Whether you are camping in a tent or glamping in a yurt, things are different in the winter, than they are in the warmer seasons. I am very new to the whole winter camping/glamping scene but I have learned a tonne of things already and wanted to share them with you, if you are thinking of embarking on a winter camping or glamping trip. Please feel free to comment and add your own tips at the bottom of the post to share with others. I know the more information we all have, the more prepared we will be and the more fun will be had by all! 🙂
Keep your water …water. If you have a hot tent, or a yurt or a winter tent with a heater in it, put your jugs and bottles of water in your tent to keep them from freezing. It is difficult to stay hydrated in the winter as the water is cold and you are cold and it’s not the easiest to drink, even harder when it’s frozen, so make sure to keep your water….. water. I have also been advised that using insulated bottles or bottle holders helps. Many people put their water bottles inside their sleeping bags with hot water in them at night. I have done this and it acts as a lovely hot water bottle and helps keep you warm. By morning the water is luke warm and nice to drink. If anyone has any other tips, please comment and advise if you could. Thanks!
Cooking. A huge thing I learned almost immediately about winter camping/glamping is that food is not the same as the other seasons. The elements make it difficult to cook in the winter if you are using a stove. The fuel does not act quite the same and your stove will not have the heat you normally get in other seasons. Bring covers and lids for your pans or to put over grilling meat, etc, to help keep the heat in . Plan on cooking on a fire if you can’t keep your fuel warm, or make sure you have backup methods. (Flipped over skillets make great covers for steaks or burgers on the fire too!) Even my lighters didn’t work well in the cold and I had to rotate about 4 of them to get one to start the fire and have it work. It’s a good idea to keep one on your person in a pocket (I put mine in my sports bra and it always works) that will stay a bit warm in some type of waterproof container or ziploc bag. I have had my pocket lighter work so far every time. I also keep a few packs of matches in different locations and my flint handy. Fire is important!! lol
If anyone knows if some fuels are better than others, please let me know.. 😊 So far I’ve only tried the green bottles with my Coleman stove. I will test my primus camp stove fuel in February. Also, I’ve heard the fuel zippo lighters use works well in cold temperatures. If anyone knows more about that, please let us know. 😊 (Please see comments below for more info on fuels!!! Thanks everyone for contributing!).
Frozen food. On my first winter trip, I stayed in a yurt, but kept the food in the car as advised. Even though the bears are hibernating, you don’t want to take any chances, I was told. In keeping my food in a cooler in the car (with no ice as it’s not necessary) one of my eggs froze. I had to peel the shell from it and still cooked it and it tasted totally normal but to avoid repeating this, the next trip I pre cooked all my eggs, making bacon and cheese omelettes for one day and scrambled eggs with ham and cheese for the second day. When at camp, they were heated in the pan and done in minutes. No muss, no fuss, no mess.
I have been advised since, that an easy fix for this is to put hot water in a nalgene bottle and put it in the cooler and it will keep the cooler, not so cool. I personally have not tested this out, but if you have tried it or do it, please leave a comment and let me know how it worked for you?
I have also been advised that you are allowed to keep food in a yurt. This is not from Ontario Parks, however, just people who’ve commented on previous posts, so I’m not 100% sure if that’s accurate information? I am in the practice of keeping food in a safe place to avoid issues with wildlife and that is something I will continue to do ALWAYS. I strongly believe in keeping wildlife wild and not feeding the animals or having them think of humans as a food source. I know I have been doing alot of glamping as of late, but my passion is backcountry camping, and I have done quite a bit of it. Putting food away there, to me, is the most serious thing there is and I am extremely cautious. I don’t want to change habits and slip up out there. Wrong place, wrong time, bad habits and I’m toast. I, personally, would rather be safe than sorry and stay consistent. Since this post when I stay in yurts that I can’t access my car at (like Silent Lake) I bring my bear vault and keep my food in that. Better safe than sorry!
