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Stay Comfortable in Any Weather: Cold

Staying warm is easier than getting warm: Plan ahead.

On the Trail | In Camp | Key Gear | Where to Camp

Sites to seek out–and avoid–for maximum comfort in any weather

Set up camp on ridgelines, passes, or hilltops to catch a breeze when it’s muggy. But avoid these exposed sites in stormy weather.

In thunderstorms, uniform stands of mature trees provide the best cover. Avoid clearings, washes, and tight canyons that are prone to flash floods.

Camp behind natural windbreaks, such as on the lee side of boulders, or build your own out of rocks or snow.

Avoid low-lying areas in meadows and along rivers when it’s wet and cold. Lower ground tends to get soggy, and the coldest air settles there. But in hot weather, a riverside camp is often breezy and cool.

Branches growing on only one side of the trees indicate frequent, strong winds. Check for widowmakers (dead trees or branches that could blow down) before pitching your tent. Also, wind typically moves down-valley in the evening and up-vally in the morning. Choose a site that’s sheltered from both directions.

Sheltered sites under alcoves and in dense stands of living trees protect from rain, cold, and heat. In winter, the cover reflects radiant heat back at you; in summer, overhangs and trees provide shade. Look for spots with good eastern exposure to catch the morning sun. In a canyon, sleep on a ledge to escape the cool ground breezes (just six feet can make a difference).

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