When the mild, mid-season weather gives way to winter, the number of backcountry hunters tends to drop. However, just because the weather is getting colder, it doesn’t mean that camping is out of the question. Instead, many experienced hunters consider the cold season a fun and quite productive time to hunt. Although cold weather conditions imply more gear and more weight, you’ll multiply your chances of having an enjoyable and successful trip with proper preparation. In this article, we’re sharing eight tips that increase your odds of staying safe during your winter hunt.
First of all, make sure that you bring enough warm clothes. Keep in mind that you may not feel cold right away, and after long hours out in the cold in moderately warm clothes, you’ll start to freeze. Go for layers: they act as insulation and do an excellent job keeping the heat in and the cold out. When it’s freezing cold in the morning, you can wear all your layers, and you can remove a layer when it starts to get warmer during the day. Needless to say that no one wants to have cold, wet, and cramping feet, so get proper boots and bring extra socks to avoid this.
For a warm and comfortable winter hunting trip, you’ll need a sturdy shelter that can handle the high winds and snow buildup, all-season tents being the most reasonable choice. Seasoned hunters prefer wall tent camping. Wall tents are durable, able to withstand severe weather conditions, and, with proper care, will last you for long years.
If you’re camping in the snow, go for a spot with low avalanche risk. Try to camp on level ground that’s further from a slope that might experience snow movement. If possible, choose a site for your tent that is sheltered from the wind. You can also hang a tarp between trees to block the wind from your tent. Try to avoid any vegetation and pitch your tent on snow. Make sure you pack the snow tightly before you start setting up your shelter. Otherwise, your body will melt a deformation into the loose snow, and when it refreezes, the surface will get uneven and uncomfortable to sleep on. In windy areas, it’s a good idea to dig a 1-2′ deep hole for your tent. This way, you’ll reduce the amount of wind blasting your tent.
To ensure comfortable night sleep, bring a sleeping bag that is rated for lower temperatures than you’re expecting to experience on your hunting trip. For extra insulation from the cold ground, use a sleeping pad. Don’t rely on an air mattress in the cold season: when the air in the mattress gets cold, you’ll feel like you’re lying on an ice block. Also, always carry your sleeping bag in a dry bag to not get wet from snow.
Fire is fairly essential for late-season camping. It can provide you with warmth, comfort, ability to cook and melt snow into water. You need to know how to make a fire and to bring a firestarter to build it quickly. Look for the most flammable materials: use dry needles, wood with pitch, standing dead trees, and moss. Alternatively, you can get a tent with a stove, which will make your stay in the wild way easier. Check out the collection of high-grade hunting tents with stoves at hot-tent.com.
Unlike summer trips, winter adventures require more energy. You need to consume enough calories to cover energy loss due to hiking in the snow and keeping your body warm. Therefore, it’s essential to include plenty of carbohydrates in your diet. Consider the food that’s easy to fix and tasty enough to be appetizing.
Although you might not feel thirsty, make sure you drink enough water to cover your daily needs. Remember that dry winter air can quickly dehydrate you, and you won’t even notice it until it is too late. First and foremost, water is crucial for your body to produce heat, which is one of the major concerns during winter camping trips. Keep your water bottles upside down: ice builds from the top, and you’ll be able to easily access water even if it has started to freeze.
Snow provides a great source of drinking water; however, remember to properly purify it before drinking. Unfortunately, water filters are not suitable for subzero weather. You can purify water by treating it with a chlorine dioxide tablet or bringing it to a boil (this method calls for extra fuel, so keep that in mind while packing for your trip).
Did you know that your body loses a considerable amount of heat through your head? That’s why it’s so important to use a warm hat and a balaclava during your subzero hunting trips, as well as sleep with a balaclava on your head to retain your body heat.
Next, don’t breathe inside your sleeping bag at night because the moisture from your breath will make your sleeping bag wet and lose its insulating properties.
To keep your feet warm during the night, put a bottle of warm water in the foot of your sleeping bag. Also, place your boots in a stuff sack and put them inside your sleeping bag to protect them against freezing at night.
All in all, backpack hunting in the cold season comes with a couple of major challenges. However, thorough preparation and proper gear can make your experience pleasing or at least bearable and trouble-free.