A Beginner’s Guide To Winter Hammock Camping
Every year, once the cooler temperatures set in, most people tend to put away their camping gear — especially if you live in a cold, northern climate. There your gear will sit in a basement or garage for months until it starts to warm up again. Unfortunately, you might be missing out on the several advantages of winter hammock camping. Even though it may be cold and snowy, you’ll encounter fewer people so you’re more likely to be able to snag those popular spots that are otherwise packed with campers during the summer. During this time of year, the air is crisp and invigorating and you’ll enjoy a unique sense of peace and solitude. And finally, winter camping is nice because when the weather dips below freezing, you’ll be free of many of the pests like mosquitos, flies, or chipmunks that like to invade your summer camp.
Although camping during the winter can be an exciting way to enjoy the outdoors during this otherwise cold and sleepy time of year, it’s important to make sure that you’re adequately prepared. It comes with some additional risks, and if you don’t plan ahead and bring the proper gear, you could be setting yourself up for a miserable and even dangerous trip. That’s why we’ve created this beginner’s guide to winter camping — so you can plan enjoyable adventures all-year-round, and stay safe while doing them.
Packing for a winter camping trip requires a little more thought and preparation than a summer or autumn trip. First, you’ll want to make sure that you have the right clothing to help keep you warm. Even if the forecast shows that it’s going to be relatively mild and there’s no expectation of snow, you never know when an unexpected cold front might come in. The quickest way to end a winter camping trip is to not have warm enough clothing to weather a change in weather!
Next, you’ll want to make sure to dress in layers. The best way to stay comfortable during colder weather is to stay warm and dry. Staying warm is pretty self-explanatory, but if you get too warm and start to sweat, your clothes could get wet, and wet clothes in the cold equals trouble. To avoid this, you’ll want to dress in layers that you can easily peel off or put back on, depending on your comfort level. These layers are often described as a base layer, middle layer, and outer layer.
A base layer is what you wear closest to your skin, and for winter camping, we’re talking about long underwear. Investing in good quality mid- to heavy-weight long underwear will go a long way in helping to keep you warm. Make sure to look for long underwear that’s made of moisture-wicking fabric such as wool to help keep you warm. If you perspire, and that moisture doesn’t have a way to evaporate, then you’ll quickly get cold and risk getting hypothermia. Cotton is a fabric that should be avoided because it tends to hold onto water.
The middle layer includes clothing like your pants, sweater, fleece, or jacket. The purpose of the middle layer is to insulate you and help you retain body heat. Some good options for middle layers are fleece pants, down jackets, heavyweight fleece jackets, and sweaters made of synthetic materials or wool.
Your outer layer of clothing is very important for staying comfortable and safe in cold weather. Its purpose is to shield your body from wind and moisture. Also called the shell layer, it includes things like a waterproof jacket and pants. Don’t forget to make sure that your outer layers are not only waterproof, but they need to be breathable as well. There has to be a way for your perspiration to wick away from your body otherwise you’ll become wet and dangerously chilled.
One of the most important things to remember when dressing for winter camping is to protect your outer extremities. That means protecting anything that’s exposed to the air. So, you’ll want to pack a good winter hat that covers your ears, insulated gloves or mittens, and wool socks. In fact, bring extra pairs of socks so you can change out of the ones you are wearing if they become wet. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to pack a face mask or neck gaiter in case it gets particularly cold or windy.
Sunglasses are another accessory that you won’t want to do without, especially if you’re going to be in the snow. On bright, winter days, the sun reflects on the snow and if you aren’t wearing proper protection you may be subject to snow blindness. This is a very painful condition that is the result of overexposure to UV light — in other words, a sunburn on your cornea.
The type of footwear you bring will depend on the conditions you’re going to encounter. If there is minimal or no snow, traditional hiking boots will work just fine, but if you’re going to be in deep snow, you’ll want winter boots that are waterproof and come with extra insulation. You may also want to consider bringing ice cleats that can attach to your boots or even snowshoes if you’re planning to get into some really deep snow.
If you’re used to summer camping, then you probably already have a lot of gear. Unfortunately, much of that gear may not be ideal for camping in cold weather. Investing in items that are specifically made for the cold weather can make all the difference when it comes to function and comfort. Here are a few items you’ll want to bring along on your winter camping trip.
Here at Hennessy Hammock, we believe that some of the best times you can have in the outdoors is during a winter hammock camping trip. A camping hammock can provide superior comfort and protection from the cold over sleeping in a traditional tent. That’s because when you sleep in a tent, you’re laying on the ground, and the cold seeps right through any sleeping bag or pad and into your body. With a camping hammock set up with an insulated sleeping pad and bag, you’re sure to get a more comfortable night's sleep.
Sleeping bags come in all different sizes and styles. They also come with a temperature rating. This rating is to help you pick the right sleeping bag for the type of conditions you plan to sleep in. They aren’t exact, so if you tend to get cold easily, you might want to pick one with a lower temp rating than what you think you’ll need. A general rule of thumb is to get a back that’s rated at least -12°C (10°F) lower than the coldest temperature you plan to encounter.
