Regardless of how much you love skiing, winter’s not the best camping weather. But that doesn’t mean that winter’s “down time” for the campers among us. It’s a time to relish the raw outdoors as well as get ready for the next season of camping. Here’s how.
Make a List
Start by simply dreaming about the warm season. What horizons are beckoning? The high peaks of the Rockies? The twisted shapes of the redrock desert? North to Alaska? Or the frequent easy camping trips on the neighborhood river? This is the time for daydreaming, imagining trips that may or may not come to fruition—but that’s ok, it’s part of the process. Let the ideas flow.
Worship the Maps
Out of this list, something will grab hold of you. Now it’s time for research. Look at the maps, the internet, read guidebooks, and see what it would take to do that long backpack through Glacier or that trip to Denali you’ve been dreaming about for years. How many days? How much mileage? When’s the best weather?
Select Your Buddies and Set Goals
Then it comes down to selecting your pals that you’re going to invite along, and do so with care. If your goal is to do a lot of hikes, pick pals who want that experience too: if they’re expecting to sleep in and lounge on the lakeside, you’ll be set up for some conflict. Figure out who’s kids get along as well as what adult plans are compatible.
For the bigger trips, select your buddies with care. The folks you get along with well for a weekend campout may not be the folks you’d want to spend a longer vacation with. And not everyone is a great camp partner when the weather turns sour or plans go awry.
Clear the Schedule
Now for the hard part: finding a time which works for everyone. The sooner you can do this the better: I’ve found that if I’m not putting summer trips on the calendar by March, it quickly becomes too late to coordinate anything more than a long weekend.
Win the Lottery
Some popular sites (like campgrounds in Yosemite in summer or river permits on prime trips like the Grand Canyon, Salmon, San Juan or Yampa) have permitting systems. This means being on the ball to make your reservations the instant they open up. Sometimes it’s a lottery where you simply have to be lucky. All the more reason to plan early.
Have a Plan B, and Plan C
Have backup plans. You may not get that permit. Weather or some weird logistical holdup may make you change your plans. As you get closer, have another plan in your head.
Organize the Gear
Winter’s the perfect time to organize the garage or the basement. Sort your camping gear and create some easily organized system so when the time comes, you can grab what you need with ease.
No, you shouldn’t stop drinking water; but you should start building up a stash of dehydrated food for easy camping food. Vacuum pack it and store it in the freezer until it’s time to go camping again.
Enjoy the Winter
None of this means all your winter weekends should be spent at home repacking gear and dehydrating food. Get out there and snowshoe, ski, and hike—it’s also good prep for the next camping season.