Is winter and camping an oxymoron or the ultimate outdoor adventure? The experts at Scouts Canada agree with the latter.
Picture this, you’ve just set up camp and have a warm fire roaring when white billows of snow begin to fall around you. There’s nothing more Canadian than winter camping but, of course, warmth, comfort and safety should be top of mind before planning your next (or first) camping venture in cold temperatures.
It’s always recommended that you check the forecast before leaving home and to prepare accordingly as winter weather can be unpredictable. In Scouting, youth are taught outdoor skills to make winter camping both safe and fun. Although Scouts are considered Canada’s youngest outdoor experts, winter camping is something that anyone can undertake, especially with the following tried-and-tested, Scout-approved hacks.
1. Pack down a large area of snow before placing your tent on top. That will create a smooth, flat surface for sleeping and lessen the chance of tearing the floor if you step into a hole in the ground. Using snowshoes or skis will make doing the job easier and faster.
2. Bring the right sleeping pad. You lose more heat through conductive heat loss when sleeping, so make sure the pad is thick enough that you can’t feel the cold when lying down. Use a yoga mat or two to help create an extra heat barrier.
3. Stuff clothes for the next day in your sleeping bag. This helps avoid having big pockets of air in the sleeping bag and retains body heat. Plus, you’ll wake up with warm clothes to put on in the morning.
4. Place boots inside a plastic bag and boot liners in your sleeping bag as well. If your winter boots became damp during the day, placing them in your sleeping bag will keep them from freezing at night. Then in the morning, they’ll be dry and toasty warm.
5. Pack matches in a waterproof metal container, not plastic, as plastic can break if frozen. And, always pack more than you think you’ll need. The last thing you want is lost or damp matches, leaving you without a very important tool for fire making.
6. Create quick fire starters by pulling items from around your house. Coat cotton balls in cooking oil or Vaseline, place them onto tinfoil and fold into a secure packet. When it’s time to start the fire, cut the packet, twist out a small amount of cotton into a wick and strike a match to it.
7. Use lithium batteries in all of your winter electronics such as headlamps, flashlights, GPS navigators or a radio used to keep track of the changing weather. Not only does lithium perform consistently in cold temperatures compared to alkaline, but they are lighter and last three times as long.
8. Store your water bottles and other liquids upside down. Water freezes from the top, so, when you are ready for a drink, the frozen water will be opposite to the spout.
9. Use wooden utensils instead of metals ones when cooking and eating meals. Winter temperatures can make metal super cold, which, in turn, will cause the temperature of whatever you’re cooking and eating to drop quickly as well. Plus, frozen metal can stick to damp fingers.
With more than 100 years providing safe outdoor adventures for Canadian youth, Scouts know how to prioritize safety in all activities whether it’s a day hike or a week long portage trip into the Canadian wilderness. Before your next great adventure, view safety tips at scouts.ca/safety/safety-tips to make sure you’re prepared or join Scouts Canada to learn firsthand.