15 Four Season camping tips I learned

Some of these many of you may have heard, but I’m sure there are at least a few of these that might be useful to at least some of you. This is for minimalist backpackers all the way to RV campers on family campgrounds. From summer break campers to deep winter campers.

1. USB LED strips

Camping Lanterns can suck up a lot of expensive batteries, don’t fit in backpacks that well, don’t last long, and don’t really light up the area that well. USB LED strips are super cheap, brighter than ANY lantern, and take up zero space. Just bring any old power bank you have. I was able to get 4 nights of light off of 2 USB LED strips plugged into a 25,000mAh power bank. Plus you can add USB extenstion cables.
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2. Heater for backpackers.

Propane setups are expensive, heavy, cumbersome, and don’t usually last the night. You can forget about bringing a propane heater while backpacking. Bring in the UCO candlelier. It puts out 5,000btu and only needs 3 candles to run for 9+ hours. It’s dirt cheap at $40CAD with $20CAD for 24 candles (that you can easily make). It’s 4"x8" so it can still fit in your rucksack and extra fuel takes up barely any space. From my experience, this could keep a 1-2 person tent on a deep winter camping trip a comfortable 5+ celsius. It has many applications, put it under your cot or even hang it above your hammock. Plus it gives off some extra light.

3. Affordable winter shelter

The main enemy of deep winter campers is condensation and lack of insulation on shelters. Ice-fishing shelters have no floor, have condensation, and cost a pretty penny. Solution? Take your summer tent and throw a heavy tarp on top of it. All the condensation stays on the exterior tarp and the air space between the tent and tarp insulates better than an ice-fishing shelter. As long as the tarp is big enough to cover all sides except the door, you’re good.

4. Warm floor in the winter

Another way to keep warm in your tent is using foam puzzle squares. It keeps the floor warm and dry enough to walk around comfortably with your bare feet. Plus it insulates your tent even more and protects the floor from damage. You might not think it’s worth the extra space, but it definitely is. I was definitely skeptical at first.

5. Mini wood stoves.

Having trouble fitting your mini gas stove setup in your bag? Find you’re running out of fuel often? No worries. Just pick up a mini stainless wood stove, folds up to the size of a wallet and you can bring cheap firestarting bricks if you don’t feel like collecting twigs. Granted it will leave some soot to clean up, but it saves lots of weight, space, money, and you have essentially unlimited fuel.

6. Speaking of Soot…

Soot can be annoying to clean off cookware and you usually end up needing a wire sponge or leaving it to soak. Solution? Rub some soap on the bottom of your cookwear before throwing it over the flame. This keeps the soot from sticking to the metal and makes cleanup a lot less painless.
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7. Ultralight backpacker food.

Dehydrated camping food and jerky can be expensive. Plus many of them don’t taste that great. Ramen noodles are cheap and quick/easy to cook but can take up lots of space and are really only an appetizer. That’s where “sidekicks” come in. They take up less space than any camping food, are dirt cheap ($1/pack), easy to cook, and can feed two people per pack. Plus they come in so many different flavours, my favourite being honey garlic.

8. Eggs keep breaking?

Keeping eggs from breaking and finding cooler space for them can be a cumbersome task. Solution? Just break them into a water bottle. A 500ml water bottle can fit 9 or 10 large eggs. You’ll love this even more if you’re into omlets and scrambled eggs. Just keep in mind they’ll only be good for 3 or 4 days after you crack and refrigerate them!

9. Affordable winter sleeping bag.

A decent winter sleeping bag can cost hundreds of dollars. A quick solution is to take two or three 3 season bags and layer them. This will surely keep you as warm as any winter sleeping bag and 3 season bags go for only around $40CAD on Amazon.

10. Too many sleeping bags and my underquilt takes up too much space.

You’re probably wondering how you’re going to carry two, let alone three bags to substitute a dedicated winter bag. It’s a simple solution, roll all your sleeping bags together and buy a larger compression sack for all of them. They go for super cheap on amazon at $15CAD on Amazon. This goes for hammock underquilts too, roll your underquilt in your sleeping bag and it should all fit in your original compression sack.

11. Knife vs Axe.

Axes are great tools, except they can be heavy and even camping hatchets are cumbersome for fine tasks like tinder and kindling. Plus swinging an axe around can be dangerous in certain situations. Solution, bring a large knife or machete. You’re going to baton your wood. Place the edge on the top of the wood and simply wack the spine with a branch. This means you wont be swinging any sharp blades around and you don’t need great aim to split small pieces. Plus even machetes are much lighter and smaller than axes and is more multi-purpose. Some specific ones I’d highly recommend are the Condor Pack Golok ($70 CAD) or the cheaper option, the Mossy Oak 14" Bowie knife ($20-30CAD). But just about any durable 6"+ full tang blade will work. My personal baton knife is an 11" blade kukri

12. Automatic feeding fire.

Do you keep having to wake up cold and rebuild your fire? The simple solution is an automatic feeding fire. It’s simple, dig a hole, you build a ramp on either side at a 30-45 degree angle, build a fire in the hole, and stack up round logs on the ramp. The logs will burn off and the next ones in line will roll in. Just keep in mind to not make the angle so high that all the logs catch and not make the angle so low that they don’t roll.

13. Bathing during the winter.

It’s safe to say that jumping in a lake with a bar of soap isn’t an option while deep winter camping. But another option is using large wet wipes/baby wipes. They make you feel refreshed and they don’t take up much space. They are what they use in the hospitals for bed ridden patients after all. Just make sure you don’t use anything with lysol or alchohol or you’ll feel a bit too “clean”. However this wont replace a real bath so make sure you hop in the shower when you get home!
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14. A shower that fits in your backpack. Or your small trailer.

This is for the people that want to be a little more extra clean. Or even people just trying to install a compact shower in their trailer. On amazon you can buy a Portable shower head. It’s cheap at $50CAD. It is rechargeable and lasts quite a bit. It also puts out decent pressure not too disimilar from your shower head at home. Just place the pump in a basin/bucket, turn it on, open the valve, and you’re good to go.

15. Do not sleep with Mylar!

Emergency mylar blankets are very efficient at reflecting heat. However they are also incredibly effective at trapping moisture. This means that you’ll wake up with (whatever was touching the mylar tarp) soaked. If you’re using mylar, make sure it is not touching your sleeping bag. Went hammocking and thought some mylar blankets could replace a dedicated underquilt. Never again!!
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