Winter Camping in a Summer Tent-NYE at Mew Lake in Algonquin Park

Judging by my name, Camper Christina, it’s safe to say I love camping. What my name doesn’t say is that I hate the cold and am not a huge fan of snow!  As I have been strictly a 3 season camper, I have never had the need for a winter tent, which in addition to cold and snow, is a big reason I didn’t think I would ever go winter camping.  Regardless of that,  I was dying to go camping and after my stay in a yurt a few days before Christmas with my mom in Algonquin, I was ready to find a solution and get back out there. I went into research mode to figure out how I could go winter camping, not buy any new gear, and still stay warm somehow and eventually found some solutions I thought would work. There was really only one way to tell for sure!

My friend Stephanie messaged me near the start of December asking what I had planned for New Years Eve.  Nothing yet, I said.  I could scare up some plans without issue, but I wasn’t really big on the whole going out, spending a fortune, trying to find a cab to get home blah blah blah, etc etc.  My reply was “To be honest, I really want to go camping !”  After a  surprisingly small amount of coercing, Steph warmed up to the idea and said she was in.  SWEET!

When I went to Algonquin the week before Christmas,  I was exctied to walk around the park and see what other people were doing, how they were camping in the cold and to learn as much as possible. ( You can read all about that awesome adventure  by clicking here .)

Unfortunately, there were only 3 tents in the park at the time I was there. One was a hot tent that I wanted to get a tour of (below), but we never saw people there when we went by so we couldn’t ask them anything.  The other two tents looked just like regular tents but I assumed they were winter tents, and didn’t see anyone one there either.  This quest was a big fail and it didn’t look like I would learn much about winter tent camping here.


I took to my favourite place for information about the outdoors, Outdoors Oriented and asked Jamie a bunch of questions.  In May my mom and I went to Restoule and it went down to almost zero degrees one of the nights. My mom, like me, also hates the cold so I booked a hydro site and brought a small space heater.  I used my summer tent and we ran the heater on low at night and were toasty warm in it so I thought doing the same thing was an option.

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I found out that the difference in winter and summer tents are 2 main things, the material is thicker, or a canvas type material like used in hot tents and the poles are made stronger so they won’t snap in the cold.  I then found out from Jamie that the poles have a tendency to crack more from the weight of the snow, than the cold (depending on temperatures of course) so I thought I would solve that issue by putting a tarp above the tent to keep any snow off of it.  However, when we arrived at our gorgeous site, #4 at Mew Lake, we discovered the most beautiful natural awning and were delighted not to have to hang a tarp!!!


Something cool I learned about winter camping also, is that at Mew Lake, they plow your campsite  pretty much to the ground before you arrive which is awesome! We pulled in around 10am and got started with our setup, anxious to be done and enjoy the last day of 2015!


It was lightly snowing so I laid down a tarp and put all our gear on it to keep it nice and dry.  Steph and I laid two large tarps on the ground underneath my summer tent.  This would help keep the cold from coming up through the floor.


After we setup the tent we took my largest tarp and covered the entire tent with it except for the front where the doors are.  I brought some bricks from my house and we rolled up the excess tarp and put the bricks on it to keep it from going anywhere.  We also had an option to pile snow around it, but there was really no wind on our site, so for now we were all set.

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When I car camp, I glamp. Not extreme glamping, but I do bring my 70 year old mom most of the time and she likes to be comfortable.  To be honest, really, who doesn’t?  I’m not carrying my gear in a boat or on my back, so why not bring the things you need to have a great sleep and enjoy yourself more? I brought my summer glamping setup, 2 cot beds with air mattresses on them. I assumed it would be much warmer than sleeping on the ground on the snow too, and it definately was! In between the beds, I put down some foil, then a brick and then put the space heater on top of that, just to be extra cautious.

On our beds we each put a sleeping bag down to keep the cold air from below us, getting through to our bodies, then we put our Marmot Sleeping bags down and we each had a blanket to go over that, again, just to be safe.  It was warm and cozy in the tent when the heat was running and I only ended up needing my Marmot sleeping bag.  My Marmot sleeping bag is rated -9, however, I use it in the summer and am fine with it, meaning I get very cold at night. I’d rather be too warm, than too cold.


