Pack It In: Winter Camping
We’ve all seen the doomsday like predictions for this latest round of wintery cold weather, but that hasn’t fazed you in the least. You’ve got your winter hiking and urban cold weather kits dialed in and you’re ready to step up your winter adventure game. We’re not talking about a few spins around the park or even a leisurely stroll to your favorite ice fishing spot. No, sleeping out in the snow is a totally new experience for even the most serious campers. We’ve got a list of our favorite winter camping picks to keep you warm and dry during your car camping forays and even on some crazy winter trips into more serious mountaineering territory.
First up, you need a serious cold weather pack to get to your basecamp, be it a couple hundred yards from the car, or out on a glacier. We like the Gregory Denali Series for its durability and ease of use. Featuring a snow shedding material, and multiple tool storage options for skis, trekking poles, and ice axes, it is a true winter gear hauler. We especially like the high visibility, bright interior. It made digging for that last fuel canister on a cold night just a little easier. Most of us will be able to get away with the 75 liter size, but for serious expeditions or simply hauling a few extra pounds of beer the Denali 100 adds in some serious garage space.
It’s inevitable that your favorite backpacking stove will fail in serious cold temperatures or at high altitude. Take the uncertainty out of the equation with the all-new Biolite Basecamp stove. Weighing in at just over seventeen pounds, you won’t be hauling it up any mountains. However, the built in grill and ability to charge any gadgets you’ve brought along (a rerun of Frozen in the tent for the kids?) tip the scales nicely for utility. Its built in legs allow it to stand sturdily on a campground table or over the snow, and you’ll love how quickly it gets heated for cooking. As a winter accesory it shines, but it may just be the ultimate car camping tool we’ve ever tested.
Originally designed for serious alpine climbers, Mountain Hardwear’s Trango 3 has seen duty at basecamps all over the world in harsher conditions than you can imagine. You don’t have to be a glutton for punishment like Ueli Steck to appreciate the 4-season features this tent packs in. Snow flaps seal out spindrift and cold air at the door and vestibule. Silicon impregnated nylon and polyurethane coating ensure waterproofing even if you have to set it up in wet, slushy snow. The best part, you can add in some gear loft organizers to keep you essentials within reach without having to delve into your pack every ten minutes.
To stay comfortable all night, it’s time to ditch that summer bag and move up to a serious backcountry bed. If you’re a serious backpacker, you’ve probably seen Nemo Equipment’s tents on the trail, but their sleeping bags and pads are truly works of art. Rated to -40°C/F the Canon sleeping bag can satisfy even the coldest sleepers. Thermo “gills” open up at your chest to dump excess heat if the mercury climbs, and a stovepipe hood locks warmth in, should you find yourself actually putting it to the test in Antarctica. We paired it with the Tuo 20R pad for ultimate comfort. It’s got two air chambers that can be independently inflated, allowing for a little customization and extra comfort while keeping you solidly insulated from the ground.
You’ve got to haul a little extra hot coffee or chocolate along for long, snowy nights, and your typical Nalgene bottle is going to freeze over in a few short hours if left out. For extra hot drinks at any time of night we reach for our Sigg Thermo bottles. Ranging from small, .3L tea bottles, to full liters of double-walled luxury, our Siggs have hauled many hot toddies out on the trail. The double walled stainless steel is always odor and after-taste free, and the larger sizes include a convenient cup bottom for sharing your favorite drinks.
You can’t be fiddling with your dinner in the cold for too long before the snow starts to wear your will power (and circulation to gloveless hands) down. Sure it would be great to whip up a backcountry feast from scratch, but some nights in the wilderness the convenience of pre-prepared meals are a necessity. Our friends at Good To Go have positively the best menu of dehydrated, gourmet prepared camping meals you’re going to find anywhere. We like the Thai Curry for winter nights (especially good at clearing your sinuses with a little extra Sriracha), but their newest flavor, Classic Marinara With Penne is quickly gaining ground in our gear closet. All of their meals are hand made and dehydrated, and feature an ingredient list that you can actually pronounce.
Sorel has been building cold weather footwear since 1962, and their Canadian heritage is evident in every pair of boots they turn out. The Bear XTs are no exception to this legacy of excellence. Starting from the ground up, they feature vulcanized rubber souls that are burlier than any competitor. The felt liners and midsoles provide comfortable insulation, and they have an Omniheat reflective lining for added heat transmission. The uppers are coated in waterproof polyurethane and have a drawstring closure to lock snow out.