Heard it from a Scout: A beginner's guide to winter camping
During the winter months, most Canadians dream of flying south to escape the snow, ice and below-zero temperatures. Scouts, on the other hand, like to get outside by heading to campgrounds to enjoy all that nature has to offer.
A scout’s best-kept secret is that camping during the winter can be just as much fun (or even more) as camping during any other season. Just because a beautiful white blanket covers the ground does not mean you can’t embark on safe camping adventures. Here are a few tips to consider before going on your first winter camping excursion:
What to wear
One of the most important things to know before you go winter camping is how to dress. Avoiding materials like cotton is essential, as they soak up water and moisture and remain damp and cold. This lowers your body temperature much faster, increasing your likelihood for frostbite and hypothermia.
Dressing in layers is the key to keeping warm and dry. Your base layer (the layer against your skin) should be comprised of fabrics that wick sweat away from your body. Your mid-layer (insulating layer) should be comprised of materials to keep you warm, such as wool and fleece, creating a barrier between your base layer and outer layer. Your outer layer should consist of waterproof fabrics that help keep the snow from making you and your layers cold and wet. Lastly, make sure that the least amount of skin as possible is exposed, as this leads to the loss of body heat and also, potentially, frostbite or frostnip.
Sustenance and hydration
Staying hydrated and making sure you have eaten enough are vital to a positive outcome of your winter camping adventures. While trekking with gear on your back, and with all the layers of clothing, you are constantly losing water from your body. Make sure you replenish with more liquids. Also, try staying away from caffeine, as it dehydrates. Eating a good meal before leaving on a camping trip is important but it’s also necessary to take in lots of calories throughout your trek. Food high in protein, such as protein bars, nuts and chili, are full of the necessary calories your body needs to keep you warm.
Scout tip: Pack water bottles upside down. Water freezes from the top, so when you are ready for a drink, the frozen water will be at the opposite end of the bottle’s opening.
Now, sleeping in the snow might seem like the last thing you would consider while camping in the winter, but don’t knock it until you try it. Sleeping under the stars is similar to sleeping with the windows open. It’s refreshing, but you are still warm in your cocoon of comforters and cold-temperature-rated sleeping bag. Believe it or not, snow acts as an insulator and can keep you warm.
Scout tip: Making sure that you have an insulator, such as a Therm-a-Rest pad, between your sleeping bag and the snow is important, so both your sleeping bag and you stay dry and warm.
In all honesty, winter camping was something that I feared for a long time, but Scouting gave me the opportunity to be adventurous and try new things. Now, winter has become one of my favourite times of the year to camp. While you’re camping, there are also lots of fun and safe winter activities you can participate in, making the experience a more fun and memorable adventure. So, I challenge you this winter to try winter camping, even if it is in your own backyard. I guarantee you will have a blast.
"Heard it from a scout" is written by members of Scouts Canada’s Youth Spokesperson program. This post was authored by Kaitlyn Patterson.