How To Prepare For Winter Camping
This article was co-authored by Halle Payne. Halle Payne has been hiking and backpacking in Northern California for over 3 years. She was Trip Leader for Stanford Universitys Outdoor Education Program, Hiking Leader for Stanford Sierra Conference Center, and has taught classes in Outdoor Education and Leave No Trace principles.There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 42,194 times.
Winter camping is an exciting alternative to traditional camping that provides a unique set of challenges and benefits. To stay safe and get the most out of a trip, its important to be well prepared for the road ahead. Knowing what to bring and what to wear is important to ensure the safety of all campers. Understanding what to do while at the campground helps maximize the fun of each and every day.
Check Campground Regulations And Guidelines
Although not every campground is pet-friendly, there are many places across the United States that welcome well-behaved dogs. Always contact a campground individually for information regarding their pet policy and rules. Some things to ask about include:
- Leash requirements: Most pet-friendly campgrounds still have leash requirements for the safety of all campers and their pets. Leash requirements vary from location to location, but the general rule is that the leash is no longer than six feet long for easy control. Some places may have additional restrictions, such as no retractable leashes.
- Barking ordinances: All dogs bark, and most campers and campgrounds are very understanding of this. However, if your dog barks uncontrollably or excessively into the night, be aware that some campgrounds may ask you to find lodging elsewhere.
- Aggressive behavior: Pet-friendly campgrounds are a place for pets and their owners to relax safely, which means aggression is not permitted. For the safety of your dog and others, its best to leave your pet at home if you feel they might not respond well to other dogs, new people or unfamiliar surroundings.
If you want to keep your dog entertained while camping, search for a campground that has fun, dog-friendly amenities, such as select KOA locations.
Choose The Best Shoes To Wear Camping
Plan for your shoes to get dirty while camping. If youll be hiking, I recommend investing in a good pair of hiking boots, as the Columbia Newton Ridge boots.
Columbia makes the Newton Ridge boot for men and women. They are incredibly durable and are the best boots under $100! I just replaced my pair after 3 years and hundreds of miles with the exact same pair.
For quick bathroom runs or casual nights around camp, slip-on shoes like Chacos work best. Theres nothing worse than worrying about lacing up shoes in the dark for a midnight bathroom run!
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Prepare Ahead Mashed Potatoes
This is pre-cooking a complete dish and carry them along in air-tight containers. Mashed potatoes is a famous dish or it can be used as a side dish with meat.
This can be prepared entirely ahead and can be reheated and served hot later.
- You can do nearly everything in advance like boil, peel, mash, stir in milk, or butter.
- Boil the potatoes for 30 mins, and check with a knife or a fork.
- Heat half and a half in the microwave.
- Process the boiled potatoes or mix in a food processor in very finely mashed without any lumps. Add half and half and sprinkle salt to taste.
- Mix until it is smooth and fluffy.
- This mixture can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
- Heat before serving
What Do I Do With My Dog While Camping
In addition to all the fun recreational opportunities listed above, you can use your camping trip to bond and build skills with your dog. Pet-friendly campgrounds are a great place to socialize your dog and meet new friends. While taking walks or participating in activities, brush up on training commands, or teach your dog some new tricks. The most important part of camping with your dog is to spend time together. Traveling and disconnecting from everyday life is the perfect time to bond.
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Give Yourself Enough Time
Whatever you do, dont wait until the day before your trip to check everything is in order. Singleton recommends starting the process at least a week before your scheduled trip to give yourself plenty of time to prep or replace your equipment.
We rely on our gear for safety and comfort in the outdoors. If you rely on it too heavily and it fails you, then youre in a bad position, she says.
Be proactive before you head out for the season. That way youll have memories of an unforgettable trip, instead of a lesson from an annoying teachable moment.
Organize Your Gear Into Clear Bins
The best way to store gear is in clear plastic bins. This allows you to quickly see what is in each bin without having to unpack it. I keep all my camping gear in 2 Sterilite 70-quart bins. They are inexpensive and sturdy enough to hold the heavyweight of my camping stove, tent, and more.
I recommend keeping your camp kitchen gear in one bin, including your camp stove, plates, cutting boards, and propane tanks. Keep your tent and sleeping gear in a separate bin with your lanterns and other accessories.
Be Prepared For Nature And Weather
Campers usually face difficulties due to nature and weather conditions. You may meet wild animals in the mountains and jungles. You should be trained to escape from the wild animals. The nature is sometimes cruel, and the weather can be harsh in the wild terrains. So it is essential to carry the weatherproof clothes according to the location of camping.
