There are 10 tips for tent camping in freezing snow and icy weather that can make this a fun-filled experience for everyone involved. Of course, this type of activity requires a radical re-thinking of the kind of camping most weekend warriors equate with an outing during the lazy days of summer. Are you game?
- Invest in a four-season tent. The 10 tips for tent camping in freezing snow and icy weather begin with the admonition that proper equipment makes or breaks the outing. Look for the tent rating on its tag; if it does not specify four-season use, buy one that does. They are waterproof, feature stronger poles to prevent caving under snow and overall hold up better to wind.
- Choose a protected camp site. A cove of trees is perfect, as long at it fulfills three forms of protection: from howling winds that might dislodge the tent, an avalanche from the hill above and snow-piled branches overhead.
- Prepare the site for tent placement. Winter camping demands that the camper set up a thick, sturdy base mat to limit the heat transfer from the bottom of the tent to the snow below. Fall short here, and you are likely to wake up in a puddle of slush under the tent.
- Face downhill. Among the 10 tips for tent camping in freezing snow and icy weather, this one can keep you toasty warm because cold air enters a tent when the entrance faces uphill.
- Ignore the temperature rating of the sleeping bag at your own risk. Just like tents are rated for seasonal use, sleeping bags receive a manufacturer rating for keeping a sleeper warm in varying temperatures. While most sleeping bags boast resistance to cold weather, only a few go below freezing. Since the metabolism regulates body heat and only an active metabolism results in higher body heat, it is a deadly gamble to assume that wearing a few extra clothes can make up for a sleeping bag not rated for freezing weather.
- Dress in layers. Fleece is the synthetic material of choice, since wool gets and stays wet. Remember that fleece and pile must have a wind shell to keep the air out. Replace any cotton garments with clothes featuring polypropylene.
- Protect the head, hands and feet against the cold. File this as the limb-saving bit of advice among the 10 tips for tent camping in freezing snow and icy weather. Frost bite is a very real danger to toes, fingers and ears. Err on the side of caution and cut short the trip if protection of the extremities becomes interrupted for any length of time and warmth cannot be regained quickly.
- Pack an alcohol-powered camping stove. Wood may be scarce and wet and wind prevents gas or propane from flowing properly. Alcohol fuel is the most reliable source of cooking heat.
- Plan meals that only need hot water to cook. Howling winds, freezing temperatures and icy rain do not inspire a leisurely barbecue. Heating a cup of snow to boiling and then adding it to prepackaged food mixes frequently is the only kind of cooking the winter camper undertakes.
- Know when to quit. Following these 10 tips for tent camping in freezing snow and icy weather better your odds of survival and coming back with feet and hands intact, but only if you know when to pull the plug on the adventure. Snowfall that exceeds predictions, temperature drops that exceed sleeping bag ratings, unanticipated equipment failures and accidents or injuries all warrant an immediate bailout.
Although not included in the previously mentioned 10 tips for tent camping in freezing snow and icy weather, remember that physical fitness is paramount. This is not the type of fitness associated with using a stair climber in an air-conditioned and temperature-controlled gym, but instead the ability to undergo five to eight hours of rigorous activity outdoors during inclement weather.