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Winter Survival Guide: Camp

Humans weren't built to sleep on snow. Defy nature and sleep soundly with these winter camping tips.
Tent setup (B. Fullerton)

Winterize Your Campsite
Follow these steps to create a comfortable overnight spot.
>> Look up. “Make sure there are no widowmakers nearby,” says Ben Shillington, author of Winter Backpacking and an expedition guide based in Ontario, Canada. “Frozen, brittle sap makes dead trees more prone to breaking and falling.”
>> Stomp out a level tent platform with your snowshoes. Give it at least an hour to sinter (refreeze and set solid), and keep your snowshoes on that entire time so you don’t create an uncomfortable posthole where the tent will be, says Shillington.
>> Pack down a potty trail. It should lead to a sheltered area 150 to 200 yards away from the tent and cooking zones, and away from water sources and main trails.
>> Pitch your tent. “Use your snowshoes, shovel parts, or skis like you’d use deadmen, tying your guylines around them. They’re secure, and you won’t have to pack stakes,” Shillington says. Also, face the front door downhill and away from prevailing winds.
>> Use a single door. Plan to cook and organize gear in one of your tent’s vestibules, and use the other side to climb in and out, which will minimize tracked-in snow.
>> Build snow walls around the tent to block wind. The most wind-protected area will be away from the barrier a distance equivalent to five times the wall’s height.
>> Enjoy and explore. After dinner, take a night hike. “The stars are amazing—plus, if you go to bed warm from the exercise, you’ll sleep better,” says Shillington.

Build a Heat Bomb
“Fill a bottle with hot water before bed and put it in the foot of your sleeping bag so it will be cozy when you crawl in. Around camp, you can also tuck one into your jacket; it’ll stay warm for several hours.”
–K. Cordes

Go to Bed on Empty
“Try to pee a lot before settling in for the night. Having a full bladder makes your body work harder to stay warm, so you feel colder. The extra trips will also reassure you that you’re staying hydrated. In case I do have to go at night, I keep a pee bottle—tightly sealed!—in the tent so I don’t have to go outside.”
–Shannon Davis, Climbing Editor

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