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HomeSurvivalWinter

General Winter Camping Tips

by Walter Muma

 
  • Remember that in the winter you can usually stop and make a fire almost anywhere.
  • Always carry a lighter or matches with you, as well as some tinder (paper or dry shredded bark, etc). The heat of your hand will "activate" the lighter (they don't work well when cold).
  • Keep in mind natural fire starter material that you can use: birch bark, cedar bark, thin twigs.
  • Non-natural fire starter materials include toilet paper, newspaper, notepaper. Carry some with you at all times.
  • Practice getting a good hot fire going before you have to.
  • Keeping dry and sheltered are two key things to keep in mind.
  • Don't try to be a survival purist until you have mastered the techniques. Cold weather is no time to fool around and be arrogant or over confident.
  • Don't rely on following your footprints back out from wherever you are camped. They can get snowed over or blown in.
  • Take special care of your car keys if you have driven to a trailhead to go winter camping. Your car is your lifeline back to civilization and safety. And make sure it is in good condition and always starts promptly.
  • Don't rely on trail markers to find your way - snow on tree trunks may obscure them.
  • Drink enough water. We tend to ignore this in cold weather, as we associate drinking water with heat and cooling down.
  • Fatty foods are important. It is hard to keep warm in the winter on a vegetarian diet.
  • Remember that it gets dark a lot earlier in the winter. Plan accordingly.
  • A side effect of this is that you must deal with boredom due to the long winter nights.
  • Also be sure to have adequate flashlights. Even if you don't wish to use them (a useful exercise is to try to do without light as much as possible), they may prove to be critical in an emergency.
  • Don't rely on building a snow shelter. Bring a tent in case you can't get a decent shelter made.
  • If you are new to winter camping take it easy at first. Don't embark on a weeklong off-trail expedition until you have some experience under your belt.
  • Be aware of the dangers of warm (above freezing) weather while winter camping - everything can get wet, and you can get hypothermic much sooner than you realize - the warmth will fool you.
  • Consider pulling your stuff on a sled. This will usually make it much easier to travel.
  • Snowshoes are, generally speaking, more versatile than skis, unless all of your travel will be on frozen lakes.