This article offers information about winter-specific tents and sleeping bags, selecting a safe campground, prepping before sleep, and staying warm while sleeping. Whether it's camping for the sake of camping, for an ice climbing trip, or for glacier travel on a mountaineering trip, here are a few tips to have a pleasant night out.
Most expedition tents will also have two doors in case snow from a storm or avalanche makes it necessary to exit your tent quickly, or if snow buries one entrance. They will typically have a vestibule, which is a sheltered space that extends over one or both entrances. The vestibule allows you to enter your tent protected from the elements, as well as providing a dry place to store your pack or other gear. You can see Mountain Hardwear’s line of expedition tents here›
Choosing the right temperature rating can be tricky. Think about the coldest temps you might encounter on a trip and go with something that works in even lower temps than that. Another option might be to go with a colder, lighter bag and then wear warmer clothes when sleeping inside it. Take into account how cold you tend to run when outside, and know that you’ll be even colder when asleep. If you run cold, opt for lower ratings. If you run hot, you can go for something that corresponds to the temps you think you will encounter. Keep in mind that a bad night’s sleep can drastically effect your performance the next day, so insure you bring a bag that’s warm enough to allow you to sleep all night.
Check out Mountain Hardwear’s cold weather bags here›
For really extreme conditions, a bag like the Phantom™ Gore-Tex® 0F/-18C Sleeping Bag can offer warmth and protection from wetness with a Gore-Tex® shell.
The tent stakes provided with your tent usually won't work in the snow in the traditional way. You will need to use them as a "deadman anchor" instead. Tie the guylines to the middle of the stake and bury the tent stake horizontally. Stomp the snow down on top of it to help lock it into place. Alternatively, you can use rocks, pieces of wood, or stuff sacks filled with snow in the same way.
If you are using double boots, keep your liners inside your sleeping bag with you. Some like to sleep with them on; others like to let them air out. One trick alpinists use is to slide feet into your mittens› for extra warmth. They won't go all the way on, but they can be helpful if you already have them with you.
Keep any batteries inside your bag to keep them warm at night. Batteries will fail quickly in the cold, so keeping them warm is important. You should also place the next morning’s clothing inside your bag so it’s quick to find and nice and warm to put on in the morning. If you are shorter, stuff the bottom of your bag with fleece, down jackets, and other clothes to fill in the space, so it doesn't fill with cold air instead.
In the winter, it can be difficult to get outside of the tent to go pee at night. Keep a well-marked Nalgene next to your sleeping bag that is designated just for peeing in. Products like a Freshette or Shewee can also be extremely useful for individuals to be able to pee into the bottle inside a tent. If you are in an expedition basecamp and have a second smaller sleeping bag for on the route, throw that bag on top of your basecamp bag for additional warmth, or if you are really cold, you can use it as a bag liner and put in inside your larger bag. Utilize the gear you have with you to keep warm.
Try to get a meal with protein and fats in before going bed. Your body will generate heat processing the meal as you sleep. For the morning, have all your food items prepped the night before and easy to locate. You can also pre-rig your coffee maker the night before, so you can save time when it’s really cold pre-dawn.