Many prefer to do their outdoor adventuring in the warmer months, but winter is a fantastic time to enjoy the great outdoors. Not only will you face fewer crowds and fewer bugs, but you'll get to see some of the most gorgeous and serene scenery nature has to offer.
Still, there are some additional challenges when it comes to winter camping, so here are a few tips to keep things safe and fun for everyone.
1. Keep a Close Watch On the Weather
Plan your winter camping trip at least a week ahead, and keep a close eye on the weather forecast for the days you plan on being in the backcountry. Even hardened wilderness survivalists don't want to be caught outdoors in a serious snowstorm or sub-zero temperatures, so take heed of what the weatherman says. And fi you see a storm brewing on the horizon, even if the forecast calls for clear skies, err on the side of caution.
2. Don't Underestimate Hiking in Snow
Being caught in a snowstorm is one thing, but hiking around a winter wonderland is fantastic! If you'll actually be hiking on a few inches of snow, though, keep in mind that you'll tire out a lot faster than usual. Even if you only sink into the snow slightly, you end up using your walking muscles differently than you're used to, and that means you might start getting sore early in your hike. Plan shorter trips, and never be too far from a car, working phone, or other means of assistance.
3. Pack the Right Clothes and Sleeping Bags
Thermal underwear is pretty much a must if you'll be spending time in freezing or near-freezing temperatures, and the right outerwear is important, too. Sunglasses to protect your eyes from the snow's glare are important, too. And when the temperature drops at night, not just any old sleeping bag will do—be sure to get one that's sub-zero rated.
4. Always Wear a Safety Whistle
This is a good rule of thumb whenever you're in the outdoors, and it's especially important when a few hours in the wrong conditions can be a life and death calamity. Having a safety whistle ALWAYS around your neck or attached to an article of clothing means you'll have an effective means of calling out and getting help if you're lost or injured.
5. Respect Your Winter Wilderness!
I'd hope that SGT KNOTS readers wouldn't need to be told this, but just in case: treat your wilderness with the respect it deserves. Understand the dangers that wildlife and a wild landscape can present, even though they're beautiful, and help to keep that beauty intact. Don't litter should go without saying, but also don't make hugely disruptive campsites, don't take or use more firewood than you need—try not to leave any trace you were there. That will keep things as pristine as possible and preserve the great camping spots for many seasons to come.