OK. Let's get the obvious out of the way; yes, it was cold. I mean, it was 30ºF / -1ºC when I woke up, so whichever way you look at it, it was literally freezing. And I was cold. I went to bed cold, I woke up cold, I ate breakfast with cold feet… there was a lot of cold-ness involved. But I wasn't unbearably cold, I read, I slept, I had fun, and maybe most importantly, I'd do it again.
OK OK, let's back it up a bit, I've been tempted by the idea of camping in the snow for a while, it seems like outdoor-based activities really fall off quickly here in the Northeast when Winter hits, which is problematic when the winter lasts so incredibly long, and you're trying to avoid being inside with other people…
The kicker to get me started on this experiment was seeing a video by Justin B Mcbride on YouTube where he mentioned using a 12v electric blanket as a under-quilt—prior to that I'd only seen people using little heaters (Space Buddies?) which sounded like something from a troop-leader horror story you'd tell a group of boy scouts when teaching them about what not to do inside a tent (in case you're wondering; modern tents + fire is a really really bad combination, they melt…).
Anyway, back to the trip—I knew I could power a 12v blanket for most of the night from my Yeti 200x power station (an oversized battery pack with a bunch of power ports), that coupled with my inflatable ground mat, sleeping bag, and blanket—the same kit that had seen me through 50º temperatures (ºF—10ºC) in my tent in the North Maine Woods—I figured I'd be plenty warm enough in the back of the Jeep.
And I wasn't far from wrong; I ended up adding my parka on top for extra warmth, and waking up twice in the night to pull the blanket back over my shoulders, so all-in-all, not a terrible night's sleep.
So was this a one-time thing? Nope. I 100% plan to do this again, I have almost everything I need for winter camping already (I bought a $25 12v blanket for this trip), but there are a couple of things I'm thinking I'll add to my kit next time.
The first is a new sleeping bag—my current one is rated for 55ºF, which is quite a long way from 32ºF, and the rating tends to be related to keeping you alive rather than comfortable so… I also wouldn't mind wearing a few less layers to bed (2 layers, top and bottom, plus socks, a hat, and a hoodie).
The other item is a warmer blanket, mine was handy as a thin extra layer but if I want it to actually add meaningful warmth, it needs to be something a mite more substantial, though maybe I won't need it if I get a warm enough "bag"—as the Forestry Service Ranger referred to it (lovely chap, came round each plot at the campsite about 11am).
So why might you want to winter camp? For me, I wanted to prove that I could do it, and I wanted to wake up to a world covered in snow, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do both of those things.
It's not ideal weather for hiking, the snow makes everything slow going and the temperature means you need multiple layers so you can de-, and up-, layer throughout the hike.
I'd definetly like to try cross country skiing, and maybe do some snowshoeing again, so maybe I'll figure one of those out for next time. It'd also be a great way to get cheap accomodation for snowboarding, though that's not exactly a cheap hobby to start with.
All that said, I got some incredible photos, and had a great time just chilling, drinking coffee, and shooting frames, so maybe that's all there needs to be to it…