After setting up the tent we put all the water jugs in it and the propane tanks.  I learned from my last trip that when my propane gets cold, it doesn’t burn very well, and well the water, that’s just common sense I guess?  We set up the tipi that I’d just finished 2 days before leaving for Mew Lake.   If you’re interested in how it was made please check out my post by clicking here .

After we were all done we decided to make ourselves a drink and go for a walk to the falls.  Steph had never been here so I was excited to show her one of my favourite places in Algonquin. For pictures of the falls in summer check my post on my trip to Mew Lake in August where I came face to face with a bear! 🙂

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Steph spotted a pine martin at the other end of the bridge. I did my best to get a picture of him. It was the first time I’d ever seen one in person and I was super excited about it! If you look closely, maybe you can find him in there! lol

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We headed back to our site and made a fire in the tipi and cooked our dinner on the fire. Steph had made up some potatoes and we cooked them on the fire in a foil packet accompanied by some hot dogs.  Something I’d realized very quickly about winter camping is that cooking is far more difficult than in warmer weather so we were keeping it very simple!


We made some hot apple cider after with some spiced rum in it and relaxed in the tipi.  It was new years eve after all! 🙂  Shortly after we had some visitors.  We’d met a really awesome dad and daughter who were in a hot tent a few sites down from us.  I found out later, that theirs was the hot tent that I took a photo of the weekend before when I was here with my mom.  So they came to visit with us and check out the tipi, and a bit later a group of people showed up!  How cool was this????


I had met Marian on on the Algonquin Park Facebook page a few days earlier.  I was asking some questions and we got to talking and found out we would be camping here at the same time. I also met Terry the same way and he was also here.  As this is not their first time here for New Years Eve, they knew others who were also camping here and they all came to visit and check out Camper Christina’s tipi!  COOL BEANS!!!

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After we chatted on our site for a bit and had some drinks together, the group told me we were doing to tour of everyone’s site to check out hot tents and setups etc.  I was totally down for that! We put the fire out and off we went to check out some of the coolest camping setups I’d ever seen! The site above is Marian & Duane’s. They have an Arctic Oven and it is a gorgeous tent. The tent below is where Terry called home. It is a Cabela’s Alaknak Outfitters Tent and was absolutely as amazing as it looks.

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OH! And that tent I saw on my last visit here with my mom, belonged to Chris and Victoria who were back again for New Years and staying just a few sites down from us.  I took a picture of the outside but unfortunately didn’t get one of the inside.  It was also really warm inside and a very cool setup!


Thanks to Marian, Joanna and Terry for the pictures of their sites. I intended on getting my own while we were there but somehow I was so busy adventuring I didn’t get to it. Thanks to you all for the photos and for taking me on a tour of your amazing setups! 🙂

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We finished the tour at Peter and Joanna’s trailer which was right across from ours. It was pretty sweet inside and we went in for a few shots and to warm up.   Joanna made us a tray of delicious snacks and even had hot pizza and we rang in the new year together beside a roaring fire at their campsite watching the snow fall around us. It was totally awesome and may be the best new years I’ve ever had.  I was surrounded by awesome camping people and nature. Who could ask for more?  Happy Campers all around! 🙂 

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It was snowing as you can see from the pics and it was really dark so the pictures didn’t come out the best.  I celebrated until around 2am and then headed to sleep in my nice warm cozy tent. A good time was had by all! 🙂 HAPPY 2016!

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The next morning I got up around 7am and went for a walk to the falls. It was so incredibly peaceful out and it was the best possible way to spend the start of 2016.  I hope it was indicative of what was to come for the remainder of the year !

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I saw another pine martin although you probably can’t tell that’s what it is.  He was quite far away and scampered off quickly.  I walked very quietly up the trail hoping he’d be there when I came around the bend, but instead, I saw this awesome creature!


By 8am New Years Day my year was already made! I’d never seen a snowshoe hare and I was soooo excited to not only have seen him, but actually have a record of seeing him.  So awesome!  I slowly headed back to camp to make breakfast and get ready for the day!  I had precooked omelettes for today and scrambled eggs with ham and cheese for tomorrow breakfast.  All I had to do was heat them up and toast the english muffins.  Super easy and quick and it was great. We put the heater in the tipi, shut the door and sat inside to cook and to eat and it was very comfortable. Then we packed a backpack and headed out to explore some places in the park and see if we could find some more wildlife!

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We drove to Arrowhon Road, Opeongo Road and took some photos wherever we stopped.

