Season provides challenge that can be quite rewarding, Calgary enthusiast says.

Camping in the winter months offers a unique set of challenges, but enthusiasts say the rewards can be well worth the trouble.

Glenn Lilly, production manager for Canadian Pacific Railway, has done a lot of winter camping and says that the solitude found in the wilderness during the wintertime is a rare occurrence many people don’t get to experience.

“It is extremely quiet out there, so wherever you go, you have it to yourself,” Lilly says.” It’s absolute dead silence, which is kind of a unique experience if you’re used to going to some of the big parks in the summer and there are just throngs of people. Go winter camping and you’ll have the place to yourself.”

Not only is there a sort of isolation to be found when camping in the winter, Lilly says that the snow acts as a blanket that muffles everything. Camping in the winter can prove to be a very peaceful experience, he says.

A big part of camping is being able to enjoy nature. In the winter, the scenery is especially beautiful. Lilly says that if the moon is out on a clear night, the reflection off the snow can make it look almost like daylight.

A completed quinzee snow shelter is time consuming to make, but offers a warm place to sleep.

Photo by Chewonki Semester School/Flickr “I’ve been out there when the Northern Lights have been directly overhead. There are pinks and reds and greens and they’re just sort of floating across the sky and you just basically flop down in the snow, make yourself a comfortable couch in the snow, and you look up and it’s just amazing,” Lilly says.

Of course the number one challenge when camping in the winter is staying warm. Justin Howse, a sales representative at Campers Village, says that all gear being used during the winter should be insulated.

“Whether it’s your boots or whether it’s your jacket, you’ll need a thicker one. Wearing layers, that sort of thing, you have to be very warm and very comfortable at all times,” Howse says.

Especially when it comes to the sleeping bag, it is important to prepare for sub-zero temperatures. A regular sleeping bag that works well in the summer months won’t necessarily cut it in the winter. Extra consideration should be taken to get a warmer sleeping bag, although these can be costly, ranging from $150 to as much as $500.

For someone who doesn’t want to spend the money, Howse suggests that they purchase a liner, which cost about $60. Liners can be used in their existing sleeping bag in order to boost the thermal rating.

When considering shelter, there are two approaches. A camper can use a tent, and Howse recommends a four-season tent because they are designed differently to have more insulation, or there is the more labour-intensive method of building a snow shelter.

Lilly says that he has always preferred the snow shelter because he finds they are actually warmer than tents because of the insulating properties of the snow. He says that the challenge of making a snow shelter is part of the appeal to camping in the winter. It becomes a complete experience.

He says that he likes to make a type of snow shelter called a “quinzee.” A quinzee is a hollowed out pile of snow that can be fairly labour-intensive to make.

“We had a great time when we’d do it,” Lilly says. “It was a kind of ritual every year when we’d go out, a few buddies and I. I think a big part of it was to just enjoy nature, the challenge of building the quinzee, and really what we did out there was mostly the journey in and the journey out,” Lilly says.

emanconi@cjournal.ca