Preprepare everything you can. Make a stew, a roast, spaghetti and meatballs, pre make as much as you are able to and put the completed meals in tupperware containers or food storage bags. When it’s time to eat, heat it up in a pot on your wood stove (hot tent) or crock pot and it’s done. When I stayed in the yurt in December I brought a pork roast with carrots, gravy and pasta. We brought a crock pot and plugged it in and put it in the car to keep it warmer that outside, as you are not allowed to cook in the yurts at Mew Lake. When I tent camped for New Years I put it in a pot and put it on the fire to heat up. Camping in my tipi, I put the pot on the wood stove. Easy peasy. One of my favourite parts of camping is the food, but I find it very difficult to cook with gloves on, and hate getting food bits and scents on them, and so far it’s mostly been too cold to have bare hands. You add the fuel issues to that and it just isn’t as fun for me to cook outside in the winter, like it is in the warmer seasons. Also, think of easy snacks to pack, like things you can just pop in your mouth and aren’t too messy, or need attention. You will most likely not be licking the cheesy residue from the doritos off your gloves, for example… LOL!
Dishes, dishwashing, paper towels.. I do my best to think about our planet and make conscious decisions. I am not over the top with it, but I think I do more than alot of other people. When I camp I bring plates that are reusable and wash them and all my dishes and do my best not to use paper or styrofoam plates. In the winter, so far I’ve found this really difficult to do. I have heard of a few parks that offer dish washing stations like Silent Lake, but when I stayed at Mew Lake, this wasn’t something that was offered. So I came up with some alternatives of what I’ve heard and seen some people do, along with myself:
- bring disposable plates and cutlery and dispose of them after each use (my least favourite but something people do)
- bring paper towels and pour small amounts of water on the dishes and wipe them clean, then use the paper towels as fire starter. (better than the first option, but still wasteful) All food scraps go into the garbage or active fire pit so it is burned up immediately.
- bring your camp dishes in abundance, when you have used a plate or fork, put it in a ‘dirty dishes’ bag (kept in the vehicle of course) and take them home to wash them with nice hot soapy water in your sink when you get back. (favourite method and most used so far but I’m only doing short trips at this point).
- If you are staying in a yurt, you can bring your dish washing bin and fill it with hot water you’ve made on your stove or fire or in a kettle and wash them and dry them inside the cozy warm yurt. Someone has advised me they do this when they stay in yurts so I’ve added it accordingly.
I’m very curious about this topic and want to know what other people do when winter glamping or camping? My gloves pretty much stayed on the entire time I was camping new years, except in the tent. Getting food on them, getting them wet from washing dishes, definitely not something I was trying to do!
Firewood to burn. On my last trip, I learned a great trip from a fellow camper just before heading to Mew Lake for New Years Eve. As it is illegal to bring firewood in from other areas to most Ontario Parks (possibly all? Unknown fore certain) due to diseases being spread by insects, etc, I was recommended to bring store bought logs. Canadian tire sells logs that burn up to 3 hours at a time and you get 6 per case for about $15.00. These logs are insect free! Mix these logs with the wood you purchase at the camp ground which in winter, might be a bit wet, and this will help the wet wood burn and keep your fire going. Make sure that you do not cook on fires made with this wood, or that it is completely burned up before doing so.
I have also recently found out that some lumber yards and other similar businesses throw away their scrap wood. I have located a few near to where I live and have gotten some wood for the stove I purchased to use in my tipi. I burnt the corrosives off my stove the other day and used some of the scrap wood and it burned amazingly well! I have been warned by some that this wood can also leave residue in your pipe etc, so not to overuse it. Also, you should never use pressure treated wood!
Again, if anyone has any more information on this, please share! 🙂 thanks!
