Winter Camping Survival Tips

Camping in the winter presents a number of potential problems that simply don't exist the rest of the year. Snow and cold temperatures can lead to serious injury and even death if you aren't prepared to deal with them. The most important thing to do when you go camping is to check the weather beforehand so that you are not taken by surprise. Even when you are prepared for winter weather camping, however, things can go wrong and quickly place you into survival mode. It is important to be aware of what to do during emergencies.

Dress in Layers

If you live in an area where the temperature fluctuates during the winter day, you already know to dress in layers. The difference in camping is that dressing in layers prepares you for getting warm through physical exertion. Once you warm up, you can then open the top layer or remove it entirely. For survival purposes, dressing in layers also protects you from the elements if you get lost away from your shelter. Insulating base and mid-layers must be topped by an overlayer in windy or wet conditions. Some down expedition jackets are made with a waterproof, windproof nylon-coated shell, but many must be worn with a separate jacket shell and pants. Footwear, too, is layered in extreme cold. Overboots are worn over regular insulated boots to create another layer of warmth around the feet.



Setting up your campsite during cold weather is a bit different from doing it during summer. Set up your tent on the highest ground possible, because heat rises. Look around to see how the wind blows through your campsite and set up camp out of direct wind as best you can. Place you tent so that the rising sun in the east warms you up first thing in the morning.

Snow Shelter

If you get separated from you camp or if something happens to your tent and you need to make shelter in heavy snow, you can make a good shelter from the snow itself. Pile the snow into a mound that is larger around than the burrow you will be making beneath. Pack it down tightly and if you can find some water, toss it over the top to create a hard, frozen shell. After letting the mound harden for a half hour, burrow beneath the pile at a right angle to the direction the wind is blowing from. Scoop the snow out until you feel comfortable the mound won't collapse on top of you. This will protect you from the elements.

Water Bottles

One of the worst things that can happen during a winter camping expedition is to have your water bottles freeze. It may be impossible to avoid having at least part of the bottle freeze, but there are some steps you can take. To make sure you can still open the bottle after it has frozen, hang it upside-down overnight. The best way to keep them from freezing entirely to make sure they are closed as tightly possible. Snow will provide insulation so bury your bottle in the snow to keep the water from freezing.


Article Written By Timothy Sexton

Timothy Sexton is an award-winning author who started writing in 1994. He has written on topics ranging from politics and golf to nutrition and travel, and his work appears online for, Disaboom and MOJO, among others. He has also done work for "Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of West Florida.

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