I belong to a lot of camping groups on Facebook and one of my greatest annoyances is the trope that it is impossible to camp in the winter. Frankly, one of the reasons we bought a trailer is to have a heater. We have tent camped every month of the year, but our propane heater makes subfreezing temperatures not just something to endure, but a whole new season of camping that we can enjoy.
The upsides of winter camping are numerous. Those who are averse to crowds should definitely check out a mid-winter weekend. We have rarely seen more than a handful of campers off-season and usually are able to have an entire loop to ourselves.
The lack of crowds mean the critters are a little less wary. In fact, winter is the only time to spot certain species of birds in the Ohio area. To spot a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker or Dark-eyed Junco you have to spend some time outdoors in the winter months. A night in February is the perfect time to listen to the calls of owls, coyotes, and woodcocks.
The scenery during winter camping is also spectacular. Sometimes the downed leaves allows for views that would otherwise be obscured. And there is amazing beauty in snow scapes and frozen waterfalls.
The downside of winter camping is that it does take a bit more winter preparation. The first concern is finding an available campsite. Most private campgrounds in the Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky region seem to be closed in the winter. However, many state parks offer some degree of winter camping. Ohio and Indiana offer detailed lists of the amenities available at the various parks. I have yet to find such a comprehensive resource for Kentucky. And we have learned to always call ahead for details. We may or may not have failed to realize a park had shut off all outside water and resorted to getting fresh water from the laundry room plumbing.
Another time we learned that if we had made reservations in advance our campsite would have been plowed for us. Instead we pulled in after dark to find a vast snowfield with no sense of where the campsites were. Eventually we realized we could find the parking curbs at the back of each site and generally guess as to the location and orientation of the site.
It is worth remembering how early it gets dark during the winter months. Even a short drive after work on Friday has us arriving in total darkness. The upside of this is the ability to have plenty of campfire time! And great stargazing, of course.
Otherwise, it is essential to take precautions to keep the pipes from freezing. We find that in temps down to 25° we are fine with just the heat from the interior. We often crack the doors and drawers beneath the sinks to make sure the warm air circulates. When temperatures drop a little lower, we turn off the water pump and open the faucets. If any freezing occurs within the pipes, there is someplace for the water to go besides cracking the pipes. We have yet to camp in colder temps, but wouldn’t hesitate to leave the trailer winterized and bring plenty of drinking and washing up water in jugs.
I guess it should go without saying that it is important to make sure you are camping with plenty of propane. Even though our 2109s has two propane tanks, we recently managed to run out; apparently we both forgot that we had already switched tanks and never refilled the empty one. We made coffee with our outdoor stove and kept warm with electric space heaters until we could get a fill. Winter camping is full of adventures!
2 thoughts on “Winter Camping”
Cute article. However, this information is very dangerous and I hope no one takes you serious. If they follow your lead, perhaps you can help them pay for damage to frozen water lines, valves, and water pump based on your recklessness.
“When temperatures drop a little lower, we turn off the water pump and open the faucets. If any freezing occurs within the pipes, there is someplace for the water to go besides cracking the pipes.”
Hi David. Thanks for your thoughts. As always, I share what has worked for us in recent years, but I love hearing how others camp as well. I welcome other ideas for winter camping.