Being warm at night when you sleep. When I tent camped I discovered that cold air rises up from the floor which is basically snow. When I put my tent down, I placed 2 tarps below the tent to help keep the floor of the tent dry and keep the cold from coming up through the floor. Also, I put an extra sleeping bag below the one I was to sleep in, to again, keep the cold from coming up from below. I don’t know if that’s how other people do it, but I did it this way and we were toasty warm. The heater greatly helped too of course! Lol. (This is why I stil call it glamping and I’m okay with that! )
When camping in my tipi, I lay down a tarp, then use 2 thermarest mats. Be careful when filling them to put as little moisture in while blowing them up as this will make you cold. Many people use foam matts but so far, using the thermarests fro me, hasn’t caused any cold issues so I’ll keep using them. I like being comfy when I sleep. On top of the thermarests I put one of my older Jack Wolfskin -5 sleeping bags down, then put the bag I am sleeping in on top. This has kept me toasty warm so far! No complaints!
It is also recommended that when it’s time to turn in to completely change all your clothes before bed. This is to ensure that if something you had on outside during the day got damp in any way, you remove it from your body and you will be warmer overnight. Our tent was warm and cozy but if it’s not heated, I’ve read that many people change in the comfort station where they are camping to keep warm, which I think is a great idea! I personally, didn’t need to do this, but I was glamping, not roughing it like many extremely brave people do, so I had no issue with this. I have also been told that if you are cold before bed, you should do 25 jumping jacks (number to be determined by you, I suppose?). Doing this gets your blood flowing and warms up your body. One last thing, if you have to pee, don’t hold it during the night. Your body has to keep the urine inside you warm and this can make you feel colder. Just bite the bullet, run outside and get it over with. You will be warmer and happier in the long run! 🙂
Tarps, you can never have enough tarps. Tarps are priceless on a rainy weekend camping, making them invaluable in the winter as everything is generally covered with snow, aka water, lol. Whether it’s unloading the car and needing a dry place to put your gear, covering it for the same process if it’s snowing, having somewhere dry to sit, keeping your firewood from getting wet, adding a layer to your summer tent to keep the heat inside, adding layers below your tent to keep the heat inside and possibly a zillion other uses, tarps are compact, easy to pack and priceless to me any time of year. I love them and I always bring more than I need and I almost always use them all.
Boots and keeping your feet warm. One of the most important things winter camping for me, is keeping your feet warm and dry. This is something that shouldn’t be too difficult if you do the following. At night, bring your boots inside your sleeping space to keep them warm and dry. Your floor, whether you are in a yurt or a tent or whatever method you are camping in, WILL GET WET! Plan for this by doing some easy things in advance. Some people just bring the liners in and leave the boots outside, but we had enough room so I brought the entire boot in to the tent. I also brought a crappy bath towel from home to lay on the floor and clean up drops of water that end up there and make your socks wet. Wet socks mean big trouble! Bring LOTS of socks to change into and bring the right type of socks! If you’re feet get cold easily consider getting fleece socks. I wore my icebreaker socks from Outdoors Oriented that I started buying this summer to hike in. They keep the water away from your feet and are incredibly comfortable. Even though they are expensive, I love them so much I am using them on a daily basis now. You can not beat a good pair of socks and a good pair of boots in the winter.
For boots, I wore my Woods Neoprene boots for both winter trips I’ve been on and my feet were warm and dry the whole time. I did have an extra pair standing by in case they didn’t work out though and I will bring them on my next trip as well. You never know when your boots might fail you and I would hate for something like that to happen to me. Also bring some hot pockets to put in your boots in case your feet get cold, or. to put in your mitts, or, a bunch of other places you might need to warm up. 😊 Lol
Another trick I use mostly in the tipi is to have extra garbage bags. When it comes time to change my clothes, at some point you need to take off your socks and shoes and stand. For this as the floor in the tipi is usually the snow on the ground, I put down a garbage bag that is dry and use it to stand on in between taking off and putting on layers. Works great and is useful for many things!
