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  • Writer's pictureThis Maple Life

Winter Backcountry Camping: Tips, Insights, and Our Top Gear Picks

Updated: Feb 22

Winter backcountry camping is a cool experience, but it can be tricky. Whether you're a pro or trying it for the first time, good planning and the right gear are super important for a fun and safe trip. Check out our tips and favorite gear. No matter if you're a seasoned adventurer or a newbie, this guide will help you have a safe and cozy winter adventure. Let's explore the winter wilderness together!

winter camping in BC, tents on the snow,

Table of Contents

Winter Camping Tips

  • Check Avalanche Reports:

Before embarking on your winter camping trip, stay updated on avalanche reports for the area to ensure safety.

  • Trail Familiarization:

Get acquainted with the trail or route you plan to follow to navigate confidently through winter terrain.

  • Inform Someone:

If camping solo, share your trip details with someone, including your itinerary and expected return time. Hike and camp in groups whenever possible.

  • Quality Cold-Weather Gear:

Invest in high-quality gear suitable for cold nights, including a cold-rated sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and a 4-season tent.

  • Leave No Trace:

Adhere to Leave No Trace principles to minimize your environmental impact during winter camping.

  • Snow Footwear:

Equip yourself with snow booties or insulated boots, depending on the conditions you anticipate.

  • Smart Tent Placement:

Set up your tent in a sheltered spot to shield against wind, and be cautious of avalanche-prone areas in mountainous regions.

  • Warmth Essentials:

Pack hand and foot warmers for extra comfort and warmth in chilly conditions.

  • Hot Water Bottle Hack:

Fill a Nalgene bottle with boiling water and place it inside your sleeping bag to stay warm during the night.

  • Snow Wall Wind Break:

Create a snow wall around your tent to act as a windbreak, reducing wind chill and enhancing insulation.

  • High-Calorie Meals:

Pack high-calorie meals to maintain energy levels in the cold, demanding conditions of winter camping.

  • Waterproof Outer Layer:

Wear a waterproof and breathable outer layer to stay warm and dry in snowy and wet conditions.

  • Charged Electronics:

Carry a fully charged cellphone and a portable battery, as winter conditions can deplete battery life quickly.

  • Gear Testing:

Before embarking on your winter camping trip, test your gear at a local mountain to ensure everything functions as expected in real winter conditions.

  • Emergency Kit:

Essential items for unexpected situations.

Winter Camping Insights

If you decide to go backcountry camping, the key is planning and caution. Before heading out, research and monitor the weather days in advance to anticipate the conditions you'll face. Check if the terrain is avalanche-prone and prepare your gear accordingly. Ensure you have enough food and an emergency kit in case unforeseen circumstances prevent you from returning as planned, especially if you're alone. Equipping yourself with a GPS and a means to call for help is crucial when going solo. In a group, distributing the load can avoid carrying duplicates of items like stoves, shovels, or tents. As an additional tip, when parking your vehicle, leave a note on the windshield with your name, estimated return date, and an emergency number so that, in case of issues, someone can alert others about your absence. If you're exploring avalanche-prone terrain, a course and specialized equipment, such as a transceiver, shovel, and probe, are imperative. Study your route thoroughly and have alternative plans for challenging terrain. Know your limits and be aware of the inherent risks in every expedition. It's not necessary to reach your planned destination if conditions make it perilous; returning safely takes precedence. Finally, enjoy the journey, stay hydrated, and keep dry and warm at all times.

Winter Camping Top Gear Picks

Winter camping in British Columbia demands robust and reliable gear to navigate through diverse landscapes and varying conditions. Here are our top gear picks to ensure a comfortable, safe, and enjoyable winter camping experience:

  • Avalanche Safety Gear: 

If venturing into avalanche terrain, carry a beacon, probe, and shovel, and know how to use them. 

  • Backpack: 

Choose a backpack with sufficient capacity for winter gear and features like ski or snowshoe attachments. 

  • Snowshoes or Crampons:

Depending on the terrain, bring snowshoes for hiking in deep snow or crampons and poles for icy surfaces. Also consider skiis or splitboards for longer trips.

  • Winter Boots:

Choose proper winter insulated boots or mountaineering boots based on your planned activities.

  • Gaiters: 

Gaiters help keep snow out of your boots, especially when trudging through deep snow. 

  • Emergency Communication:

Have a Garmin GPS for emergency communication, ensuring you can call for help if needed.

  • Recommended Gear:

Consider top-notch equipment such as MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes, Klymit Insulated Static V™ Sleeping Pad, and MSR Access Tent.

  • Stove Considerations:

Opt for a 4-season canister for your stove to ensure reliable cooking in winter conditions.

  • Headlamp and Batteries:

Always bring a headlamp with spare batteries to illuminate your surroundings during the long winter nights.

To stay warm and protected during winter backcountry camping, it is crucial to use appropriate layers that allow you to regulate temperature and stay dry. Here is a guide to the recommended layers:

  • Base Layer:

Material: Polypropylene, merino wool, or synthetic fabrics.

Purpose: Absorb and evaporate sweat from the skin to keep it dry.

Tip: Avoid cotton, as it retains moisture.

  • Mid Layer:

Material: Wool, fleece, or synthetic fabrics.

Purpose: Insulate and retain body heat.

Tip: Adjust the number of layers based on the temperature.

  • Outer Layer:

Material: Waterproof and breathable jackets and pants (e.g., Gore-Tex).

Purpose: Protect against wind, rain, or snow.

Tip: Look for garments with ventilation to prevent heat buildup.

  • Insulating Layer:

Material: Down or synthetic insulating materials.

Purpose: Provide an additional layer of warmth.

Tip: Lightweight and compressible for easy transport.

  • Accessories:

Hat and Gloves: Keep the head and hands warm.

Scarf or Neck Gaiter: Protect the neck from wind and cold.

Thermal Socks: Keep feet warm and dry.

Sunglasses: Protect eyes from intense sunlight and snow reflection.

Remember to adjust layers according to weather conditions and your level of activity. It is essential to maintain a balance to avoid overheating or hypothermia. Additionally, use quick-drying garments and avoid cotton as it retains moisture and can cool you down rapidly.

To Wrap Up

As we conclude this guide, remember that winter backcountry camping is a thrilling yet challenging endeavour. Our insights are shaped by firsthand experiences, and we encourage you to embark on your own adventures armed with this knowledge. Always prioritize safety, be well-prepared, and adapt to the dynamic nature of the outdoors. Winter landscapes are uniquely enchanting, offering a canvas for unforgettable experiences. We wish you warmth, wonder, and countless memories in your winter backcountry pursuits.

Happy camping!

***The information in this guide is derived from our own experiences in winter backcountry camping and the lessons we've learned along the way. While we aim to provide helpful insights, every outdoor adventure is unique, and conditions can vary. Readers should exercise caution, evaluate their own capabilities, and seek additional information as needed. The authors are not responsible for any personal injury, property damage, or other consequences resulting from the use of this information. Use this guide as a resource alongside your own judgment and knowledge, always prioritize safety for a rewarding backcountry experience.


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