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How to Plan Your First Winter Camping Adventure

Oh, waking up to the sound of birds chirping in the morning, warm sun rays inviting you to go barefoot through the crystal dew drops hanging by each grass thread, the smell of last night’s campfire still lingering in the air…it’s all those little things that make camping such a magical experience.

Too bad winter is coming… Should you stop doing what you love once the first snowflakes begin to fall? No! Even though they may appear as warm-weather outdoor activities, not all of them are limited to summer months. Sure, we all know that hiking is a year-round activity. But have you ever considered snow camping or winter paddle boarding?

winter camping

Winter surfing spots like Norway, the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, Iceland, and Alaska welcome water sports enthusiasts who are not afraid to get a little wet even if they are surrounded by snow and the air temperature is below freezing. Sometimes, these surfing spots are so remote that there’s no other option except camping.

Whether you decide to do it on a narrow mountain ridge, go snowshoeing through the forest and set up camp by a lake you plan to paddle board on (if it’s not already frozen!), follow my tips and tricks to make your first winter camping adventure a success!

Choose the right winter camping equipment

winter camping

Winter hiking and camping are quite different from their summertime counterparts. To start with, you need to layer up. This means a base layer (thermal underwear), an insulating layer (the one that’s actually keeping you warm), and the outer layer, or shell (the windproof, waterproof and breathable layer that protects you from the weather).

While trekking, skiing or paddle boarding, you might feel comfortable even at -15°C (5°F). But that also means that you’ll be sweating, and you’ll want your clothes to be able to evacuate all that perspiration effectively. Once you stop moving, you should not feel wet and should have some warm clothes to throw on, including a goose down jacket, gloves and hat. These items can take up quite a lot of space, which is why you should start with choosing an appropriate backpack.

winter campingWinter backpack

When winter camping, you need to carry extra gear and clothes that take up a lot of space. Your backpack should have enough room to accommodate all that, but not be too bulky. Make sure the backpack is lightweight and fits your size. I’m 1,60 m (5’2’’), and a 60-liter backpack is the maximum I can handle. Also, try to pack the bare minimum. Winter hiking is hard work as it is, and you wouldn’t want to be carrying too much weight.

Make sure the backpack has lash points so you can attach snowshoes, trekking poles, snow shovel, skis, crampons, ice axe, etc. Split the tent between your trekking partners. You can attach the poles to the outside of your backpack, and you can do the same with your sleeping pad (just make sure you use a waterproof cover for it).

Winter sleeping bag

Goose down is superior to synthetic insulation, but it is also more expensive. You must also make sure to keep it dry, or it will not do such a good job at keeping you warm. As a rule of thumb, choose a sleeping bag that is rated at least 10 °C below the minimum temperature you expect to encounter. Read the labels carefully and see the ratings for comfort, limit, and extreme.

The comfort rating means the lowest temperature at which you will not feel cold and will be able to sleep in a relaxed posture.  The limit is when you are fighting the cold but are not shivering. Your posture will most likely be curled up inside the sleeping bag, but you are not at any risk just yet. However, this is not very comfortable, and if you have a strenuous trek the next day, you will not wake up feeling refreshed.

The extreme rating is the lowest temperature at which the sleeping bag can protect you from frostbites. I’m telling you, sleeping in these conditions is out of the question – you are shivering and literally fighting to stay warm.

There have been a couple of times when I had to use the emergency blanket inside the sleeping bag because I was simply too cold. And I still couldn’t get any sleep. But hey, I survived the night, right? That doesn’t mean that I want to do it again, though. I learned my lesson and I now postpone my treks when temperatures around -33 °C (-27 °F) are expected.

Winter sleeping pad

While some may recommend using two sleeping pads one over the other for extra insulation, they can take up too much space. That’s why it’s best to get one that can withstand the weather on its own.

