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Ammi Midstokke: Snow camping with little humans

Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about living off the grid. (The Spokesman-Review / SR)
Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about living off the grid. (The Spokesman-Review / SR)
By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

My first introduction to snow camping with my kid was an accident. I had bribed her with the enticement of an alpine lake (“We can fish for our dinner!”) only to discover that lake was still frozen over. “Oh no!” she wailed. “We can’t camp here!”

It was not our most successful snow camp because I was shamefully unprepared. Her hiking shoes were soaked from postholing in the snow, the only dry outfit she had was a fleece princess onesie for sleep. Once I got the tent up, she refused to exit it until the fire was going, then disappeared again only to maintain conversation through the bright orange walls until well after midnight. At least the latter part was like any other camping trip with her.

The next time we went into the snow, it was intentional and we were well-prepared. There were fewer tears, more snowball fights and less threat of frostbite. Camping in the snow has all kinds of magical wonders and is also great practice for schlepping kids into alpine regions where snow can just happen. Here are a few tips to make it a great experience for everyone:

1. Kids like to have fun in the snow, so they will roll around, step in creeks and get snow down their boots and backs. Wetness is inevitable. For this reason, extra dry layers and things like rain pants can be a great option. Sometimes snow pants don’t get dry enough and we prefer a dry layer or two under rain gear. This means things like hats and gloves as well. You can dry some things by a fire, but not always, and a cold kid is a miserable kid. Smart wool is a great option here, too. Don’t forget a dry bag.

2. Create the coziest sleep nest of a tent. It’s like a real-life fort tucked into the snow-covered trees. Bring as many sleeping pad as it takes to cover the entire floor of the tent for insulation if possible. Use down bags if you expect to be dry, and sometimes an extra shared layer can be nice. If you’re snowshoeing or skiing in, share the load or pull a sled. Depending on the age and time in the forest, kids can carry their water, food supply and extra layers. Don’t forget to outfit them with their own emergency and first aid equipment.

3. Bring hand and feet warmers for bed time and early morning. They might not be necessary, but kids are fascinated by them and it’s nice to take the edge off when they emerge for some hot chocolate.

4. Think about foods that promote heat and a thermos for everyone. For winter trips, we like stews, hot porridge, teas, hot chocolate, and things we can warm our bellies and bodies with all day. Also, the body burns more energy staying warm, so bring lots of snack foods so kids can graze all day.

5. Bring inside games just in case the weather gets weird or a kid gets too cold. There’s nothing worse than being without entertainment in a tent with a kid who remembers the last four years of Pokemon episodes. Trust me.

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