Winter Camping in the Mountains

Winter Camping Tips II

Even though it is January, here in Colorado we can still get some weekends when the weather warms up enough to make me want to get out and camp.  After a week of temperatures below 22 degrees, when it gets to 45 or 50 degrees, it feels like spring time.  That doesn’t mean it still doesn’t get really cold at night, but the temperatures are suitable for spending some time outside.  So I thought I would share some more winter camping tips with you so that no matter where you are, maybe you can get out and enjoy the outdoors.

For food, it is always good to have hot meals; they help warm up your insides.  You should plan for meals that can be cooked in one pan, whether that is a Dutch oven or another large pot.  You don’t want to get fancy with your cooking in the winter time, keep the meals simple, and prepare as much of the meals at home as possible.  For example, nothing is better than a hot breakfast to start the day, but the morning is a very cold time of the day to be cooking.  I like to cook bacon at home, and then warm it up in tin foil next to the fire.  I will break eggs into a jar at home, mix in some milk, and this makes scrambled eggs very easy at camp.


A tent like this makes winter camping so comfortable

One of my favorite winter camping meals is stew.  At home I will cook a couple of pounds of stew meat to medium wellness, cut up carrots, green beans, celery, and potatoes (or you can bring canned versions of the vegetables).  Once at camp, I put all of the ingredients into a large pot or a Dutch oven, add a seasoning packet and water, and let it cook for an hour or so, stirring every 15 minutes.  Chili is another great meal for winter camping which you can do some preparation for at home before your trip.

The clothing you wear can be the difference in a pleasant winter camping trip, or being miserable.  Always dress in layers so that you can adjust your clothing layers to your activity.  You never want to sweat when you are outdoors in the winter time.  Staying dry is the key to staying warm, so synthetic materials and wool are the best options.  Cotton clothing does not dry very quickly, so I try to avoid cotton during the winter.  Air is an excellent insulator and by wearing several layers of clothes you will keep warm.

Remember the 3 W’s of layering – Wicking inside layer, Warmth middle layer(s) and Wind/Water outer layer. The Wicking layer should be a polypropylene material for long underwear and sock liners. The Warmth layer(s) should be fleece or wool. The Wind/Water layer should be Gore-Tex or at least 60/40 nylon.

Dress right while sleeping. Change into clean, dry clothes before bed. Your body makes moisture and your clothes hold it in.  By changing into dry clothes you will stay warmer, and it will help keep the inside of your sleeping bag dry.

Put on tomorrow’s t- shirt and underwear at bedtime. That way you won’t be starting with everything cold next to your skin in the morning. Wear a stocking cap to bed, even if you have a mummy bag. Put tomorrow’s clothes in your bag with you. This is especially important if you’re small of stature. It can be pretty hard to warm up a big bag with a little body, the clothes cut down on that work.  Put a couple of long-lasting hand warmers into your boots after you take them off. Your boots will dry out during the night.

So those are just a few tips for you to make it not seem so formidable to get out during the winter time.  I hope you can find the time to get out!

One Response to “Winter Camping Tips II”

  1. Erin

    Wow, these are great tips. I do a lot of camping in the CO mountains, but it never occurred to me to prep my meals to that extent before heading up. I also love the advice about wearing your next-day shirt to bed, and putting your clothes in your sleeping bag. Nothing worse than pulling an ice-cold sweatshirt from your back pack in the morning before you head out to start the fire for breakfast. Thanks for the great advice.