One of the toughest times for camping is the winter. If you’re an experienced camper who has camped in snowy winter before, you know it very well. There are several extra preparations and precautions that you need to take for camping in winter, especially on the snowy surface.
The most troublesome, time-consuming, and crucial part of camping in snow is setting up a tent on the snowy surface. There are various things you need to consider before, after, and during setting up a tent. Hence, in this article, we’ll share with you how to set up a tent in snow along with some tips, tricks, dos, and don’ts.
Difficulties You’ll Face Setting Up a Tent in Snow
It is no doubt that setting up a tent in the snow is way difficult compared to setting it up on the dry ground. This is because the snow surface is not firm. It is sabulous and thus, relocates or melts away.
It is not possible to get a strong grip of dry soil in the snow using the same techniques of setting up a tent. You need to be smart and patient to set up a tent in the snow.
Moreover, another major difficulty you’ll face while and even after setting up a tent in the snow is that the snow of your surrounding area and the floor of the interior will keep on melting due to the tent’s insulation and your bodily heat.
Thus, it is possible that if you don’t take the necessary measures to prevent this while setting up the tent, you will find yourself sucked into a ditch of snow formed due to your weight in the middle of sleeping at night.
Steps to Set Up a Tent in Snow
Let’s discuss the very basic steps that you will have to follow to set up a tent in the snow. Gradually, we will dig deeper into more detail.
1. Select a Suitable Location for the Tent
This is indeed the first and foremost step to set up a tent in the snow. Also, one of the most significant steps. Because this step will not only determine the success of your setting up the tent but also your safety and protection from mishaps.
Make sure you are not setting up your tent near a steep ravine or slopy area as it might turn out to be perilous. Moreover, look for a location where the velocity of wind is comparatively less. Avoid any location that is prone to any type of natural hazard.
2. Find a Proper Snow Depth for Anchoring the Tent
If you’re tenting on a surface with a lesser depth of snow, you can just brush off the snow and set up your tent to the firm ground. But the real deal starts when you’re camping on a surface with dense layers of snow. In that situation, you will have to look for an adequate depth of the snow where the tent can be anchored.
It is better to either go for a location with greater depth or a location with a very smaller depth of snow that can be removed easily by brushing. Especially, if your tent is not freestanding, the depth of the snow would be a huge factor for anchoring the tent.
3. Create a Footprint
Don’t just set up or anchor your tent right ahead after selecting the location. At first, make a footprint containing the area you’ll be setting up the tent along with its surrounding spaces. Calculate how much space you’ll need. Don’t go for too large a space as it would take time to prepare it.
Again, don’t just create the footprint equal to the floor base of the tent. Space larger than the tent would ensure your convenience in getting out of the tent, walking around, and setting up a stove for preparing food.
4. Level the Ground
Once you have created the footprint, now it’s time to prepare the area within the footprint. For that, you need to level the ground and make it as even and firm as possible. You can use your snow shovel and boots for the task. Snow boots can be help better in this regard rather than snow skis.
All you need to do is to walk around in the footprint and stamp the snow inwards with your snow boots to make it firm and well meshed. If there is an uneven point of snow, that is a place a bit higher than the rest of the surface, make it even using your snow shovel and stamp it well until you’re satisfied with the level of the ground.
5. Let the Snow Harden
Done leveling? Now, wait for about 30 mins for the snow of the leveled ground to harden. Make sure the area is getting proper exposure to sunlight. The best time for setting the snow aside is just at the noon or any time close to it when the sun is right above the head. The snow generally hardens faster during that time when the sky is clear.
In case the sky is cloudy, you might have to wait more than 30 minutes for the snow to harden enough for setting up the tent properly.
6. Pitch the Tent
The difference between pitching a tent in snow and at other times is the stakes. You can go with the regular way of pitching the tent, but the stakes of the regular 3 season tents will not work well in snow. You have to go with mountaineering or winter specialized stakes in this regard.
However, if you have a freestanding tent with you, you will not have to face such struggles. You can just set it up in the most usual way of setting it up and you’re good to go!
7. Tie Up the Tent Cleverly
One of the most troublesome parts of setting up a tent is tying the lines to the pegs. Since it is snow, the weight and gravity from the tent will keep on pulling the pegs stamped inside the snow, and thus no matter how many times you try to fix it, it will keep coming out.
What you need to do is to be a little clever while tying it up. You can add some weight along with your pegs to hold the guy lines. Heavy rocks or branches can be good options. But the best option is tying it with the edges of your snow skis or ice ax and stamping it along with the pegs. Also, bury pegs horizontally for more clutch.
8. Create Landmarks
Creating landmarks up to an ample distance might not sound important. But you will thank us later. Especially, when you might need to clear up your bowl at night, there is a good possibility to get lost in the dark snowy area if there are no landmarks. You don’t want to face that nightmare.
How to Anchor a Tent in Snow?
As we mentioned before, usual stakes will not work well in snow. You need to tie the guy line to the shelter around the stakes first for anchoring it. Then, make a little hole in the snow. Put the stakes vertically inside the hole. Cover the holes completely with snow. Then, stamp that place with your snow boots to make it firm and well-set.
Leave it to harden once you’re done stamping. This would help to hold them strongly. Tighten the guy lines to the tent by trimming it. When you’re done camping, to remove the stakes use an ice ax or stake hammer to unearth the hole loosening the stakes up.
Best Tent Stakes for Snow
The materials stakes are built with play a major role in order to determine whether it would work well in the snowy region or not. Because the strength and weight of the stakes vary with the materials. So, below we’re are listing out the best stakes materials for setting up a tent in the snow.
Titanium: Titanium is the most durable and heavyweight material for stakes. And thus, it works really well in snow providing the utmost safety and protection. However, it is also very expensive.
