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Winter Camping 101: The Essential Guide to Enjoying the Outdoors in Winter

Camping is a beloved Canadian pastime, but booking a popular campsite during the peak summer months can be as challenging as catching rare Pokémon. For more and more families, a great alternative to enjoying camping is during the ‘off’ season, when the air is crisp and the woods are lined with pristine layers of white snow.

Add to the reasons that the low Canadian dollar makes planning for a tropical getaway out of reach for most families, winter camping is an affordable way to enjoy adventure outdoors and enjoy time together with loved ones. There is a magical serenity that comes with disconnecting from technology and getting back to nature, no matter what season, but winter camping certainly has its unique benefits to encourage healthy living in Calgary.

There’s something so completely Canadian about camping in the winter. From identifying animal prints in the snow to ice fishing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, and building a snowman, the activities you can enjoy in the winter are only limited by your imagination. The best thing is, there are no bugs or mosquitoes to swat away!

From the novice camper to the seasoned adventurer, there are a variety of ways for everyone to enjoy winter camping:

Glamping - Glamour camping or ‘glamping’ is a global trend that offers the best of both worlds, allowing families to take in the serenity of nature while enjoying the luxuries of a home-away-from-home in a caravan, cabin, or yurt. Consider bringing comforts from home to create your own glamping experience.

Hot tent camping - For families seeking a more rustic experience, there’s hot tent camping. This is achieved by connecting a small stove to an external pipe so the temperature in the tent remains cozy and warm - to be able to gather and sing camp songs or tell ghost stories. For safety reasons, extinguish the stove before bedtime.

The quinzee - For the adventurous family that loves the outdoors, they may opt for the quinzee: a shelter made from snow. Building a quinzee is fairly simple but does take time to build safely by packing snow into a mound seven or eight feet high, and allowing the structure to settle, ideally overnight. For a great how-to video on building a quinzee, visit

While winter camping can provide an incredible experience, safety is essential. The best way to have an unforgettable winter adventure is to stay safe by following Scouts Canada’s motto of ‘being prepared’ for any scenario.

Here are six survival tips to ensure your next winter camping experience is not only fun, but it is safe:

1. Check the weather forecast. While snow can provide a stunning backdrop and is a lot of fun, it can also be dangerous. Check the forecast ahead of time and avoid venturing out if there is a warning of heavy snowfall or an extreme cold alert. Weather can change from cool to dangerously cold very quickly, especially when the sun is setting.

2. Be cotton-free! Cotton easily soaks up and holds on to cold moisture, so wear wool or synthetic materials that have water-repelling qualities to stay warm and dry. Purchase a quality pair of boots, parka, and snow pants.

3. Think like an onion. Onions have layers. Layering is important! Having the ability to get in and out of layers easily will help regulate body temperature and avoid sweating. Any exposed skin - not just the head - results in a loss of body heat.

4. Stay hydrated. Trekking through the snow can expend loads of energy and although you may not feel thirsty, it’s important to drink water. Avoid caffeine as it dehydrates and stick to de-caffeinated or herbal hot drinks to keep warm. Dehydration leads to greater risk of hypothermia.

5. Be aware of your surroundings. Camping in the winter requires greater caution than in other seasons. Heavy snow and icicles can fall from branches above, and hazards may be hidden under the layers of snow on the ground. Be cautious near ice and running water.

6. Prepare for any scenario. Always bring along a daypack with emergency supplies when venturing out on any winter activity. Pack essentials like a First-Aid kit, dry layers, whistle, emergency blanket, snacks, and water.

Scout tip: Store your water bottle upside down in the winter as water always freezes from the top. When you are ready for a drink, the frozen water will be opposite to the spout.

Scouts Canada is one of the country’s leading youth organizations offering a world of adventure, outdoor experience, and friendship for boys, girls, and young adults ages five to 26. Registration for Scouts Canada’s programs is open year-round. To find a group or to learn more, visit

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