Dress in layers. Just like any other outdoor adventure, in the winter, you need to stay dry and keep the sweat away from your skin. It is best to wear breathable dry wicking type clothing and to dress in layers. For the last 2 winter trips, I wore dry wick shirts and jackets underneath my very awesome warm Mountain Hardwear winter jacket. When I got warm, as I did, setting up my tipi, the outter jacket came off. The trick in cold weather is never to get sweaty as this will make you clothes damp (if not wearing wicking fabrics) and being wet will make you very cold, so try and stay as dry as possible at all times. I have a few friends that swear by Merino Wool and I am intending to get some wool baselayers eventually. As I am still testing out this winter camping thing, I am currently using mostly what I already own and not buying all new gear, so far, so good! 🙂
Get a great toque, or two? It is very important to keep your head warm in cold weather. Find yourself a good toque or two, in case one gets too wet, you always have a 2nd one to wear while the first is drying. I have found, and been advised, that merino wool is the best for anything winter, but I think anything wool is good as well. These toques breath and again, keep the sweat away from you and that is imperative when trying to stay warm. (note the bottom right hats were strictly for sitting outside at night and for warmth, and because they were cute, not for performance).
Good gloves and mittens are super Important! Because I write a blog I am constantly using my phone to take pictures, write notes and look things up. In winter, this is a difficult thing as gloves keep your hands from doing a lot of things you do when they are bare, in addition to phone usage, there is cooking, eating, cleaning things, tying rope, setting up your tent, building a fire, all things that you must now do with gloves on that you normally don’t. You need to seriously think about what you will be wearing on your hands to perform all the duties needed when camping, as well as having fun in the snow. For my gloves I chose the PL150 Outdoor Research connect gloves which are amazing and work great for all of the above. When the weather is colder, I can easily put my Kombi mitts right overtop of the gloves and make my hands even warmer. Make sure you find the best choice for you. If you’re interested in my post on my gloves and mitts that I’ve chosen for my adventures, click here
.… GLOVE UPDATE: …. After my last trip, my PL150 Outdoor Research Gloves actually broke a hole in the finger. I was quite surprised and saddened when I noticed it. Upon arriving home I emailed them and Outdoor Research advised me their products have a lifetime guarantee and I just needed to give them some information and I would get a replacement pair. The gloves I had were out of stock, so they sent me the next model up, the PL400’s. They are a much thicker glove, warmer and I was advised would have less dexterity, but so far, they have been awesome!!! I have been adventuring in them a few weeks now and so far they are awesome!
Plastic bag, garbage bags, Ziplocks, just like tarps…Ziplocs are golden, as is all plastic to me when camping. It is amazing how useful a small box of kitchen bags or garbage bags or even grocery bags can be. They are great to sit on, put wet boots in, put your pillow in, put you stuff on, or in, to keep it dry, cover firewood, an emergency blanket and a billion other things. They are compact and you can bring lots and I always do and I almost always use them all. Make sure you recycle! 🙂
Well, that’s about all I’ve got for now. I am sure I will have lots more things I will learn over the next few months and I will do my best to share them with the people who are interested. As I’d mentioned previously, I would love to use this post as an open forum for others to comment and post their tips at the bottom to share with everyone else. I still have so much to learn and I am always open to advice and suggestions on how someone else does something, so please please share your tips with me and everyone who checks out my blog so we can all improve on our winter camping skills!
I really hope you enjoyed my post! Thank you so much for stopping by. Please follow my blog so you can avoid missing any future great posts! I would greatly appreciate it!
Speaking of upcoming posts, just a few things on the way, “Winter Hiking at Decew Falls” “Snowshoeing at Tiffin Centre Conservation Area” and “Winter Camping for Winter in the Wild in Algonquin Park“….. Just to name a few!!! STAY TUNED!!!
Happy Camping Everyone!
Since writing this post last year, I received many helpful tips from readers. Please check out the comments for more great winter tips and thank you to everyone that participated!