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This past weekend, we were invited to stay at a friend’s cabin which is in the footprint of Humboldt Peak. We accepted the invite, but refused to stay in the cabin. That’s right, we camped in the van, our first winter slumber in it. I know this is nowhere near tent camping in winter, and WAY off from sleeping in a snow cave. However, as a family, this was a new adventure and I’m excited for things to come now that we’ve accomplished this! Here are some things I learned from two nights of winter camping- “sportsmobile” style.
1-Stay organized. This goes for any kind of camping; tent, car, backpacking, van etc… Living in a small space with 3, no, 4 living things (Husband, Son, Myself and Dog included) really meant that we had to keep things in a certain place. Staying organized means less stress when you need to find something in a hurry. Some things we keep in certain places are the food stashes, toiletries, and during this season, our winter gear. Clothes are all kept in a cabinet together and easy-to-access head lamps and lanterns are another priority.
2-Have a place to store wet/muddy shoes. Car campers should have a place for muddy and wet boots. I am going to invest in a muddy boot tray that is about $10 from Cabelas to cut down on wet and dirty floors. Tent campers can just toss them under the vestibule outside the tent, but if you want your boots to stay warmer, keep them inside your tent, possibly on a car floormat.
3-Cut back on condensation. We learned this the hard way. The entire van roof (exposed metal) froze overnight and a combination of our hot breath, the warming sun and our indoor heater made us work hard to dry the roof before drops of freezing water woke up our son. Even though it’s cold out, try to keep a window cracked or part of the rain fly open to reduce the buildup of condensation inside the van or tent.
4- Get bed ready before bed time. This saved us tons of stress as well as frustration. By getting the bed area ready early in the day (even as early as parking at a spot) ensured that we had a nice, comfy bed and sleeping bags waiting for us when we got in the van. If we didn’t have anything out ahead of time, we would have been struggling to fold out the sleeping bags while we were freezing.
5-Keep pajamas in your sleeping bag. After laying out the bed area, put your pj’s in your sleeping bag to keep them a bit warmer and to change clothes without freezing (this takes some skill…).
6-Keep your head warm at night. Sleep with a sweater that has an attached hood, or wear a warm hat. Some heat escapes through your head, so if your head is the only thing exposed outside of your sleeping bag, keeping it covered will help keep you warm. I really like using my Melanzana Micro Grid Hoodie when sleeping.
7-Buy a portable heater. The temps we encountered at night were in the high teens the first night, and mid 20’s the 2nd. We only ran the heater at night before going to bed and upon waking up. A small heater, such as the portable propane Buddy Heater can provide a much needed heating source. However, many are not usable above 8,000ft elevation. You should have a carbon monoxide detector and should also crack a window when using them, especially overnight. Candles can also help keep the space warm, just be sure to keep them in a safe space and not burn them through the night.
8-Keep extra blankets in the car. These can come in use for many things. If your car gets stuck in snow, stay warm. If you need some extra layers in the tent or in the van, they come in handy!
9-Have lots of things to do. Especially for a family, these things are important! Keep books to read, card games, pens/pencils, paper, or even snow toys readily available to burn the time when its snowing or too cold to play outside.
10-Think safety first. As in any situation when driving or traveling in winter conditions, keep your vehicle well stocked with emergency items such as a shovel, chains, salt, emergency signals, extra food and more.