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Winter Camping and Backpacking Hacks

Winter camping and backpacking have a much steeper learning curve than three season hiking and camping because you have to carry a lot more gear and learn so many new skills. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve discovered or learned over the years that have improved the safety and comfort of my winter trips.

Dig a Pit under your Tent’s Front Vestibule

Dig a pit about 3 feet deep under the front vestibule of your winter tent so you can sit down in the front door when you take off or put on your winter boots. This also increases the amount of gear you can store under the vestibule fly.

Bring at Least Two Stoves in Case one Fails

Stoves can fail in winter. White Gas stoves can get gunked up and stop functioning if they’re not cleaned properly or use dirty fuel. Canister stoves can also fail when it gets too cold for their fuel to vaporize. You best bet is to bring multiple stoves when you go winter camping or backpacking in a group, preferably ones that share the same kind of fuel, so you have some redundancy in case a stove fails.

Wear Oven Bags Over Your Feet to Keep Your Socks Dry

If you wear gaiters for winter hiking, your socks will get wet from foot and leg sweat. This is a problem when winter camping because wet socks will freeze at night unless you sleep with them in your sleeping bag. However, you can keep your socks dry if you wear oven roasting bags under your socks. Your feet will sweat less and stay warmer and your socks will stay dry because the oven bags contain all that sweat close to your skin.

Wrap Fuel Bottles with Duct Tape to Prevent Frostbite

In cold weather, the temperature of white gas, or liquid fuel as it is also known, can dip below freezing but still remain in liquid form. If it touches your skin, it will evaporate immediately, causing frostnip or a more severe frostbite. In fact, simply touching an uninsulated fuel bottle with the bare skin of your hand in sub-zero temperatures can cause a cold injury. You can prevent this by wrapping the bottle with duct tape to insulate it.

Sleep with your Boots or Boot Liners in your Sleeping Bag at Night

If your winter boots or bootlines have become damp during the day, you need to sleep with them in your sleeping bag to keep them from freezing at night. If your boots do freeze, you may not be able to use them again until they are thawed out.

Carry your Water Bottles in Insulated Pockets

When hiking in winter, it’s best to use wide mouth bottles that you can pour boiling water into each morning. These should be stored upside down so the tops don’t freeze shut. Store the water bottles in insulated water bottle pockets on the outside of your pack or inside your pack, surrounded by insulating garments.

Wear Nitrile Exam Gloves as Glove Liners

If your hands sweat when you hike and you have to carry extra gloves or mittens, you can cut down on the number of gloves you need to pack by wearing nitrile or latex gloves as glove liners. They prevent hand sweat from being absorbed by your gloves and will keep your hands warmer too. It’s the same principle as wearning oven roasting bags over your feet to keep your socks dry.

Use Lithium Batteries instead of Alkaline Batteries in Winter

Alkaline batteries perform very poorly below freezing and in cold weather because they are made with a water-based electrolyte solution. Lithum batteries on the other hand are much more powerful than alkaline batteries and function very well in cold weather, making them ideal for headlamps and other must-have electronics.

 

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41 Camping Hacks That Are Borderline Genius

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These tips and tricks will guarantee you’ll be a totally happy camper this summer.

1. Use foam floor tiles for a softer, more comfortable tent floor.

Use foam floor tiles for a softer, more comfortable tent floor.

2. Point a head lamp into a jug of water for an instant lantern.

Point a head lamp into a jug of water for an instant lantern.

3. Paint the inside of a jar with non-toxic glow-in-the-dark paint for an easy DIY lantern.

Paint the inside of a jar with non-toxic glow-in-the-dark paint for an easy DIY lantern.

4. Make tin-can sandwich bread as a portable food option.

Make tin-can sandwich bread as a portable food option.

5. Familiarize yourself with what the poisonous plants look like.

Familiarize yourself with what the poisonous plants look like.

6. Bring a tick deterrent.

Bring a tick deterrent.

7. Glue sandpaper to the top of your match holder.

Glue sandpaper to the top of your match holder.

Be sure to buy strike-anywhere matches.

8. Repurpose a coffee can to hold and protect TP.

Repurpose a coffee can to hold and protect TP.

9. Make crescent rolls over the campfire.

Make crescent rolls over the campfire.

For maximum yumminess, fill ‘em with stuff like marshmallows and Nutella. Or wrap hot dogs with them.

10. Use Tic-Tac boxes to store spices.

Use Tic-Tac boxes to store spices.

11. Invest in a two-person sleeping bag.

Invest in a two-person sleeping bag.

12. Get these seat hammocks for car camping.

Get these seat hammocks for car camping.

