Winter sports

Tips for bivouacking in winter

  • #Bivouacking
Portrait von Verkaufsberater Hansj
Sales Consultant, Transa store Europaallee Zurich
© Fotos

Do you find spending the night in the snow cold, uncomfortable and a struggle with the equipment? It doesn’t have to be! Sales advisor Hansi offers a few tips on the right equipment to keep your winter bivouac cosy and warm and what you need to consider when cooking in winter.

Bivouacking in winter is a real adventure that can be a safe and warm experience with the right planning. Make sure you keep an eye on the weather and avalanche forecast when preparing. You can even go bivouacking when the temperature falls below zero, but you need the right equipment. Check the bulletins for the risk of avalanches, choose a safe, appropriate route and avoid setting up your bivouac on steep slopes.

Choosing a safe site for your bivouac

The edge of a forest is the best place for bivouacking, both in summer and in winter, since it’s usually more sheltered from the wind than in open terrain and you can find a suitable hollow for your tent or bivy sack. There are also probably sticks lying around to make a cosy, warm fire.

  • Ein Winterbiwak mit zwei Zelten, rundum Schnee und am Himmel erkennt man den Mond und viele helle Sterne.

    Get your winter bivouac experience off to a good start with the right preparation and the right equipment.

    Photo © Ruedi Thomi 
  • Unterhalb eines Berges neben einer Waldgrenze sitzen zwei Personen vor einem Feuer und biwakieren.

    You’re most likely to find sticks for a fire near the edge of a forest.

    Photo © Ruedi Thomi 
  • Eine Person mit winterlicher Kleidung sitzt im Schnee und isst aus einem kleinen Behälter.

    Be sure to check beforehand whether your gas stove will work properly at temperatures below zero.

    Photo © Ruedi Thomi 

As with winter sports in general, make sure to assess your personal limits realistically when bivouacking in winter. Respect the wildlife habitat and be sure to observe local wildlife protection zones. It’s usually better to plan more leisurely tours. Considering the amount of luggage, I always plan routes of around one to one-and-a-half hours from the starting point (public transport stop), set up a kind of base camp and set off on tours from there with a light backpack.

Bivouac in winter without freezing

The right combination of sleeping mat and sleeping bag is extremely important to ensure warm nights. I combine a summer and a three-season sleeping bag for winter nights. This removes the need for a winter sleeping bag, which I would only use a few times a year anyway. But this combination keeps me warm enough. For underneath, I highly recommend a four-season sleeping mat with an R-Value of at least five or higher. After all, in winter the cold usually comes from below.

If you spend the night in a tent, you don’t also need to bring a bivy sack. However, if you want to prevent yourself from slipping off the sleeping mat in your sleeping bag, the Mammut Grevling sleeping bag protective cover keeps everything together and is also breathable. If you are sleeping outdoors, you definitely need a bivouac cover with GORE-TEX® material. If you don’t use a breathable material, the moisture won’t be able to escape and your sleeping bag will be soaked with condensation the next morning.

Sleeping bag

Snow pegs and an insulating seat cushion are also a good idea when bivouacking in winter. A shovel is essential, and if you want to build an igloo, you’ll also need a snow saw. It’s also quite easy to secure a tent using skis, avalanche probe sticks or other tools.

Making sure you have special winter gas is very important when cooking in cold temperatures, as standard gas won’t work when temperatures reach at least –5 degrees. It’s best to keep the canister close to your body overnight or during the tour to prevent the gas from becoming too thick. A fondue is the obvious choice for dinner, but vegetable couscous can also be delicious and is very easy to prepare. Homemade ready meals are also an option if you don’t have much time. Of course, you can buy them too, for example the Trek’n Eat range or classic ready-made meals from the supermarket.

Camping stoves

Gasoline stoves are also suitable in the cold. We have summarised the main advantages and disadvantages of different types of stoves in our little stove guide.

Packing properly for winter bivouacking

I always use a 70-litre backpack when I go on tours in the snow, but I only ever carry it as far as my base camp. I set out on tours from there using a light daypack (maximum 15 litres). I don’t take my sleeping bag with me in my packsack, but instead stuff it at the bottom of my backpack. Packing the rest of the equipment on top compresses the sleeping bag to a minimum volume, which saves valuable space. I also pack the tent a little differently, putting the tent itself in a plastic bag and the poles on the outside of the backpack.

  • #Bivouacking

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