I went camping in Wisconsin in the middle of Winter once when I was in the Boy Scouts. Pitched the tent on 2 feet of accumulated snow. Couldn’t stay warm even though I was wearing long underwear, 2 pairs of thermal socks, a snowsuit, and had hand warmers in my gloves and boots. One of the most miserable experiences of my life.
@PooltoyWolf noooo, this is perfect! I went on a week long camping trip when it was cold. Best experience. You weren’t constantly covered in sweat and you could snuggle up to your partner to stay warm.
You can generally tell what the temp is outside from about 10 or so above to about 20 below by just how far up your (uncovered) nose your breath freezes. I got good at that when I worked in northern Canada one winter.
@PooltoyWolf@RiotDemon But it is going to seem colder just because you are used to warmer temperatures. I had thought - since he said his breath froze in this throat - that it was in the coler regions of snow country. Guess I need to pay more attention to where people live when they mention it.
@Kidsandliz@RiotDemon Contrary to popular belief (especially by those who do not live here!), it does in fact get cold here. I’ve had water on my back porch freeze solid some years, and it has, on rare occasions, snowed here.
@PooltoyWolf@RiotDemon When I used to take adjudicated youth canoeing across the state of FL (St. Mary’s River to the Okefenokee Swamp, over the sill, down the Suwannee River to the Gulf and then up the canal to Suwannee City) we’d have paddles freeze to the bottom of canoes, shoes freeze, etc. in winter in the northern part of the trip. In the southern portion of the trip not so much so. And when I worked on a schooner in Key West in the winter we’d maybe need a light jacket at night. That was about it.
It was the heat in the summer and the daily thunder and lightening storms (while on the river in aluminum canoes with not always some shore to go to), and a bug count that closely rivals that of MN’s black fly issues, all the big spiders, poisonous snakes both on land, in the trees and in the water, fire ant hills that were waist high…that I was less fond of.
At least when the temps were cooler gaitors were far less of an issue with respect to their behavior - things like swimming under your canoe banging their backs on the keel of the canoe, biting off the end of a paddle because you accidentally smacked them in the face not seeing them in the brown water, paralleling the canoe while you paddle and see that they are just about as long as the canoe is… The little babies were cute though. They’d think they were fully submerged with just their eyeballs sticking out when in fact the entire back half of their bodies were often above water.
@Kidsandliz@PooltoyWolf yes, it does get cold and sometimes things freeze, but never cold enough that breath is actually freezing in your throat. It might feel that way, but I’ve never seen anyone in Florida with a frozen beard or snotcicles.
Set up tent under a pop up If raining. Don’t set up a tent in water run off or gulley. Pack the snow with snow shoes before setting up a tent on snow. Don’t set up under a tree with snow in the branches. Insulated mats and double up sleeping bags if not rated for cold weather. Stay warm by staying dry.
Great memories of winter camping in sub-zero weather with my son and a friend, a former Eagle Scout, who is now late, at Lum’s Pond in Delaware in the '70s and '80s. Not especially uncomfortable, if you are knowledgeable, and suitably equipped. Have to thaw the water in the coffee pot in the morning, however, so it is imperative to make sure that you fill the pot with the water you will need the night before. It is good for the soul and the spirit, and certainly different from a normal day. One advantage is one never has to worry about finding a spot to camp – it isn’t exactly crowded.
@Jackinga Further thoughts on winter camping: One of the great, unsolved technical challenges (AFAIK) is how to keep one’s chest and neck area dry when in a sleeping bag in very cold weather.
Moisture condenses at or near the top of the bag where the warm, moist air on the inside of the bag from one’s body meets the frigid outside air. Hence one wakes with a damp area in that region, or at least I always did.
Maybe there is a solution, but I don’t know what it is. Any thoughts/comments?