13. Cut up a straw and fill the pieces up with antibiotic ointment or toothpaste for single-use packets.

Cut up a straw and fill the pieces up with antibiotic ointment or toothpaste for single-use packets.

Use a lighter to seal up the ends.

14. Make travel coffee bags out of coffee filters and dental floss.

Make travel coffee bags out of coffee filters and dental floss.

Place a scoop of coffee grounds into a coffee filter and tie it up with dental floss. When you’re ready to brew, just make it like you would make tea in a teabag!

15. Need your coffee? Bring a few of these.

Need your coffee? Bring a few of these.

They’ll keep you from going into caffeine withdrawal.

16. Make candle stakes for romantic nighttime lighting.

Make candle stakes for romantic nighttime lighting.

17. Make single-use soap leaves from a bar of soap and a vegetable peeler.

Make single-use soap leaves from a bar of soap and a vegetable peeler.

You can also rub soap on mosquito bites to relieve the itchiness.

18. Use an empty laundry detergent dispenser as a hand-washing station.

Just fill it up with water.

19. Use a belt and hooks to hang up pots and pans.

Use a belt and hooks to hang up pots and pans.

20. Make campfire cones!

Make campfire cones!

21. Pack a mini first-aid kit into an old prescription bottle or Altoids tin.

Pack a mini first-aid kit into an old prescription bottle or Altoids tin.

22. Make pancakes with pre-made pancake mix using shortening and dry milk, which don’t need to be refrigerated.

Make pancakes with pre-made pancake mix using shortening and dry milk, which don't need to be refrigerated.

23. Put a battery-powered votive candle into an empty peanut butter container to make portable lanterns.

Put a battery-powered votive candle into an empty peanut butter container to make portable lanterns.

24. Make a portable washing machine with a plunger and a bucket.

25. Make an easy-to-carry fire starter with a cardboard-only egg carton and match light charcoal.

Make an easy-to-carry fire starter with a cardboard-only egg carton and match light charcoal.

You just have to light the carton and the fire will catch on to the charcoal.

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27. Make pocket-sized oil lamps out of travel-size or hotel toiletry shampoo bottles.

Make pocket-sized oil lamps out of travel-size or hotel toiletry shampoo bottles.

28. Forgo the meat marinade and put the rosemary right on the coals.

Forgo the meat marinade and put the rosemary right on the coals.

Once the coals are uniformly gray and ashy, cover them with fresh rosemary branches. Your meat and vegetables will be flavored with the taste of savory herbs.

29. Bring cheeses in waxed packaging as well as hard cheeses.

Bring cheeses in waxed packaging as well as hard cheeses.

Aged cheddar, Parmigiano, and/or Gruyère will keep for at least a week unrefrigerated.

30. Add bundles of sage to a campfire to keep mosquitoes away.

Add bundles of sage to a campfire to keep mosquitoes away.

31. Try roasting Starburst.

Sounds crazy, but it’s actually delicious. Crunchy on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside. Roast it until it’s bubbling.

32. Forgo pasta for a quick-cooking alternatives like polenta, quinoa, or couscous.

Forgo pasta for a quick-cooking alternatives like polenta, quinoa, or couscous.

Polenta is especially versatile because it can be shaped into patties and pan-fried for a sweet or savory meal.

33. Cook cinnabuns (the canned kind) in a hollowed-out orange over a campfire.

Cook cinnabuns (the canned kind) in a hollowed-out orange over a campfire.

34. If you’re going to be hiking, use this biodegradable trail-marking tape.

If you're going to be hiking, use this biodegradable trail-marking tape.

35. Keep the kids busy with a scavenger hunt.

Write the items down on a paper bag so they have a receptacle for the items.

36. Use a bucket and a milk crate as an emergency toilet.

Use a bucket and a milk crate as an emergency toilet.

37. Cotton pads dipped in wax are a crazy easy way to make portable fire starters.

Cotton pads dipped in wax are a crazy easy way to make portable fire starters.

38. Bring microfiber towels — they’re super absorbent and lightweight.

Bring microfiber towels — they're super absorbent and lightweight.

39. Freeze gallon jugs of water and place them in your cooler.

Freeze gallon jugs of water and place them in your cooler.

They’ll keep your food cold, and you’ll have plenty of water to drink for later.

Other things you can freeze to use for later: pasta sauces, chili, and pesto.

40. Make emergency light sources out of an Altoids tin, cardboard, and wax.

Make emergency light sources out of an Altoids tin, cardboard, and wax.

41. Make sandwiches with this campfire panini press.

Make sandwiches with this campfire panini press.

No matter how far you have to carry this thing.

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