By Ken Cluff
Nov 06, 2014

Winter Tent Camping (Part 1)

Cold CampingVarsity Scout Snowshoers and/or Cross-Country skiers can see and experience amazing things when we take day-long treks through the snowy woods, but when we extend our snowshoeing or skiing trip overnight we will experience an entirely new winter outdoors.

But who would want to carry all that gear through the snow, only to spend the night in a tiny tent? The rewards of an extended stay in the snowy outdoors are absolutely amazing! Here are some simple, but often overlooked tricks, to help you stay warm and prepared for your next high adventure snow campout.


better bootsWhen you go snowshoeing for just the day, wearing ordinary hiking boots on your snowshoes is usually good enough. However, if you’re going on an overnight snowshoe expedition, you’ll need some more heavy-duty snowboots — something with an insulated liner, such as Sorels. They should be comfortable and waterproof.

A common problem for Varsity Scout snowshoers is that their heel strap falls off their heel, and then their snowshoe falls off. To prevent this, bring some tiny bungee cords and run them over the top of your snow boots and attach them to the snowshoe’s heel straps. This will prevent the heel strap from falling off your heel.

Carry your gear on a pulk (sled)


Varsity Scouts and Venturers trek into NorthernTier National High Adventure Base

Whenever you see images of arctic explorers and adventurers
trudging across the
snow they are rarely carrying a
backpack. Instead,
they are pulling
their gear behind them on a toboggan or sled. These sleds are called pulks.

Not surprisingly, the word pulk originates in winter-loving Scandinavia. The physics behind it is beyond me but it is certainly easier to pull your gear than to have it on your back. And you don’t have to be on a polar expedition to feel the benefit. Your overnight camping trip will be a lot more enjoyable using a pulk instead of a backpack.

Between your tent, sleeping bags, camp stove and food you’ll have quite a bit of gear. Carrying all that gear in your backpack is just going to push you and your snowshoes deeper into the snow. And that’s exhausting.

Tie your gear down to the pulk with parachute cord. Lace the cord back and forth over the top of the gear like shoelaces. Attaching carabineers along the edges of the pulk, and running the cord through the carabineers, makes this job much easier. Don’t pack the gear loose. Pack it inside a backpack or duffel bags and strap those to the pulk. To carry all your gear you’ll want a pulk that’s 4 feet long.

You will pull the pulk behind you so make sure the tow rope is long enough that the pulk doesn’t ride up onto the backs of your snowshoes. I recommend getting a tow rope that’s 6 to 8 feet long.

Packing list for Snow Camping:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag winter-camping gear
  • Sleeping pad
  • Backpack or duffel bags to put your gear in
  • Pulk (Sled)
  • Food
  • Water
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Headlamplight-5
  • First aid kit
  • Fleece pants
  • Fleece topsscreenshot_02
  • Snow pants
  • Socks
  • Balaclava
  • Gloves
  • Heavy-duty snow boots (Sorels)
  • Mittens
  • Waterproof coat
  • Snacks
  • Ski poles
  • Extra socks, underwear, fleece pants, fleece top for sleeping in, stay away from cotton clothing.
  • Camp stovewinter-camping-goods
  • Propane canisters
  • Cook pan
  • Lighter and/or matches
  • Spare lighter
  • Knife
  • Camp saw
  • Compass
  • Maps
  • Parachute cord
  • Whistle
  • Compass
  • Signal mirror

You can use a harness to pull the sled, or, if you don’t have a harness, you can loop the cord under your armpits and around the back of your neck. If you use this latter method, you may want to pad the cord with a towel or extra shirt to keep it from rubbing your neck raw.

(In part 2, Ken covers how to prepare the winter campsite, how to make a campfire, and how to sleep warmly)

Author: Ken Cluff | Editor, The Varsity Vision Newsletter



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3 thoughts on “Winter Tent Camping (Part 1)

  1. AvatarAndrew

    This is great article gearing up for camping this winter. I wish I would have read over this as a young Scout when I went on my first winter camp out! I was just 12 years old and we went to the Klondike Derby at Camp Maple Dell. My friend lost one of the tent poles on the way up to the site and then we pitched our tent on top of 3 feet of snow rather than taking the time to dig it down. Then I only brought one pair of pants with me on the trip (jeans) and they got all wet from playing in the snow that night. I remember putting frozen pants on in the morning. It was a cold camping trip and a fun memory now!

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