1. Carry at least three times the fuel you would use the rest of the year for melting snow for water.
When melting snow it's best to start with a little water in the pan. This aids with the initial conduction of the heat of the stove to the snow and dry-heating a pan is a big no no anyway, you can really damage it and make any non-stick coating useless. A lid on top of your pan will make a lot of difference to the time taken to melt the snow too. Another essential is to protect the stove and base of the pot from the wind, try using a purpose-built windscreen or even digging down into the snow can create a good barrier. A cold winter wind will rob your stove and pot of a lot of heat, wasting your fuel and time.
2. Take at least three pairs of gloves, 2 warm and thin-ish, at least 1 waterproof and very warm.
In the UK we know you can have all 4 seasons in one day and in the middle of winter the worst weather can get really bad, really quick. Having a few options of gloves to wear is great and utilises the theory of layering but for your hands. A biting winter wind can really suck the fun out of your hike by numbing your extremities, so windproof gloves are a good idea to have as one of your options. Waterproof gloves are essential, wet things conduct heat easier which means you're going to get cold hands fast if your gloves get wet, this rule also applies for moisture from the inside too. Your gloves need to breathe to let the sweat move away from your skin to keep you dry and warm.
3. Don't forget a sunhat and sunscreen - if you're lucky enough to get clear days the sun can be fierce.
Cold days make for clear skies and whilst the air may feel freezing the sun will still shine bright. Sunhats and sun cream will stop you from burning and potentially getting sunstroke. Sunglasses area must as well if there's a lot of snow around. If you spend the day squinting you will miss all the beautiful scenery you've worked so hard to get a view of.
4. Ear Protection
On a clear day the sun can make it quite warm, too warm for a hat, but a cold wind will bite at the ears - a headband is the perfect solution.
5. Make sure your sleeping mat has a high R-value or is rated for the conditions you will be in.
There are many different types of sleeping mat out there, with different ones suitable for different conditions. When looking for a winter mat the insulation level needs to be high. Insulation is measured by the R-value of an item. Find out more about R-Values here... Air beds have taken precedent in terms of comfort when sleeping outdoors, the trouble with an air bed is that the air inside is able to move around transferring radiated heat away from your body. To combat this the clever people who make sleeping mats have started filling them with insulating material. Mats filled with down are very popular, synthetic insulation filled mats have the benefit of allowing you to still blow up the mat using your own breath, and air beds filled with foil micro baffles are also effective. Self inflating mats are also very effective insulators, the foam that makes them self-inflate has excellent insulating properties. If your standard mat is not warm enough you can beef it up by taking a closed cell foam mat and using them together.
6. Bring at least 4 tent pegs designed for snow or soft sand - assume you can only get this type of peg into the ground - do you have enough?
Your choice of tent pegs is super important for winter camping, especially if your tent is not free-standing. If you're expecting to camp on snow you'll need extra-wide pegs or even snow anchors. It's essential to compact the snow before putting your pegs in, or if using snow anchors bury the anchors and compact the snow above them. If you think you'll be able to find snow-free ground but it might be frozen, a thin peg you can hammer into hard ground will be the most suitable. If your tent has snow valances they will be a big help, cover them with snow to create a sealed environment inside your tent, use the vents on the tent to prevent any condensation building up inside.
7. Fit your trekking poles with snow baskets
Snow baskets are fairly easy to fit to your existing trekking poles, they don't cost a great deal and they give you a lot more surface area to reduce the amount of times your poles will sink down disappearing into deep snow. This will save you a lot of energy during a long day of trekking.
8. Petrol Stove?
Consider taking a liquid fuel stove (petrol) as this will burn better than gas at low temperatures. They can be a bit fiddly and take a bit of getting used to, but with a bit of practice you'll be confident and melting snow in no-time. Meths and solid fuel tablets are the worst performers in winter conditions.
9. Take some insulated trousers and some 'booties', synthetic or down
Hut Booties or Camp Slippers come under many different guises, they are lightweight and you can wear them in your sleeping bag if it gets colder than expected. Insulated trousers can utilise synthetic insulation such as Primaloft or natural insulation like down. Down will give you a smaller packed size over the Primaloft pants. Both can be worn inside your sleeping bag to beef it up if the mercury plummets.
10. Fit extra storm guys to your tent
Most tent manufacturers don't supply additional guylines even though there are often plenty of loop attachment points on their tents - check yours and take enough extra guylines to peg out at every possible point. This will make your tent much more stable in high winds and should help you rest easy knowing your tent will be in one piece in the morning.
These are just a few tips and tricks if you're thinking of heading out to the hills in the winter months. It can be a dangerous time of year to camp out and proper measures & precautions must be taken.