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6 Ways to Survive the Cold Winter Until the Next Camping Season

Hannah Unbound standing in front of a mountain in winter

If you really want to secret to surviving winter it's super simple, just move to Southern California! Just kidding (sort of) but like many campers and hikers I know, our whole existence depends on good weather to do 99% of our favorite activities. While many people enjoy winter sports like snowboarding, ice climbing, or even winter camping, I think I'm not the only one that doesn't want any of that! All I want is a bright sunny day and cool nights where I don't need a zero-degree sleeping bag! But the only time I can do these fun things is during the warm months of summer.

While luckily I actually live in California now so I don't have to worry about this problem, I spent most of my life stuck in a wintery misery for months on end. How did I survive with no backpacking, hiking, or stargazing by the fire for months on end? That's what I'm here to break down for you! So if you want to stop feeling the winter blues, and start getting excited about your next camping season then let's dive in!


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Plan Ahead

A planner for the next camping season

The best way to keep the excitement for the next hiking season is to start planning it! Planning for your adventures for next season now will not only help your mood in the present, but it will make sure your trips go as smoothly as possible.

Giving yourself so much time to prepare lets you see every route available and lets you schedule the best times of the season to try out these new outdoor spots. You also get to prepare for any permits you may need to get there, like in certain National Parks or popular backcountry camping areas.

Here are some of the more popular National Park permit sign-ups in January and February:

January: 1 - The Wave (May), Arizona

1 - Yellowstone Backcountry, Wyoming

1 - Grand Canyon Backcountry (May), Arizona

5 - Zion Backcountry, Utah

5 - Zion Subway, Utah

6 - Grand Tetons Backcountry, Wyoming

15 - Yosemite Campgrounds, California

February: 1 - Mt Whitney, California

1 - The Wave (June), Arizona

1 - The Grand Canyon (June), Arizona

15 - Conundrum Hot Springs, Colorado

21 - Mt Rainier, Washington

For more permits and details on these locations, check out Outdoor Detour!



Upgrade Your Camping Gear

Camping gear to upgrade your old equipment

One of the best times of the year to update your hiking or camping gear is during the winter. In winter almost every store has deals on the old summer gear from last season. So while everyone is buying wool socks for winter, you can grab your moisture-wicking hiking shorts for next spring!

You can also look out for killer holiday deals that usually go on through January. These are some of the deepest discounts of the year making it the perfect time to stock up. Or think of those really expensive items you've always wanted, like that lightweight MSR backpacking tent or that Archtryx rain jacket, now is the time to buy!


Find Indoor Exercises

By trying new indoor exercise routines you can stay in shape for the coming spring and don't have to work your way back into your more difficult hikes. It is so frustrating for me when I'm sucking wind on my first hike of the season and I can go over 8 miles until a month in because I'm just so sore and tired. Doing treadmill runs and stair climbers are great for your cardio and working on those steep inclines that you'll encounter outdoors.

My favorite way to stay in the hiking game in winter is to keep up my daily yoga. Doing certain stretches and exercises meant for runners, hikers, and backpackers will help you from tearing a muscle on your first hike of the season. Plus, you won't be gaining all of that holiday weight, so win-win!

Since I'm not the expert when it comes to the best exercises here are some good resources I found for you to check out:



Repair and Clean Your Gear

Repair supplies for camping equipment

If you're anything like me you constantly forget to clean your gear after your outdoor adventures. To be honest, I don't remember the last time I washed out my sleeping bag. But that's what this downtime is for, to start really taking care of your gear! Just make sure to purchase a gear-safe detergent such as this Nikwax downwash for bags or a water-repellent wash for tents and jackets.

As for repairs, this is the best time of year to send in any gear for warranties. For example, if you have an Osprey backpack with a big tear in the side, you can send it into Osprey now for repair and have it ready by the time the ground thaws out! Not to mention all of the likely holes and such that you can fix yourself with a little work and a few tenacious tape patches.


Travel to Warm Places

Hannah Unbound standing in front of delicate arch in Utah

This is obviously my favorite option, not only do I get to travel but warm weather in the middle of winter is the best treat ever! When I was living in Colorado, my closest escape was Utah, and when the winter months drag on too long it was a great place to camp and hike without the cold.

But you do have to be careful about this choice, just because it's Utah or Arizona and you think it's a desert, these places can get snow in January and February, so always check the weather before heading out to these destinations.

Heading out to these warmer spots is a great way to get rid of some of that winter sadness that creeps over. This way you get your vitamin D and still get to use your gear all year round! (Thanks San Diego!)



Give Winter One More Try

A frozen pond in front of a snowy Colorado mountain

While I'm usually the last person to say "let's go out in the snow and play!" sometimes it's your only option. I used to live in Michigan when I was younger and when you're 3 feet deep in snow for months at a time, at some point I was going to at least build a fort and throw some snowballs at someone!

But seriously, there are a million different ways to enjoy the outdoors in winter, and while it's not my favorite way to be outside, it's better than being locked inside all season. I tried to cross country ski for a day in Wyoming and that was a lot of fun and I used to snowshoe as a kid. But be warned, these sports can be more physically demanding and skillful than other summer activities. So come prepared with all of your winter gear and a willingness to learn.

And even though you have to get all bundled up, be cold and look like a snowman all layered in everything you own, just think of the after-picture. When you get to go inside, drink some hot cocoa (with Bailey's) and sit by the fire (or fake fire on a screen), and watch your favorite movies all snuggled up with your dog, that is sort of the best feeling, I can't lie about that.



Hannah Unbound hiking in the snow in rocky mountain national park

Those are all the ways I try to survive the cold bite of winter when all I dream about is warm weather. It can be very disheartening to try day in and day out to be positive about a time of year that can be draining and miserable without an outlet to distract yourself with. But I hope these tips help you create some sort of peace with the long winter months ahead and have you looking towards a sunnier and more fun future for your outdoor adventures!

Are you a winter adventurer, or a fair-weather hiker like me? I honestly wish I liked the winter more, maybe I'd go less crazy for half the year! (Maybe)

If you have any questions or want to talk about your hiking and camping plans for next season you can comment below, text me, or DM me on Instagram!

Until Next Time,

Happy Trails!

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Hey there! My name is Hannah Smentkowski, I'm the photographer, writer, hiker, camper, and craft beer drinker of this blog!


Here, I share my travel, camping, and hiking tips to help anxious explorers get outdoors with confidence!

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