system.
8. A two bag sleep system is easier to tailor to the temperatures than a deep cold weather bag.
9. A shelter that you can stand up in and dress and undress is better than a tight one man tent.
10. Expect to take several trips to refine your winter camping gear and techniques
NotLight
distinguished member(1222)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/07/2016 08:06AM

Be kind of anal retentive about staying really dry. Otherwise when you stop to rest, or get up in the morning, you'll get really cold. I found that making sure that my boots were covered as much as possible helped - you don't want even a flake of snow to get into your boots and melt. I just wore Gore-Tex pants that went over the tops of my boots, but you could go even further than that. Otherwise, I liked using the little chemical handwarmers - especially in the morning when I was taking my gloves on and off a lot.

misqua
distinguished member (238)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/07/2016 08:36AM
It has been my experience when cold camping and sleeping in a tent, on the ground, that the best way to insulate yourself from the cold ground, is to put a closed-cell foam pad between you and whatever other pad or air-core mattress you use. I found that the best to use are the the 3/8 inch thick backpacking type closed cell pads. Even the insulated air-core pads, when used by themselves only, did not keep me warm from the cold ground. I experimented with the different setups while camping at 0F, so the ground was good and cold. I would not go out cold camping without a closed cell pad and a good insulated air-core pad.

Hope this helps, because there is nothing worse than not being able to get to sleep because part of you is cold. Don't forget that the bottom side of your sleeping bag will be compressed, and will not give you much insulation (especially true with down), it needs the loft for it to have good insulation capacity.

Have fun, and let us know how it goes.
OldFingers57
distinguished member(4998)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
01/07/2016 09:48AM
I agree make sure your pad or pads add up to a high R value of insulation. closed cell foam pads only have about 1.6 or so of R value. Check out this site for the R value of whatever brand of pad you have and add to it accordingly. I would try to get it to be around 6 or more for the R value. sleeping pad r values
VaderStrom
distinguished member(524)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/07/2016 10:05AM
+1 on the comments to make sure your pad has a high R value. I used a 3.5 R value pad my first year of winter camping and was never as warm as I wanted to be. The next year I invested in a larger thermarest pad and have never got cold from the ground since. It's heavier, but worth it's weight in titanium.

1. When you start feeling a little chilly, split some wood, but then remove layers when you start to overheat. I ALWAYS split my morning wood the night before. ;)
2. Wait for snow to be on the ground so you can pull your gear on a sled and not have to limit what you bring due to weight.
3. Eat hearty meals. I love a good stew followed by a sweet potato baked in tinfoil in the campfire coals.
4. Use a very small backpack with a water bladder under your coat to keep water on your body and not frozen so you can drink all day long! Never stop drinking water.
5. Find a way to get a pair of Steger Mukluks. They've been the best winter footwear investment I've ever made.
6. Don't wear ultralight thin fabric clothing. Cotton canvas was made for winter camping, imho.
7. Keep your extra cloths or whatever you're wearing the next day in the end of your sleeping bag with you so they're warm in the morning.
8. Boil water and put it in a nalgene to provide EXTRA warmth in your bag at night. As previously stated, if you NEED this to stay warm, your sleep system isn't good enough.
9. Vent your tent as much as possible to avoid icicles falling on you in the morning when you sit up.
10. Try to camp at least two nights in a row so you can apply what you learned the first night to your second night to see if it makes a difference.
FYI - Afton State Park is a great place close to the metro to try camping in the winter as their backpack area has a woodpile that you can use as much as you want from for whatever their single bundle price is (was $5 or so last year). They also have water near the wood pile so you don't have to rely on melting snow.



Let us know how it goes and good luck.
NotLight
distinguished member(1222)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/07/2016 10:31AM

I agree, Afton is a great place in winter to practice. You hike in, and there's a wood pile. I assume they are open in winter, it's been a while since I've been there.


01/07/2016 10:56AM
1-9. Borrow a hot tent. Makes winter camping a luxury, not drudgery.
10. Fire and nylon don't mix.
SevenofNine
distinguished member(2381)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/07/2016 11:12AM
I'm another happy user of Steger Mukluks. Up until then I never had a boot comfortable or warm enough for my feet. Used them in -20° weather and my feet were never cold.

FYI: Mine are the Artics in the double wide sized to fit the largest rag wool sock. I used Smartwool liner socks under their expedition/heavy weight sock.
01/07/2016 06:57PM
I would consider not even using a tent. When I take kids up to winter camp and dogsled, we use Wintergreen Dogsledding as our outfitters. The only time we ever slept in a tent was when it rained. Otherwise, we sleep outside in a 3 layer system: sleeping mat, sleeping bag and a bivy sack.

I have done this around town at places like Afton, and I stay warm. I have a Big Agnes Whiskey Park bag, an Exped DownMat 9 and a Gore Tex Bivy.