@Jackinga@Oldelvis Before you get into the sleeping bag for the night (after that One-Last-Pee), strip ALL of your clothers off (incl underwear). ALL OF IT IS WET! Dig through your gear for your night gear. Spandex base layer, then wool, then fleece, whatever. Curse, shiver, feel stupid, but put that super-cold, dry night gear on! 1 pair of wool socks (if you need more, then make sure that they are not tight!). Do not use a cot or a thick air mattress. Use several layers of insulation under your sleeping bag(s). Some people use the Pink high density insulation with a metric fucktonne of duck tape to make an insulating “accordian”, then use rollup high density foam cusions over that. I think that the “Pink” is too noisy and just use cusions. Maybe one of the self-inflating, then a couple of rollups. Just get off the ground (but no cots!). (If you can sleep on the ground and not melt any snow under the tent, you did it right.) Make sure that you have airflow through the tent. Yes. Airflow. Else wake up to Frosty The Tentman. Hang a bathtowel in the tent to help absorb your breath humidity. Make sure your tent is rated for 4 seasons (which usually means it has aluminum tent poles and vents at the bottom and top of the tent).
Hats will come off during sleep. Use polyester (or whatever wicks) balaclava and a mummy bag. Waking up to a skull that is cold to the touch is a bit scary, but might explain a lot about me personally.
Never woke with a wet chest.
Finally, assume that your indestructable tent will fail in some way, like the zipper splitting open. I never camp without these now.
I went camping in winter one time in Boy Scouts. It sucked ass. It was 2° (F, around -16° C) and about a foot of snow on the ground. The worst part was having to use the outhouse at night; having to get out of the nice warm sleeping bag, put on another layer of pants over pajamas, put on boots, then stumble half awake to the pot and drop your pants, exposing your lower half to the cold. I’ve experienced it once, I don’t need to do it again.
I cheat because I stay in an RV with a comfy bed and propane heat and refrigerator and all those good things. And even cable TV and internet in some RV parks. So I guess it’s “camping” but really it’s just staying overnight in my hotel room I bring along with me.
While always a better to “have done” than “doing” experience, you need to make sure that you have a goot Sleeping bag and Pad for the weather (-15 degree for me),
You eat well, and go to bathroom, prior to getting into you sleeping bag for the night, (no one wants to get up in the middle of the night to go).
Change every stitch of clothing before you get into the bag, so you’re dry.
If you want water in the morning for coffee, you can put it in the bottom of the bag with you, so it’s liquid in the morning.
Some people, to keep warm will heat up a bottle of water and throw it in the bottom of the bag ( use a Nalgene, they don’t leak), or throw a hand warmer down by your feet. Both keep your socked feet warm to sleep.
I know if I can survive winter camping, I can survive anything.
I’ve only done it a couple of times. The last time was about 35 years ago so I don’t remember much of it other than my parents decided the two of us remaining kids had to camp on our own. My sister left right after I went to bed…It was a great nights sleep.
To be clear, I don’t camp ever, not because I inherently hate camping, it just was never a thing as I was growing up, and as an adult all the things I’ve want to do haven’t really lent themselves to camping. It’s probably something I’d like to get into once my kids are a little older, and life is less crazy, maybe. (We just bought our first home and are still in the process of moving.)
I would highly recommend doing some tent camping with the kids when they are young. We started our 2 kids in their own tent when they were 5 and 2.
Much like having a garden teaches them where food comes from and an appreciation for the work it takes, camping is a good way to build a love for the outdoors and shared experiences that will last a lifetime. Both activities will teach independence and a sense of self sufficiency.
@chienfou well, we have a vineyard now with our new home purchase, which I’m hoping to involve them in the growth of, I’ll see if I can convince my husband to forego the creature comforts for some camping trips sometime soon.
I worked one winter in NW Ontario. -20 to -40 degrees below 0 (F although -40 C and F are about the same) was the usual temperature range. If you hit +5 it was a heat wave. Sometimes it was as cold as 60 below. Took students on xc ski with dog sled trips.
With the appropriate clothing, gear and knowledge it is fun. While I wasn’t a fan of outhouses (at the outward bound school) in that temperature (and we’d have to draw straws to see who’d knock over the frozen tower that grew inside) if you brought the seat inside with you to keep warm then it wasn’t awful either.