When we got to Opeongo I stopped at the same place where my mom and I stopped last week and attempted to feed the birds from our hand. But only the blue jays came and they haven’t done that so far with me, so we just fed them and took some pictures of them and headed back out. It was snowing alot today and it was much colder than yesterday. Also, we’d gotten used to being in the warm car and standing out in the cold, not moving, probably wasn’t the best thing to do, but that’s how it’d worked out.

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We headed to the visitor centre next, unsure if it’d be open as it was a holiday, but surprisingly, they were open!  We took in the view for a bit and then decided to stay for lunch and stare out the window at the snow falling on the park while staying nice and warm!

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After we got back to our site I headed to the falls with a new friend for a hike.  It was gorgeous as the sun was going down and the colours with the snow were amazing.

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Nighttime came quickly on day 2. Steph and I got a fire going but we just couldn’t get warm or get the smoke to stop filling the tipi.  The more smoky it got, the more we opened the side and that just made it worse, but neither of us had the patience to find a solution. One of our new friends invited us over to their hot tent and at first we declined, but quickly changed our minds and went over.  We were both really cold and tired and it was nice to relax in a warm place and not wear jackets for a while.  We heated up our dinner on their stove and it turned out their dinner spoiled so I got to repay the favour by sharing my pork roast with gravy and rotini, which totally hit the spot. I made it all at home and just put it in the pot and heated it up.  Sooo good and so easy and definately a meal I would be repeating on winter trips!

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Around 10:30 we headed to our tent to get a long warm nights rest. It was warmer in the tent than it had been for many of my summer trips and I was a very happy camper!  When I woke in the morning I went on another quick walk, before returning to the site, having breakfast and starting to pack up the car.

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Except for the patches we’d melted the snow from, the site was exactly as we’d found it.  We did a quick walk around the park to say goodbye to our new friends.

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We hit the road and headed to Ragged Falls. The last stop on our trip.  The parking lot for Ragged falls was similar to most of the Algonquin Park parking lots… unplugged and inaccessible.  We parked across the road and walked in and were both happy we’d exerted the extra energy to do so. Ragged falls in the winter, is just as beautiful as it is in the summer.



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We hiked in and out of Ragged Falls in less than an hour and soon we were on the highway headed back home.  I was really happy with our trip, as was Steph.  The weather was great for my first winter tent camping experience and I was full of more ideas for my next trip in February!

Big thanks to Steph for braving the cold with me and helping me test out my new DIY tipi and for taking pictures for me when needed. I am very much looking forward to our next trip where the tipi will be enhanced by a brand new wood stove i’m purchasing next week!  Big thanks also to Marian, Duane, Terry, Jeanie (sp? sorry),  Chris, Victoria, Harvey, Josh, Sara, Peter, Joanna, Rammy and all the other amazingly cool people that helped me out and/or celebrated the start of 2016 with me! Cheers to you all, you are the best people around and I couldn’t have started this year with anyone better! 🙂

Thanks for checking out my post! If you have any questions, comments or just want to say hello, please leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I am able to!

Happy Camping!





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  1. Marnie January 12, 2016 at 8:51 am - Reply

    OMG your photos look like postcards. Beautiful! Glad you found new friends to ring in the new year. Campers are great people. Sounds like the cold only really got to you once and you were rescued 🙂 I’m getting more brave with each of your posts. Pretty soon mv might be winter camping

    • camperchristina January 20, 2016 at 8:49 am - Reply

      Hi Marnie! I’m so sorry. I know I replied to you but for some reason it didn’t save or send? Thank you so much for the lovely comments and for checking out my post! Campers are great people! I hope you get out and give winter camping a try. What’s the worst that can happen? Have a great day and happy adventuring! 🙂

  2. Ron Boehringer January 12, 2016 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Loved reading your blog,never thought of doing new year’s by camping, think I just may do that this year and get myself more up to Algonquin also.

    Thank You

    • camperchristina January 12, 2016 at 9:10 am - Reply

      Thanks so much Ron! I never thought of it either but turns out it’s quite an event up there! Have a super awesome day and thanks for commenting! 🙂 Happy Camping!

