I admit it. The first time someone suggested camping during winter I laughed out loud and shook my head, thinking that only fools would ever dream of voluntarily freezing themselves by camping in the dead of winter. It just makes no sense, right?
But because I don’t turn down any opportunities to go camping as a rule, I went ahead anyway, and what do you know? Camping in “ice season” is fun after all. You just have to be prepared with the right set of winter hiking gear.
Top Items to Include in Your Winter Hiking Gear List
Let’s concentrate on the most important items – your clothing and footwear. It’s not enough that they’re appropriate for camping or outdoor use and designed to protect you from all common outdoor hazards. Besides being weatherproof, your clothes and footwear must also be designed to help you withstand winter temperatures and allow you to enjoy a normal and fun camping experience even if it’s snowing and temperatures are below zero.
Always think in layers. If you live in the east then you probably know this already. With layered clothing, you can adjust whenever the temperature drops or rises. Remove one layer of clothing if a little sun peeks out from the clouds or add another layer if the sun goes back into hiding.
Additional rules for packing for winter camping clothing are as follows:
- Never bring any clothes made of cotton; you want to make sure that each item of clothing can help in insulating heat, which cotton can’t do. What it can do is kill you with hypothermia if you use it when camping in winter.
- Wear a minimum of three layers.
- o Layer 1 or Base Layer – Use thermal underwear that helps keep you warm and dry at the same time; make sure you choose those with lightweight designs – layered clothing doesn’t mean you have to be bulky and weighed down by it
- o Layer 2 or Middle Layer – Wear additional clothing items that are made from materials which can help insulate heat
- o Layer 3 or Outer Layer – This is where you need to wear the usual camping clothing items; they’re comfortable, help you maintain flexibility and won’t hinder you from moving, and last but not least, they are generally weatherproof and often have a hood to protect your head from snow.
If possible, invest in boots that come with heat pack pockets – they help keep your feet comfortably warm and dry and capable of withstanding even temperatures of up to sixty degrees below zero. Obviously, these boots aren’t something you can wear when you go hiking during any other season, but they’ll last you a long time and allow you to enjoy frequent winter camping trips.
Again, your ordinary camping socks won’t do. You will need to buy wool liner socks this time – they’re designed to help with moisture wicking and provide extra warmth for your feet. For that matter, it would also be a good idea to bring a second pair. Think layering, remember?
You may think that with your boots and socks combined, your feet might be feeling more burning hot than freezing cold but trust me on this: all preparations are worth your time. Feet and hands are the most vulnerable parts of your body to cold, and you need to go an extra mile to keep them protected.
Gaiters and Cleats or Snowshoes
These items will allow you to travel in the woods without having to worry of sinking in knee-deep or even waist-deep snow. And if you’re making faces at the idea of wearing snowshoes because they seem like huge blocks of wood on your feet – not to worry since there are now compact designs made of lightweight aircraft aluminium. If you’re thinking of snowshoeing, you might also want to invest in snow poles to help you maintain your balance while you’re on the move.
Again – these are just the basics. We’ll try to discuss other items for winter camping gear next as well as outdoor sports and activities you can enjoy during winter camping trips.