It is amazingly quiet at those temperatures. The snow is fluffy. When you stand still you can hear your heart beat (unless the students are making too much noise). The sky is full of stars and the aurora borealis (northern lights) can be amazing. The ice on the lakes (we’d mostly camp on the ice - well ice covered in snow) would make this long zinging noise as the ice bed shifted and the sound would zip along the cracks in the ice (think the sound you get when you blow across the top of a glass pop bottle).
If you can dig a snow cave it is actually close to freezing inside (but you have to leave air openings as your breath melts the snow and it gets a thin ice layer on the inside. If you sleep outside (like we usually did) you need to sleep on decent mats and on your clothes and put your boots in the toe of your sleeping bag so they aren’t frozen in the morning. And sleep in a hat. A lot of cold comes up from the ground so you have to insulate accordingly.
At base camp we wouldn’t have electricity (diesel generators don’t usually work starting at 5 degrees) and that is probably what I missed the most - electricity. Heat at base camp was wood burning stoves (and yes you’d have to thaw the wood before you put it in the stove or it was so cold it would put the fire out) and yes we’d have chimney fires (so had a ladder against each building to get on the roof and a tray tied to the chimney so you could suffocate the fire. And yes someone would have to pad across a frozen floor at 4 in the morning to put more wood on the fire.
Doing laundry in those kinds of temperatures is “interesting”. Especially drying your clothes. The water can sublimates off the clothing instead of freezing first (depends on so many things which happens). If you aren’t careful you can break a jean leg off if you hit it against a tree too hard - oops was trying to get rid of the ice and snapped off a pant leg.
And you do acclimate to the cold. Takes about 3 weeks (that is why a weekend winter camper is probably so miserable in the cold - besides not enough stuff to keep warm, poor insulation from the ground, etc.). When I went home for christmas and shoveled my parents’ driveway it was 5 below and I had my jacket unzipped, just ear muffs on (to prevent frostbite) and mittens. It was warm compared to what I was used to.
It can be a very special experience, one that few have, and I appreciate that I had that winter in my past.
@Kyeh Well maybe try it. It could be one of those things where you were glad you did it once but perhaps not twice?
I taught an outdoor course once (back in an older career) that I advertised as trying a lot of different things you’d like to do once but perhaps not twice. Gave people permission to hate it which made it more likely they’d try it. Sometimes they were pleasantly surprised.
@Kidsandliz I don’t even camp in the summer, so it’s unlikely, although in high school my boyfriend and I spent a winter night at a pretty rustic snowshoe cabin in Rocky Mtn. Ntl. Park. I think it was only heated by a fireplace but I can’t remember for sure. It was cold but not like what you’ve described!
@Oldelvis In base camp when you are inside. With long undies under them, or not, depending on how well the particular structure heats with the wood burning stoves. When you go out you put on fleece “snow pants” over them (and have long undies on if you didn’t before). So it is layers for your bottom half too. Cotton is only a problem when it is wet. When it is that cold nothing much gets wet unless you fall through the ice. As long as your sweat wicks away from your skin you are fine. I also did this years ago when there weren’t as many sophisticated materials as there are now.
And actually I wore Indian made moose and caribou mukluks instead of boots too (well except when xc skiing). Those you leave outside so they don’t thaw. Then nothing gets wet. You just keep on the liners and have spares so you can trade out damp for dry.
Any idea where one can purchase Native American or Inuit-made mukluks (whether moose/caribou/other)?
I’ve often been interested in such footwear for use during the coldest outdoor activities in CO. Most of the time my shearling/sheepskin Uggs (now 30yo!) do the trick, but I sometimes need warmer, or ‘tougher’ boots.
@compunaut I bought mine from the maker (Teressa Edwards) in Fort Albany on James Bay. She had to know if I was married or not in order to know if the stems of the beaded flowers should be crossed or uncrossed. I have no idea if she still makes them as this was years ago.
@Kidsandliz@Oldelvis If my cotton tee shirt (or any undergarment) feels nice and warm in the winter, for me, that means it’s damp. I sweat always (as does everyone), but I tend to sweat a wee bit more than some. It is SO hard to take that warm shirt off before bed and put on an underlayment that just came from a freezer. But it is a must.