When: 02/25/2017
Location: Mt. Hood National Forest
Conditions:
Saturday - Passing clouds, freezing during the day, down into the 20's overnight.
Sunday - Snowfall (6-8") overnight into the morning. Temperature mid to high 20's.
Duration: Overnight Trip
Difficulty: Beginner Level - Most participants were first time winter campers.
Kid Friendly: Possible
Pet Friendly: No
Useful links: Winter Adventure Checklist

The Full Report
The last time I had gone on a "camping trip", I was with some friends at a KOA camp ground in the middle of summer and our main reasoning for being that was floating the nearby river. Beyond that, my camping experience has mainly been limited to my time in the scouts or going on overnight camping/fishing trips with my dad when I was a kid, also during the warm weather seasons. This was something that I wanted to change, so when I got the opportunity to do so with our Outdoor School here at Next Adventure I figured I would jump right on in. The only thing was, not only did I decide to go on a proper camping trip, I decided to do so on a winter camping trip!

Next Adventuer Outdoor School winter camping

The morning of the trip, all the participants and guides met at the Grand Ave retail location of Next Adventure to put together our gear and head out. Having very limited gear personally, I was able to rent any gear items I needed for the trip. Some of these items included a pack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, shovel, snow shoes, and trekking poles.

Next Adventuer Outdoor School winter camping

Once we got all of our gear packed away, we loaded up the van and took off for the Mt Hood National Forest. Once we parked, we had ourselves a small pre-hike lunch, put on our snow shoes and packs and headed up to our camp site. Temperatures at the time were right at the freezing level, but with the body heat being conducted during the hike, I had to make a couple of stops to shed some layers of clothing. One of the tips I was given before going on the trip was to dress in several light layers rather than few heavy layers and I'm very glad I did. For most of the hike I was in a base layer and one wool flannel shirt on top, base layer and waterproof mid-layer on bottom.

The hike itself was absolutely gorgeous. The skies were partly cloudy with spots of beautiful sunshine, the trees were covered in snow, and there were a couple of lookout spots that allowed for some epic sightseeing.

Next Adventuer Outdoor School winter camping

Once we got to our camp sight, our work had really just begun. With this being a winter camping trip, one of our goals was to learn out to build snow shelters that we would be staying in overnight. Given the snow conditions, we decided that the best shelter for us to build would be a Quinzhee Hut. We started by packing down a circular area with our snow shoes about 5'-6' in diameter, then used our shovels to dig a trench around this area. All of the snow we were digging out we piled into a mound in the middle of our packed down area. This would be the building blocks of our hut. Once finished, we gathered stray stick about a foot in length and distributed them evenly throughout our mound. These sticks served as a measuring tool for our roof that we would be digging out. After the mound had a chance to sit and recrystallize, we got to work on digging out the inner part of our hut. We started off with our entry way, digging down and then back up to our floor in order to trap any cold air before it could enter our hut. My Quinzhee mate and I took turns digging out our shelter, and from start to finish the whole process of building the shelter took a few hours. Once we finished though, it was one of the most rewarding feelings I have had the chance to experience! There sitting in front of me was a shelter made out of snow that I helped build and would be staying in that night!

Next Adventuer Outdoor School winter camping

After finishing, the sun had just about set and it was time to get some dinner. One of the items everyone was provided with for the trip was a freeze-dried meal. I chose the pasta primavera, and I must say that it was pretty good! This was my first experience making a freeze-dried meal, but it was very light to carry, very easy to make, and was a filling dinner! After dinner and a couple of warm beverages, everyone was ready to turn in for the night in their respective shelters. Our shelter definitely did the job of keeping us out of the elements and provided good insulation from the cold air outside.

Next Adventuer Outdoor School winter camping

The next morning, we woke up to slight colder temperatures and a good amount of snowfall. We all made ourselves some breakfast, packed up most of our gear, and flattened our shelters out of courtesy to others. I'm not going to lie though, that part hurt a little bit. We then covered our gear under tarps and set off on a small hike to a lookout point over a large valley. Once we got there, they lookout point ended up being mainly a grey sky due to the amount of snowfall, but it was beautiful none the less. You just had to use your imagination a little bit to see what was intended. After taking an opportunity to take in the scenery, we hiked back to our campsite, collected our gear, and hiked the rest of the way down to the van.

Next Adventuer Outdoor School winter camping

Overall, I feel very lucky to be able to have such a fun and informative experience! This was something completely different than any other camping I had ever done, and it left me with a real feeling of satisfaction. It gave me confidence to know that if I found myself in an emergency situation, that I would be able to build myself a functional shelter. I also got to experience snow shoeing for the first time, and got to see some beautiful sights along the hike. Winter camping is something that I will definitely being doing more of in the future with friends, and I would highly suggest it to anyone that wants a new take on camping!