Camping in Quebec

Winter camping tips

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Winter camping tips

By Jean-Luc Théberge, author of the Guide du petit campeur québécois 

Winter camping is a very special and enriching experience, but you have to be well prepared to make the most of it and enjoy yourself.

Be aware of your limitations and be very careful. Everything takes longer when you’re camping in winter, and you’ll expend more energy even on little tasks, and on getting around in the cold and the snow. Normally, your first night should be near a home, ideally with a friend who has experience with this kind of camping. He or she can give you lots of often simple and efficient tips to help you have the most fun.

Rain is enemy No. 1 when it comes to winter camping. If it’s raining on the day you plan to set out, you are best to postpone your trip. A temperature of -15 or warmer is ideal.

You can go winter camping at many campgrounds in Quebec. That means that there will be a comfort station nearby where you can warm up if you have to. You won’t have to travel hundreds of kilometres! You can set up camp in the woods just a few hundred metres from your home or car and still feel completely “out in the wild.”

This kind of camping calls for the right equipment, however, and proper preparation if the experience is to be a success.

So, how do you keep from freezing? You’ll need layers and layers of warm clothing (think of an onion), and warm drinks (tea, coffee, etc.). Eat regularly and move around if it starts to get really chilly.

Equipment

Winter camping gear is fairly expensive, but it is usually pretty tough and, with the exception of your sleeping bag, can be used all year round. Given the multitude of products available, it’s essential to head for a specialized store where you can get proper advice. You can also find all kinds of useful and practical information on the Web. But be careful – remember that not everything you read on the Internet is true!

Most people are worried about freezing at night. In fact, with a good mummy-type bag rated for -20°C, you’ll be surprisingly warm. The problem, and the main challenge, is getting in and out of the bag. It’s not easy! You’ll also need a sleeping mat to go underneath, to insulate you from the cold ground, and a self-inflating mattress if you’re looking for real comfort.

A mummy bag good to -20°C doesn’t come cheap – you’re looking at $400 to $1,000. It’s best to rent one from a specialized outlet for your first times. And this type of sleeping bag is much too warm to be used in the summer.

Everything takes longer when you’re camping – especially in winter. Learn to take your time and appreciate the moment. Winter camping is very zen, a truly unusual and wonderful experience. You get back to basics: eating, keeping warm and sleeping!

Winter camping really makes you appreciate all the comforts of home.

Essentials

Here’s a list of essentials for winter camping:
  • 3- or 4-season tent ($300 and +). They are tougher and can withstand wind and snow.
  • Sleeping bag ($300 and +)
  • Sleeping mat ($30)
  • Self-inflating mattress ($110)
  • 4-season isobutane or naphtha stove ($100 and +) that works when it’s cold. Standard butane and propane don’t work below 0°C.
  • Matches and two lighters
  • Mess kit ($30-60)
  • Headlamp ($20). Indispensable! It gets dark early in winter!
  • Cell phone
  • Food: nuts, dried fruit, supper, etc.
  • Water. You get dehydrated quickly in winter.
  • Thermos ($25)
  • Backpack ($70 and +)
  • Carrying bag
  • Collapsible cooler ($30 and +)
  • A sled, if necessary, and bungee cords
  • Snowshoes – not just for walking, but also for tamping down the snow to set up your tent.
  • Good warm clothing, suitable for the weather. Avoid cotton.
  • Some spare clothes
  • Cloths or paper towel and toilet paper
  • Small first-aid kit (should always be kept in your backpack)
  • Unbreakable plastic utensils ($5-10)
  • Small Swiss army knife ($30)
  • Small axe or hatchet if necessary
  • Note that you can rent or borrow many of these items for your first outings.

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