What I Learned from Winter Camping

Ok, fine. I did it. I slept outside in the snow. I curled up in a negative degree sleeping bag and kept myself pretty comfortable all night. It wasn't as bad as I expected. In fact, I've even publicly admitted I liked it. I learned a few things from this winter camping trip and here they are.

What I Learned From Winter Camping

  1. It's a long night. Seriously. I was in my tent for 14 hours from 6:30 pm (the latest I could stay outside before I thought my feet were going to freeze) till 8:30 am (when the sun was high enough to be actually pumping some heat.) That is a long night. Even if you are comfortable and get a full nights sleep, you're going to need to kill some time. I wish I'd brought a book or something. I even considered playing a game on my phone but I wanted to conserve the battery so I just laid there.Winter Camping
  2. Don't underestimate the value of a really good sleeping bag. In the days leading up to this winter camping trip, I worried a lot about how cold I would be. I worried about layers. I worried about shivering all night long. All of that was for nothing because when it got cold, I crawled into my -15 degree sleeping bag and I was comfortable all the way through morning.
  3. Planning pays off. Paying attention to the weather, knowing your route, telling someone where you are going and having the right gear is twice as important in the winter as it is in the summer. A small mistake could cost you your life or at least some discomfort. You can wing it a little when conditions are good but in cold weather with lots of snow you've got to be prepared.
  4. Managing your sweat is important. While you are hiking or snowshoeing into a campsite it is likely that you'll be producing a lot of body heat. It's important to remove layers so you don't soak your base layers. A wet base layer will cool down your body once you arrive at camp and you stop moving. Also, it's a good idea to plan ahead with layers. Add an extra mid layer when you arrive at camp before you get cold or add that extra layer right before the sun goes down. If you wait until you are cold, it's too late and your body will take a while to warm back up. You've got to always be thinking and planning your layers before you're too hot or too cold.What I learned from winter camping
  5. Sleeping outside is always better than inside. Let's face it, being inside at night blocks you from experiencing the stars, the phase of the moon and all of the beautiful parts of nature. Camping allows you to chill out and watch the sun set, the moon rise and just experience it all. You'll quickly forget about any discomforts you have in the outdoors but you'll never forget those amazing experiences.

Those are the main lessons I learned from winter camping. Be sure to check out my post on planning for my first winter camping trip and the full description of our winter camping trip in the Snowy Range.

Learn more about snowshoeing and winter camping in the related links below.

Snowshoe Buying Guide
Winter Camping in Wyoming's Snowy Range
How to Select a Winter Jacket (Video)
Winter Layering GuideTen Essentials of Winter Camping (Video)
5 Unique Tips for Winter Camping
Andy Hawbaker
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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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