If you have items that require batteries for power, it’s important to know that standard alkaline batteries won’t last long in the cold. A better bet is to use lithium batteries to power your phone, lantern, or other battery-powered items. Another option is to seek out items that are solar-powered instead of having to rely on batteries. However, keep in mind that cloudy days that already have fewer hours of sunlight could be a problem if you are solely relying on solar-powered goods.
Warm food and drinks are a necessity when you’re trying to keep your body warm, which is why you’ll want to have a reliable stove for cooking. Just keep in mind that some perform better than others in cold weather. Many backpackers and campers use canister stoves in the summer because they’re lightweight and boil water quickly. However, depending on the type, they may not work so well in the cold.
Another option would be to bring a liquid fuel stove. These can be heavier to carry but tend to be more reliable. Whichever you choose, always make sure to bring extra fuel. You’ll be using more of it than usual for making food and to melt snow for water.
Before you head off for your winter hammock camping adventure (or any camping trip for that matter) it’s always a good idea to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. That way, if something happens and you need to be rescued, they’ll know where to look.
It’s also a good idea to check the weather in the days leading up to your trip, and on the day you plan to go. Winter weather can be pretty unpredictable, so it’s always wise to check and make sure that a blizzard or ice storm isn’t headed your way. If so, you’ll want to reschedule your camping trip for another weekend.
Before you head out of town, make sure you’ve filled up on gas. If you’re going to someplace remote where there’s a good chance of snow, you’ll want to bring an emergency roadside kit and a small shovel in case you get stuck and don’t have a cell phone signal. It’s always better to be extra-prepared than to be stuck somewhere without any help.
Whether you’re pulling your car right up to your camping spot or you’re hiking into the wilderness to find a place to call home for the night, there are certain things to consider when choosing where you’re going to set up camp.
First, be sure to find a place that is away from any danger of avalanche. That means checking online or with your local park service for conditions before you leave and staying below the treeline when you set up camp. Next, you’ll want to find a place where you’ll be sheltered from the wind. Look for campsites with trees, rocks, or anything that can offer protection. If you’re setting up your Hennessy hammock, watch out for damaged limbs or dead trees. Always hang your hammock from trees that are healthy and sturdy.
If you’re packed the right gear and found the perfect place to set up camp, chances are, you’ll have a successful winter camping trip. There are just a few more tips that can help you stay comfortable and safe, even when the temperature is below freezing.
Hiking, camping, and carrying gear use more calories than sitting at home on the couch, but you’ll really need extra fuel to burn when you’re doing all of that in the cold. Keep your energy levels up by making sure to eat plenty of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Plan to prepare some hot meals to warm you up when you need it, but also bring extra bars, trail mix, peanut butter, or any other quality camping foods you can think of.
Don’t forget to wash down all of those calories with enough water to help keep you hydrated. Even if you aren’t sweating, your body still needs plenty of water. Keep in mind that anytime you’re exerting yourself hiking or carrying gear, you’ll need more water than usual. The same goes for camping at altitude.
When you’re spending prolonged periods in the cold, frostbite and hypothermia can become real risks. Frostbite is the freezing of tissue and it usually occurs when you have exposed skin such as your nose or lips or it can happen to extremities like your fingers and toes that aren’t insulated by the rest of your body. Hypothermia, on the other hand, occurs when your body’s internal temperature drops too low. Both of these conditions are dangerous and should be taken very seriously.
To prevent hypothermia or frostbite from ruining your trip, try to maintain a comfortable temperature. Don’t let yourself get too cold; otherwise, you’ll have a more difficult time trying to warm up. If your fingers or toes get cold, take the time to stop and do whatever is necessary to warn them up. You might want to consider packing extra gloves, socks, and even portable hand and foot warmers that you can use to keep nice and toasty warm.
If you hate getting into a cold sleeping bag, consider placing a bottle filled with warm water at the bottom of your sleeping bag. This will help you stay nice and warm, and allow you to get that restful night’s sleep your body desperately needs after roughing it in the cold all day. Just make sure to use a plastic bottle and not a stainless steel one, otherwise, you could risk getting burned.
Whether you’re camping in the middle of winter or on a hot summer day, there are some things you should always bring with you, and those are the essentials. Although the essentials list may vary depending on the source, many of them have the same things in common: first aid, sun protection, means to make a fire, and a map and compass among other things. Although you may not want to carry more than you have to, when you really need one of these essential items, you’ll be glad you have them — plus, they could make all the difference in your safety.
If you’re planning to spend more time outdoors this winter and want to experience the excitement of cold-weather camping, we encourage you to consider bringing along a Hennessy hammock. Our 4 Season models offer premium protection from the elements as well as a two-layer bottom to hold an insulating foam pad. With a camping hammock from Hennessy, you won’t ever have to lay on the cold, hard ground again — simply string up your hammock and crawl in for a full night of cozy, comfortable rest.
Camp safely and comfortably this winter — shop Hennessy Hammock to find your perfect camping hammock.