Can you believe I never went camping once this summer? I couldn’t stand this fact and booked a last minute trip to Otter Falls campground in Manitoba. How would I sum it up? One word. COLD. We learned the hard way and made a list of cold weather camping tips to share so you don’t have to freeze like we did!
My husband Darcy and I had never camped past the September long weekend. We knew it was going to be cold so we packed everything! The forecast was saying it would rain for days and we replied with “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!” We were determined we were camping no matter what.
Our vehicle was loaded to the roof and there was just enough space for our dog Fionn to fit comfortably in the back seat. Fionn seemed excited to go for a car ride but the events that followed changed the expression on his face. He looked at us with a face that said “Can we go home now?”
Setting up camp
We arrived at the campground early and it was nearly completely empty. I immediately started thinking this was a mistake. If nobody else was here then why on earth were we?! Darcy assured me they would show up later and we began to setup the tent. It was windy so we pitched the tent behind some trees to shield from the wind gusts. We had issues with tent poles breaking and had to problem solve. At this point I was seriously regretting the camping trip.
Again, Darcy told me it would be fun and he would get a fire going so we could sit and watch the sunset. But then Darcy realized he forgot his rain jacket, ketchup, and a can opener. Ok, that’s it! I’m going home! Again, Darcy went to the little shop and bought some ketchup, bought some wood and put on some extra sweaters and everything was ok.
We roasted hot dogs of course on the fire and made s’mores for dessert. The sunset was perfect and everything was golden. The view was amazing, the fire cozy and my camping dreams had finally come true. Then we filled up two hot water bottles, layered on several fleece sweaters and crawled into our tent for the night.
I awoke to the terrifying noise that sounded like an animal scratching at the door trying to get in. Turns out Darcy forgot to zip up the outside fly and it was flapping in the wind. Oh my goodness I nearly thought we were done for! After a little inspection, we wrapped Fionn up in a blanket and burrowed back under the covers. The hot water bottles were an excellent idea and helped warm us up.
The rain began around 1am and never stopped.
Misty autumn morning
We waited a while hoping it would let up and realized we had to face the elements sooner or later. Out in the rain we went. Darcy made some coffee and omelettes and I took photos until my fingers froze.
The view across the river was magical. The mist coming off of the river and floating by the trees was worth everything up to this point. Fionn was still not impressed and sighed over and over just waiting to go home.
We watched eagles soaring over head and Canada geese land in front of our camp site. We decided to have a fire and just take in the view. I had plans to go hiking and explore the area but that was definitely not happening today.
It started getting colder and colder and then we ran out of firewood. We both sat looking at the tent wondering if we could handle another night out here. Then we agreed we were done. The tent was quickly packed up and I called Mom to tell her we were coming over for a visit. We took a few more pretty photos and headed out feeling very defeated. On our drive back we stopped at Seven Sisters generating station to see the dam. We sat in the parking lot not really bothering to get out so we agreed we would keep driving.
Magical fox paradise
On the way down the road there suddenly appeared the most beautiful red fox I have ever seen with my own two eyes! It was sitting tall and proud with its front paws right together beside the road. Luckily no cars were around and I stopped immediately grasping for my phone to capture this incredible moment! The fox must have heard me freaking out and bounded off into the field. It was so happy frolicking in the rain possibly hunting for mice. We waited for it to return but no luck. I jumped out and grabbed my camera from the back seat and was kicking myself for not having it up front with me. I would have had the most amazing fox photos!
I was not leaving without seeing one more glimpse! I turned around and went looking down the other side of the road. Watching for other vehicles on the road I had my eyes on the rear view mirror. Then suddenly Darcy calmly said “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah!” Another red fox came bounding out of the forest! It was a different one than the first we saw. I was ready with my camera and got a few shots which were mostly blurry but there’s one good one I like. I kept snapping and then Fionn finally saw what we were looking at and started barking out the window. It scared the fox away and that was the last we saw of them.
I’m so glad we stopped because it was like a magical little fox paradise.
Warm but not for long
Back on the road we went and soon arrived at my parents house. They offered us hot showers, hot coffee and a hot meal. It continued to get colder.
Several hours later it was snowing. It was pretty much winter. The trees still had their leaves so the weight of the snow caused a few trees to come crashing down. And then we had a power outage. It lasted until the early morning so Darcy and I stayed the night with my parents.
What an exciting day and to think that was only the first day of Autumn!
It has been raining and chilly ever since that weekend. We learned a lot and realized there are things we will do differently next time we attempt cold weather camping. Here are a few tips that I can pass along from my experience.
Cold weather camping tips
- Hot water bottles are wonderful to put inside your sleeping bag.
- Tent poles can easily snap in the cold. Handle with care.
- Even though it says rain in the forecast prepare for snow.
- Keep your head warm. Wear a tuque to bed.
- Zip up all flaps on your tent to keep in the warm air and not get freaked out in the middle of the night.
- Bring blankets for your fur baby too.
- Keep your firewood dry by covering with a tarp or bringing inside the entrance of your tent.
- Bring a small tent that is low to the ground. Ours was larger than I’d like to admit and probably the reason we were so cold.
- Be flexible with your plans.
- Get up early to enjoy the magical mist off of the water.
- Drinks lots of coffee.
- Know when to call it quits for your own safety.
- Enjoy the experience and learn from it.
Do you have any cold weather camping tips? I’d love to hear how you keep warm when staying in a tent.
Hope there’s an adventure waiting around the corner for you and I hope you take the chance to get out there and enjoy the beauty of the season!