If you love spending time in the great outdoors, you don’t want to spend winter stuck inside. While cold weather hiking and camping brings a new set of challenges, it also creates unique and unforgettable experiences for you and your group. Quiet trails and campgrounds, gorgeous snowy scenery, and cozier-than-ever fires are just some of the perks of spending a winter day out in the wilderness. However, you must take the weather seriously when you head out into the extreme cold. If you’re unprepared when you venture out into your trail or campground, you face a much less enjoyable experience. From minor discomfort to seriously dangerous conditions, winter camping and hiking can prove hazardous without the right supplies. When it’s time to set off on your next outdoor adventure, make sure you’re all set with this list of what to pack for winter camping and hiking.
Backpack Full of Supplies
No one wants to drag a lot of heavy luggage around with them while they’re exploring a trail, park, or campground. That said, you need a reliable pack to carry all your stuff. A good hiking backpack will be durable enough to hold your gear through miles and miles of extreme temperatures and weather. A waterproof backpack is essential for success in the winter. You don’t want to set it down in the snow and come back to find everything soaked! Make sure your bag is comfortable as well. You don’t want your pack to rub harshly against your skin or strain your shoulders, even if you’re traveling long distances with it. Finally, a backpack is useless when it’s empty. While the specifics of what you pack will change from trip to trip, you should always keep a few essentials in your pack to have on hand. Chapstick, basic first aid supplies, and a water bottle are all must-haves on any outdoor winter adventure.
Durable, Comfortable Layers
Staying warm is key to staying safe during the winter. Whether you’re heading out for the afternoon or for an entire weekend, you need to dress for the cold weather. For longer trips, make sure you pack enough outfits for the entire time. Bring along some spare garments as well in case you have to change out of rain- or snow-soaked clothes. Every cold-weather outfit should include, at a minimum, a base and outer layer. A base layer like our micro-elite chamois shirts and tights will help keep you dry by wicking moisture away from your skin. Meanwhile, the outer layer keeps out wind, snow, sleet, and other harsh elements. For colder temperatures, you’ll also want a middle insulating layer. This will help retain body heat and keep out the freezing cold. In addition to layering your clothes, you should also suit up with warm and durable accessories. Hats, waterproof gloves, and sturdy boots are all key to protecting your head, hands, and feet from the extreme cold.
Even the most experienced winter campers and hikers can run into trouble. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so make sure you pack the proper safety gear before heading out into the cold. A survival knife or multi-tool is an invaluable device to have on hand everywhere you go. You should also pack first-aid supplies such as bandages, medications, and antibacterial sprays or ointments. Sun protection should also be on your list of safety gear. Sunglasses, goggles, and sunscreen will help protect you from bright winter days and the resulting snow glare. Finally, make sure everyone in your group has gear to help them in case you get lost or separated. Flashlights, radios, and backup batteries can be lifesavers when you’re stranded in the cold.
Navigational tools can also be a huge help on a winter outdoor trip, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area. Even if you’ve been to the area before, snow and ice can make even a familiar route look nearly unrecognizable. A map, compass, and watch are always useful during camping or hiking trips. You can also pick up a local guidebook or route description to have more knowledge of the surrounding trails or campground. If you can, try to have some sort of GPS app on you as well. This can be as simple as downloading an app on your phone. That said, if you rely on your phone for navigation, make sure you have access to a charging station or extra battery so that you don’t run out of power when you still need it.
The above gear covers the essentials of what to pack for winter camping and hiking. However, there are some winter camping necessities that you should never leave behind. If you plan on pitching your tent and staying for a while, make sure the following supplies are also on your list.
Cold-Weather Tent and Sleeping Bag
From freezing nights to winter storms, your tent provides the safe shelter you need to hunker down when the weather gets too extreme. Invest in a hardy, durable tent that can hold up against the conditions you’ll be facing. Your tent should be able to survive fierce winds and heavy snowfall. Steep walls and sturdy poles help keep your tent standing in even the deepest winter storms. Inside your tent, you’ll also want high-quality, cold-weather sleeping bags. A well-insulated sleeping bag will help keep you warm and toasty through the night. It’s also a good idea to bring along sleeping pads to add an extra layer of protection between yourself and the cold ground.
While you’re out having fun in the cold and snow, your body is working hard to keep you warm. That means you’ll need to fuel up with plenty of camping meals. A liquid-fuel camp stove works best in cold temperatures and allows you to cook food and boil water even in windy, frigid conditions. Keep in mind that you’ll need to melt snow to make water in below-freezing temperatures. As such, you’ll need to bring more fuel for your stove than you would usually pack for warmer trips. Of course, it’s always good to have extra fuel on hand anyway, just in case your trip lasts longer than expected.
Other Considerations for Your Trip
Every camping or hiking trip is different, which means you might need extra tools to have a successful outing. For more technical adventures, make sure you bring along the necessary tools, including snowshoes, crampons, or an ice axe. You should also check the weather ahead of your trip so you have a better idea of the exact conditions you’ll be facing. Finally, make sure you leave your itinerary with someone not on your trip before you leave. When someone else knows where you are and where you’re going, it’s easier to get help in the event of an emergency.