Camping is a beloved Canadian pastime, but booking a popular campsite during the peak summer months can be very challenging. For more and more families, a great alternative to enjoying camping is during the “off” season, when the air is crisp and the woods are lined with pristine layers of leaves and even snow.
Add to the reasons that the low Canadian dollar makes planning for a tropical getaway out of reach for most families; camping in autumn and winter is an affordable way to enjoy adventure outdoors, and time together with loved ones. There is a magical serenity that comes with disconnecting from technology and getting back to nature, no matter what season, but winter camping certainly has its unique benefits.
“There’s something so completely Canadian about camping in the winter,” says Caitlyn Piton, National Youth Commissioner and Chair of the National Youth Network at Scouts Canada, who thoroughly enjoys the snow and winter activities. “From identifying animal prints in the snow to ice fishing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, and building a snowman—the activities you can enjoy in the winter are only limited by your imagination. The best thing is, there are no bugs or mosquitoes to swat away!”
Scouts are Canada’s youngest outdoor experts, and they experience winter camping at a young age to learn survival skills and how to work together to safely enjoy the Great White North.
How to enjoy it though…? Here are some excellent ideas:
Glamour camping or “glamping” is a global trend that offers the best of both worlds, allowing families to take in the serenity of nature while enjoying the luxuries of a home-away-from-home in a caravan, cabin or yurt. Consider bringing comforts from home to create your own glamping experience.
For families seeking the more rustic experience, there’s hot tent camping. This is achieved by connecting a small stove to an external pipe, so that the temperature in the tent remains cozy and warm—to be able to gather and sing camp songs or tell ghost stories. For safety reasons, extinguish the stove before bedtime.
For the adventurous family that loves the outdoors, they may opt for the quinzee: a shelter made from snow. Building a quinzee is fairly simple but does take time to build safely by packing snow into a mound seven or eight feet high, and allowing the structure to settle, ideally overnight. Here’s a great how-to video on building a quinzee from Scouts Canada:
“While winter camping can provide an incredible experience, safety is essential,” says Piton. “The best way to have an unforgettable winter adventure is to stay safe by following Scouts Canada’s motto of ‘being prepared’ for any scenario.”
While snow can provide a stunning backdrop and is a lot of fun, it can also be dangerous. Check the forecast ahead of time and avoid venturing out if there is a warning of heavy snowfall or an extreme cold alert. Weather can go from cool to dangerously cold very quickly, especially when the sun is setting.
Cotton easily soaks up and holds on to cold moisture, so wear wool or synthetic materials that have water-repelling qualities to stay warm and dry. Purchase a quality pair of boots, parka and snow pants.
Onions have layers! Layering is important. Having the ability to get in and out of layers easily will help regulate body temperature and avoid sweating. Any exposed skin – not just the head – results in a loss of body heat.
Trekking through the snow can expend loads of energy and although you may not feel thirsty, it’s important to drink water. Avoid caffeine as it dehydrates and stick to de-caffeinated or herbal hot drinks to keep warm. Dehydration leads to greater risk of hypothermia.
Camping in the winter requires greater caution than in other seasons. Heavy snow and icicles can fall from branches above, and hazards may be hidden under the layers of snow on the ground. Be cautious near ice and running water.
Always bring along a daypack with emergency supplies when venturing out on any winter activity. Pack essentials like a first aid kit, dry layers, whistle, emergency blanket, snacks and water.