Sleeping pads are rated using an R-value indicator, that can be between 1.0 and 8.0. The higher the value the better the insulation. Unfortunately, an R-value over 5.0 usually means bulky inflatable mattresses that are better suited for RV camping. Closed-cell foam pads and self-inflating pads with an R-value between 4.0 and 4.9 should do a pretty good job at keeping you warm.

winter camping

Winter tent

Four-season tents are the most popular option when it comes to snow camping. Opt for double-wall tents, as they do a far better job at maintaining the warmth and provide better ventilation, which means less condensation (water drops by night and snowflakes in the morning over your sleeping bag).

Make sure you pack down the snow before setting up your tent. Loose snow might melt over the night and result in an uncomfortable sleeping position. Keep in mind that it’s always better to sleep on snow than on rock or ice. Not only will it provide a more comfortable surface for sleeping, but also snow is a very poor heat conductor and thus a good insulator.

Backpacking Stove

Canister stoves are the go-to option for three-season camping. They are lightweight, easy to use and readily accessible. But come wintertime, canisters can struggle in freezing temperatures. Luckily, there are special winter butane-propane mixes that work quite well regardless of the temperatures. They are more expensive,  but certainly worth it if you are not planning to stay for too many nights or do a lot of cooking.

The performance of liquid-fuel stoves does not depend on the temperatures. White gas is readily available in most outdoor gear shops, and there’s also the option of using autogas. However, if the latter is not clean, the debris might cause the stove to clog.

They may be a little trickier to operate, but liquid-fuel stoves remain the best option for multi-day winter camping trips, as they work just as well in bitterly cold temperatures as they do in summer. Furthermore, they perform well in windy conditions when covered with a windscreen, whereas covering canisters can lead to overheating.

Useful winter camping tips & tricks
(some learned the hard way)

winter campingSleep with your boots inside your sleeping bag

Never leave your boots in your tent vestibule. In the best case scenario, they will only be freezing cold in the morning. In the worst case, they’ll be frozen. Trust me; spinning your boots over your stove as if they were roast chickens is not funny! It’s a waste of gas, time and nerves.

Sleep with your boots inside your sleeping bag. If you have boots with removable liners, you can sleep with the inner boot on your feet and keep the outer boot near the sleeping bag. If not, use a plastic bag to keep your boots inside.

winter campingBring a snow shovel

Leveling the surface where you wish to pitch your tent with your bare hands, trekking poles or ice ax can take ages. Nowadays, snow shovels are lightweight and foldable, and can easily be attached to your backpack. They are indispensable in digging a snow shelter around your tent, digging for fresh water and in avalanche rescue. They also come in handy when you plan to sleep in a mountain shelter, where blizzards can cover the door entirely and you must dig your way in.

Melt snow to make water

There’s no use carrying fresh water when there’s plenty of snow just outside your tent door. Don’t just melt the snow, boil it! Snow may seem immaculate, but it can still carry bacteria and dirt that can lead to all sorts of stomach issues.

Keep in mind, though, that snow is demineralized water and therefore cannot hydrate you properly. To add some nutritional value and ions, squeeze a lemon inside, add vitamins powders, oral rehydration salts or throw in some tea bags.

Eat a hot meal before you go to sleep

Your body needs fuel to generate heat, and you should go inside your sleeping bag warm. What insulation does is that it keeps the warmth within, but you need your body to be warm in order for this to work. I tend to get very cold as soon as I stop moving, and eating a big hot meal rich in fats and carbs helps me stabilize my body temperature. An aspirin also helps.

Opt for wide-mouth bottles

It’s best to bring wide-mouth bottles. These make pouring water you make from melting snow easier and less messy. Use insulated covers for your water bottles and keep them upside down so that the lid does not freeze shut. Alternatively, wrap your wattle bottle in warm clothes inside your backpack.

winter campingUse lithium batteries

Lithium batteries last three times longer than alkaline or Ni-MH batteries and are much more powerful in cold weather. Cold temperatures drain the life out of your batteries, so make sure you bring enough extra batteries and keep them warm in a pocket close to your body when you move during the day and in your sleeping bag by night.

