My wife really isn't sure if I know how to camp between the months of April and September. We really enjoy camping and backpacking in the winter because of the silence and solitude that is out there which can't usually be found in the summer. The huge bonus is the fact that there isn't the humidity and bugs during the winter that you find in the summer. I've never had a problem keeping warm. The wife really enjoys the boiling water in a nalgene bottle that find a way into her sleeping bag just before bed time. Wrap it in a sock and it'll stay warm till 3 or 4 a.m.
Hiking around the neighborhood:
Smoky Mountains in November, hiking to the Lodge on LeConte:
Backpacking in the Suches, GA and the AT area in January:
The wife went the extra mile for this one. She tripped and fell and when she looked up she saw this:
The key is to be prepared for the worst. When we went to the Smoky's my brother-in-law read the forecast for the valley instead of LeConte. Was he surprised when the low was 8* instead of 43*. He quickly began wishing he'd taken me up on the wide brimmed hat, gaiters, and traction devices he'd decided against in the parking lot. His cheap poncho cracked less than a mile into the hike because it was frozen. His jeans were soaked and all he had was a flannel shirt. Things could've turned dangerous fast, especially if he hadn't been in great shape and we hadn't been going to the Lodge where he was able to warm up. The low was 8* that night with 25 mph winds, you can calculate the windchill if you want but it was around -18* or lower. He looked at us funny when we put on our daypacks but by the end of the trip he was doing some serious shopping at an outfitters in town.
People around me always look at me sideways when I say I would rather camp in winter than summer. Bugs, humidity - ummm no!
Much rather try to keep warm than to get cooled off. My lowest temp so far is 12 degrees. Did a lot of walking around that weekend to keep warm. But it is one of my most memorable trips. Hurry up winter!
I keep a list of each of my trips and a total of the number of nights camped outside each year. My best so far is 24 nights. I'm at 14 so far this year. Got some work to do to break my record, but it is doable since cooler weather is here.
My first cold weather camping was at Rausch Creek PA in November. The camping area is on the top of a ridge, and it hit single digits overnight. Being new to camping at the time, I had a large tent as my son was joining me. This was a rookie mistake as there was too much air to heat up inside the tent. Luckily we were using all the layers of the military surplus bags I had recently purchased. I added a balaclava when I woke up around 2 AM to frozen snot on my nose. I remember standing in the sunlight at 7 AM and declaring it must be 50 degrees warmer than overnight. Someone told me it was currently 17 degrees.
Since then I use a RTT and button down the windows, the same bags, and a wool or fleece cap. A shmaug has been used a time or two as well. Considerably more comfortable. Although I haven't experienced single digits with this tent, only mid teens.
All that being said, I agree with others, winter camping is awesome. I would rather shiver for a bit till some hot coffee is made or a fire is started, then try to cool down while being attacked by insects. Fewer people also increases my enjoyment.
I used to like winter camping quite a lot, it doesn't have quite the same appeal lately though. I spent several years camping about 10 months/year, including a couple years off and on living in a tipi. Was great fun and adventure at the time. Some of the time was out under the starts on a tarp on the snow, sometimes in the back of the truck, sometimes in the tipi or wall tent. Tipis with a fire inside are the best. The wall tent with the Sims folding wood stove isn't too bad.
It took about an hour to dig in with a snowshoe. Had a 6 or 7 mile walk in. I believe it was zero that night. No worries in a tipi.
It's all about location, location, location. Here in SoCal, our "camping" season is traditionally Halloween-Easter.
I have been on one snow run in 20 years of wheeling. I was the lead vehicle through a foot of fresh snow 10 years or so ago. We had a great time, I was glad that I was very familiar with the trail that was hidden under the snow. I still managed to hit virtually every rock on the trail...I had to back up to get a couple of them, but I think I got them all!