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Winter Camping in Canada

It takes a special type of person to go winter camping in Canada. After all the lowest recorded temperature in Canada was -63 C (-81.4 F) in Snag, Yukon on Feb. 3, 1947. I'm certainly not suggesting you seek out those kind of temperatures on your next winter camping vacation; just be aware that you may experience some extreme temperature shifts when you are winter camping in Canada.

Canadian winter camping is enjoyed by a core group of extreme adventurists who like the mental and physical challenges it presents. It is one of the most demanding of the many winter activities in Canada. Backcountry winter camping is not for amateurs. Winter survival training is necessary to increase the odds of a successful trip.

Canadian Winter Camping Gear

If you're up to the challenge of winter camping in Canada then be sure you are packing the right quality winter camping gear. Except for, perhaps, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the temperatures in Canada can become extremely cold. Be sure that your winter camping gear is compatible with the anticipated weather conditions you'll be experiencing. Some items you will require are:
  • Winter tent
  • Sub-zero sleeping bag suitable for Canadian winter camping. Preferably a "mummy" sleeping bag
  • Magnesium Fire Starter Kit – waterproof matches – weatherproof lighter
  • Mineral oil or lint as fuel to start a fire
  • Double insulated mug for soups and stews
  • Water bottle
  • Waterproof boots
  • Down Booties
  • Compass, GPS, and area maps
  • First aid kit
  • Avalanche kit for mountaineering in Canada
  • Energy bars, jerky, chocolate
  • Extra clothing
  • "Sweat wicking" clothing to keep your skin dry – Under Armour and DRI-Fit are popular brands
  • Tarp
Canadian Winter Camping Survival Tips

You never know what you are going to run into when you are winter camping in Canada so it is wise to be as prepared as possible. Get as much information as you can on the area where you will be spending your winter camping vacation. Here are a few tips to get you started:
  • Emergency shelter can be found in tree wells, hollows of river banks, rock overhangs, or you can fabricate a snow shelter. You should practice making various types of shelters before your trip.
  • Use dry pine needles as fuel or leaves and grass if the snow is not packed too tightly. Birch Bark will burn when wet. Practice lighting fires under various conditions before embarking on your Canadian winter camping vacation.
  • Follow the acronym S.T.O.P. when faced with an important decision. Sit – Think – Observe – Plan.
  • If you are lost, stay visible and create a smudge fire. Position yourself on ridgelines, open riverbanks or at the tree line. Stay where you are.
  • Stay well-hydrated. Boil water from lakes, rivers, and ponds.
  • Stay as well-fed as possible as the cold stimulates the body to burn more calories. Keep an emergency ration of high calorie foods.
  • Be sure to be trained in first aid and CPR
  • Leave your hiking and camping schedule with family and the Park Office where you will be camping.
  • Learn to trap animals for protein. Protein will help your body to stay warm. Rabbits, porcupine, and squirrels can offer a life-saving meal.
  • Carry some fishing line for fashioning a fishing pole
  • Learn what plants offer the most energy. Cattails are a good source, the inner bark (the white spongy part) of pine trees, mushrooms, and maple or birch sap will provide carbohydrates for energy.
  • Use birch bark as cooking pots. The liquid in the containers keep them from burning.
  • Put dry grass between your rain gear and winter clothing for additional insulation.
  • Learn how to build a lean-to and snow-block shelters even if you are using a tent. You may need to build a wind break if the weather turns nasty.
  • Avoid sweating. Adjust your clothing layers to keep from getting too hot or cold. Wear fabrics that keep moisture off of your skin such as Under Armour or DRI – Fit.
  • Use waterproof outer clothing to keep your inner clothing dry.
  • Protect your extremities to avoid frostbite. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Bring both to be used in different situations. Wear down booties and waterproof, well-insulated boots. Frostbite of the extremities is a real danger.
  • Stay away from alcohol, tea, and coffee or any caffeinated drinks. They may give you a brief burst of energy but it will wear off making you more tired. They will also dehydrate you due to their diuretic effect.
Canadian Winter Camping and Tour Operators

Canada West Mountain School offers guided tours for winter camping in Canada. It is also one of the oldest mountaineering schools in Canada. Learn the basic skills required to spend the night in the winter wilderness. You'll learn winter survival techniques, avalanche training, and snow cave and igloo construction.

Try some dog sledding in Canada on your next winter camping vacation at Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve. There are acres of forest and more than 50 lakes in this wildlife reserve. The 300 km ( 185 mile) of groomed trails make this the ideal location for dog sledding and winter camping in Canada. No previous dog sledding experience required.

BIC National Park in Le Bic, Quebec has over 15 km (9 miles) of rough backcountry trials if you are into cross-country skiing in Canada in addition to your backcountry winter camping vacation. Enjoy some camping in one of their four igloos.
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