  3. Robert (moose) jones January 12, 2016 at 10:08 am - Reply

    Great reading. I have never been to ragged falls. After seeing these great pictures and videos I plan on it very soon. Nothing wrong with a bit of comfort when it comes to winter camping

    • camperchristina January 12, 2016 at 10:15 am - Reply

      Thanks so much Robert! Ragged falls is awesome! I have about 3 posts on my blog about them. They are linked to this post. You should check them out. I have kayaked there a few times and driven in countless times. I try and visit every trip if I can. It’s just a beautiful powerful place and even more so in the winter as the water is much more fierce! 🙂 Just a note it is not a part of algonquin but it’s own separate park so there is a fee when you park in the lot. I believe the costs are in one of my other posts. Can’t wait to hear about your visit there! Have a great day and thanks for commenting and reading! 🙂

  4. paul January 12, 2016 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    Christina reading your blog makes me smile and is a nice break from my windowless office! Happy camping!!!

    • camperchristina January 12, 2016 at 1:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks Paul! Makes me feel like I am doing my job properly then! I greatly appreciate you checking out my blog and for the lovely comment. Have a great day!

  5. Paul Mitton January 12, 2016 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    Christina reading your adventures brings a smile to my face, especially as I read them from my windowless office!! Happy camping. Hope the new stove works out!

  6. boristoronto January 12, 2016 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    Great blog post and also way to go winterizing your 3 season. I’m planning on renting a winter tent from MEC for my trip up.

    • camperchristina January 13, 2016 at 6:31 am - Reply

      That’s great! When are you going & where? Thanks for the compliment and for reading ! 😊

  7. OutdoorsJen January 13, 2016 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    Great post (as always) Christina!!!! Count me in for next year!! LOL!!!! I love how everyone wondered around and met their neighbours – I loved the ‘tent tour’!! It’s great how you turned your cold tent into a hot tent with the heater. The hot tents are great – but so expensive!! I’m excited to hear how the new stove works out with the tipi. I think that’s a great idea!! FYI – some the hot tent makers sell the pipe outlet for the tents as an accessories – made of material to handle the constant high temperatures of the piping, as the canvas does not – it would fit into any hole in the canvas (I think). Anyways – love the blog, keep the posts coming. You ‘made’ me spend 2 hours on the computer this morning researching winter tents, winter camping and also summer camping plans……Let the planning begin!!!! LOL!!!

    • camperchristina January 13, 2016 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      hey jen! What a great comment to read at the end of a very long work day! Thank you so much for the awesome compliments and for checking out another of my posts. I really do appreciate you taking the time to do that. Hot tents are very expensive. I am actually planning on building one for next year now that I have the stove. 🙂 Currently it will be used for the tipi for my next winter trip. I went to the auto wreckers today and they are going to find me the 4′ of pipe I need to get it out of the top hole of the tipi. I actually have a hole in the top for the pipe to go out so I don’t need to get the special material to sew into the canvas. 🙂 Hopefully, they don’t charge me too much. it’s actually exhaust pipe so that definately helps. I’m sorry I made you spend so much time on the computer today. How dare I inspire you to make summer plans??? what was I thinking?? hahaha. I have already booked may. June I am leaving open atm but canada day will be booked very soon! I love the planning, it’s my favourite part! Hope things are going great for you! 🙂 Thanks again for all your support! 🙂

  8. karengeterdone January 18, 2016 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Great way to bring in a New Year! Hi to Steph who I will be sharing you with in just a few short weeks 😉 I love all the snow! Cannot wait to immerse my bundle up self into winter trekking and fun with you gals.

    • camperchristina January 18, 2016 at 12:51 pm - Reply

      Can’t wait either! I am already fiending to camp again and it’s only been a few weeks! Hope you liked the nice and cozy set up you will be enjoying also! 🙂 Have a great day!

  9. Maegan MacKimmie January 19, 2016 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Absolutely loved this post! I have been kicking around the idea of trying winter camping for a while now, but hadn’t worked up the nerve to do it. Plus I also didn’t want to have to but all new gear. This post is very encouraging! I might just try a camping trip this winter.

    • camperchristina January 19, 2016 at 9:48 am - Reply

      THANK YOU MAEGAN!!! I didn’t buy all new gear at all. The tipi was a fun project but not necessary, just thought it’d be cool to have and to make. I talked a few people into winter camping with me and threw it in as an added bonus! HAHAHA. Now I am planning on building my own hot tent! 🙂 I really think you should give it a try! What’s the worst that can happen? 🙂 Thanks again for reading and your great comments. I appreciate them more than I can say! 🙂 Happy exploring!

