First the question must be asked – why camp in winter?
Well, there are a few reasons, the first being – the stars! Shorter days and clearer skies mean amazing opportunities to see the stars so clearly you could touch them... or at least instagram them!
The next reason – space – you won't be cramming into a campsite with a hundred other people on your doorstep! The next, and perhaps best reason, is the view. Very few people actually appreciate the true beauty of winter. Cold weather can make a place ethereal, like transporting yourself to a different world, a world that’s just for you, thus giving you epic bragging rights.
That said preparation is key. Never be caught out by being under-prepared! It’s always best to know the area you're travelling to, make sure you're comfortable you're prepared for the environment and its climate (and a little-bit more besides). Always check the Metservice to make sure you're not heading into anything risky and let people know where you're going.
The right gear
It seems obvious, but if you're sleeping out in 0° temperatures, and you want to be comfortable, make sure your sleeping bag is a -10° bag. It’s recommended to have a bag that’s rated at least 5.5°C lower than the coldest temperature you expect. There is some confusion over 'comfort' vs 'limit' so here is a guide:
• Comfort: The temperature an adult woman could expect a comfortable night’s sleep.
• Limit: The temperature at which a standard man can sleep for eight hours in a curled position without waking.
• Extreme: The minimum temperature at which a standard woman can remain for six hours without risk of death from hypothermia (though frostbite is still possible).
Fight the urge to snuggle deep into your bag, your breath will eventually create moisture, and therefore you'll get cold. Instead, tighten the draft collar (yes, that’s what it’s for!) and hood so your body keeps in the warmth and you can breathe easy! Lastly, a sleeping bag liner can add extra warmth too.
A mattress is also incredibly important, if you're on an air mattress, you'll probably want to put something on top of it as a barrier to keep the warmth near you, rather than heating the cold air you're on. Failing that, you can put a foam mat between the tent floor and the mattress you're on keeping a barrier.
Some tents are made for the side of a mountain in a blizzard, but most aren't. Carefully choose your tent to suit the location and conditions of where you are planning your adventure. If you are hiking or tramping, you’ll be wanting to carry a small, lightweight tent, like our Hiker Tents. Smaller tents are also easier to put up quickly and heat. If in doubt, your Kiwi Camping specialist will be able to help you choose the best option.
Both kinds; the wood and the food kind are really important. Hot food is essential to keeping up your energy and keeping your internal temperature steady. To heat water or food quickly, you can use a Gasmate turbo stove, it heats 500ml of water in 2.5 minutes. Boil in the bag meals are a good option and always take an extra fuel canister! If you're going down the more traditional route of a natural fire, then you'll need dry kindling or some fire-lighters. Remember, dry wood isn't always easy to come by, so always have a back-up plan!
Polyprop is your friend. It keeps you warm, even if you're wet, and it’s easy to dry out. Wool will also keep you warm, even if wet, but it’s heavy if it gets wet, and almost impossible to dry out. Stay away from cotton. Synthetics or merino are also great thermal insulators. Layer up, from the base layer out!
While making your hot cuppa before bed, put some hot (not boiling) water into a sealed plastic bottle and heat up your sleeping bag before getting in.
Keep your drinking water from freezing by using insulated bottle pockets. It’s best if it has a non-spill straw or top, spills will mean wet clothes and that’s hard to fix!
Choose lithium batteries instead of alkaline. Lithium is the only sensible choice in 0° weather, so if you really need that headlamp to work, don't take alkaline!
Snuggle – You're warmer if there’s two of you, so get up close! The less cold air coming up through the floor means you'll both be warmer.
Keep your mobile phone in your sleeping bag with you, if it gets too cold, it may run out of power, and there aren't too many power sockets in the bush.
Put tomorrow’s clothes in the bottom of your bag too. If you wear a base layer to bed, you can simply get dressed in the warm kit from the bottom of the bag.
Tarp – so versatile! Put it under the tent as a barrier, put it in the vestibule to stop traipsing in mud and water, use it as an extra wind break or water barrier, sit on it around the fire.
Keep your feet and head warm – now we sound like your mother! Your head and upper chest are five times more sensitive to temperature changes than other areas of our bodies, so keep them covered. When you get really cold, your body sacrifices the blood flow from the extremities first, so keep your feet dry and warm.
And most importantly …. don’t forget to post photos of your ‘cold weather’ camping adventures on our Instagram page!