I know that winter camping sounds like an oxymoron, but it can be done! Especially in the comfort of a yurt.
First of all winter camping offers an entirely different experience than summer camping. It is quieter around the parks as everyone except you is off hibernating. Even better there are no bugs, so no complaints here.
Why would someone be crazy enough to pitch a tent – or visit one that’s already built – in the winter? Okay, I can’t answer that, but I love winter, and I have always wanted to stay in a yurt. So I made it happen.
There are 26 provincial parks in Ontario that offer winter camping, and nine of them have roofed accommodations.
MacGregor Provincial Park
I chose MacGregor Provincial Park for its proximity to home, its availability and its activities.
The park, located along Lake Huron’s shoreline near Port Elgin, boasts one of the most ecologically diverse areas along the Huron shore. The park is home to numerous bird species as well as turtles, porcupines, foxes and other mammals. There is even a bog full of CARNIVOROUS PLANTS WHICH EAT HUMANS (they don’t, actually.)
You can go skiing on its 11km trail, skating on its illuminated skating oval, or go hiking/ snowshoeing on one of its five trails. The weather didn’t cooperate for us as we were in the middle of a January thaw. However, we made the most of it and went for hikes and even “skated” around the oval.
Winter camping essentials and tips
Admittedly, there is a lot more effort into packing for winter camping than in summer. You have to think about staying warm 100 per cent of the time. And while yurts offer comfort, they’re not any warmer than a regular tent. We kept the heater off most of the time and turned it on when it got a little too cold.
When it comes to doing anything in winter, layering is probably the most important. Start with a base layer, add in protection from the wind, add an insulation layer and finally an outer shell. From your head down to your toes you’ll want to keep yourself snuggly warm.
Sleeping bag liners
First off, get a sleeping bag that will keep you warm. I mean, obvious. But if you are going to use the same sleeping bag you use in the summer than layer up. I have a fleece liner that will keep me warm for winter camping.
Hand/ feet warmers
Hand or feet warmers are a must if you run on the cold side. They can give you a little boost of heat if you have a harder time warming up your extremities.
Make warm meals
Try making warm meals such as soup or hot campfire pizza that will warm you up from the inside out while winter camping. Hot drinks work too, whether it’s coffee, hot chocolate or hot apple cider.
I mean, it may seem like perfect sense, but do not hold it in, especially before you go to bed. Your body will use energy to keep that liquid warm when your bladder is full, making it harder for you to stay warm.
Winter camping is a tonne of fun and staying in a yurt was a dream come true. So the next time winter rolls in, it’s time for you to roll out… your sleeping bag.
Q: Have you been winter camping?