Unless you are a bear, winter is not for hibernating. The human spirit can only be inside so long, before it needs to breathe the wild mountain air, snow or shine. Winter can be the perfect season to seek solitude along some of your favorite, more crowded trails or peaks. Together, let’s dig into some winter camping myths that are keeping you and your buds from sleeping on the snow. With the help of a Therm-a-Rest sleep system, you might just find, your comfort zone is out there and it’s a whole lot cozier than you thought.
Myth #1: The gear needed to stay warm, won’t fit in a backpack
This is a common one, because it probably used to be true, like way back when packs were big but winter sleep systems were somehow bigger. Luckily for us sleeping bags have evolved and they are smaller than ever. The Questar 0F/-18C weighs in at 2lbs 11oz and is designed for ultimate comfort in cold-weather camping. It will keep you warm without taking up your entire backpack, leaving you with space for more fun things… like perhaps a little camp whiskey to warm you up?
Now, I know what you’re thinking… What about my bulky sleeping pad? You know the one with the thick foam for staying warm? The sleeping pad has also evolved, from a large beast to a small lithe creature. The NeoAir XTherm is a lightweight insulated air pad designed to trap radiant heat for staying cozy in winter weather without the bulk of sleeping pads of the past. It weighs a slight yet durable 15 ounces while providing a robust R-Value of 6.9. With its unrivaled warmth-to-weight ratio, it’ll take about as much space as your water bottle. Whether it’s your first time camping on the snow or your 100th, the XTherm is used and loved by winter backpackers and big mountain alpinists alike.
So grab your things and get to packing, once you realize how much room you have left you’ll probably want to grab the Airhead™ Down Pillow. With so much room, why not go for ultimate camp comfort?
Myth #2: Cooking is too much work in the cold
Think back on the days when your mom used to bundle you up on a snow day and tell you not to come back until the street lights came on (this wasn’t just my mom, was it?). You’d come waddling back with pockets full of snow, nose running and cheeks pink, hungry but happy to smell soup cooking on the stove. Warm food warms the body and the soul, but now you’re in charge of what’s boiling for dinner.
The key to having fun while cooking in the cold is food prep and making sure you have the right stove for winter conditions. This choice will help save weight, room in your pack and hasten quickly you put dinner in your belly. There are many winter stoves out there, but my favorite is the MSR Reactor. It’s the perfect stove for winter camping with its incredible fuel efficiency and wind protection. It boils water efficiently and quickly, no matter the conditions, leaving you with more time to play cards at camp and less time waiting for the water to boil.
Fuel efficiency is super important when it comes to winter camping. Investing in an efficient stove means you’ll go through less fuel, carry fewer fuel canisters, leaving more room in your pack for energy-rich trail snacks. Your body will burn more calories trying to keep itself warm, so daytime snacking while winter camping is a good idea.
Think about creative ways to make your favorite cozy comfort foods quickly and without the hassle. I like to use instant mash potatoes to make a camp version of potato leek soup. If I’m really organized I’ll dehydrate chilli before setting out, making for a delicious but quick home cooked meal. But perhaps the best thing about camping on snow is that you’ve got drinking water at your gloved fingertips. Melting snow for drinking is an easy way to ensure a lighter pack, considering water is usually one of the heavier things you’ll be carrying on your back. Just be sure to account for the extra fuel use.
Myth #3: Staying warm enough to have a restful night’s sleep is impossible
Earlier, we talked about the size and weight of the Questar 0F/-18C sleeping bag and the NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad, but how warm are they really? Therm-a-Rest means business when it comes to testing their product. They test both their sleeping pads and sleeping bags warmth in on-site cold chambers (yes, really). The Questar 0F/-18C has a comfort rating of 14 degrees, which is more than enough to keep you toasty through the night when you add the NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad. With its 6.9 R-Value, it has the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any ultralight air pad.
If all this sounds like a math equation, it’s because it is. When it comes to sleeping bags and pads, Therm-a-Rest has got comfort down to a science, after all they have been designing sleep systems since 1972. But, if you are a gear nerd like me and want to know more, head over to their blog What is R-Value and Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings to read the nitty gritty details on how the cold chamber works, the details on testing R-values and how to better understand sleeping bag temperature ratings and comfort values.
In a nutshell, Therm-a-Rest puts a ton of time and energy into making sure you are comfortable at camp, rain, shine and snow. Which is why you can trust them when they promise a “Better Sleep Guarantee” (only available in the US and Canada).
Myth #4: You’ll be stuck in my tent all night
Only if you want to be, my friend. There are plenty of ways to play outside once you stake your tent when you are winter camping. With Therm-a-Rest’s lightweight and ultra packable sleep systems you have more room for what I like to call… luxury items.
When camping on the snow, don’t be afraid to strap a small hatchet or folding saw on the outside of your pack. Visit the ranger station to check out local regulations on burning downed or dead trees. Collecting or harvesting wood is a great way to stay warm and busy while at camp and building a fire is a great way to feel ultra self-sufficient and bring your group together. While it takes a bit more time and energy, it can also be a fun way to cook dinner or prepare s’mores for dessert.
Camp fires keep you outside in the cold longer and allow you to enjoy the dark winter nights. And is there really anything better than sipping hot beverages underneath a blanket of stars? Take turns cutting firewood, reading your favorite books outloud or playing dice fireside.
Myth #5: Camping in the cold isn’t very fun
Like most things in life, attitude is everything. Therm-a-Rest makes gear that allows you to pack up your backpack and head for the hills, no matter the season. They’ve got you covered in comfort, you get to bring the stoke.
While many are counting down the days until summer while their backpack gathers dust in the gear closet, you’ve got the power to get out on the trail, even if it’s snow covered. So whether you’re climbing the skin track and camping high in the mountains, car camping near your favorite frozen lake or walking a mile down the road, don’t let these winter camping myths keep you from enjoying the wild spaces we all have the privilege of playing in.
With the right gear you don’t have to sacrifice comfort for adventure. So don’t be afraid to hop out of your comfort zone and into your down booties. Sometimes the best camping trips are the ones where we tried something new, and found we’re braver than before.