I Went Winter Camping for the First Time

If you are known to be perpetually cold, yet agree to do a night of winter camping in near -30C temperature, are you truly sane?

Our evening began around 5pm when we met at my parents house to gear up. Putting on our winter layers any sooner would have resulted in sweat city, so we waited until it was time to set out. After briefly going over what we had packed and feeling reassured that we had it all, my dad kindly drove us to our destination.

Though it was a short hike, it was still incredibly taxing to get all of our stuff there. We had a sled, but it was far too top heavy for a smooth ride. Carlie pulled the sled and I followed behind tending to the hot mess that was our things falling off left and right. In hindsight, a second sled would have been much better to carry our firewood than the garbage bag I was dragging behind me. But, to be fair the bag ONLY ripped once we got to our spot, so not bad. On top of this, we also had our full packs on our backs. But we were used to heavy packs, so that wasn’t anything new.

We ventured about 50ft off the snowmobile trail into the woods and stomped out a spot for our tent with our snowshoes. By this time, the 3 pairs of bottoms, 2 pairs of socks, and 4 tops I had on really had me working up a sweat. We both had to open up our jackets as we set up the tent. By that point, the sun had almost completely set so we had to use our lanterns and headlamps to really do anything. Once the tent was up, we decided to hold off setting up our sleeping stuff until right before bed so everything wasn’t lying out in the cold for hours.

The fire turned into our evening’s main event. We knew that snow + fire didn’t mix, so we started by digging out a hole in which to have our fire. I cut up some sticks and we laid down a bottom layer in case it helped with starting the fire. Getting the fire going took several tries, and keeping it going proved an all night affair. Once a log tipped over, the whole fire would go out. No matter how carefully we propped up the logs, they would inevitably topple over at some point. Plus, they were wet. I must say, for two people who don’t normally cater to fires, I think we did quite well. Also, we basically had an infinite supply of kindling thanks to our friend Renee so we had lots of do overs. But yes, there were no breaks with this fire.

We hit the hay around 11pm and by this time it was -17C. We each had two sleeping pads, our own sleeping bags, and then a huge sleeping bag spread out over us. I had all of my layers on except for my jacket and snow pants which I took off. I also read somewhere that you’re supposed to swap layers, but I settled for just putting on new socks. We also had many hand warmers in use, one of of which was kept permanently in my sock as the toes on my right foot were frozen for some reason, and two of which I grasped in each hand. Before getting in the tent, Carlie warmed up some water and poured it in a Nalgene which we took turns hugging in our sleeping bags. This was a wonderful idea and really helped! I was uncomfortable, but not freezing. Still, I was afraid to fall asleep.

I tucked my head in and out of the sleeping bag for the duration of my sleepless night. Inside the bag meant warmth with the consolation of condensation, but when my skin was exposed it would freeze. I ended up spending way more time completely covered in my bag than out as the night went on. At 6am, it was -24C but felt like -30C. We both didn’t get much sleep, maybe about an hour each. Again, we were uncomfortable, but not freezing which was great. By morning, our sleeping bags were covered in ice as were the inside walls of the tent. Crazy!

At 7am when the sun started to rise, we quickly put on our freezing cold jackets and snow pants and started packing up. This took awhile as we had so much stuff, but we managed to do it in about an hour.

Without sounding too bold, I’m actually quite proud of myself for doing this. Winter camping was definitely type 2 fun, but it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. It was certainly cold, but when prepared and wearing many layers, the cold doesn’t eat away at you as much as you’d think. Getting ready for bed, and getting out of bed was definitely one of the hardest parts (kinda like summer, but for different reasons). However, summer camping does allow for a lighter pack, and more to do. I did not feel like cracking open a cold beer, nor did I feel like doing much else but tend to the fire.

The following day consisted of thawing every frozen bone in my body, but I still thought back on the previous night with content. Would I recommend something like this to you? Of course! Always say yes to a new adventure. If you take the necessary steps to make sure you have a safe night, like packing essentials, dressing for warmth, and checking the weather to make sure it won’t be too hazardous, you’ll have a great time! Bring a few buddies along, they’ll love it. 🙂

Climb on xx