6 Safety Rules You Need to Know When Camping in Winter

Camping in the winter can be a wonderful experience; you will avoid crowds and be able to enjoy the peace and quiet of the wilderness. Not surprisingly, cold conditions can lead to additional challenges and safety concerns during your trip.

It is important to plan and be well-prepared when camping in the winter in order to ensure the safety of yourself and the others that you are camping with. Keep the following safety rules in mind when planning and embarking on a winter camping adventure.

Make sure to have a good map of where you will be that includes the surrounding area. It is best that everyone in your group have their own map, in case people get separated. Having a map is important not just to help avoid getting lost, but so that you can be sure to avoid things that may be dangerous. For example, you will want to avoid crossing a frozen river or lake. Should there be heavy snow in the area, you won’t necessarily see a body of water. Your map will help you determine a route where you can go around the water.

Make sure to have a good map of where you will be that includes the surrounding area. It is best that everyone in your group have their own map, in case people get separated. Having a map is important not just to help avoid getting lost, but so that you can be sure to avoid things that may be dangerous. For example, you will want to avoid crossing a frozen river or lake. Should there be heavy snow in the area, you won’t necessarily see a body of water. Your map will help you determine a route where you can go around the water.

You will want to stay away from avalanche areas. Before your trip, consult the local avalanche forecast. If avalanche danger is high, change you plans. Should you be camping or exploring on or near a slope that is greater than 20 degrees, you will want to be sure your group has had formal avalanche training.

An altimeter and GPS are other good items to have in addition to your map. Get familiar with where you will be beforehand so you can get answers to any questions you have and avoid trouble.

Rule #2: Stay warm and dry to avoid hypothermia

Staying warm is very important in cold weather conditions. In conjunction with staying warm is staying dry. Here are some tips to keep warm while camping in the winter:

  • Make sure to having clothing appropriate for the weather and conditions you will be in.
  • Avoid overheating; when you get too hot you will sweat and your sweat will be absorbed by your clothes. Should your clothes get damp, their insulation will decrease. Also, as sweat evaporates, your body will cool.
  • ​Keep your clothing clean; if your clothes are covered in dirt, they will be less insulated.
  • ​Wear loose clothing and remember to layer; tight clothing will restrict blood flow and less air will get trapped between the layers. More air between the layers will increase insulation and warmth. Multiple layers are preferable to one or two thick layers as you can remove layers as your warmth increases in order to avoid excessive sweating.
  • Wear water repellant outer layers of clothing
  • Should items get wet, you can hang them from your pack as the sun may dry them, or you can lay them in front of the fire to help them dry.

Rule #3: Stay hydrated and make sure to take in enough calories

During the winter it can be more difficult to remember to get enough fluids. Even though it is not hot like it is during the summer, dehydration is definitely possible.

Make sure to drink plenty of water during your trip. Keep an eye on the color of your urine to ensure you are appropriately hydrated. If your urine is pale, you are likely well-hydrated. If you urine is dark, you will want to take in additional fluid.

Your body is in even greater need of calories when being active in the cold weather. Make sure to increase your calorie intake to ensure you get the nutrition you need. You will want to get 50% of your calories from sugars or complex carbohydrates, 20% from proteins and 30% from fats. Some great food choices for your winter camping adventure include:

  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Fruits ( Dried or fresh)
  • Peanut butter
  • Sandwich meat
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Protein bars

It is best when preparing foods during winter camping to make things that are easy to clean up. Keep in mind that it will be cold outside and you will not want to spend a lot of time cooking and cleaning pots and dishes.

Rule #4: Have the equipment you need for winter camping

While the equipment that for winter camping is often more expensive, it is necessary to ensure safety. Make sure that you have a sleeping bag and tent that are appropriate for the temperatures and conditions you will face.

Proper equipment for winter conditions includes items aside from those that keep you warm and dry. Here are some items that are important for winter camping:

  • Sunglasses : these are important for when you are spending time outdoors in the snow so that you may avoid snow blindness, which is caused by the reflection of the sun’s ultraviolet rays off of a snow-covered area.
  • Avalanche transceiver : If you will be in an area with any chance of an avalanche everyone in your group should have one and know how to use it.
  • ​Probe : If you will be where an avalanche is a possibility this is an important item to bring with you. It is a collapsible pole that usually extends to ten feet in length. The probe can be used to help find avalanche victims.
  • ​Snow shovel : this can be used for a variety of purposes, like getting fresh snow for drinking water, leveling a tent site, avalanche rescue and digging a car out of the snow.
  • Extra batteries : remember that cold temperatures reduce battery life.

Rule #5: Make it a group activity

Don’t camp alone in the winter and make sure at least one of you has experience in winter camping. If your friends are not interested in winter camping, look into groups in your area that go on planned outings.These outings are often a great way to learn from more experienced campers. Some other good ideas for your group:

  • Encourage your fellow campers to dress in bright colors so that you can see one another easily, even in poor weather conditions.
  • Keep your eyes and ears out for one another; know the symptoms of hypothermia, snow blindness, dehydration and frostbite and check one another for signs of each.
  • Stay together so no one gets lost.

Rule #6: Remember what NOT to do

There are some things you will want to avoid when camping in the winter that have not been mentioned above:

  • Don't bring personal heating devices into the camp.
  • No flames or cooking in the tent.
  • If you get cold in your tent, don’t sleep in your car with the engine running.
  • Don't overdo it in regards to activity. If you are tired you are more likely to have an accident. Make sure to rest during activity at regular intervals.

Preparation is always important when camping. During winter camping trips, there are additional steps that need to be taken to ensure the safety of all of the participants involved.

What have you found to be important in order to stay safe when camping in the winter?

William
 

My name is William, a family man with two kids and the passion for camping. I started Pandaneo with sharing memorable camping experiences back as a newbie camper, introducing my family to the love for the great outdoors. As time passed, we started traveling across states, trying to hit as many campsites we can!