How To Select A Winter Campsite

Winter camping can lead to a very enjoyable time if you come prepared and pick a favorable campsite. Take these steps as you set up your temporary abode in the wintry wild.

1. Consider the safety of the site. You don’t want to set up your camp in an avalanche zone, under dead trees and dead branches that may fall, or out on questionable ice. Select sites that seem hazard free, and offer easy escape if something goes wrong.

2. Pick a place with protection from the wind and weather. Wind chill can make anyplace feel colder. Seek the shelter of hills, forests, rock outcrops and any other structure which will block the prevailing winds. It’s also nice to pick a higher place where the cold air doesn’t settle. In the northern hemisphere, south-facing hillsides and slopes catch the sun each day and become warmer than the north side of the same terrain feature. Being on the side also keeps you above the cold air that settles at the bottom of the feature each night. You don’t want to set up camp on a mountaintop, but avoiding the valley below will keep you away from the high moisture and the low temperatures of low-lying areas.

3. Select a safe fire site. Dig through any snow to the bare ground, if possible. And build your fire away from overhanging evergreen boughs laden with snow, unless you want the snow to flop down on your fire and snuff it out.

4. Designate a bathroom. If your campsite is remote, you’ll be on your own for sanitation. Use caution when picking a place to create a “bathroom.” It should be away from camp and out of the path of travel. Digging “cat holes” in the snow can be an acceptable system, but make sure each “deposit” is marked to avoid anyone stepping into a mess. In a situation without snow and the ground is too frozen to dig, solid waste can be covered with debris to bury it.

These tips, and many more survival tips are in MacWelch’s books: Prepare For Anything – the Hunting & Gathering Survival Manual – How To Survive Anything – the Ultimate Winter Survival Handbook – and How To Survive Off The Grid

Follow him on Twitter @timmacwelch

And check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles in Outdoor Life Magazine.

Shop Sportsman’s Guide for winter camping supplies >

Leave a Reply

Commenting Policy - We encourage open expression of your thoughts and ideas. But there are a few rules:

No abusive comments, threats, or personal attacks. Use clean language. No discussion of illegal activity. Racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally hateful comments are not tolerated. Keep comments on topic. Please don't spam.

While we reserve the right to remove or modify comments at our sole discretion, the Sportsman's Guide does not bear any responsibility for user comments. The views expressed within the comment section do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of The Sportsman's Guide.