Things to Consider When Winter Tent Camping
Because of the colder, wetter climate, winter tent camping requires some different techniques and equipment than summer or fall camping. Some manufacturers make tents and sleeping bags specifically for winter camping.
When I was young, I did a lot of camping in the summer and fall. One year I thought it would be “cool” (no pun intended) to try my hand at winter camping.
But because of my limited income as a young man, I did not purchase a winter tent or sleeping bag.
To make a long story short, I and my buddies almost froze to death that night! We set up our tent on the snow (which was okay if you have the right tent) and melted snow (a.k.a. water) started seeping through the non-waterproof floor and into our sleeping bags.
Needless to say, we packed up our stuff in the middle of the night and hiked back out to our car and “cranked” up the heat! Fortunately, we were only a mile away from the car, and nobody got frost bite. But we all learned the hard way that winter tent camping was not the same as warm weather camping.
So what exactly do you need to do and/or purchase to have a successful winter tent camping experience?
The first, and probably the most important, element is a tent designed for cold, harsh weather.
A good winter tent has double wall construction to retain heat within the tent. And most have a 40-denier or higher floor with a polyurethane coating to make it 100% waterproof (something my tent did NOT have!).
One other feature most winter tents have is an aerodynamic shape and a low profile. This allows the tent to endure high winds, which are more common in the winter months.
When it’s cold outside and warm inside, you could experience a condensation problem. That’s why you need plenty of ventilation.
Something else a good winter tent has is a good sized vestibule. This is like a small room between the main entrance door and the main sleeping area. The purpose of this space is to store your pack and boots away from drifting snow or pouring rain.
When determining the size of tent needed, figure 30 square feet of floor space for two occupants. This will allow room for sleeping bags and gear.
Because of these added features, winter tents are more costly that 3-season tents (tents suitable for spring, summer, and fall). These types of tents can cost $500 or more, but are necessary for winter tent camping excursions.
The other important piece of equipment needed for winter camping is a warm sleeping bag. A good sleeping bag is a must for staying cozy when the outside temperatures drop below freezing.
The best sleeping bags for winter tent camping have goose down fill and what are called “draft tubes”. These are made of nylon fabric sewn into the shape of a tube and filled with insulation. These are located at the top of the bag and are used to seal around your neck and keep your body heat from escaping.
Smaller draft tubes should also cover the zipper area to prevent cold air from entering and warm air from escaping the bag.
These are just a few points to keep in mind when winter tent camping.
Additional equipment like snow shoes, skis, boots, and packs need to be considered, as well. Look for future articles covering these topics and more.