5 winter camping tips to get you out and about in the snow

Winter camping
North of 60 members train for winter camping.
Photo courtesy North of Sixty

Interested in winter camping? Check out these tips from Kurt Mead, an interpretive naturalist at Tettegouche State Park on Minnesota’s North Shore.

Mead spoke with avid outdoorswoman Miah Ulysse, who works as a program manager at the Wilder Foundation, and host Cathy Wurzer.

Tip No. 1: It’s all about the sleeping bag!

Mead said that while a lot of winter campers double-bag their sleeping bags for added insulation, he’s found the sleeping-bag-inside-a-sleeping-bag to be too tight for him. And the lack of extra room diminishes the insulative value of the sleeping bag, he said.

“I’ve got a larger bag rated down to 30 below that I’ve invested in just for this sort of thing,” Mead said.

Tip No. 2: Add extra insulation between you and the ground

Using two sleeping pads is key, Mead said. It helps reduce the loss of heat through conduction.

“You want a little bit more insulation from the ground than you would want in a summer,” Mead said.

And you want to avoid using only sleeping pads or mattresses filled with air, Ulysse said.

“I thought I was being comfy and cushy [using an air mattress],” she said. “But in reality, it’s just like this big, cold air pocket that keeps you cold all night long.”

Tip No. 3: Save money by renting whatever you don’t have

Both the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Duluth campuses offer camping gear rentals, including cold-weather gear.

Tip No. 4: Don’t get too sweaty

Both Mead and Ulysse agreed that winter camping is hard work. And sometimes, hard work comes with sweat. But if your clothes are all sweaty, those wet layers are going to get cold fast once you stop moving around.

“I really encourage a layering system for your clothing,” Mead said. “It's kind of nice to have a big, heavy layer for when you're sitting around a campfire at night or after the hard work is done. But really, really, really important to not get too sweaty and bring extra layers in case your clothes get wet.”

Tip No. 5: Do a trial run in your backyard

“That’s a good way to try out your equipment without a lot of effort,” Mead said.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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