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Cold Weather Backpacking

man ventures through the snow(c) All Camping Stuff

People can have many reasons for backpacking during the cold season. Some may enjoy the fact that very few people do it during this time of the year and that can be a good thing to truly enjoy the wilderness without too much crowd.

To some it may only be the time of the year that they can do it because of how busy they are the rest of the year. And though it may sound like backpacking in the wintertime may have more disadvantages than advantages, here’s a few of the perks you can only get when hiking during the cold weather season:

  • Fewer bugs. Mosquitoes and ticks tend to go dormant during this time of the year, so camping is more bug-free
  • Fewer people. As mentioned above, most people have better things to do during wintertime than backpacking, so the trail and the camping site is all yours for the taking
  • Spectacular view. If you are sick and tired of the same kind of view every time you hike, then maybe it’s time to reconsider hiking during the winter season. What looks like your normal green scenery can turn into something dramatic and enchanted when it’s all covered in snow

Backpack Size and Not Overpacking

List of backpacking gear(c) Trial by Trail

While it’s true that backpacking during the cold weather season may require you to bring more clothes/gear than usual, bringing the right kind of gear and equipment will help you pack less than expected.

To most seasoned backpackers, a base weight of less than 30 pounds is good enough for you to still enjoy your adventure without even having to think about how heavy your backpack is.

With that in mind, let's tackle the basic things to have in your possession on this awesome adventure.

For gear, you can start with:

  1. A sturdy tent
  2. Warm sleeping bag
  3. One or two sleeping pads
  4. Cooking stove suited for cold temperatures

Those are your basic gear. Another important thing to always consider during these kinds of adventures is how exactly you should suit up.

Let's walk you through the core guidelines:

  • It is recommended to dress in layers that you can easily take off in case of weather changes and different activities that you might have in mind.
  • Speaking of layers, you can start by wearing a light base for both upper and lower body. Closest to the skin can be a synthetic long-sleeved top.
  • You can add a midweight layer on the upper followed by a fleece vest or jacket. Some backpackers even remove the last 2 layers when they are on the move to increase mobility so you can do that as well.
  • Don’t forget to wear waterproof exteriors for your jacket and pants, especially if you’re planning to trek on a snowy trail or there are reports of possible snow or rain during your trip.
  • Another thing to remember is to bring a hat and a good pair of warm gloves or mittens. Mittens could work better if it gets uber cold since they are warmer than gloves.
  • If your hands tend to sweat a lot, you can wear latex or nitrile gloves before your actual gloves to keep them dry.
  • One tip to consider is wearing oven bags over your feet so you can keep your socks dry during your winter adventure.
  • Anything that you might think you would need to take out more often can be placed outside of your pack for easy access.
  • It is imperative that you always keep yourself dry and warm when backpacking on a cold weather to avoid health complications.

 Outdoor Shelter and Sleep

setting up a tent in the snow for an awesome shelter and sleep(c) Switch Back Travel

When choosing what kind of tent to bring, it is best to go with something that is suited for the winter season.

Size is also a good factor to consider since a smaller tent is easier to set up and can be heated faster than a big tent.

How fast it is to set up is important since temperatures can go down very quickly when the sun sets. A tent that has multiple layers than you can zip down is also advisable in case of sudden weather changes.

Sleeping bags and pads could also spell the difference between a good night’s sleep and a bad one. For cold weather it is advised that you bring the fattest sleeping bag and pad as possible to make yourself comfortable during your rest time.

Nutrition and Hydration During Your Trip

freeze-dried goodness from peak refuel(c) Clark Aegerter on Freeze-Dried Hiking Meals

Hydration could not be stressed enough during a winter season backpacking adventure. It is a known fact that your body uses more fluids to keep you warm in cold weather, so it is very important to regularly replace those lost fluids to prevent dehydration.

Place your liquids in insulated canisters if necessary to prevent freezing.
You also need to make sure to bring enough food that would allow you to regain lost energy after a long hike.

Make sure to put your winter stove to good use by cooking delicious and nutritious food on your trip. Snack bars and chips can be stored in front pockets for easy access in case you’re already hungry while you’re still on-the-go.

Final Thoughts

a lady just having a fun hike in the snow(c) Olena Kachmar

In conclusion winter backpacking is not bad at all -- considering that you have prepared well and brought all the necessary gear with you.

Chances are you might even be leaning towards it more than your regular summer trail.

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