Winter Camping: Building a Snow Shelter

Expert tips for a safe, sound night's sleep

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We won’t lie to you: There will be cold moments when you start snow-camping. But would you rather sit inside all winter, packing on the pounds? Keep your connection to nature alive by embracing the good things about snow: It’s a great insulator and building material-and it’s damned pretty when it blankets the land. Here are 6 ways to make sure your winter camp is warm, comfortable, and protected from the elements.

>> Choose a site with early-morning sun on flat ground that’s protected from avalanches, strong winds, and dead trees. Hard, compact snow indicates a windswept site, while loose drifts are signs of less exposure.

>> Flatten and compact the snow under your tent with a shovel, or stomp on it with skis or snowshoes. This will reduce the uncomfortable ruts that your body heat will melt into the snow beneath your tent.

>> Secure tent lines with snow anchors buried 6 inches deep. Compact the ground above them, then wait an hour for the snow to harden before cinching the lines tight. No anchors? Use snow stakes, small stuff sacks, trekking poles, ice axes, or any flat-sided object that you can bury securely.

>> Make a snow wall around your tent as a windbreak. Use a shovel to cut blocks, or pile snow into a bank, leaving a 3-foot gap between the wall and the side of your tent so that blowing snow collects in that space and not against the fabric.

>> Keep tent vents open at night to circulate air and prevent condensation that can drip onto you and your bag.

>> Shake or shovel off your tent periodically during big storms to keep snow loads from collapsing your tent.

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