I believe in my heart that winter camping is reserved for true powder hounds who love nothing more than to be waist deep in the fluffy white stuff.  These hardy souls have a skill set that I just do not possess.

I’ve found that many of my co-workers enjoy nothing more than spending a frosty night in the backcountry.  My biggest question for them has always been: where do you sleep?

After comparing their answers with the blizzard of information available online, I learned that there are, in fact, tons of options when constructing a snow dwelling.  Who knew?  After assessing the good, the bad and the ugly…here are my findings.  In conclusion, if ever I was to go winter camping, I think I’d like to try the Quinzee for the following reasons:

1.  I would feel like an Eskimo.

2. It seems pretty easy (even if time consuming) to build.

3. It seems like one of the warmer options.

4. The time spent constructing would keep my blood going, and keep me warm.


Snow Cave

What is it? A dug out snow structure.

The Good: Some protection from the elements. FREE to build.

The Ugly: Time consuming.  Requires a shovel. Will get wet while constructing.

A Snow Cave


What is it? Something between an igloo and a snow cave.

The Good: It looks like you’re sleeping in a snow cone.  FREE to build.

The Ugly: Time consuming. Requires a shovel. Will get wet while constructing.

A Quinzee


What is it?  House made out of snow bricks.

The Good: Relatively warm.  Bragging rights. FREE.

The Ugly: Time consuming. Requires a snow saw. Some skill required.

An Igloo

Adirondack Lean-To

What is it?  A three sided enclosure with a roof and a plank floor.  Looks like an unfinished log cabin.

The Good: Lots of room for people and supplies.  Can you say, “slumber party?”

The Ugly: You probably won’t be building one on your own, and the ones that are built for you are usually in high-use areas.  Can be very windy, and on the colder side.

Adirondack Lean-To


What is it?  A tent…but these are 4-season or mountaineering tents.

The Good: You can buy one of these at practically any outdoor store.  Quick and easy to set up.

The Ugly: Something extra to carry (though many of them are super lightweight).

A Winter Tent


What is it: A frozen, nylon pea pod swinging between the trees.

The Good: Lightweight, easy to pitch, and doesn’t require level ground.  Rock yourself to sleep.  Serious bragging rights.

The Ugly: (Ok, we don’t actually know anyone who has braved this one, but we believe the disadvantages would be…) Only practical in wooded areas.  Not practical to do with your canine. Additional materials are needed to winterize the hammock.  Nowhere to store gear. Will freeze your butt off.

A Winterized Hammock

Hot Tenting

What is it: A tent or teepee with a compact, packable stove and pipe.

The Good: Oh so warm!  Stove seconds as a cooktop and dryer.  Can you say, “S’mores???”

The Ugly: Stove and fuel means you’re probably not packing this out to the backcountry.  Have to stay on top of keeping the stove going.

Hot Tenting


What is it?  A step up from a sleeping bag on the snow.  It has a waterproof exterior and adds about 10 degrees to your sleeping bag’s overall temperature.

The Good: Lightweight, can be set up anywhere.

The Ugly: Not a good choice for claustrophobia; no where to put your gear (or your dog).

A Bivy Sack


What is it?  A tarp that’s used to make an overhead shelter or version of a teepee/tent.

The Good: Lightweight, easy to set up, inexpensive.

The Ugly: Cold.  Reserved for the hardcore.

A Tarp

Fire Lookouts

What is it?  A room with a view.  Like spending the night in the tallest tree house ever built.

The Good: Panoramic views and a one-of-kind experience.

The Ugly: Reservations required.  Takes some pre-planning and a little cash.

A Fire Lookout

Yurt or Hut

What is it?  Translated as “felt house”, these dome-shaped structures make you really feel like you’re in a snow globe.

The Good: Communal, warm, dog-friendly–like a backcountry vacation!

The Ugly: Expensive–up to $65/person/night.


A Yurt

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