Jon Finley's   Snow Camping Tips

mount07.jpg (23937 bytes)I have snow camped almost every winter since 1974 in one form or another.   Sometimes by choice other times not.  After almost freezing my tail off sleeping in the back of my truck, snowed in at the top of the pass of the Beartooth mountain range one September, I have gradually learned how to be prepared for winter traveling and snow camping.

Winter traveling:   Put an old coat, sweats, a pair of socks, a sleeping bag and a small shovel (2 foot military type) somewhere in the back seat or trunk of your car.  Carry a gallon of water and some sort of food (Breakfast bars, Pop-tarts, granola bars, etc.) enough for at least one small meal.   Plastic  bags can be used as liners to keep your feet dry in wet boots.   Extra socks with Plastic bags can be used as mittens.  Flares are cheap and they work; you may want to carry three or four flares and some extra match books.   Your whole "emergency kit" can fit within one 40 gal garbage bag which will keep everything dry and clean until you need them.  Last:   ALWAYS TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU'RE GOING.

I slept warm at the top of the pass because of my kit.  I woke up the next morning to find two feet of new snow, gusting winds and a 4 foot wall I had to dig through that the snow plow had made when it passed.

Snow Camping:   What fun, right??  Well, it can be, if you approach the sport with the right frame of mind and the right equipment.   You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on equipment.  You WILL need to carry more clothing and camp a little smarter than you would for 3 season camping.

Suggestions to start with:


     Start with the proper clothing for the type of mountain, altitude and weather.

  1. Internal frame backpack (5000-7000 cubic inches).
  2. Ice Axe (length will depend on your height) 60-90cm.
  3. Adjustable ski poles (depending on the type of mountain you may only need the axe).
  4. Stiff mountaineering boot (plastic seems to provide a wide range of use).
  5. Crampons.
  6. Ski goggles.
  7. Possibly Backcountry skies (wider than normal x-country) and or snow shoes.
  8. Sleeping bag rated -20f or lower.
  9. 4 season tent (these will usually have 3 or 4 aluminum poles, two doors, vestibules front and back, etc).
  10. Sun block (SPF-50 or better).
  11. Aspirin, Motrin, etc (something that works well for you for High Altitude headaches).

    Snow camping:

    Start with the proper clothing for the weather.

  1. Cross country skies or snow shoes.
  2. Toboggan (to haul your gear in).
  3. Sleeping bag rated +5 or lower (will depend on your local winter weather).
  4. 3-4 season tent.
  5. Sun block (SPF-50 or better).

    Here are some vendor links that might help you in selecting equipment:

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