Practice Setting Up Your Tent
A trial run can help you figure out how to put together your tent, particularly if youll be setting it up alone.
If you have a yard, set up your tent there. If you dont, find a place in your apartment or house with plenty of room .
Most tents come with setup instructions, but I find Youtube to be the most informative for tent setups. Search for your tent model + setup on Youtube to find a tutorial if you need one.
If you want to be extra prepared, stage an at-home campout, either in your apartment or in your backyard. Treat it like the real thing and sleep outside the entire night no going inside to use the bathroom!
If you are practicing on hardwood floors, make sure the poles arent scratching your floors.
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Think About Food In Advance And Plan Meals
If you cook from scratch at home, youll want to eat well when youre under canvas too and with a little bit of planning its not difficult to eat wholesome, nutritious food while camping. Some simple meals we favour are omlettes, salads, stir-fries, pasta or rice with pan fried chicken and veggies theres really no need to resort to cans or packets if you dont want to. A camp stove will set you back about £15 and is well worth the investment and a good cool box will keep food that you take with you fresh if it cant be purchased locally.
Bring Your Own First Aid Kit
Camping and the usual activities that take place on camping trips can get very dangerous sometimes. From small scrapes and cuts to full-fledged injuries, anything is possible.
So, make sure to be prepared and pack your own first aid kit full of medication, bandages, and ointments.
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Make Sure You Can Navigate Without Cell Service
Since most of us use our phones for navigation these days, its important to make sure you can navigate without cell service.
The easiest way to do this is to use the to make a custom map available offline. Google Maps allows you to make a custom map of any area in the world. You can then navigate within that area without cell service, like to your campsite, grocery stores, or even hospitals.
To download a custom Google Map, go to your Google Maps app, click your profile icon, and select Offline Maps from the menu. You can then click Select Your Own Map and drag the box to select any area. I recommend selecting an area that encompasses the entire area you will be passing through.
Look For Gear From Reliable Brands
When choosing camping gear, you want to choose items that will last you for years to come. While it may be a big upfront investment, youre better off choosing high-quality gear from reliable brands at a slightly higher price.
The most-trusted camping brands include MSR, Big Agnes, Therm-a-Rest, Coleman, and REI. For budget-friendly but reliable gear, look at REIs store brand or Coleman.
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Prep And Marinade Before You Head To Camp
A little investment in your meal prep can go a long way once you start cooking at your campsite. Not only will your meals turn out better, theyll be easier to execute.
McDuffie and van Vliet chop their ingredients and prep side dishes like rice to streamline their cooking process at a campsite. They also make cocktails in batches at home, seal them in Mason jars and pack them in a cooler for later imbibing.
For Jimmy Ly, chef and owner of New York restaurants Madame Vo and Madame Vo BBQ, the best camping meal marinated grilled chicken cooked over a portable charcoal grill starts the night before he heads out on a trip.
To marinate five pounds of chicken, Lys family recipe calls for 2 cups soy sauce, a half cup of sugar, 15 cloves garlic minced, 3 tablespoons of MSG, 4 tablespoons of white pepper, 3 tablespoons of garlic powder and a half cup of water.
Its best to do overnight, Ly said. The longer the better. You preserve more flavor.
Its a recipe that comes from a remarkable family history, when eating outside wasnt done for leisure, but survival.
This was the go-to recipe for my dad when he was escaping the war, Ly said. They were living in the forest, hiding from soldiers, and anytime they found meat this was their go-to marinade.
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If its a tight budget thats holding you back, find another excuse. If you want to hit the open road, there are ways you can do so for little money. State and national parks are usually the cheapest places to camp, but you can camp for free on some public land and national forests. Check out the U.S. Bureau of Land Management website to find exact locales. You may only have a primitive toilet, but youll have more cash in your pocket.
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How To Practice Setting Up Camp At Home
As a planner with anxiety, Im a big fan of dry runs. Once Ive practiced at home, I feel a lot more confident that I can handle whatever comes my way when camping.
Making sure you know how to use your gear before your first trip can help you avoid unneeded stress and anxiety. Here are a few tips on practicing at home before your first camping trip.
In A Van Down By The River
At Sun Lotus Yoga Retreat on Vancouver Island, youre invited to commune with nature, others and sleep in a bus. There are also tepees and covered outdoor sleeping pads as well, but the converted hippie bus fascinates us. Situated amongst lush flowers and a lovely paddling lake, it has a sleeping loft and full living area down below. Namaste and beep, beep. Prices vary according to your spiritual needs.
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Keep Headlamps Or Lanterns In Your Tent And In Your Cooking Area
Keeping a lantern or headlamp with your cooking gear ensures you can still cook and clean after dark.
