Give your spring camping or backpacking trip a cold weather makeover

Give your spring camping or backpacking trip a cold weather makeover

Camping and backpacking in the snow

The western U.S. has experienced record-breaking snowfall this winter. So much so that some Utah ski resorts have had to close because there is too much snow

Closures aside, it’s been a pretty exciting winter for snow sport enthusiasts. But what about those of us who can’t wait to hit the trails or have plans to camp or backpack this spring? This unusual snowfall could impact those plans.

Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Snow camping is an adventure in and of itself. And while you may need to make a few modifications, there is no need to cancel your trip. 

Here are our top tips for giving your trip a winter makeover:


1. Modify your trip. If the trails are covered in snow, you’ll probably want to swap your regular hiking shoes for a pair of snowshoes and trekking poles. Snowshoeing is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot slower than regular hiking. In fact, the average snowshoe trek takes about twice as long. You’ll want to adjust your trip accordingly, as you won’t be able to make it as far each day and don’t want to be stuck hiking in the dark. 

2. Invest in winter gear. This may be the most obvious tip, but you’re going to need gear that will keep you warm no matter the temperature outside. Check the weather in advance, and be sure to choose a sleeping bag that is rated for temperatures a minimum of 10 degrees F lower than forecasted. Choose a thick sleeping pad- or even bring two- to put some extra distance between you and the snow. Your typical 3 season tent should be fine unless you expect especially extreme weather, but make sure it has good ventilation- the last thing you want is condensation buildup while you sleep. 

You’ll also want to make sure you have the proper gear to melt snow, both for drinking water and for cooking purposes. Be sure to test your gear before you leave to ensure everything works correctly and you know exactly how to use it. It’s not a bad idea to bring some backups as well- melting snow takes more fuel than your average cooking needs, and cold weather could slow things down as well.

Finally, you might want to add some hand and toe warmers to your safety kit. 

3. Dress for the weather, but don’t overdo it. Layers are going to be your best friend, and it is better to overpack than under pack here. But you also want to be deliberate about when you use them. While hiking, try to remove layers before you begin to sweat, as that moisture will freeze later and make it much more difficult to warm up at the end of the day. If your clothes do get sweaty, make sure you change as soon as possible- and definitely before you head in for the night.

4. Fuel Properly. Snowshoeing may be about 50% slower than hiking, but it also takes about 50% more energy. You’ll want to be sure to pack plenty of extra food- which likely won’t end up being extra at all. Calorically dense freeze-dried food is an excellent option on colder trips, as it will give you the nutrients you need while also providing a little extra warmth. As always, make sure you’re also drinking plenty of water.

5. Choose the right campsite. Try to pitch your tent in a location that will be sheltered from wind, but also receive the earliest light from the sunrise. You’ll want all of the sun exposure you can get! Pack the snow down before you pitch your tent, and consider building snow walls for extra wind protection. 

6. Do your research. Again, it is always better to be over prepared. If you’re venturing into an area where an avalanche is even a slight possibility, make sure you have the right safety gear and are trained to handle an extreme situation. 

At the end of the day, don’t let the cold weather scare you. Winter hiking and camping can be especially magical, and the trails are sure to be quieter. It’s perfectly safe if you are properly prepared, and we don’t think you’ll regret getting out there.