Winter camping: extend your outdoor travel season

‘Tis the season for everyone at the Around the Campfire community to be talking about winter camping. What’s quickly become apparent, however, is that everyone’s interpretation of ‘winter’ and ‘camping’ is different. As an avid camper and backpacker, I’m glad to know so many versions of outdoor overnights exist; no matter what your comfort level or geographic location, there’s a way to continue to camp with your family in the winter months.

camping-in-winterUnless you’re a hardcore snow camper setting out on snowshoes or skis (next month, my family and I will be that brave!), you’ll need think outside the box to get full enjoyment out of your winter camping experience. The following tips will ensure happy campers while enjoying campgrounds and recreational sites during the winter months:

1. Seek out alternative shelter. You don’t need an RV to camp in winter! If you’re camping in a wintry climate that eliminates the possibility of tent camping, look for a state or national park that offers overnights in yurts, cabins, or teepees. Oregon State Parks offers all three, complete with heaters, electricity, and cozy beds. In fact, winter is our favorite season to camp in state parks: reservations for those coveted yurts are easier to come by, and parks are nearly empty!

2. Go south or go coastal. An obvious solution, if you can swing it, traveling south to camp rewards families with the same low crowds in weather that might feel downright balmy to northerners. My favorite picks include Georgia’s Reed Bingham State Park and Florida’s Florida Caverns State Park. For those in driving distance of coastal regions, heading toward the shore or beach can ensure milder weather. Plus, those seasonal storms off the ocean can be exciting (as long as you’re prepared!).

3. Sandwich backcountry overnights with lodge or hotel stays. Programs like CascadeHuts, which operates a network of backcountry huts in the Mt. Hood national forest of Oregon, provide warmth, shelter, and safety to backcountry campers. (We’ll be reviewing our own experience hiking the Mt. Hood wilderness with CascadeHuts next month!) Similar networks exist in or near most national parks, providing families with a string of cozy accommodations. When tackling difficult camping adventures such as this (especially for the first time), plan to sandwich outdoor stays between nights in hotels or lodges with more of the comforts of home.

4. Carry the right gear. Obviously, the more comfortable your family is, the more fun you’ll have. For winter camping (even in mild climates), we bring down, 0 degree sleeping bags (Kelty makes good quality ones for a reasonable price), propane heaters, and lots of extra clothes so everyone has dry layers. In snow, appropriate clothing is a must, and in any area, hats, gloves, and raingear are a good bet.

5. For a winter experience without the overnight, seek out sno-parks. Most mountainous interstates and highways have several sno-parks along its route: look for them as you would rest areas or service stations. In addition to providing some quick snow fun for kids, sno-parks often boast cross-country ski trails, winter animal sanctuaries, or sledding hills. Overnight camping is sometimes permitted (though you’ll need to go prepared for a night in the elements).

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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