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Warm enough? If not, try these cold-weather essentials on your next winter adventure.
Vast, starry nights. Crisp, blazingly white days. These dichotomies can define the winter camping experience, a retreat to wilderness so quiet and cold you might as well be on the moon.
Space suits are not required. But you might consider a down-insulated coat.Your sleeping bag should be rated to handle temps plunging below zero in the night.
This spread of equipment, shown above and listed below, will help you survive living in the snow for a weekend, or even days on end. Put on a few extra layers. Get ready to trudge ahead into sideways-blowing snow. Winter camping is another world. But with the right gear, you’ll enter the white, frozen woods and experience a place few people ever see.
1. Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody
Thick baffles of goose down give this jacket its loft and enough warmth to fight below-zero air. Outdoor Research employs rip-stop polyester for the body and a light, 650-fill down insulation inside to give this “puffy” jacket its puff. Despite the warmth, the Transcendent packs small and weighs slightly less than 1 pound when stuffed away.
2. Kelty Mistral Minus-20
At 6.6 pounds, the Mistral is a bit of a lug. But its reasonable price and a minus-20-degree rating combine to make it a good buy. A mummy-style design with a thick hood lets you cinch the Mistral tight. Its rip-stop polyester shell is stuffed with gobs of synthetic insulation for warmth throughout the winter night.
3. REI Cirque ASL 2 Tent
Built for year-round use, this hybrid tent offers a stout winterproof design and a manageable pack weight of 5.6 pounds. Zippered panels seal its mesh doors tight from blowing snow. Its fly (not pictured) has channels that vent wind “to increase the tent’s strength,” REI cites. Finally, adjustable ceiling vents allow airflow at night to help keep condensation at bay.
4. Mountain Hardwear Spearhead Mitts
Kevlar stitching and a durable pigskin palm set the Spearhead Mitts apart. A waterproof/breathable treatment keeps snowmelt from seeping through. Inside, removable polyester-fleece liner gloves provide extra dexterity when fumbling with your stove in camp.
5. Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol
An aluminized surface treatment on this foam sleeping pad reflects body heat, upping its warmth for winter nights. In bitterly cold temps, opt for the foam pad versus the air pad, which puts a layer of cold air between you and the ground. Plus, the Z Lite Sol folds into a rectangle-shape package that you can easily cinch onto a backpack, weighing in at just 14 ounces.
6. Outdoor Products Insulated Water Bottle Holder
Keep your water in its drinkable liquid state with this foam case. It fits a standard 1-liter water bottle and zips shut, sealing out the chill and keeping your drink from freezing. A webbing loop attaches the case to a backpack hip belt for easy-access hydration at all times on the trail.
7. Kamik KeystoneG Boots
Lace up for a winter hike or a snowshoe trip with these insulated leather boots. A Gore-Tex membrane offers a waterproof shield for wet snow or slush on the trail. Bonus: A pattern of tiny glass filaments embedded in the sole provide additional grip on ice and hard snow.
8. MSR Evo Snowshoe
A rigid plastic deck and steel “traction rails” on the bottom for grip make the Evo snowshoes distinctive. Big rubber straps pull tight over the boots, giving a quick and secure fit. Their small size—8 inches wide, 22 inches long— accommodates up to 180 pounds for added float on the snow. For those needing extra flotation, add a snap-on pair of tails to the snowshoes for $40.
Stephen Regenold is a lifelong winter camper from Minnesota and the founder of GearJunkie.com.
Test your knowledge of winter camping with this interactive quiz.
This all looks like great gear, but I’d be standing there without long johns, socks or pants after spending over $1,100! For most scouting families that I know, this is not financially sustainable for a few weekend winter camping trips a year, or even for a longer expedition. Perhaps you could run a “Goodwill gear” article that shows Scouters how to be equally well prepared for their winter outings and still have money left to give to Friends of Scouting (not to mention gas to get somewhere). I have purchased a lot of perfectly serviceable winter camping clothing at thrift stores for pennies on the dollar of the gear that is shown here, and have yet to be cold while winter camping.
I would LOVE to read that article David! I have 4 boys in Scouting & we outfit them (& ourselves) in thrift store finds. It’s a GREAT resource that fits in well with Scouts…Helpful (reducing & reusing), Kind (to the environment), Thrifty (wise use of resources) & Clean (less manufacture pollution = a cleaner environment!).