High Tech Winter Camping

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High tech winter camping

Finding the right balance for your trip.  Gear so you stay out longer and make camping easier, safer, and/or more fun!  This is a presentation Kate and I are doing at the Winter Camping Symposium 2017.  A little bit of work in process!



This the big one when people think of bring some technology to the backcountry.  Even with all other technology… know how to use a map and compass!  Try and walk in a straight line through a chunk of woods.




Download maps to your device for the area you are going. Check that area by scrolling over and make sure there are maps there.

Even if you have the GPS off most of the time, mark location of your put in, each campsite, maybe portage trails.

Know how to use a GPS before you go.  Many people have no idea how to use their particular GPS, and that won’t help you if you really need it.

Free Maps that I have used on a garmin

I’ve gotten topos and other maps here:


BWCA campsites and portages.



Here is example where I left the GPS running when I was moving.  Great to relive a trip!  Mapped with GPSvisulizer.com



Phones just run out of battery life so quickly (battery section below).  Especially in the winter.  Turn it off when not needed.  At the very least use airplane mode.

If you choose to bring a phone here are some apps that are helpful.  Think about a waterproof case or a pelican case to store the phone.


Gaia GPS and BackCountry Navigator

These are useful apps with some topos or satellite views.  Sometimes when you can’t find a portage, they will really stick out with a satellite view.  Download the area you are going ahead of time for the particular maps you want to use.  Both apps have a way to save data.   It will also cache data that you have already looked at, but only for a particular zoom amount, so don’t rely on that.

Gaia: Android or Apple apps

Backcountry Navigator: Android


Iphone or Android device have pretty great cameras for taking camp shots or landscape shots.  It is a pretty small device to bring compared to other cameras.


Night sky viewing

You won’t see a better night sky then camping in the winter.

Skymaps (android) or Stellarium (android) are great to find stars and planets.

ISS Detector – Get to view the ISS has it flies by.  Also great for seeing Iridium flares. We’ve had great luck with this one!



Cell phone

Depending on where you are at you might have coverage or partial coverage.  Even if you are roaming 911 calls will go through.


Satellite devices

Make sure you have coverage for where you’d like to go depending on what device you get: http://www.satphonestore.com/coveragemaps


Spot Navigator

~$100 and 14.99/MO or 149/Year

Tracking. Send check-in messages to family/friends back home.  SOS to call in search and rescue.


Garmin Inreach

$500 + $15 to 130/mo (https://explore.garmin.com/en-CA/inreach/#subscriptions)

Navigator beacon that has GPS device as well.  Tracking uses Iridium satellite network which has 100% worldwide coverage.




  • Alkaline – Worst battery.  They are everywhere and cheap, terrible in the cold.
  • Lead acid – Too heavy for most camping
  • Nimh (Nickel metal hydride) – Good rechargables that come in AA, AAA, more – Eneloop some of the best
  • Nicd (Nickel cadmium) – OK 
  • Lithium – Non-chargable – Do the best in the cold – Expensive
  • Lithium Polymer/Lithium Ion – Rechargable – What you have in your cell phone.


From: https://optibike.com/lithium-battery-performance-in-cold-temperatures/


Keep backup battery or device in a inside coat pocket to keep it warm.

I’m have NiMh batteries but I’m starting to move to 18650 lithium polymer cells.

18650 cells are great batteries for camping.  You can get these from old laptops.

Samsung 30Q are really good batteries but expensive.

18650 Charger – Need a special charger

Flashlights/Headlamps use them and last forever.

Nitecore headlamp with usb recharger

Battery Packs

USB battery packs work great if you had phones or other rechargeable devices that use USB to charger.  (These packs are likely made of 18650 cells).  If you have LED lighting in your tent a lot of times that can be powered by USB


Goal zero packs – Some can provide laptop power as well

Solar Panels

I have a couple of the goalzero panels and they work great! It connects to the goalzero battery pack to keep it charged. Keep in mind that even with a big panel it needs to be out for perhaps multiple days to charge up a fully depleted pack.   For example with a Nomad 20, it is at best a 20W panel at high noon, although I would estimate it at 10W average over the day in the winter.  If you have a 100 Watt Hour battery pack (sherpa 100) then it will take 10 hours to fill back up.  For reference, to fully charge a cell phone takes 10 watt-hours


Other great stuff!


Usb rechargeable steriPEN

Super handy to santize water without boiling.  Much quicker to drill a hole in the ice and sanitize thanto melt a bunch of snow on the stove.

Ways to move



Fat Bike


Silnylon Tipi:  Go light!

Making a Tipi Style Hot Tent

Silnylon tunnel party tent:


Anyone have any awesome gear/tech they want to add?

What’s made your trips better?

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