Taking your first winter excursion can be a bit daunting because even the most mundane tasks seem harder with cold fingers and toes and freezing conditions. I’ve taken the liberty to share some of my tried and true winter experiences with you. I’ve made the mistakes first so you can have these small tidbits of insight before you head out on your own winter adventure.

Whether it be for a good laugh or a valuable tip, I hope you enjoy these 12 fun and useful tricks for winter backpacking:

  1. Using cold toothpaste hurts…really bad. – Trust me, its brutal. Warm up the tube in your coat before you put it on your brush. Your teeth will thank you.
The challenges of winter camping can be overcome with a little bit of creative thinking, good planning and a great attitude.  HAVE FUN! 

2.  The old hot water bottle trick– Boil up some water (likely snow) before bed and pour into a water bottle (most metal bottles are okay, not all plastic bottles are).  Screw the lid on tight (most important step) and place at the foot of your sleeping bag (you can wrap a sock around it to prevent burning yourself).  Wait about 10 mins and crawl into your bag. This will make for a toasty bag and warmth during the night… plus you have treated water for the morning.

3. Cheese whiz doesn’t freeze – Should we be shocked about this? However, most other foods do freeze.  For example: warming granola bars in your coat next to your body before eating may prevent an emergency trip to the dentist upon your return.

Stopping for a afternoon snack on a cold day on the trail.

4. Pee before you go to bed.. like twice – This will prevent you having to get up to go in the middle of a blistering cold night, but it will also help keep you warm.  Having a full bladder uses your body’s energy to keep the contents of your bladder warm making you feel colder. So GO!

5. Water bladders freeze – It won’t take long in icy cold temps for the hose on your water bladder to freeze.  Opt for water bottles of the plastic variety and avoid the hassle of the water bladder system.  I have found that even the insulating hose sleeves don’t work in really cold temps.

6. Exercise before you get into your sleeping bag – Drop and do 20 pushups or some burpees immediately before crawling into bed (not enough to work up a sweat, just to get your heart rate up) so your body is warm when you get inside your sleeping bad. During the day if you are feeling cold, just keep moving.

7. Winter Sled- Using a gear sled over appropriate terrain makes hauling heavy winter gear a bit easier. It doesn’t have to be fancy.  It can later double as a downhill sled for fun if you find a good hill!

My trail mate rigged up a gear sled from a inexpensive children’s winter sled and it worked fabulously. 

8. Don’t burn your pot – Add a bit of water to your snow-filled pot to prevent burning the bottom of your pot during the melting process.

9. Pack more hand warmers than you think you will need- These things are like gold. I put them in my pockets, between the layer of my gloves and mitts, inside my sleeping bag times ten.  Just don’t put them directly on your skin (this comes from experience).

10. Wear goggles:  Snow blindness is a serious issue. Protect your peepers from UV damage by wearing eye protection (good sunglasses or goggles). The sun’s reflection on the snowy white surface will be hard on the eyes otherwise.

Even on an overcast day, staring at the bright snow can tire your eyes after hours of trekking. Protect your eyes!

11. Lithium lasts longer:   Try using lithium batteries in your devices.  They tend to last longer in the cold vs regular batteries.


12. Hot beverages warm the body and soul: Coffee, cocoa, cider, hot toddy: whatever suits your fancy.  Having a warm beverage in the morning or in the evening at camp is a huge mood booster. Consider packing an insulted thermos/mug or bottle such as the hydroflask, which will keep your beverages piping hot all day.  A great reward along the trail and worth the few extra ounces.

Having a warming sip of cocoa while taking in the stunning landscape. No one will judge you if you put a bit of whisky in there with it too. 

Happy Hiking !

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3 thoughts

    1. A Nalgene is what I use for my hot water bottle trick. Most plastic bottles of that quality will withstand the heat in my experience. I cannot speak to disposable plastic bottles such as water/gatorade/juice as I don’t think they would hold up to the heat. Using an insulated metal bottle would be counter productive because the heat wouldn’t escape the bottle to the outside to do it’s job. You will be totally fine with a nalgene. Happy hiking !

      Liked by 1 person

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