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.
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.
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! 🙂
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
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!!!
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.
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! 🙂
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! 🙂
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!
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 !
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!