This counts as our legit winter camping adventure – there was a sort winter camping trip but this trip involved actual snow, was crazy cold and a blizzard that came through on our way out. This was an overnight trip in Feb (at Raccoon Creek State Park) that came to be b/c a friend of mine wanted to experiment with some winter camping equipment. Ex: new stove that she got/ built, shelters, cold weather gear. There were just 4 of us camping for this trip, which worked out perfectly for our outer shelter.
Main strategies for winter camping:
(1) Don’t sweat into your clothing.
(2) Bring appropriate and enough insulation/gear.
(3) Stay well fed and hydrated.
(4) Know the plan and backup plans.
(5) Enjoy the winter!
(1) Damp clothes are not warm and comfortable.
- take off insulating layers before start hiking/doing active chores (setting up camp, gathering firewood) and wear your base+outer layers – you will only feel cold for a few minutes before the movement warms you up
- put on insulating layer when standing around/sitting (taking breaks during hike, standing at table to prepare food, sitting around the stove/fire)
- change into dry, clean clothing for bed (socks!!!, shirt, pants, hat)
- if sweaty, wipe yourself off with a towel before changing into dry clothes
More discussion and winter camping/backpacking tips:
(2) Do not bring jeans.
Required Personal Gear:
- sleeping pad(s) – 1 CCF foam pad for everyone, inflatables to taste
- cold/cool weather sleeping bag (+ blankets to taste)
- sheltered sleeping space dibs (tent, hammock, igloo etc.)
- dry, clean, sleeping-only socks
- dry, clean pajamas
- hot liquid container for drinking (travel mug or thermos)
- removable insulating layers (so can take off to avoid sweating in them)
- wind/precipitation-blocking outer top layer (regardless of weather)
- wind/precipitation-blocking outer bottom layer (if snow > 3in or precipitation is forecasted)
- 2 pairs of hand-protection (gloves &/or mittens x2; so one pair can dry out)
- warm hat for wearing during day, scarf optional
- warm footwear
- personal light (headlamp, flashlight)
Recommended Personal Gear:
- non-insulated liquid container with bombproof lid/hot water bottle (put boiling water in, wrap in extra clothing then put in foot of sleeping bag)
- bottom & top base layers (day long-johns)
- bottom & top insulating layers (wear when you aren’t moving & sweating)
- extra warm hat for sleeping (can be lightweight)
- Personal utensils
- Personal bowl or plate
(3) Prepare food and water ahead of time as needed, make sure to have plenty of water.
(4) Our Plan:
- Friday afternoon, drive to Raccoon Creek State Park (40-50min drive)
- Upon arrival: setup camp and scout the area (find start of Heron Trail in daylight)
- Early evening: make ‘n’ eat dinner
- Late evening: go night hiking (Heron Trail to upper lake/dam, 1-1.5mi round trip)
- Return from hike: fire up stove to dry out gloves, socks; change into dry PJ’s, hang out and chat until stove dies out
- Sleep outdoors!
- Wake up, make breakfast
- Pack up camp & explore more as desired
Park information and maps:
Our Backup Plan: If road/impending weather conditions are unacceptable, or park access is not sufficiently plowed then meet in Schenley or Frick park for some evening sledding and a picnic
6 Tips to Keep Warm for Winter Camping
Hiking Article: Hardergrat – The Best Hike in the World?
Winter Camping Article: 4d at Silent Lake Provincial Park
Clean burning wood stove and How to start a wood stove from top down video
The first day/ night was great as far as no blizzards or current snowing action. It was still really cold but at least we had clear conditions to set up our tents, tarp shelter, chop wood and make our stove fire. Did some exploring around the site but ended up not going on the night hike. Chopping wood was quite a workout! Took longer than expected.
We hung out in our sweet little base camp. The stove turned out to be amazing, it kept us really warm and cooked pretty well. The night ended up being really nice, I slept well and kept super warm. I ended up having to delayer a lot. I had my down sleeping bag inside another sleeping bag, wool socks, a base layer of pants with fleece pants over them, a t-shirt under a long sleeved lightweight shirt, fleece hoodie and a fleece hat.
Woke up to this!
The final day was probably the most eventful day involving snow and driving home. After we packed up and started to make our way home we got stuck/ snowed in. We broke out the car mats and gravel and everything. As soon as we pulled out of the campground we hit a crazy blizzard. We were driving in total white out conditions.
Made it back safely and was to have a nice hot shower.