DanCooke
distinguished member(1078)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/07/2016 08:29PM
1. Be honest with yourself and others when asked how are you doing. People are more important than activities- goals. Admit early when you need to care for yourself. Being tough and enduring discomfort is ok; if everyone knows where you are at, and you are not heading down the hypothermia path.
2. Dress in layers that you can easily change the layering scheme.Stay cool when working- warm when resting.
3.Wind layers are very important. they need to be large enough to freely move about with all of your most bulky layers.
4.Mitts are better than gloves when traveling. light gloves for dexterity and feel.
5. Listen to what your body is telling you. Stay well hydrated, and fueled.
6.One pot meals and easy snacks in between. Bring soup or Jello to drink warm- Raman in a thermos for lunch on cold days is to die for. Warm your Granola bars so you do not chip teeth.
7. Be very familiar with your mode of travel and work a rounds if they hiccup.
8.Head lamp and tarp/tent lamp will consume batteries, be prepared. Cold weather saps batteries.
9. Layered sleeping systems allow you to adjust/ Ground pads are the foundation of a good sleep system.(Exped Downmat 9 deluxe or I do not head out).
10.If you learn to cold camp before hot tenting and you will learn more about traveling/ being out there than if you have a hot tent to recover from the day. Cold camping will take more out of you than hot tenting.
11. Do it, and Have fun!
ECpizza
distinguished member(1005)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/08/2016 01:22PM
Wool pants and suspenders. An army surplus store or the surplus area at Fleet Farm is a good place to find them. Get them large enough to go over 2+ layers (hence the need for suspenders).

For sleeping, pads with 'bumps' are an advantage. Layer 2 pads, the air trapped in the bumps are bonus insulation.

Sleep with just enough clothing to get out and water the trees without freeIng. At 0* i wear dry socks and dry sock liners, dry lightweight longjohns (poly or wool... NOT cotton) and a polly shirt. Wearing too much is not a good thing. Some heat needs to escape into the sleeping bag to keep your extremities warm.

If you gotta go at night, just get up and do it! The longer you wait, the colder you will get.

If you start to get cold, MOVE! Before you crawl into the tent, MOVE! Get that blood flowing and you will be warm.

Eat a lot, drink even more.
Pinetree
distinguished member(12291)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
 
01/08/2016 03:29PM
Always nice to have a extra stack of firewood available.

Weather forecasts change,but for your first trip get a forecast for decent temps.

Also stay dry and keep clothing etc dry.
01/09/2016 09:43AM
Thanks everyone for your magnificent tips!
Jaywalker
distinguished member(2026)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/09/2016 03:34PM
Here's my .02

1. Practice cold camping before doing hot tenting: It's good to have this skill worked out.
2. Army surplus/Thrift stores: great sources for very good, lower cost alternatives to high-end gear. Wool is king.
3. Keep your water liquid: at night pour hot water in a Nalgene and put in your sleeping bag. During day keep it insulated. My home made model is below.
4. Simple foods: think "just add water" to make hearty foods like stews or such. Don't try anything too complicated yet. Sausages can add a lot to these too.
5. Maniacally control sweat: better to be briefly cold before activity than damp after.
6. Axe & Saw: in summer its easy enough to make fire from 1 inch branches, but in winter thicker split wood will do better and provide more warmth.
7. Pull vs Carry: modify a kids sled to haul gear rather than carry on your back. Its cheap and easy.
8. Bring a cold-tested stove: an open fire is good, but have a stove to heat water faster. Some stove/fuel types work better in cold than others. Test in your back yard before going.
9. It's dark a lot: Headlamps are great and Luci Lights work well (even unexpanded), but regular alkaline batteries drain quickly in the cold. Other types do much better.
10. Bring salty trail mix: I like to add those fiery cheetos to mine. Adds great flavor and a sinful amount of calories, and gets me to drink more water.


Pinetree
distinguished member(12291)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
 
01/09/2016 03:58PM
A good winter trail mix with a lot of energy is MM peanut mixed with regular peanuts and raisins. The MM peanuts can get hard when frozen.
Campcraft
distinguished member (145)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/09/2016 06:03PM
Wear stuff that you can take apart to dry it out. Mittens with removable liners, boots and coats that come apart in layers.

Mike
mnpat1
Guest Paddler
 
01/09/2016 09:23PM
My advice is to go camping in march. The days are much longer, it is usually warmer and the fishing is better. I have had plenty of days getting sunburned in a t shirt in march and april. A sunny day in late march will keep your tent pretty warm with no heater. The snow has usually been melted down and refroze making travel conditions easier.

