Max is a creative writer at heart but branching out into the world of blogging. A craft beer enthusiast, he loves to sample the fine beers of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. His wife Heather has stuck by him through it all and she is the reason for everything positive in his life. You can follow Max on Twitter @Max_Augustine1
Beer and camping. Two of my most favorite things. When combined with my favorite season, winter, you have a spectacular match. Winter camping may seem foolish to some, but to me, winter fun in the great outdoors is a favorite of mine. You want to join in? Of course you do! Besides, there will be beer.
Before you get too excited and just run out with your six pack into the snow, be sure you have the right camping equipment and are properly prepared. Getting ready to both drive and camp in the snow-filled mountains is very important, so do use caution.
Here are my top three reasons why winter camping is awesome.
Reason number one: Winter camping is all about the journey. From the drive to getting to the campsite itself, trekking through a snow covered forest deep in the mountains is one of the best parts of winter camping. Winter weather may necessitate parking at a trailhead and then packing in your gear to the campsite. If it is snowing with little to no wind, then the silent stillness is profound. It feels like the whole world is frozen, almost like nature itself has paused in the depths of the cold. The snow-covered terrain and absolute stillness: a peaceful serenity that I find only in nature.
If it is windy and snowing at the same time, this beauty is replaced by elemental fury that, in its own way, is still awesome in the raw power of nature. That being said, it can make getting to your campsite much more difficult. I found in some situations, if the weather is bad enough, better to err on the side of caution rather than to risk one’s well-being. Either stay at the car or head back to it; suffice it to say this is a judgement call.
I remember as a young boy (maybe 6 or 7) my father and I were cross-country skiing up a trail on such a trip when the weather turned on us. The blizzard that hit us was more than my little body could take and I was having trouble moving on. It was just my father and I, so he got creative. He was pulling a sled with our gear on it so he rearranged it so that I could lay in the sled–inside my sleeping bag under a tarp with just enough of an opening so I could breathe–and he trudged onward.
The weather was not giving up and as strong as he was, the weight of myself with the gear in the sled going uphill in a blizzard was almost too much. As luck would have it, a pair of couples on two snowmobiles arrived, heading up the trail just for fun. They were more than willing to help us, and they helped get us down the mountain to the trailhead. To their delight, my father paid them with the large bottle of wine he brought for himself and we spent the weekend in a motel in the nearby town. This is a fond memory for me because of my father’s ingenuity and the kindness of the random people who helped us.
So remember, if you are out in the snow and find someone in need, help them out and they might just repay you with booze!
Reason number two: Winter camping shows you an entirely different side of the wilderness than what you see in the summer months. Also, no bugs or mosquitoes. That’s right, the bane of most camping trips, mosquitoes, are not around to bother you in the winter. If you bring a sled or are inclined towards skiing/snowboarding, then winter camping can get you access to some of the best untouched powder and solitary sledding hills. As a note, doing this can be inherently dangerous due to cross timber and large rocks hidden inside snow drifts, so do be careful.
And there are also plenty of games that aren’t possible in summer months. If you bring some friends along for the adventure, you can have some great fun with a game called Speed Beer. The game basics are: you sled down a hill with a cup full of beer and then drink whatever remains once you get to the bottom. Then, hike back up to the top, rinse and repeat. Everyone wins because everyone gets drunk! Now if you want to make it a competition, have the amount of beer they make it down the hill with determine who wins the round and make it best of 10….or 20. Depends on how much beer you have!
Reason number three: Few things make you appreciate what you have more than a warm fire and a hot meal while winter camping. A hot meal in the winter cold warms the very soul. So to make sure you do not start sweating, drink some ice cold beer with it! Now technically, beer will dehydrate you so be sure to boil some snow and filter it for water to drink later.
That being said, my favorite winter beer that goes great with camping is the Powerhouse Porter from Sockeye Brewing. It comes in a can, which makes it easier to both pack in and out because you can stack cans and then crush them once empty.
Plus, it is a good beer to cook with. I like to pour a can of it into my tin-foil wrapped meal just before I put them on to the coals. I pre-make the meals before I head out for convenience sake and found that a hot meal makes all the difference. A combo I like is ground beef or sausage, potato, carrot, onion, and mushroom together with salt and pepper. Cook that on some hot coals until the meat is done and you have an amazing beef stew. Add that with some tasty beer to drink with friends and/or family around the fire, and you have an experience you won’t forget.
At the end of the day, there are many reasons to go winter camping–which one is most important is up to you. Regardless, I recommend suiting up in your winter gear and heading out into the wilderness this winter and see what nature has to offer. Don’t forget the beer.