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Pitching a Tent in The Snow: A Handy Guide

Camping during the winter comes with its own set of challenges. Things that come easy during the summer can be downright challenging in the cold. Pitching your tent in the snow is a valuable skill that every backpacker needs to know.

Avoid sleepless nights, broken gear and chilly nights by learning the proper way to pitch a tent in the snow. The following tips should lead you in the right direction when camping in the winter.

Pitching a Tent in The Snow

When there isn’t a lot of snow on the ground you can just kick it out of the way and set up your tent. Problems start to arise when dealing with deep, heavy snow.

You Need Snowshoes or Skis

To setup your tent in the snow you’re going to need a pair of snowshoes or skis. It’s the only way to efficiently pack down snow to setup your tent. Just make sure your snowshoes are big enough to support your weight. (these are cheap and perfect for most adults)

You’re going to use the snowshoes/skis to flatten a large square twice the size of your tent. Stomp down as hard as you can making an even hard surface.

Don’t Setup Without Packing Down Snow

You need to setup your tent on a even hard surface. Setting up your tent without pushing down the snow will cause a few bad problems depending on the severity.

Your tent and body will push down the snow making indents below your sleeping area. Throughout the night these areas are going to melt and re-freeze throughout the night leaving you with a rocky uneven surface.

At best it’s going to be uncomfortable to sleep. Worst case scenario your tent gets damaged and freezes into the ice. While it might take a little longer you’re going to get a better night sleep and protect your gear.

Pitching Your Tent in Snow With Deadman Anchors

  1. Start off by flattening an area twice the size of your tents footprint using your skis/snowshoes. Stomp down hard trying to get the ground as flat as possible.
  2. Lay out your tent without pitching it and start digging trenches for deadman anchors. Some guys use sticks that can be left behind and others use stakes,trekking/ski poles or snow filled stuff sacks. The trenches should be 6-12 inches deep and a foot away from each corner.
  3. Tie a knot around the anchors making sure to keep the knot above the snows surface. Personally I like a trucker’s hitch since it’s easy to adjust and untie in the ice.
  4. Bury the deadman and stomp snow on top
  5. Let the deadman anchors settle for a while(like 1 hour) and stomp snow down. The longer you wait the harder your anchors will freeze.
  6. Setup your tent and you’re good to go.

Setup a Wind Break

When setting up your tent try to choose a site that’s protected from the wind. Setup camp facing east with a hill at your back. If there’s no hill in sight you can quickly build a small windbreak to protect your tent.

  1. Pile snow into an arc around the windy side of your tent. Curved walls are going to be more stable than a straight break. Hopefully the snow is packable so you don’t need to use a shovel.
  2. Build the wall about as high as your tent for extra protection. Make sure you setup the wall far enough away from your tent in case of collapse. For every foot of height go one foot away from your tent.
  3. If there’s not enough snow you can always build a lean-to out of branches and pack snow into it.