Dress Right For Winter Camping

winter boots
Winter camping requires the right clothing

Any time you go camping, you need the right equipment. This is true for what you wear, as well, and becomes crucial when you are considering camping where or when it is very cold. You can’t just dress for winter like you would at home around the house. Wilderness camping in the winter or in the mountains requires clothing that protects you in a way that could save your life in extreme conditions. At the very least it makes the difference between a miserably cold camping trip and an invigorating one.

What should my clothes be made of?

Not cotton, that’s for sure. It has been termed “death cloth” by campers and survivalists alike, because it retains moisture and becomes extremely cold when wet. Always choose wool or the new synthetic materials made for cold and wet weather. These are designed to keep a person warm and wick moisture away from the body, which helps even more. The new fleece fabrics are comfortable and durable. Spend money on your winter camping clothes; you will never regret it.

What should I take with me for a weekend trip?

Take with you a good set of long underwear, also made of wool or a good synthetic material. It never hurts to have a pair of good wool socks for every day you’re out, plus an extra pair for emergencies. Here is a good list for a weekend of winter camping. Start with this and change it up as you see fit after:

  • 2 sets of long underwear (synthetic or wool)
  • 3 tee shirts
  • 2 pullovers and 2 flannel shirts
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 4 pairs of thick wool socks (unused pair can be used for sleeping in)
  • 1 pair of waterproof hiking boots, if you go in your sneakers
  • a pair of comfortable (!) winter boots, to wear around the site while your hiking boots dry
  • 1 toque
  • a scarf
  • 1 cardigan
  • 1 waterproof jacket
  • a pair of waterproof over pants
  • 1 coat
  • 1 pair heavy winter gloves
  • whatever underwear you normally wear for a weekend
  • down vest (optional but nice to have)

Why so many clothes for just a weekend?

Winter camping isn’t like summer camping. You don’t know what the weather is going to be like. It will certainly be cold, and might be rainy or snowy as well. Your outfit will be layered–underwear, long underwear, tee shirt, jeans and shirt, sweater and jacket. As the temperature rises and lowers, you remove or add on layers. That way you’ll always be comfortable.

What’ll I pack it all in?

Get yourself a nice, big, sturdy tote bag, like the kind people pack hockey equipment around in. That should take care of most if not all of it. You can also supplement it with a backpack; since you’ll probably be doing a little hiking as well a backpack will come in handy. Just place your last bits and bobs in a plastic bag and put it in the backpack–then if you want to use it, take the plastic bag of items out and leave it on your bed in your tent.

Any other hints or tips?

Anyone who has been winter camping knows how important it is to spend the extra money for the right kind of clothes. Splurge on the long underwear, coat and socks, especially.

It never hurts to have a balaclava. I have often worn one to bed because it was so cold out, grateful that I had thought to bring one along.

If you can, spend some extra dough on a good pair of leather work boots (steel toe optional) or waterproof hiking boots, and break them in before you wear them camping. They will last forever and do you in good stead, but you can get blisters if you try breaking them in your first day of camping. And if you do get blisters, deal with them immediately

Bring along some cheapo vegetable/produce plastic bags (not the mesh kind) and wear them on your feet under your socks. They’ll keep your socks from getting wet from the moisture from your feet. They also help prevent blisters–when your feet get sweaty the plastic adheres to your feet, and the socks slip more easily along the plastic’s surface.

Change out your socks regularly to keep your feet dry and comfortable if you are going to be doing a lot of walking around.

Bring along some fingerless gloves in addition to your heavy ones–it helps to have your fingers free when you have to do some things around the campsite, such as tying knots and picking up fine sticks and twigs for starter kindling.





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