A Successful Snow Camping Trip




Introduction: A Successful Snow Camping Trip

This is my guide on how to prepare for a successful snow camping trip!
This is based on prior experience and knowledge. I have done this and I know how it works!

Some Needed Things:
- Money (lots)
- Patience (lots)
- Knowledge (lots)
- Snow (lots)
- Coldness (lots)

The picture is of my first time snow camping! It is not a good idea to leave your tent open while it snows.....

Step 1: Equipment

This was my Equipment List:

-Backpack (internal or large duffel bag, no wheels)
-Four season tent (if not sleeping in snow cave)
-Sleeping bag (at least 0 degrees)
-Sleeping bag liner
-Sleeping pad + reflective insulation
-Long Underwear (2)
-Thermals (2)
-Shirts (4)
-Fleece Jacket/Sweater
-Outer Shell (Jacket + pants)
-Normal pants (2)
-Wool socks (5)
-Beanie, Hat, Balaclava
-Gloves/Mittens (2-3)
-Snow shovel
-Sunscreen/Lip Balm
-Garbage Bags
-Water/Energy Drinks
-Mess kit
-Toiletries (toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste…)
-Hand warmers

Also matches (waterproof) are nice, along with a hand saw or ax, and some fire starting materials. A stove would be good too!

If you aren't going to go snow camping a lot, try to rent the stuff above, so that you don't spend a few thousand dollars... However, I do actually go snow camping a lot, so I actually spent the money!

If it is snowing hard, remember to stake the tent into the ground, and package everything in small plastic bags, so in case your backpack gets wet, your stuff isn't wet.... (you can also get a waterproof backpack!)

Step 2: Dressing

How do Dress:
Stay Warm and Dry
Conserve Body Heat
Maintain Thermal Equilibrium
Protect Head and Trunk
Strive For Versatility
Dress In Layers
    First Layer – Wicking
    Second Layer – Insulating
    Outer Layer – Water and Wind Repellant
Wear Synthetics
Fiber Pile or “Fleece”
Thermal Barriers

Basic Clothing– Very Cold
1st Layer:  Long Underwear – Wicking Layer
2nd Layer: Fleece or Wool – Insulating Layer
3rd Layer: Nylon Shell – Water & Wind Repellant
4th Layer: Accessories – Hats, Sunglasses or  Goggles, Scarves, Gloves, Boots,  Gaiters,  Rain Suit or Poncho.

Synthetic materials, such as polypropylene and polyester have a very low water absorption factor.  Polypropylene, absorbs less than .1% of its weight in water.  Instead, it wicks moisture away from your body .  This is important; we lose body heat much more rapidly through water than we do through air.

Step 3: Transportation

How will you get there?
If you live in the Bay Area (near SF) like me, its going to take around 2-5 hours to get to the place where its snowing or even has a spot of snow! Of course, you could make your own snow, but that would take a lot of space.....

You can either:

Choose one and calculate how long it would take on : http://maps.google.com

If it takes 27 years to dig there, and you are able to do it, so be it.
If you don't have that much time, then choose another method like flying there.

Be prepared for gas, airplane tickets, speeding tickets, and other hazardous things along the way. For your car, you might want snow chains! Also prepare for an Avalanche! In case it actually does happen, make sure you can survive in your car for 1-5 days!
Also bring food! You will get hungry along the way...

Step 4: Snow! Where's the Snow?

Of course there has to be snow, in order to have a successful snow camp out!
You could have a snow camp out in the summer, if you could fly to Antarctica! 
Or you could get one of those snow makers and buy a few hundred, and make your own Reno or Lake Tahoe.
It's your choice, but I don't have that much money. So, the best solution is to go during the winter or early spring.
You also need to check whether it's legal to camp out in that area. For example, you cannot snow camp out in the middle of the street whiles its snowing. Also check the weather channel! if there is a blizzard, try not to go outside. You could get hurt!
If you hear of a possible Avalanche, don't go out and purposely make vibrating noise to see what an Avalanche looks like. Of course, if someone paid you a million dollars, you could if you really needed that money.

