For some people, weather means nothing; they have to get outside and into nature no matter what. Here’s the thing, though: without the right gear, they will die out there. Here’s some of the sweetest cold-weather camp gear around.
Note: This is by no means a complete list. Obviously, you’ll need a backpack and clothes and stuff. Always check the weather, tell people where you’re going, and know your limits.
1. 4-Season Tent
Home away from home. Your own little nest. Shelter from a storm. However you look at it, a tent is a wonderful thing. For winter expeditions you need something that’s going to keep snow and rain out, is lightweight, and easy to set up. REI makes killer tents that are generally hundreds of dollars cheaper than bigger brands, and this Mountain 2 tent is no exception. $350 [REI]
2. Lofty Sleeping Bag
I hate sleeping cold and wearing layers to bed. Answer: a really nice sleeping bag. The Marmot Couloir has 800-fill goose down, a water-resistant/wind-proof shell, and is rated all the way down to -2 degrees F (-19 celsius). In my experience, no bags live up to their temperature-rating as consistently as Marmots do, and they have roomie foot-boxes that don’t make me feel all claustro. You’ll be able to sleep buck naked even when it’s below freezing. $350 [e-OMC]
3. Insulated Sleep Pad
Sleeping bags can only do so much if you’re sleeping directly on top of a bed of snow—that cold is going to seep through. You need insulation and padding. Some use a closed-cell foam pad plus an air-pad on top. A better solution is this hybrid 700-fill goose down self-inflating Exped Downmat 9. It packs down small but it’s the Cadillac of sleep pads. $180 [Moosejaw]
4. Snow Weapons
Snow can be your friend or foe, depending on what tools you have. A snow saw like this one from Backcountry Access can be used to carve snow-bricks to make a shelter (think igloo), and may be useful for cutting wood. $35 [REI] A snow shovel can be used to dig a snow cave, level ground for a tent, or dig someone out in case of avalanche. The Black Diamond Deploy 7 is strong, light, and portable. $70 [REI] Steep, icy trails can be deadly. If you might encounter such conditions, you need an ice axe. The Black Diamond Raven Pro is a very nice, light one. $100 [REI]
5. Fast Fire-Starters
When it’s really, really cold, there are few things more comforting (and possibly life-saving) than a fire. These all natural Lightnin’ Bug Fire Starters burn strong and hot for at least seven minutes, meaning you can use them to light larger pieces of wood with no tinder and much less kindling. $3/8pk [REI]
6. Liquid-Fuel Stove
You may have a super-slick iso-butane/propane camp stove, but here’s the thing: they don’t work in extremely cold temperatures. Do you want to put an ice-cold fuel canister inside your shirt to warm it up? You do not. A liquid fuel canister like the MSR Dragonfly can burn damn near anything (from kerosene and unleaded gas all the way to jetfuel). The Dragonfly is light, stable, and it can simmer, which is rare in a stove like this. $130 [Campmor]
7. Instant Handwarmers
Remember that Jack London story To Build a Fire? Remember how he (spoiler alert) couldn’t because he couldn’t feel his hands and he died? Yeah, that might have been avoidable if he’d had handwarmers. They’re cheap, light, and may help restore some much needed manual dexterity in a critical situation. If you know it’s going to be mighty cold, you may be very glad you had ’em. $12/ten pairs [REI]
8. Solid Snowshoes
You may have the heartiest winter boots with treads like a grizzly bear’s teeth, but if you’re walking across soft-packed snow (fresh or melting), you’re going to fall through. I fell in up to my neck once and sliced my leg on a rock below. This could have been avoided if I had sasquatch sized-feet, or snowshoes. Surface-area, lightness, and traction are your friends. The MSR Evo Ascent 22 Snowshoes are nice for the price. $200 [REI]
9. Personal Locator Beacon
Something may go wrong when you’re in the backcountry. You may get lost, you may get hurt, or snowed in. In short, you may need someone to come and get you, and fast. The McMurdo Fast Find 210 will send a distress signal with your GPS coordinates to a network of Search and Rescue Satellites, giving your position to within 100 yards, anywhere in the world. It’s light, waterproof, has a standby life of 5 years and an operation life of 24hrs. No subscription required. A very smart thing to carry. $220 [West Marine]
10. Dual-Purpose Sled
This works on two levels. By dragging a sled behind you, you can lower your pack weight by a whole lot. That can reduce fatigue and even keep you from falling through some ice. The flip side is hey, you’re outside because you enjoy it, right? Why not make time for some fun. Zooming down hills in sleds is just about the only thing that keeps me sane during the winter. This beautiful Lucky Bums Classic Tobaggan should fit both bills nicely. $110 [Sierra Trade Post]
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