Whether it’s your first time or if you’re a seasoned Winter camper, being prepared for the elements is the key to a successful Winter Camping Adventure.Good luck on your next Winter camping trip!


winter camping

Author: Octavia Drughi

Bio: Octavia is a travel writer, rock climber, and mountaineer who loves sharing her outdoor adventures on and on her personal travel blog,


Learn How to Easily Churn Butter At Home

Here is a simple way to churn butter at home!

What goes better with warm homemade bread than creamy homemade butter?  We were able to churn butter using an LEM Butter Churner that you can find at any of our 25 C-A-L Ranch Stores.  Find a store.

We included a basic recipe for this blog, but other recipes are included also. Let’s begin!

Step one, open up your  LEM Butter Churner.  Buy this online

churn butterchurn butter

Step 2,  the ingredients.

Grilled Steaks – Southwest Chipotle New York Strip Steaks


by Brian Becktel – CAL Ranch Stores Sporting Goods Merchandising Assistant

This grilled steaks recipe makes enough for four 10 oz grilled steaks.


    • 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
    • 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
    • 2 Tbsp Ground Chipotle Pepper
    • 1 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
    • 1 Tbsp Smoked paprika
    • 2 tsp Mustard Powder
    • 2 tsp Ground Cumin
    • 2 tsp Garlic Powder

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Learn How To Make Dutch Oven Bread – Step by Step DIY Recipe Guide

Yummy Dutch Oven Bread Recipe

The smell of fresh bread never fails to take me back to my childhood. I’m suddenly sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen, watching in awe as she baked her famous bread for all of us to enjoy. This blog post is going to go in a less traditional direction, we’re going to learn how to bake dutch oven bread in the great outdoors!

Dutch oven meals can make or break a camping trip. In all my experience, the best trips are the ones that produced successful Dutch oven meals such as peach cobbler or vegetable stew so I’m always looking for new recipes to try while camping. One thing I never considered making  Dutch oven bread. Luckily, Camp Chef has a 4-ingredient recipe for dutch oven bread so simple and delicious, parents love to make it and children love to eat it.
Continue reading “Learn How To Make Dutch Oven Bread – Step by Step DIY Recipe Guide”

Top 5 Game Day Recipes

It’s Time To Party With These 5 Game Day Recipes

We love a good excuse to gather up friends and family, throw the coals on and have a party.  Any sporting event can be one of those good excuses. While you’re planning your own spread, consider our Top 5 Game Day Recipes.

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Heavy Duty Carhartt Coats to Keep You Warm

Winter can be harsh, but it shouldn’t slow you down. Whether you’re working out on the farm, tending the ranch, or just trying to survive winter without turning into an icicle, here are some great choices for winter from Carhartt coats. Known for their durability and sturdiness, these coats will get you through winter for years to come.

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How to Make Deer Jerky

Making Deer Jerky In Your Oven

Some people love hunting just for the sport, but for most of us it’s all about the meat and what you can do with it. When it comes to venison, making deer jerky is one of our favorite things to do. Making jerky may seem like a daunting task. Many people think you need a food dehydrator to make it, but all you really need is a working oven. While deer jerky is easy to make, it does take several hours to dehydrate. In all reality, the most complicated part of making jerky is simply choosing the marinade recipe. Follow these simple steps to make your own deer jerky today!

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Duck Hunting for Beginners

Duck/waterfowl, season is coming up! If this is your first season, you’ll want to get prepared soon as possible. Since the dates vary depending on your state, check out this website to find your state’s season. Just like with any hunting sport, having more practice and knowledge will make you a better hunter. Three things you should know before you hit up your hunting spot: guns, clothing, and technique.

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Father Son Outing #CALculture Style

Check Out Our Latest #CALculture Video!

Our latest #CALculture video comes straight from the heart of some of the men-folk here at CAL Ranch Stores.   Many of us have fond memories of camping with our dads and spending time outdoors fishing, cooking out and have fun with dad.  So with that in mind, please take a look at our latest #CALculture video entitled “Father-Son Outing #CALculture Style.”

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