Aluminum Alloy: Stakes made with aluminum alloy are a preferable choice to most backpackers and mountain campers. This is because, it is not only strong enough to handle snow but also light in weight, unlike titanium. Thus, it doesn’t add much weight to the backpack. Besides, it is also less expensive than titanium.
Steel: If you’re a backpacker, you might not want to go for steel as they add quite a good weight to your backpack. However, they are durable and suitable for any surface along with being cheap in price.
Best Stake Shape for Snow
Though there are various shapes of stake available including V, Y, and nail shape, the most suitable shape of stake for snow is nail shape. This is because they are best on hard grounds.
Their shape is just like a regular nail with a hollow interior, flathead, and pointed tip. They also contain a cord attached for the convenience of pulling them out from the ground.
Tips for Setting Up a Tent in Snow
As of above, we have discussed the basic steps to set up a tent in the snow. Now, we will share with you some tips to set up the tent more efficiently in the snow with the least effort or struggle.
1. Choose the Right Type of Tent: It is essential for you to get the right type of winter tent to fit it in a snowy region. Because the usual 3 season tents might be able to handle the mild cold but not snow. To deal with snow, you will need mountain tents or 4 season tents that have more durable guy lines and fabrics.
Example: CAMPPAL Professional 3-4 Person 4 Season Mountain Tent
2. Set Up the Tent as Early in the Day as Possible: Plan your camping in such a way that you get sufficient time to set up your tent within the daytime. Because the chance of the leveled snow hardening properly reduces as the day advances.
Moreover, you might have already understood that setting up a tent in snow consumes a lot of time. You will need your tent to get insulated enough in the day by sunlight as well to spend a comparatively warmer night.
3. Pick a Spot Having More Exposure to Sunlight: When you’re looking for a suitable location to set up the tent, consider the exposure to sunlight. Figure out a location where the sunlight reaches throughout the entire daytime unless the sky is cloudy.
4. Camp Near to a Running Water Source If Possible: Camping in the snow absorbs a huge amount of energy from the body. About more than three times energy is absorbed by camping in snow time rather than in the summer.
Thus, even though you might not feel thirsty, you’ll get dehydrated very soon. Hence, there is a fair possibility of running out of water you brought. That is why, for precaution, it is better to camp near a running water source if available.
5. Use Double Sleeping Mats: At night, no matter how much you insulate the tent, the floors will get too cold to sleep on if you’re using a single mat. Moreover, as the ice keeps on melting and hardening continuously.
Many times, it produces sharp edges below the sleeping mat that might make you feel uncomfortable. Thus, it is better and safer to use double sleeping mats.
6. Dig Out the Vestibules: This is an advantage of camping in the snow. You can utilize the snow to create any structure you desire for your convenience. You can dig out the snow in the vestibules for easier movement. Besides, you can also create sitting space or table structures by digging out the snow.
7. Build a Snow Windbreak for Night: This is a way to utilize the snow you dig out from the vestibules. Snow is a good insulator. Make a wall surrounding your tent with huge lumps of snow to build a windbreak. This will protect you from the fierce force of the cold wind at night.
8. Pack a Stove for Extra Heat: No matter how long you make your tent absorb the sunlight in the daytime. It never seems to be enough at night. It is still bone-breaking cold at nighttime.
If you take a portable stove with you, it can be a great help in this regard. You will hit two shots at once. First, it will help keep you warm and insulate the tent at night. Second, you can have warm food for dinner.
Dos and Don’ts of Setting Up the Tent in Snow
Have a look for a clearer idea of what you should do and what you must not while setting up the tent in the snow.
- Add Snow Managing Materials to Your Camping Kit: Don’t forget to include a snow shovel, ice ax, snow boots, etc. in your camping kit beforehand. Or else you might get into trouble while setting up the tent.
- Place the Tent Ninety Degrees to the Wind: If you place your tent perpendicular to the flow of wind, your tent will face a lesser force of the wind which will help it to hold on better.
- Face Your Entrance Downhill: Don’t set the entrance of the tent uphill as if the wind blows perpendicular to the tent, it will easily enter through your entrance.
- Avoid Camping in a Place Near to a Wall: Don’t set up your tent by the side of a wall or a tall obstruction, as the snow will heavily accumulate there blocking your surroundings.
- Avoid Setting Up the Tent on an Avalanche Terrain: Never ever set up your tent on avalanche terrain. This mistake costed the valuable lives of many campers as they collapse without any prior notice.
- Avoid Setting Up the Tent Under Trees: You might want to set up your tent under trees in a snowy region thinking that it would provide shelter to you. But that’s not the case, rather you’re putting your life at risk. Because the snow accumulates on the branches of the trees making them heavy and vulnerable to fall over your tent. This can cause severe accidents. So, be careful.
We hope we were able to help you with how to set up a tent in the snow. Always remember, never compromise your safety for any other factor. Safety always comes first. Hopefully, you’ll be able to pull off your tent perfectly and your camping will be free of trouble but filled with excitement. All the best for your adventure!
Pavel is a true outdoor enthusiast with a passion for nature and a love for the great outdoors. He started Outdoor Fun Mag to introduce people from all walks of life to everything the outdoors has to offer and hopes that you’ll find something that excites you every time you stop by.
When not exploring nature Pavel works as an Electronics Engineer — a job that gets him thinking and makes sure he pays attention to all those fine details. This means that when he leaves work for the week, there’s no better contrast than the calmness and serenity of the natural world. By giving Pavel the chance to switch off and relax, his time spent camping and hiking allows him to feel refreshed.
In the future, Pavel plans to explore new areas and corners of the world with nothing more than a backpack and a tent. It’s an authentic way of seeing new places that allow him to de-stress and enjoy life, and he wants you to make the most of your life too.