  10. Tammy Watson January 28, 2016 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    Great information! We will be staying at Mew Lake this weekend and although I will be in a travel trailer, my son will be staying in a tent and I found your post very informative, thank you. I have to find where those falls are…beautiful!

    • camperchristina January 28, 2016 at 1:46 pm - Reply

      Thanks Tammy! I’m glad I could help somehow. I can give you directions to the falls if you like? it will be a highlight of your trip for sure. They are quite beautiful! 🙂

  11. Paul & Andrea February 13, 2016 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    We were the ones who built the igloo.
    Feb 13 2016 6:30 pm leaving mew lake -30, at home -32. Hope your tent was warm.

    • camperchristina February 13, 2016 at 8:55 pm - Reply

      That’s awesome. I didn’t realize that’s who you were. You are friends w my friend Iain McNab. 😊😊😊

  12. […] I shared my passion on social media.  I have met friends online, I have met them in person, I have adventured with many of them, froze my butt off with some of them, shared stories, we’ve helped each other, shared trip […]

  13. […] my blog to make sure you catch my next post on the rest of the trip that I used this tipi during, New Years Eve at Mew Lake or after I purchased a wood stove for it and used it in […]

  14. […] warm up, I put my kettle on the fire full of apple cider.  I had discovered camping last New Years Eve, that hot apple cider with spiced rum is a delicious winter […]

  15. Parisa December 19, 2016 at 12:39 am - Reply

    I was thinking of doing a camping trip for NYE for the same reasons you mentioned but I didnt know if anyone at all does it. Reading your post gave me inspiration and motivation to do it! thank you! enjoyed reading it
    My blog

    • camperchristina December 19, 2016 at 12:30 pm - Reply

      Hey girl! Thanks so much for the comment and for the compliment. I am so glad I gave you some inspiration because that is my whole point! Where will you go? Thanks for the blog link. I will definitely check it out after work! Let me know if you go. Mew Lake has a great group you will run into called the Mew Crew if you end up there, you will have a blast! Cheers my friend! cc

      • Parisa December 21, 2016 at 4:35 pm - Reply

        Thank you for telling me there was no subscribe field on my blog!! haha oops. fixed it now 🙂
        I dont know if I’m ready for winter camping around Toronto yet, given the already cold weather this year! I will probably be camping somewhere in California. I’ll write about it on my blog so we’ll see how it went! haha Cheers and happy holidays! x

        • camperchristina December 21, 2016 at 7:31 pm - Reply

          Subscribed! 🙂 You gotta make it easy for people! 🙂 Looking forward to your posts! cc

  16. […] year I had the great privilege of being invited to Mew Lake for New Years Eve Camping.  It was one of the best New Years Eve’s I’ve ever had! I met some […]

  17. […] took me 15 years,  but last winter I broke that rule by winter camping.  I was cheating a little bit though,  I had a heater in my tent  and it was enough to keep me […]

  18. […] On Family Day, I was lucky enough to be in Algonquin Park, and it was a gorgeous weekend! It was warm and sunny, but the park was also still full of beautiful white snow! I had just shown my hot tent at the Winter in the Wild festival and enjoyed meeting so many awesome people, but not I was ready for some time with nature.  Thankfully, I was able to share that time with two amazing people I met through camping at Mew Lake last New Years, Jack and Paula. Well, we met through a note I left in the snow… but that’s another story. […]

  19. Antle Family Travels (Shaun) November 1, 2018 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    Christina, Thank you SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO very much for our chat on messenger and for all your help and insight. Winter camping is something along the likes of seeing the northern lights… it’s just awe inspiring to take on the cold winter nights and enjoy sights you just don’t get to see unless you are willing to brave the winter. It’s inspiring to see/hear/know that one can just get out there – even with summer gear if doing the park thing and begin to learn, grow and understand what you need and don’t need to survive winter camping. The best part, the friendships and people you meet/make along the way! Now THAT is why we got into rving and back into camping and why we are looking at winter camping and hiking… it’s simply priceless!

    • Christina November 2, 2018 at 8:46 am - Reply

      Thanks so much for the lovely comment Shaun. I’m glad I could help. Always here if you have questions. Looking forward to seeing you out there this winter and hearing how it went. Cheers!

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