Making the decision between light camping and heavy camping is a no-brainer for most recreational campers: the less your equipment weighs, the less you have to lug around while hiking, skiing, biking, boating, or otherwise traveling. Light campers buy expensive gear to save weight and use high tech fabrics and products to make their trip as convenient as possible while maintaining a light load for travel. But for winter campers going on longer excursions to one spot, heavy camping – toting heavier and greater amounts of gear via a sled or toboggan – can be the preferred camping method for those heading into the woods, even without the high tech materials and lightweight gear.
Heavy camping is generally reserved for trips on which the camper will be staying in one spot for a longer period of time than they would with light camping. A good choice for hunters wishing to set up a base camp, heavy camping involves using a sled or toboggan to haul all the camping gear necessary for a stay in the woods, such as food, axes and saws, portable wood stoves for warmth in the tent, cooking equipment, and hunting equipment. Those pushing or pulling the toboggan wear snowshoes to keep their weight above the depth of the snow, thereby making travel easier and quicker. Heavy camping typically involves a heavy canvas tent, whereas light campers use lightweight mesh and/or nylon tents that fit easily into a backpack. The canvas tent retains more warmth but adds a significant amount of weight to the camper’s load.
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Heavy camping was the method of choice for fur trappers and hunters before options for light camping were readily available. A heavy camper can set up a stove inside the tent and run a stovepipe to the outside to ventilate the tent, thereby creating a convenient living space as well as added warmth. Insulation could be derived from natural materials, such as leaves or branches from trees. Today, most heavy campers will use soft sleeping pads for insulation underneath their sleeping bags, but it is not uncommon to use layers of wool blankets instead.
Many modern day heavy campers may use a snowmobile to haul their gear rather than pulling or pushing it by hand, but in either case, heavy camping spots are limited to places that can accommodate a sled, toboggan, or snowmobile. For a longer camping trip in the winter months, heavy camping can provide warmth and convenience in wooded areas conducive with wide trails or areas of travel conducive to sleds.