Monday, December 2, 2013

When Is It Winter Camping?

P1060646Winter is associated with migration, hibernation, changes in animal behavior, plants becoming dormant, and humans experiencing special health concerns ranging from hypothermia to seasonal depression. Winter even invokes its own special vocabularies to describe the conditions (e.g. black ice, whiteouts, and corn snow).

Descriptions of winter camping depend on geographic location, opportunities to go camping and desire to impress your friends and relatives. There are groups from northern Canada to the Ozarks that claim winter camping experience, although I am sure their conditions and experiences are greatly different.

How you define winter camping might depend on your definition of ‘winter’.

Meteorological or thermological winter is defined as the three month period associated with the coldest average temperatures so the start of meteorological winter can change depending on how far north one lives. This corresponds to the months of December, January and February in the Northern Hemisphere and June, July and August in the Southern Hemisphere.

Astronomically, winter can be defined as beginning on the winter solstice, the day of the year which has fewest hours of daylight, and ending on the following equinox. In the USA this defines winter as roughly beginning December 21 or 22 and ending about March 20 or 21.

The organization with perhaps the most winter camping experience or at least participants, the Boys Scouts of America, define cold weather camping as taking place when the temperature is below 50F and involves cold, wet and/or windy conditions.

Many view permanent snow cover and/or ice as a critical aspect of winter camping, requiring cross-country skis or snowshoes to traverse the winter landscape.

One might decide that winter camping is camping which requires specialized cold weather gear such as show shovels, white gas stoves, crampons, insulated clothing and four season tents and/or require specialized skills such as building snow shelters.

Regardless of your location, most agree that nighttime dominates the winter season and lower temperatures are part of the equation. Dealing with the weather, cold temperatures and inclement conditions challenge a winter camper’s physical comfort.

Winter camping has been described as a time when one switched from “camping to enable hiking to hiking to enable camping.”

Regardless of the definition you chose, winter camping provides an opportunity to be out of doors 24 hours a day. Winter camping is not an end in itself; it is merely the vehicle that allows us to enjoy being outside.

Everyone fears being cold. I dislike being cold just as much as the next person and so I take care to prevent that from happening. When winter camping is done right you won’t be cold. So go and get to it.

 


Jim Muller

Jim Muller is an avid Adirondack winter camper who publishes WinterCampers.com. The site features news, information and tips and tricks for winter campers, along with stories and photos from his own adventures.

Jim has recently been taking canoe trips around the ADKs, documenting his trips on www.jimmuller.com. Visit WinterCampers.com to find out more about the joys of winter camping.




4 Responses

  1. Tom says:

    WinterCampers.com is a great resource. For me, winter camping means a snowpack requiring skis or snowshoes and temps below freezing. I certainly wouldn’t go winter camping without snow.

  2. Paul K says:

    Bring on the snow. every year on the weekend following the super bowl, 18-20 of us venture out and set up a 30 foot longhouse made out of tarps and 2″ metal poles, with a few truck loads of fire wood, we cook everything on the fire, turkeys, pig roast ect.we just have a blast, the colder the better. Yes it is car camping, but just being outside and fighting the elements and eating like kings, just awesome.

  3. bill says:

    Yes it is car camping, but just being outside and fighting the elements and eating like kings, just awesome.

    No apology needed….it is great to be out there

  4. Paul says:

    “Boys Scouts of America, define cold weather camping as taking place when the temperature is below 50F and involves cold, wet and/or windy condition”

    Sounds a little like summer camping in much of the Adirondacks!