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Camping Basics: How to Choose a Warm Winter Tent and Set it Up

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We all know how exciting it is to go on camping trips with family and friends. Camping trips are a much-needed break from our routine and are a source of joy and happiness. While many people would associate camping with bright, sunny weather, in reality, many wonderful camping memories are created in cold weather camping. For those of you who have always wondered how to enjoy camping in winters, having a good winter tent makes it possible.

The beauty of snow clad mountains and valleys, chill in the air and the sharp warmth of sunlight in icy cool surroundings are best experienced in winter camping. However, as we all know, camping in the cold can be dangerous if we are not well-prepared for staying warm. Let's find out how to choose the right winter tent and make our camping enjoyable in winters.

How to Choose a Winter Tent

Whether you have to stay outside in the cold because of a professional task or a personal vacation, winter tent camping should not be taken lightly. Nature can be ruthless in winters, especially when there is no predictability of the amount of snowfall. Regardless of how tough you think you are, spending a night in the snow outside is a dangerous task. Therefore, choosing the right winter camping tents is an important thing.

The following features make for the best tents for camping in winters: 

1. The Shape and Size of the Tent

The shape of your winter tent will determine the ease with which it accumulates snow and weighs the tent down. Ideally, a dome-shaped tent is best for cold-weather camping because the dome shape effectively breaks cold wind and doesn’t let snow accumulate on the tent. However, these tents are not meant to be used by more than one person. However, these tents are generally less expensive than others.

If you are planning on a winter camping trip with family or friends, it is advisable to invest in a cabin shaped cold weather tent, especially if you intend to use in only for a couple of days. They are ideal for large groups and moderately cold weather. Cabin shaped winter tents are more expensive than other designs.

The number of people who will share one tent and the size of these people should determine the size of your winter tent. More than one door in the tent is better for tents that are shared between two or more campers. This way, there is a minimal disturbance for others if one of the persons wants to go out of the tent.

Know all about Winter Camping - Do's and Don'ts to Follow

winter tent
Cabin tent for winter camping (source)

2. Warmth

Another vital aspect that should be considered in winter tent camping is the warmth provided by the tents. The widely popular four weather tents are suited for winter weather too. The thick fabric of winter tents keeps the cold wind away.

Tents with a double wall are more efficient in retaining heat inside or you can opt for tent heaters too. The double walled tent provides complete protection as the outer wall acts as a rainfly.

The flooring of the tent should not be neglected either. Ideally, the floor should also have the same features as the walls because, in cold weather, the terrain tends to get very cold. If the floor doesn’t stop this cold from reaching the tent interior, having thick walls is useless.

Check out How to Use Tent Heaters (Go Camping Anytime!)

3. Ventilation

Having good circulation of air inside a winter tent is as crucial as it is for a summer tent. The moisture released by the skin and breathing could condense inside the tent if the tent isn’t well-ventilated. Also, a fresh supply of air is necessary for proper and controlled breathing, otherwise you will feel suffocated.

Ventilation is an even more crucial aspect when you have winter tents with stoves inside. Although having a stove inside a tent is not recommended at all, some situations might necessitate this. In such an event, proper ventilation will ensure the removal of carbon monoxide that is formed as a result of cooking inside the tent.

winter tent
Proper ventilation for safe stay in camp (source)

4. Added Features

It is always a good idea to look for winter-specific accessories that come with your snow tents.

  • Snow Pegs: Having snow pegs that are a little bigger than the regular pegs will be immensely useful if you have to camp on a site that has too much snow. In extreme cases, you may even use your trekking poles for this purpose.
  • Zipper Vents: Similarly, having the provision of completely covered zippered vents will take care of the ventilation as well as provide a secure shelter against the snow.
  • Also, having a fly that can extend all the way to the ground is highly desirable for a winter tent. Of course, the tent material should be durable and waterproof.

Check the list of Cool Things to Bring Camping for Complete Fun

5. Portability and Weight

This is a matter of personal choice. The ideal weight of a winter backpacking tent should not be too much otherwise it will literally be a pain in the back. Many winter camping sites encourage hike-in or walk-in formats only. Therefore, your winter tent must be compact enough for easy portability.

Now that we have seen the ideal features in a camping tent for winters, let us have a quick look at some considerations that you should have before setting up your winter camping tents on the camping ground.

What to Do Before Setting Up Your Winter Tent

Now that you have gained a deep insight into the features of an ideal winter tent, it is important to take care of few things before setting up the tents on winter camping sites.

Point #1 Remember to Flatten the Snow 

Before setting up your winter tent, remember to flatten up the snow that already lies on the camping spot. You may do so by simply walking over the snow so that the surface becomes flat and uniform. If the snow is too deep, you might want to use a shovel and get rid of that extra snow. 

Recommended Read: All You Need to Know About How to Choose Snowshoes

Point #2 Look Up

Before you begin your winter tent camping, take a minute to look up from the site where you are going to set up your tent. If you locate any snow-laden branches, it is better to choose another site. Setting up your tent under a tree that had branches covered with snow is dangerous. These branches may break suddenly and fall on the tent.

how to set a winter tent
Choose a flat surface while setting your tent (source)

Point #3 Do Some Research

Some snowy valleys have designated or potential avalanche zones. These details can usually be found by browsing online. It is advisable to do a thorough research about the camping site so that you are aware of the potential dangers. As a thumb rule, avoid camping near steep slopes because this is where avalanches tend to happen more often. 

If you locate a particular point on the campsite that receives morning sun, it is ideal for setting up your tent. An early dose of sunshine in the day will help you to dry your clothing and accessories. Another good thing about this site will be that you will be greeted by the sun as you wake up.

Isn’t that magical?

Point #4 Set Up the Tent Strategically

Make sure that as there is an option, you set up your tent such that the door point toward the downhill slope. Not only will it minimise the chances of snow building up in front of your tent, it will also prevent the influx of cold air when you open the exit.

Also, if there is a source of running water nearby, pitch your tent around that source. Using water that is frozen as ice for cooking will require more fuel and time than using water that is in liquid form.

Check out the Hygiene Hacks to Make Camping Hassle-free

What to Do If You Encounter Snow Without a Winter Tent

This situation is pretty unfortunate, but nevertheless, it is good to be prepared for the worst. If you find yourself trapped such that you have to spend some time out in the snow or cold weather, the following tips will help you brave through:

  • Improvise Your Summer Tent

If you happen to have a summer tent with you, you may try to insulate it by building a layer of snow outside the walls of the tent. This way, the tent will be able to hold out the cold, at least to some degree.

  • Dig a Snow Cave

Snow caves have rescued many lost hikers. If without any tent to give you protection, you should consider digging a snow cave and crawling inside until help arrives. You should scoop out only that much snow that will allow you to crawl into the cave. 

Well, you might also need a good ice axe for the same!

Check out the Ice Axe Guide: Everything to Know About the Ice Tool

  • Build an Igloo

If people in the Arctic region can survive inside igloos, then they are definitely worth a shot. It provides excellent insulation from cold. But the downside is that you need a lot of time and some skill to build an igloo. You should choose this option only if you know you will be stranded for a long time, and there is no other option.

igloo
Build an igloo (source)

Conclusion

Camping out in the cold is enjoyable only if you have a cozy and warm tent to rest. You should opt for camping in cold weather only if you are well prepared. Hypothermia is a dangerous condition that requires immediate medical attention. Therefore, your winter tent for camping should have all the features that will protect you from the cold. Before purchasing your winter camping gear, it is important to consider the various factors that have been discussed above. Only then will you be able to cherish a good memory of your winter camping trip.

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