After the holidays, it is easy to start feeling nostalgic for summertime camping adventures. Many people are intimidated by the gear and skills need for winter camping, so they hunker down and watch Netflix until the warmer weather returns. We live in the southeast, which means our winter weather is considered autumn or spring weather in other parts of the country. There is no reason to be intimidated. Winter camping in the southeast means there will be no crowds, bugs, snakes, or heat. Remington and I prefer to go camping in the winter instead of camping on a hot and muggy August night. Here are some tips to ensure your winter camping is as enjoyable as possible.
1. Know the Weather
Don’t just check the weather for Greenville and assume everything will be A-OK. Sunshine in Greenville can mean snow in the mountains. Check the weather for the park where you will be camping. A better option is to call the park ranger and see what the current conditions are and what they expect the weather to be.
It is also a good idea to be aware of typical weather climates in different regions. For example, the Roan Highland Mountains in North Carolina are known for consistently having snow, while riverside campsites in South Carolina rarely see a snowflake.
2. Stay Dry
Being wet is the quickest way to get dangerously cold. Leave the jeans and cotton t-shirts at home and wear clothes that are quick drying. Make sure that your sleeping bag is packed in a way that it is guaranteed to stay dry. This can be done by putting the sleeping bag in a dry bag or a plastic trash bag. Remember to pack an extra pair of socks too – cold, wet feet can make for a miserable trip. If you do get wet, then you will want to start a fire as soon as possible. Dryer lint and newspaper are cheap fire starters that will ignite a fire instantly.
3. Cook a Hot Meal
A hot meal does wonders on a cold, winter night. Some classic and easy hot meals are canned soup, dehydrated meals, oatmeal, and roasted hotdogs. I advise against trying to warm canned soup by putting the can in the camp fire; it doesn’t. Of course, a little bit of bourbon or whiskey always helps to warm you up too.
4. Pack Crucial Warm Gear
After enjoying a hot meal, you will want to keep the warmth. Basic clothing necessities for winter camping are a thick hat and a pair of gloves, long johns, and wool socks. A wind breaker is a great outer shell over a sweater or puff jacket. The most important gear you can pack is a proper sleeping bag. Most sleeping bags come with a temperature rating. The temperature rating promises that you won’t be freezing, but you won’t necessarily be warm either. I recommended a sleeping bag that is 10 to 20 degrees below the actual temperature. For example, if it the low for the night is 30 degrees, then you will want a sleeping bag rated for at least 10 to 20 degrees. If you do not have a sleeping bag for the correct temperature, then renting a sleeping bag or layering extra blankets is always an option.
5. Consider not going Backpacking
If the weather is looking particularly brisk, then you may need to pack a lot of extra gear. The extra gear may be impractical for backpacking, especially if you don’t have ultra-light, cold-weather gear. Bike-packing and canoe camping are two of our favorite alternatives to backpacking. Both allow you to access remote areas while being able to strap most of the gear to the bike or boat.
Now get out there, stay warm, and have a winter adventure!