The best camping season, IHO, starts when the snow flies. Here’s why you should consider winter camping.
by Leon Pantenburg
In July, 1981, I hiked north along the Mississippi River in Louisiana. I was headed home after an end-to-end canoe trip of the big river the previous year. I decided to follow the example of the 1840s keelboaters, who walked home on the Natchez Trace after selling their cargo in New Orleans. My intention was to walk to Iowa from Louisiana on the levees.
It was miserable. If I didn’t walk in the sun, on top of the bank in the 100-degree heat, the mosquitoes would carry me away. I had to set up my camp early, because as soon as the sun started going down, clouds of biters descended. I’d crawl inside the sweltering tent, and lay sweating on top of my sleeping bag.
I’ll take six feet of snow, and a bivouac in an igloo or tarp shelter anytime over hot weather summer camping.
Here are some reasons why a prepper/survivalist should think about camping during cold weather, in deep snow.
No bugs: (See It was miserable.) I hate sweating, heat and humidity and swatting mosquitoes. If you go to parts of northern Minnesota and Canada in the summer, you’ll end up fighting swarms of No-Seeums and black flies. And the mosquitoes appear in clouds during the brief summers on the Alaskan tundra. There are no nasty, biting insects in winter camping.
Camp in formerly inaccessible areas: Like swamps. When the ground is frozen, you can go into areas that may have be marsh or wetlands during the summer. You can cross frozen streams and rivers that might have been barriers during warm weather. You’ll open up a whole new area of possibilities.
No crowds: Ever ended up at a campsite that was crowded with drunk partiers and their loud music and noise? These people stay inside when it gets cold and play video games, watch football and play beer pong. You won’t see them in the woods.
Solitude: Come nice weather, all popular campsites will be packed with other urban escapees. In the winter, you may be only one there. This gives the opportunity for sitting around a campfire (generally, with no danger of forest fire) and enjoying just being there.
See more wildlife: The solitude encourages animals to move around more naturally. You’ll get to see more of them, acting as they normally would.
Food doesn’t go bad: You’ll still need a good cooler, but during the winter, it will be to keep your food from freezing. And you won’t have to fight off the flies from landing on the ingredients when you’re cooking.
Check out gear: Find out if that sleeping bag is really rated to 0 degrees. Or if that propane stove will light when frozen. Or if those boots will keep your feet warm. Use your winter gear, and find out if it’s dependable before you have to use it during an emergency.
Practice emergency survival: When (Not if!) the stuff ever hits the fan, Murphy says it will happen at the worst possible time. If you live in the Midwest, you should be concerned about the New Madrid earthquake fault, and having to evacuate your home during a blizzard. On the west coast, there is the San Andrus and the Cascadia subduction zone. The United States is one big earthquake zone, so plan accordingly.
Prepare for hunting season: You may start out elk hunting in beautiful, summer-like weather that turns into a blizzard. Been there, done that. Practicing winter camping will prepare you for any weather extreme.
Develop self confidence: Help a kid achieve something that was hard to do, and they gain confidence in their ability to do other hard things. I see this a lot after a youngster successfully completes his first winter campout.
Bragging rights and great memories: Most people can’t imagine going outside in the winter. Really. So when you go back to work or school after a weekend of snow camping, you can dominate the “What did you do this weekend?” conversation around the water cooler. Besides, what’s interesting about a weekend spent in front of a computer screen gaming?
Don’t pass up one of the best times of the year for outdoor adventures – go outside, and try winter camping!
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