Our top 10 reasons to go camping in winter:
Look up at the winter sky on a clear night. The brilliance of the stars is breathtaking. There are a couple of scientific explanations for why stars seem to shine brighter this time of year. “There are more brighter stars in the quarter of the sky that we call the winter sky,” says Dr. James Sowell, astronomer at Georgia Tech. Plus, cold air holds less moisture than the warmer summer air, making the nights clearer. So, faint stars that may go unseen during the summer nights may be more visible, says Sowell. And of course, nights are longest during the colder months, so campers can enjoy some bonus viewing time. Tip: Stargazing is best within a few days of a new moon when the sky is the darkest, so consult a lunar calendar and plan your trip accordingly.
2. Leave the DEET at Home
There’s no scrambling to zip up the tent door to keep the mosquitos out during the winter. They’ve settled down for a long winter’s nap. Bugs in general are less active during the colder months, so winter may be the right time to hit the backcountry if you or your would-be camping buddy suffer from a fear of insects.
Campfires are great all times of the year, but there’s more purpose to winter campfires. Not just for atmosphere, or the just-right smoky flavoring for your s’mores, winter campfires provide warmth that brings a camping group physically closer together. Plus, there’s often less threat of wildfire and fire restrictions in winter than summer. And campfires make the perfect centerpiece for an evening of storytelling.
Jack Frost and Cupid can form a pretty persuasive team. If the glow of the campfire and the stars don’t set the mood, there’s at least the stay-warm strategy of sharing bodily warmth to kindle a little romance. It worked for James Bond.
Every camping story should open with something exciting like “We spotted killer icicles at the waterfall.” With winter camping comes unique challenges and opportunities to experience your usual camping locations in a new way. Your co-workers will be entralled with your tales of adventure Monday morning.
Cold weather means you can leave the bags of ice at home. Use this chance to add a little variety to your camping cuisine by bringing along food that would otherwise wilt in warm months.
7. New Views
Views from your favorite ridgeline, mountain top or high clearing grow more expansive when leaves fall from the trees. And a blanket of snow gives familiar summertime spots a completely new personality.
Campgrounds and parks packed during the warm seasons are much less so during the colder months. Be aware, though, that some parks close facilities for the winter season.
A forest seems at rest under a blanket of snow. That sense is backed up by science. Dr. F. Todd Baker, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Georgia, explains that because of their shape, snowflakes actually can absorb sound waves. So, the snow actually does make it a bit quieter outside. “It’s sort of like being in one of these rooms where walls are made of foam,” says Baker. Humans can’t hear the sound of the snowflakes hitting the ground as the frequency is too high, says Dr. Baker. This Washington Post article explains how that might drive the woodland creatures into their shelters, which would add to the quiet.
Did you restock your gear closet this past holiday season? Now’s a great time to use that new puffy jacket or fancy fleece woven from recycled plastic.