If you ski, try to rent skis, but if you go skiing a lot, buy your own or customize your own. Add some flair to your skiing trip.
Also please only do snow recreation with adult supervision so you don't get hurt!

And just because I like Star Wars, I'll bring that in to this instructable. In Star Wars, on the battle of Hoth, there are snow troopers, wearing complete WHITE! Please don't dress up in all white so that you can "look" cool! If you got hurt, no one would be able to see you unless they had heat detecting goggles. But out in the wilderness, passerby wouldn't be able to see you, because you would just blend in. Please wear neon colors or anything except white!

And DON'T  eat snow! You don't know what's went through the snow or what the snow touched before coming over to you! And if it's yellow, don't even try eating it.... Snow also can get you dehydrated faster, because your body has to melt the snow. Snow also contains other ingredients that mix in the air. (pollution, dust, etc)

Step 5: Where's the Hotel?

Are you sleeping in a Hotel or Tent or Snow Cave? If you're snow camping, you better be sleeping in a tent or snow cave. Although if you were my dad, you should sleep in the Hotel.... 

For the tent, try getting a real tent with no mesh, as the mesh will get you even colder! Don't get a Bivy sack unless you're sleeping inside a Snow Cave! Try getting a 4 Season Tent as then it would be suited for snow camping too! The Sleeping Bag has to be one rated to 0 degrees Celsius! Also get some reflective material as a mat to absorb sunlight, and a soft foam mat for comfort. Make sure to even up the snow underneath the tent so there are not bumps! Also use a hiking pole to check how hard the snow is! Don't camp on soft snow that will make your tent sink in or snow that's right above water unless it's thick enough. 
Remember to put up the rain fly!

Also back again to Star Wars, no WHITE tents!

Snow Cave:
This is how I was taught how to build it:
Pack snow so that the top is thick! Poke two holes on the top so that there is enough oxygen for breathing!
That is all

Now we move onto Safety!

Step 6: Safety

Most of the population is dehydrated most of the time.  If your urine is yellow, you are partially dehydrated. 
Under normal conditions, you should be drinking about two liters of water per day; at higher altitude and as activity increases, water intake also needs to increase.

Heat Exhaustion:
Fluid depletion (hypovolemia) through very heavy sweating. 
feeling dizzy, weak, or faint, with accompanying nausea or headache. cold and clammy skin, faces are gray.
Prevention & Treatment:
Get out of the heat, lie down, loosen clothing, if fully alert, drink water or diluted electrolytes.

Maintain proper temperature
Stay warm and dry. 
Dress correctly, in layers.

Shelter from the wind
Dry off, add dry layers
Give hot fluids to drink
Provide external heat source

Snow blindness
Snow blindness results from eyes being burned by UV radiation.
The cornea’s surface can become roughened and blistered.

The eyes become reddened and teary
Feels rough and sandy, and extremely painful.
Snow blindness sets in within 6 to 12 hours.
Prevention and Treatment:
Covering the eyes with sterile dressings and padding. 
Recheck for light sensitivity at half-day intervals. 
Wear sunglasses or goggles with side shields

Immersion Foot:
Immersion foot, is also called “trench foot”.

  Tingling feet

Careful re-warming in a water bath just slightly
warmer than body temperature.

Altitude Sickness:
Altitude Sickness
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is caused by changes that take place in the human body when they travel from sea-level to altitudes above 8,000 feet. 
Headache, insomnia, listlessness, loss of coordination, puffiness around eyes and face, cough, shortness of breath, fullness or tightness in chest, irregular breathing, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, reduced urine output, weakness, “heavy” feeling in legs. 
Usually clears up in a day or two.
A descent of 2,000 to 3,000 feet will usually clear it up.

Step 7: Food! :)

Now everyone needs food to survive!
This is the average amount of calories you lose by doing each thing. See how 

Sleeping                                             60 Cal/hour
Lying Awake                                       70 Cal/hour
Sitting                                                   90 Cal/hour
Standing                                             150 Cal/hour
Walking                                               250 Cal/hour
Shivering                                            Up to 450 Cal/hour
Heavy Activity                                     400-1100 Cal/hour
Maximum Continuous Output        600 Cal/hour

Fuel is for Heat & Energy

Food serves three functions in the body:
It serves as fuel to provide heat energy or calories,
It provides materials for building, repairing, or maintaining body tissues.
It helps regulate body processes.

