By Jane Marshall

Let me preface this post with the cold hard truth. I never want to try winter camping. Never ever! At least that’s what I thought when my son asked me about it.

True, I’ve had some great shoulder season trips — even ones blanketed in snow. I’ve watched brave backcountry skiers on the Wapta Traverse with curiosity as they set up their tent (while I enjoyed the warmth of an Alpine Club of Canada hut instead). But I’ve never consciously decided to set out in the dead of a Canadian winter to hunker down in a snow quinzhee or brave a 4-season tent in -20 Celsius.

Yet parents do many things out of their comfort zone for their kids, and so I’m pondering the possibility.

I ask a backcountry buddy, Julius Kettler, why he likes winter camping.

“What are the first words that pop into your head?” I ask him. (Mine would be frostbite, discomfort, and NO.)

His response was much more elegant: “Exposed, quiet, crisp mornings.”

And so I’m pondering the possibility. In doing so, I’d like to share a roundup of research  I’ve done.


Sleeping in a Snow Quinzhee? Seriously?

I’ve watched ski movies where super attractive hardcore athletes build a snow house, decorate it with lights, and look like they’re (relatively) warm, yet I’ve always thought it was a little too crazy for me. Friends who’ve done it assure me snow’s a great insulator, even in frigid Alberta winters.

I came across instructions on how to build a snow quinzhee on the Alberta Camping Association website and at Outdoor Canada.


Winter Tenting

There are considerations to winter tenting, such as how to peg out your tent in deep snow, ventilation, and snow loading.

Backpacker Magazine has a great Beginners Guide to Winter Camping. It also has a list of 15 Cold-Weather Camping Tips to Keep You Warm While You Sleep to prime you.


More expert ideas:


Where to Winter Camp

For a great list of winter camping options, check out this roundup of Ten winter camping adventures by Parks Canada. (These include rustic shelters and oTENTiks).

Or read this CBC article: Options abound for winter camping in Alberta for even more location inspiration.

So there you have it. I just may have a few reasons to give winter camping a try. That is, with an ample supply of toe warmers and my trusty Thermos as backup support.