To Brave the Cold

By Shelby Perry

The sun had been up for an hour and the day was already warming. As I sat down to a steaming bowl of cinnamon oatmeal, Bernd walked into the cabin and announced that it was -24 degrees Fahrenheit outside. This made the rest of the week seem balmy, with temperatures fluctuating between -5 and 28 degrees F. Soon we would head outside for an exploratory ramble. It was just another day in Bernd Heinrich’s Winter Ecology class.

When I tell people about winter camping their reaction is often one of shock; sometimes I provoke a chorus of “That sounds terrible!” People ask these experiences with comic incredulity, but their questions give me the chance to explain why braving the cold is worth it.

  1. Winter is beautiful.

    2015-01-07 10.46.45
    Photo by Bonnie Richord

The landscape sparkles with snow, the late-afternoon sun paints the hills pink, and the tree silhouettes stand twisted against the sky. After a snowfall, the world is transformed, quiet, and peaceful.

  1. Wildlife!

While many animals are sleeping or have left town, the ones that remain can be easier to see against the backdrop of snow and bare tree branches. Below, check out an owl sighting from winter ecology.

  1. You get to eat so much.

When we spend time in the cold, our metabolism cranks up. We eat more so we can produce more heat. On winter camping trips, when I’m outside 24/7, I eat twice what I normally do. Imagine eating as much butter as you want and snacking 3-12 times a day. Delicious.

  1. You can get used to the cold.

    Photo by Bonnie Richord

While your toes might be chilled and you will always appreciate warm tea, with the right layers and by staying active, many people can be comfortable in the cold. Put on some long johns and snow-pants and you might even find yourself sweating as you walk.

  1. You earn hard-core points.

Once you’ve been outside in the negative 20’s, ten degrees feels pleasant. Any time you’re facing a challenge in another aspect of your life, you’ll be able to remember how strong and adaptable you were in the winter.


So, air yourself out this winter. Pack a hot thermos, some exciting snacks, and who knows, maybe you’ll see a winter wonder- a snowy owl, a golden-crowned kinglet, or some extremely fluffy chickadees.

Photo by Shelby Perry




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