Having a lantern in the tent simplifies changing clothes, reading before bed. Headlamps are excellent for late-night bathroom runs. I like the Black Diamond Moji lantern because it has a hook to hang from the ceiling of the tent. The Black Diamond Storm 400 is a reliable and bright headlamp that will last for years.
Know Best Practices For Wildlife Safety
Wildlife encounters can be one of the most intimidating parts of camping for beginners. But if you follow these simple tips, you can try to avoid wildlife encounters and know how to react if you do have one.
- The first thing to know is that all animals are more scared of you than you are of them. Most often, animals are aggressive when they are surprised. To avoid surprising an animal, make plenty of noise when hiking or walking through the brush near your campsite.
- Animals will occasionally enter campgrounds attracted to the scent of food. To avoid attracting animals, store all food in the provided food storage lockers. You should also dispose of all trash in the campgrounds dumpsters after cooking and before bed.
- If you do see an animal, remain calm and slowly back away. You should always keep at least 25 yards away from less aggressive wildlife. For more aggressive animals like bears and mountain lions keep at least 100 yards away. For more on how to react in wildlife encounters, check out my fellow outdoor blogger Renee Roamings guide on bear safety.
- Store all scented items in the provided food storage locker. Never store scented items like food and toiletries in your car. Bears have been known to break into and destroy vehicles after detecting scented items.
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Choose The Best Camping Gear For Beginners
As a beginner, buying gear can feel overwhelming, particularly when youre starting from scratch. To make it easier on you, Im laying out the exact gear you need and the order you should invest in it.
Before diving into choosing camping gear, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- Do I plan to share a tent with anyone ?
- Do I plan on growing my camping skills and eventually get into other types of camping like backpacking?
- Whats my budget for camping gear?
After you have the sleeping essentials, start investing in your camp kitchen. The first kitchen item campers should invest in is a camp stove, the most practical of which are propane stoves.
Coleman is the most popular camp stove manufacturer. The Coleman Triton 2-burner stove is a great budget option for beginner campers. While it doesnt have as much temperature control as more expensive stoves, its good enough for most camp chefs.
I also have a Jetboil Flash stove for boiling water lightning-fast or as a lightweight backpacking stove.
Headlamps and Lanterns
Getting around camp at night requires added light. I recommend going beyond the basic iPhone flashlight and buying a headlamp and a lantern or two for cooking and in your tent.
My favorite headlamp is the Black Diamond Storm 400. The best lanterns for hanging from your tent or illuminating your cook surface are the Black Diamond Moji lanterns. I love that they have hooks to hang from my tent!
Ground Control To Major Bonn
Out of the creative mind of a movie set designer came BaseCamp Bonn, the giant indoor campground/youth hostel with 16 wildly themed vintage caravans, two-night sleepers, two Airstreams and what they call oddities, like this tent atop a Trabant. Its like being on one kooky Sid & Marty Krofft adventure with beds and coffee and alcohol. Sign us up. Trips start at roughly $45 a night.
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Tips For Preparing A Site For Camping
So, you’re planning to leave the comfort of your home to get in touch with nature and spend a few nights outdoors? Before heading out into the wilderness, you’ll want to take a few minutes to plan what you’ll need. The first question to ask when preparing for a camping trip is whether you’re pitching a tent in a campground or hiking into the backcountry. If you’re embarking on a several-day backpacking expedition, you’ll probably want to leave that eight-person dome tent at home, and instead opt for a lightweight tent, or even a bivouac sack.
Wherever you choose to go camping, there are a few general rules to follow. First, leave as little impact on the land as possible. You also want to practice good fire safety when setting up your campfire and cooking area. And you need to make sure your food doesn’t attract bears and other critters. Of course, you have to choose a campsite before any of these rules apply, so read on for our guide to preparing a safe, comfortable campsite where you can get a good night’s sleep.
Invest In A Thick Sleeping Pad
A sleeping pad has the biggest impact on your sleep quality when camping. If youre a sensitive sleeper and like a soft mattress at home, I recommend investing in a quality sleeping pad.
For beginners, I recommend picking an inflatable sleeping pad. It saves room when storing and is lighter weight. Sleeping pads are rated on the amount of insulation they provide, called the R-value. You should look for a sleeping pad with a 2 to 2.5 R-value.
Therm-a-Rest is one of the most popular sleeping pad providers out there. I use the Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro sleeping pad. It has been a game-changer for me when it comes to getting quality sleep while camping. Its silent when I roll around at night and provides plenty of cushion with both an inflatable body and memory foam.
Check Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro Sleeping Pad price at REI
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