• Kathy Schrenk

Camping in the cold

Updated: Sep 12, 2019


A couple weeks ago we had a weekend of gorgeous weather. Finally. As of now we've had about 10 minutes of sun in the last month, I'm pretty sure, so when we did have the brief respite from the cold and clouds I had to get my son and me outdoors.

Sunrise views are something I only experience on backpacking trips.

We had never camped in the winter before. On this particular night, the forecasted low was about 30 degrees. I figured that if we piled on all our layers and used our regular three-season gear, we'd be ok. 30 Fahrenheit isn't that cold.

Most of the park is grey or brown this time of year, but near the spring there's some bright green.

We went to one of our favorite backpacking loops, the Wilderness Trail in Meramec State Park. It's about nine miles and it has eight designated campsites. This was our second time camping on the one at the very northern edge of the loop, near the spring. It has a metal fire ring and is steps from the creek.


It got dark around 6:30, so we snuggled into our sleeping bags with our reading material and headlamps. I was wearing a merino wool blend undershirt, a warm polyester sweatshirt, and my patagonia packable puffy jacket, which I wear basically all the time in winter anyway. My mummy bag is rated to 15 degrees. My 13-year-old was similarly outfitted. We were both still cold.

This pine stand is one of the highlights of the trail for me.

We both spent the night sleeping some in between tossing and turning and wondering if we were going to shiver all night. It wasn't miserable, but it wasn't great. We aren't eager to do it again.


Frozen waterfalls were visible along many parts of the trail.

If we were to try again, I think my first move would be to bring our smaller tent. A couple years ago I upgraded to a three-person (2.5, really) from two-person (1.5, really) tent, because my son is adult-sized and it was just getting too crowded. But I think if we had been in the smaller tent, which has a much lower ceiling, the temperature in side the tent would have been higher.