Winter Camping at Center Hill Lake

Tips for Winter Camping in Tennessee


Guest Post: Outdoorsman & Adventurist Derek Edwards

Tips for Winter Camping at Center Hill Lake

Central Tennessee is gorgeous all year long. From stunning waterfalls like Burgess Falls to scenic vistas like Bee Rock Overlook, there are plenty of reasons to get away from the daily routine and go enjoy the natural beauty around us. 

But while winter in Tennessee has a lot to offer campers, getting out in the cold presents some unique challenges. It’s not necessarily hard, you just have to know what you’re doing, and plan a little in advance. We’ll take a look at a few pointers so that you feel well-prepared and comfortable camping, no matter what time of year it is. 

Check the Weather

If you’re from Tennessee, you probably already have a rough idea of what to expect. Winters get rainy & icy, and nights can get below freezing. But even from week to week, it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast to know exactly what you’re up against. 

Dress in Layers

If you plan on hiking around or to a few waterfalls or exploring, you’re probably going to work up a sweat. Generally, you’ll want to wear a lot of layers that you can add and subtract as the day goes on. If you’re starting to sweat in the middle of the day, you’ll want to be able to take off enough clothing to stop. If you’re covered in sweat when the sun goes down and the air cools, you’re going to be a lot colder than you need to be. Bundling up is important, but bundling up strategically is even more crucial.

Have the Right Gear

Sleeping bags and tents come rated for certain temperatures. If you have more than one tent or sleeping bag to choose from, then bringing the right one is important. If you’re buying your first one, it’s even more important to know that the one you’ve chosen is up to the task. For winter camping in Tennessee, that usually means a sleeping bag that can handle temperatures below freezing, and a three- or four-season tent. 

Despite the name, four-season tents aren’t just tents for year-round camping. They’re made for strong winds and harsh weather. 

Know How to Keep Warm in a Tent

There are a few ways to stay warm in a tent. Beyond just picking the right one, there are a few other things you can do. Pitch your tent in an area that’s protected from wind. Remember, too, that cool air sinks, so while you do want protection, you don’t want to be down in a valley if you can help it.

Choose a small tent, and fill it with people and gear.  Consider a sleeping pad, both for a bit of softness, and to put some insulation between you and the cold ground. A full tent is an insulated tent, and the less room you leave for cold air, the better off you’ll be. 

Keep Your Clothes Close

One great way to stay warm at night (and start out warm the next day) is to keep your clothing bundled up in your sleeping bag with you. The extra layers help keep you cozy, and when morning comes you’re putting on clothing that’s been near your body heat all night, instead of grabbing something cold from your pack.

Carry Extra Socks

Wearing one or two layers of socks is a great way to keep warm. You don’t want any more than that, though, because you can constrict bloodflow to your feet, making you colder than you would have been. 

Still, bringing plenty of warm socks along is a great idea, especially if your feet get wet. Having a spare, dry pair of socks on hand can make a huge difference in how you feel at the end of the day. 

Bring Plenty of Food and Water

Your body burns more calories when it’s cold, as your metabolism tries to keep your body heat up against the cold. So for however much food you normally take on a camping trip, be sure to bring a little extra along. 

Similarly, dehydration in the winter can be a little deceptive. Without sweat and all the usual hot weather cues, you might get dehydrated without realizing it. Carry water, and drink it periodically even if you don’t feel thirsty. (Remember, by the time you do feel thirsty, you’re already becoming dehydrated.)

If you want to venture out of the woods for a more traditional meal, there are plenty of great options in the area. Similarly, Big Puckett’s Campground & Fiddler’s Campground & Market have food on site.

Bring a Camp Stove

Warm water is more appealing than cold water when it’s frosty out, and of course you can make hot beverages to help keep you toasty. But beyond that, boiling water is your best bet for purifying your drinking water when it’s cold out. Chemical filters take longer to work in the cold, and the frigid temperatures can also be harmful to mechanical filters. But a camp stove gives you a quick, easy way to boil water so that you can drink it safely, which is great for anyone camping near one of the many waterways nearby.

Have Fun!

Camping in the winter does require a little bit of forethought, and if you can get your gear to match the weather, that can definitely help. But it’s certainly not an insurmountable challenge, and there’s nothing like waking up on a crisp, clear morning and stepping out of your tent into a gorgeous winter day.

Virgin Falls, Sparta, Tennessee (Will Swann)
Author Bio: Derek Edwards is a budding adventurist and outdoorsman.  You can follow his adventures and the tips and tricks he picks up along the way over at his blog 

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