Get a good insulated sleeping pad
Keep a set of dry clothes in a dry bag
Put your sleeping bag in a dry bag
Put your food in a soft cooler



WhiteWolf
distinguished member(4110)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
01/12/2016 06:53AM
AS 7of9 said-- Everything takes longer,,, much longer then warm weather camping. If sleeping in a Quinzee-- it takes 15-20 minutes (easy) for each person (small entry) to change clothes into sleeping clothes etc and ready for bed. Same in the morning. Somewhat wet-- very damp socks/etc will dry out in your bag overnight. Bring extra boot liners if building a Quinzee,, you get soaked digging one out and your wet boot liners will be like a rock the next morning. In years with heavy snow pack-- the best place to look for firewood is UP,, not down. Look for branches/limbs suspended in "V's" of trees, it will be drier then anything on the ground.
Doughboy12
distinguished member(2188)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/13/2016 11:13AM
quote ECpizza: "...
If you gotta go at night, just get up and do it! The longer you wait, the colder you will get.

If you start to get cold, MOVE! Before you crawl into the tent, MOVE! Get that blood flowing and you will be warm.

Eat a lot, drink even more."


This is good advice...
As far as sleeping goes...if you are cold, put on another layer. You brought it...use it. If that doesn't work, get up and move about...drink, drink, drink. H2O. And eat something with sugar in it...if you can. Hot Jello or Tang is a winner every time.
canucanu2
distinguished member (124)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/30/2016 07:45PM
quote Pinetree: "Always nice to have a extra stack of firewood available.


Weather forecasts change,but for your first trip get a forecast for decent temps.


Also stay dry and keep clothing etc dry."


Hi Pinetree - saw your picture with sleeping set-up outside (vs. in tent) ... what steps do you take to avoid frostbite on face as well as keeping dry outside a tent.
Pinetree
distinguished member(12291)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
 
01/31/2016 09:25AM
quote canucanu2: "quote Pinetree: "Always nice to have a extra stack of firewood available.



Weather forecasts change,but for your first trip get a forecast for decent temps.



Also stay dry and keep clothing etc dry."



Hi Pinetree - saw your picture with sleeping set-up outside (vs. in tent) ... what steps do you take to avoid frostbite on face as well as keeping dry outside a tent. "


I don't think it was my picture. I always sleep in a tent with no stove. I almost always sleep with a stocking hat of some kind.

That said most of the time skiing in or snowshoeing I have ski leggings on or a waterproof ski pants to keep my legs dry. That depends on conditions also-sometimes with ski pants you can get too warm,but definitely worth having along. Ski leggings are very helpful.
I think majority of time most people will have a packed trail where they are going.

If tenting on the lake,especially when it is starting to warm up in march be aware of pooling water around the tent-floor. Than it may be time to camp on high ground.

Over the years you find out many items you do not need and items you do need and time of year.
canucanu2
distinguished member (124)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/31/2016 08:06PM
quote Pinetree: "quote canucanu2: "quote Pinetree: "Always nice to have a extra stack of firewood available.



Weather forecasts change,but for your first trip get a forecast for decent temps.



Also stay dry and keep clothing etc dry."




Hi Pinetree - saw your picture with sleeping set-up outside (vs. in tent) ... what steps do you take to avoid frostbite on face as well as keeping dry outside a tent. "



I don't think it was my picture. I always sleep in a tent with no stove. I almost always sleep with a stocking hat of some kind.


That said most of the time skiing in or snowshoeing I have ski leggings on or a waterproof ski pants to keep my legs dry. That depends on conditions also-sometimes with ski pants you can get too warm,but definitely worth having along. Ski leggings are very helpful.
I think majority of time most people will have a packed trail where they are going.


If tenting on the lake,especially when it is starting to warm up in march be aware of pooling water around the tent-floor. Than it may be time to camp on high ground.


Over the years you find out many items you do not need and items you do need and time of year. "


Thank you for the advice! Realized picture was in a post you had replied to (January pictures)
02/07/2016 07:15PM
Would you reccomend putting a tarp over the rain fly to try and insulate further, or should i just trust my sleep system? (which is good btw).
Pinetree
distinguished member(12291)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
 
02/07/2016 07:28PM
quote MNLindsey80: "Would you reccomend putting a tarp over the rain fly to try and insulate further, or should i just trust my sleep system? (which is good btw).
"


I not sure,but if you put a tarp over your rainfly in the winter your tent roof might build up a very heavy frost inside your tent almost like it is snowing.
We always get some frost by morning but it usually hangs on the roof and soon sublimes and dries during the day.
I do think even cold tenting it warms up 10 degrees or more, compared to sleeping out in the open and does block out the wind and maybe the snow.
03/13/2016 01:17PM
Thank you all SO MUCH for your tips! Just got back from an amazing adventure out at Tettegouche State Park- with snowshoing on the SHT (which was a dream for me)....

Now... the highs were in the 50s with lows in the 20s... so my introduction was pretty darn good... the wind howled especially last night, but we were plenty warm. There was still about 18 inches of snow in and around our campsite, and on the trails closer to 24+ inches in some spots!!!!


I will write a trip report/blog post, but definitely implemented several of your ideas ;-)
 
Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next