Winter camping essentials

Winters in Indiana can be pretty brutal, but that shouldn’t be enough to stop you from venturing out on a weekend hiking trip. Sure, most Hoosier state parks offer cabins and inns for your time in-between the trails, but where’s the adventure in that? If you’re looking to make the most of your weekend out among the trees and blankets of white snow, you might as well go all-in. But don’t forget these five extra essentials you’ll need for the below-freezing temperatures.

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  1. Extra blankets
    • This might seem pretty obvious, and you might actually want to invest in a thermal sleeping bag to slim down your packing list (that’s not to say I don’t recommend stacking as many blankets on top of you until your rolled up like a Taco Bell seven-layer burrito). But remember, what’s underneath you while you sleep is just as important. Folding some blankets between your sleeping pad and the cold, frozen ground will help to keep your sleeping quarters warmer and much cozier.
  2. Portable stove – check out this super affordable Gas One stove on Amazon.
    • Campfires are awesome. No camping trip really feels right without the sound of wood crackling just outside your tent. But unfortunately, it can be pretty tough to start a fire when the wood and tinder is coated with ice and hard as a rock. So, if you don’t plan on bringing your own wood (or you just want a quicker alternative to escape the cold, one that perhaps doesn’t involve frozen fingers and endless flint-striking), the next best option is a portable camping stove. These babies are light, durable, and are great for warming up food and water. But please – do not cook in the tent; take it outside people.
  3. Accessible layers
    • It’s important to stay as dry as possible when you’re out hiking, or else you’re going to be a wet, cold, miserable mess when you return to your campsite. Truthfully, trying to complete a winter hike while cold sweat adheres your shirt to your back is one of the most uncomfortable experiences in hiking. Eliminate the issue and carry your backpack with you; when you start to feel your body perspire, peel off a layer and toss it in the sack. You’ll be surprised how quickly you warm up when you’re moving.
  4. Tarps
    • Again this is for both above and below you, as a rain fly will help to reduce condensation inside your tent (make sure to pack enough stakes to keep it grounded), while a tarp underneath your shelter will further separate you from the frozen earth.
  5. Butter
    • Seriously, put it in everything. Your morning oatmeal, your rice and beans, between your sandwiches; everything. Butter has that high fat content you want to keep your stomach busy for a good few hours after each meal. It’ll keep you warmer, and give you that extra bit of energy in the morning to step outside and take on the elements.

Of course, this list isn’t comprehensive, but it’ll get you started. Remember, proper planning goes a long way for any adventure, especially in the winter months. So take your time and think things through, but don’t be afraid to step out in the snow and seize the beauty of an Indiana winter.

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