Winter camping, depending on your opinion of snow, can be just as beautiful as summer. There is a new level of silence as the animals have all either migrated or gone into hibernation. There are a lot fewer people and traffic to make noise. It is the perfect time to reflect and reconnect with nature in a very primal way.
The most apparent difference between camping in winter as opposed to summer is the equipment needed. Winging a winter camping trip most often leads to failure. The safety of all campers involved revolves around proper research and preparation. Because of the lack of foliage, this is also when most campers get lost. It is imperative to survey the land as much as possible for landmarks or bring your own. An excellent marker, if it is not actively snowing, is a box of food dye. As you trudge away from your campsite simply squirt some shapes onto the snow to help you find your way back. The use of a compass is the best safety measure. Most often, the best camping is outside of cell range. Including a compass as a must-have will help you get back to camp safely if you do get lost.
The equipment needed for winter camping is heavily dependent on the location. A very windy mountaintop will require a much more industrial tent as opposed to a calm valley. If you do not own a winter sleeping bag than layering two should suffice in moderate conditions. Dress in appropriate layers that you can shed as you warm up and put back on as the night chill approaches. Boots should be waterproof, and socks should not be super thick as this can cut off the circulation. Warm hats and versatile gloves will help your body retain heat as well. Don’t forget that it gets dark much earlier in the winter so bring a headlamp, flashlight or lantern with new batteries. Lastly, plan on bringing some sort of heating apparatus such as a canister stove.
If you plan on hiking to your camping area make sure to assess if the snow is shallow and can be walked through or if snowshoes are required. On the hike, your body will get warm. It is much easier to stay warm that it is to re-warm yourself. Use that to your advantage and plan the hike accordingly. The coldest time of day will be in the morning hours before the sun warms up the earth again. With that in mind plan on getting up and going for a walk right away to generate body heat.
The best item to include for winter camping is warm foods such as soup and a hot water bottle to cuddle and keep warm at night. If you are camping with a friend and are unprepared for the cold, zip two sleeping bags together and cuddle up. A common mistake in winter camping is inefficient water consumption. Make a point to drink water even when you are not thirsty.