My Winter Camping Checklist

Scott N., trail name The North Face and ecommerce specialist at Cat5 Commerce, shares his winter hiking experience.

As we’ve done for the past six years now, my cousin and I ventured out to a new camping ground in the middle of January. And this year was much better than last.

Last year, we dealt with rain and a tornado in January. Not fun. This year, we had about 6 inches of snow under our tent. Yes, that *is* better than stormy weather.

We left after work on Friday, Jan. 21 and had a nice fire roaring by 10 p.m. It was one of the coldest nights of the year. Seriously. The local news said it was supposed to get down to negative numbers with the wind chill. So, why were we out there? To test our will power, of course. Luckily, I had all my new North Face gear.

Here’s a checklist of my winter hiking gear:

  • The North Face Dhaulagiri II GTX
  • The North Face Elkhorn Sleeping Bag
  • The North Face Meadowland 6 Tent
  • The North Face Galaxy Triclimate Jacket
  • Marmot Palisades Pants
  • Gordini 2-in-1 Gore-Tex Gloves
  • Rockport Trillium CT Boots
  • Military-issued Polypropylene Pants
  • Military-issued Neck Gator
  • Military-issued Polartec Beanie

The first night, I used a zero-degree and a 30-degree sleeping bag together. I woke up the next morning sweating, so I decided to put the 30-degree sleeping bag away and just used the zero-degree sleeping bag for the second night. As we slowly woke up and removed ourselves from the sleeping bags, we discussed what we would do for the rest of the day.

We decided to hike and camp at Klondike State Park (pictured above). You’ll definitely want to follow some of the signs they post along the hiking trails, like “Don’t Step on the Ice.” I’m glad I packed my Gore-Tex pants, waterproof and insulated TNF boots and my TNF Triclimate coat. It was definitely necessary for the 8-plus inches of snow we trudged through. Although the hike wasn’t very long or treacherous, there was something definitely amiss with the wildlife. We kept wondering if deer and other animals had a little too much to drink the night prior. We saw several track marks that swerved back and forth and made random complete U-turns.

After the hike, we had a lot of boxes and firewood to go through. We made a bonfire, cooked on my 20-inch skillet and had a great lunch and dinner. That night, after deciding to use only the zero-degree sleeping bag, I jumped in it expecting to have to wait a few minutes for it to warm up. Not this one. As soon as I zipped up, it trapped my body heat in and was instantly warm. I had a great night’s sleep that night. The next morning was fun. We were juggling starting a fire, making breakfast and packing everything up to leave all while it started snowing heavily again.

By the time we had everything ready to go, another 2 to 3 inches had accumulated. Luckily we packed up everything in time. If you’re going to camp in the middle of winter, make sure you bring plenty of food, materials to build a fire and keep it going, and plenty of warm layers.

What is your favorite winter-hiking gear? Is there something you never leave home without?

One Comment on “My Winter Camping Checklist

  1. It takes some grit to make it through a night camping when the temps go on the other side of zero! You were lucky you had good enough stuff to stay warm through the night.

    I just got back from a winter camping trip, though the temps when I was out were in the low 20’s we were fighting 2 feet of snow. We built a Quinzee (You can see it on my site if you want to: http://www.kd8itx.com/blog/2011/02/winter-survivalism-trip/), but in the process we got wet building it and had to resort to our backup plan which was staying in a nice cabin just down the way.

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