When people talk about winter camping this activity often gets the attribute of an extreme venture where the elements are pounding and lifes are at stake! Not so. As with all outdoor pursuits, we are looking for relaxation and recreation in the natural world around us. But since temperatures are lower and the weather often changes, one has to plan a little more carefully.
We feel, however, the necessity to emphasize that we are not thinking of a display of the noble art of suffering as soon as we think of wintery undertakings.
Technically there is hardly a difference between camping in winter and using a tent in summer.
Often, exposure to cold and harsh weather is inevitable and the demands on your gear are higher than usual. Just give the time of the year and the place for your personal adventure some consideration; by that you will avoid getting into unpleasant or risky situations.
For your comfort it may be a good idea to choose a tent slightly bigger than you would normally consider. You spend a lot more time inside your tent in the winter, and your slightly bulkier equipment will demand more room. Do not underestimate the capriciousness of the weather in winter; expect the worst so you will not have any unpleasant surprises! Prepare yourself and hone your skills in handling your equipment properly in a cold and trying environment.
Snow is a variable matter and only rarely is one situation is like the next.
In soft snow you will have to dig down a little and tread the snow before you pitch your tent. Next time the snow may be rock hard and you set up your tent as you would in summer.
It is desirable to get your tent somewhat lower into the snow, but never further than half the height of the tent. This way it is less exposed to the wind and it prevents the wind from getting under the tent. You can also support your tent by shoveling some snow against the sides. But do not dig your tent down too deep! Wind and snowfall may cover you tent alltogether or at least block the entrances.
Securing your tent in snow is not any different from doing so on bare ground, but you use wider pegs or snow stakes.
In very firm snow you can use wider snow pegs in the same way you use pegs in summer, but if it is loose or soft you dig them down and place them at an angle of 90° to the guy line for greater resistance. You can of course use other items instead of pegs: snow-filled stuff bags or ski pole baskets trampled into the snow will freeze in quickly and provide reasonable anchor points.
The snow pegs we offer have a hole in the center with a line and a hook. Digging the peg into the snow facilitates anchoring it considerably.
Skis and ski poles are also useful in staking your tent. In really strong winds is is advisable to dig the ski horizontally into the snow and not have them standing upright; they may break in strong wind gusts!
When your tent is in place and secured, use the snow to your advantage to really establish a home away from home.
In the vestibule, you could dig a hole for your feet so you can sit more comfortably. Out GT-models offer great opportunities to custom-design your "indoor furniture" when camping in the snow. This is surely one of the reasons of their popularity as winter tents as well.
For help packing for your next winter trip go to our "Equipment List"