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Winter Camping, Hiking, and Backpacking Resources

Winter Campsite Preparation
Winter Campsite Preparation

Winter camping, hiking, backpacking and mountaineering are not without peril. If you have never done them, it’s best to receive some training from your local outdoor club or a professional guiding service before you try it yourself. I just started last year myself after a three-day Intro to Mountaineering Class with a guide in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It was an eye-opening experience.

If you are in New England and are interested in becoming a 4 season hiker, there are a few winter training programs that I’d recommend you look into. The Adirondack Mountain Club hosts an annual Winter Mountaineering School near Lake Placid, New York that typically covers the following areas of instruction:

  • Trip planning and leadership
  • Snowshoe, crampon, and ice axe technique
  • Use of map, compass, altimeter, and GPS
  • On and off trail navigation
  • Winter backpacking skills
  • Constructing snow caves, igloos, and other snow shelters
  • Steep snow and ice climbing
  • Safe above-treeline travel under winter conditions
  • Wilderness first aid and safety
  • Avalanche Awareness
  • Hydration, nutrition, and winter backcountry kitchen skills
Mt Guyot in Winter
Mt Guyot in Winter

If you live in the Boston Area, the Boston Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club has a Winter Hiking and Backpacking Program which I’ve taught for in the past. It includes 4 lectures and 10 hiking, backpacking and cabin trips in New England and the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. I already know quite a few of the instructors and trip leaders including Mark Warren who has been a guest poster on section hiker.

If you want to learn more about winter camping, hiking, backpacking and mountaineering, here are a few online resources and books that I have found very helpful:

written 2009.


  1. Great information as usual. Monica and I participated in the AMC course a couple of years ago and learned quite a bit – we had never hiked or climbed anything "serious" in winter and it helped prepare us for what to expect.

    Another option that is available is EMS in Conway/North Conway. I know that they have run multi-day winter mountaineering programs in the past and would assume they will be doing the same thing again this year. I was going to look into there offerings to see what might be available – will let you know what I find out.


  2. You're right – I haven't taken any EMS Classes but they are highly regarded, particularly their climbing school.

  3. I grew up in Colorado and did a lot of winter camping. You're right, there are a number of important skills you have to learn to be successful and avoid problems when you're out in the middle of the snow bound wilderness. I learned my skills as a youth in the Boy Scouts…not a program you mentioned. Although on your own you might be too old to join the scouts, if you have children that's a great way to get your kids involved in winter camping and develop a bonding opportunity with your kids as you both learn about and participate in winter camping.

  4. Thanks for the links.

    I practiced building emergency shelters in the snow last year with an outdoor school here in Portland. One thing I might add is that, while solo hiking is great, winter camping is not the place to do it until you are very skilled. It's hard to recognize the signs of hypothermia in yourself.

  5. Adelaide – Great point. I don't do solo hiking in winter either. The consequences are just too high and "she who must be obeyed" forbids it. This is the time of year when I become a lot more social.

  6. Keith – Thanks for the heads up on those courses in Maine. I'll check them out.

  7. The Bay Area Sierra Club (San Francisco Bay Chapter) runs a great course.  Been at it for over 40 years.  No crampons or ice axe skills, but they cover most of the rest on the list.  Reasonably priced as well.

  8. The Maine Chapter of AMC is doing both a beginners winter hiking series and an advanced series both of which include some backpack trips. Check out the AMC's website and search Maine chapter's activities. First informational meeting is on Dec 1

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