This is a sample menu that I use:

Hot Tang, or hot cider,
Dried fruit, or dried fruit re-constituted by cooking in water,
Hot cereals – Instant oatmeal, instant cream of wheat, instant cream of rice,
Instant eggs (powdered or freeze-dried),
Meat bar, cake bar, energy bar
Hot drink- cocoa, hot tea (herbal to avoid caffeine), hot cider.

Instant, fruit-flavored drink,
Hot, instant soup,
Cheese sticks,
Meat bars, or meat sticks, Italian dry salami, summer sausage, etc.,
Energy bars, Power Bars, jerky, etc.,
Bagels, mini-bagels, tortillas, pita bread, or crackers,
Peanut butter & jelly.

Instant, fruit-flavored drink
Instant soup
Hot main dish: can be a one-dish meal, a retort meal, or a freeze-dried dinner, and should include a starch (rice, noodles, macaroni, or potatoes), broth or gravy (bouillon cubes, instant gravy mixes), meat (canned chicken, beef, chipped beef, or ham), and freeze-dried or dehydrated vegetables.
Crackers, bagels, tortillas, pita bread, etc.
Hot drink (cocoa, tea, hot cider)
Dessert- can be one that requires preparation and cooling, such as a pudding, or an already prepared item.

REI has these Any Mountain Freeze Dried Foods that I recommend for you to try out!

Cooking Utensils

You don’t need a lot: two or three nesting pots, or one large, four to six-quart pot for the whole patrol, a serving spoon, and a pot griper. A cloth or plastic bag can be slipped over the pots so the soot on the bottom does not get on other items in your pack.

Eating Utensils

You should not need to use a lot of utensils in winter; a plastic bowl and/or cup, plastic spoon and fork, or a “spork”, and pocket knife should just about do it

Step 8: Water and Other Misc

Carry at least two liter water bottle or a hydration system with you
Even with a hydration system, carry at least one liter bottle for use with water filter and for mixed drinks.
When traveling over the snow, there is often no running water visible to filter easily. 
Do not eat snow, as the process reduces body temperature and freezing does not kill bacteria and parasites.

Plastic Bags:
Keeping dry is an essential part of staying warm in winter camping.  Snow and rain seem to find their way into packs.  When you change out of wet clothes and pack them, their moisture gets into everything.  And there is always the danger of falling into a stream with your pack on.  Pack individual pieces of clothing into zip-lock baggies, and even wrapping your sleeping bag in large trash bags helps prevent items in the pack from getting wet, or if already wet, from contaminating other clothing.   As with staying warm, it is far easier to keep articles of clothing dry, then to dry it once it gets wet!

Step 9: Thanks for Reading!

Thanks for Reading my guide on how to create your own successful snow camping trip!
Hope this helps! I have attached a power point to this page, which I made which contains some very useful information!

I entered this into the Snow Challenge Contest! Hope everyone likes it! This is my Fourth Instructable!

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    6 years ago

    great guide! i have a really nice 3-season tent that works in winter if i bring my sleeping bag liner.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Great guide! The sections on food and safety are very definitive. However, I didn't see any mention of a heat source, unless there is a camp stove included in your mess kit. Even so, you should always carry secondary means of starting a fire, just in case your stove fails, which is not uncommon. In the future, perhaps consider adding a small ax and/or folding saw, as well as your preferred firestarting supplies (lighter, matches, ferro rod, lint, cotton balls, charcloth, fat wood, birch bark, steel wool, vaseline, hexamine, etc.)

    Also, I was very glad to see that you mentioned a pocket knife in the utensils section. Many people forget to mention this in their outdoor guides, but in my opinion, it is the most important part of the kit. Your knife is your life.

    Overall, 4.5 stars. Great work.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! There are hand warmers, and matches are good...(the waterproof ones)
    I'll update it!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Just FInished! If you read it, please comment below and tell me what you think!