By Ken Cluff
Nov 07, 2014

Winter Tent Camping (Part 2)

(This part two of a two part series. Click here for part one.)

snowcaveoutsidePreparing the campsite

After you have reached the place where you want to camp for the night, use your snowshoes to pack down the snow in the spot where you’re going to pitch the tent. You may want to take the time to build a snow cave or snow trench shelter.  A snow cave/trench can provide you with emergency shelter if you are in a survival situation, otherwise just use a tent.

Don’t try to dig through the snow and pitch your tent on the ground, just pitch it on top of the snow. You will need a four season, free-standing tent. Since you are camping on snow and frozen ground, you won’t be able to stake your tent into the ground. Put your gear inside the tent to weigh it down so
it won’t blow away.

Try not to get in the tent while wearing your snowy boots. Whatever needs to be arranged inside the tent can be done while kneeling in the entrance of the tent, with your boots outside.

screenshot_01Lay down a tarp at the entrance of your tent as your front porch/staging area. When you’re ready to move into the tent for the night, remove your boots on the tarp. Bang the boots together a few times and knock as much snow off them as you can. Bring the boots inside with you and store them inside the tent overnight. Sometimes the extra warmth inside the tent is enough to keep them from freezing. Frozen boots are very difficult to put on the following morning. But sometimes the nights get cold enough that  our boots will still freeze, even inside the tent. So after you’ve taken off your boots loosen the laces and spread the boots open as much as you can. This will make it easier to get your foot in the boot the next morning, if it’s frozen.

Make a campfire

campfire in the snowIf you’re camping on land where campfires are allowed, go ahead and build a fire. Build it right on top of the snow. As the night progresses, your fire will slowly sink into the snow as it melts.

Bring some Vaseline-coated cotton balls as fire starters. First, melt some Vaseline in a pan. Dip a cotton ball into the pan until it’s saturated with melted Vaseline. Pack the cotton balls into a small container. Film canisters are perfect – you can fit about 30 Vaseline-soaked cotton balls into it – but they are hard to find these days. Do this at home before leaving for your snow camping trip. Use two to four cotton balls at the base of a kindling pile and light.

How to sleep warm for the night

Sleeping pads in a snow cave make for good insulation

Sleeping pads in a snow cave make for good insulation

You will want a sleeping pad. This acts as an extra insulative layer between you and the snow. And to dry out your wet clothes, put them under your sleeping bag, and on top of the sleeping pad to dry out during the night.

Have a good winter sleeping bag. You’ll want one that’s at least rated for zero degrees. If you’re going snow camping someplace particularly cold, like some places in Utah, get one that’s rated for negative 20 degrees. Also, wear a fleece layer inside your sleeping bag when you go to bed to help keep you warm. Also wear a balaclava or some type of head covering when you sleep to help your body heat from escaping.


Be sure your water bottle can take hot water, but if it does its a great toe warmer

Be sure your water bottle can take hot water, but if it does its a great toe warmer

Keep some hand warmers in the sleeping bag with you. Or, before you get into the tent, warm up some water on the camp stove and fill a water bottle or two with it. Keep the water bottles inside the sleeping bag with you.

Snack throughout the night. Your body creates heat when it digests food. Snacking keeps your inner furnace stocked. Keep your snacks simple; something you can keep nearby that won’t spill or get messy.screenshot_02

Remember to check the weather forecast before planning an overnight snow camping trip and always check avalanche conditions. As long as you are prepared you will have a great time and stay warm enough to enjoy your trip.

Author: Ken Cluff | Editor, The Varsity Vision Newsletter



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