If the thought of camping in the winter sends shivers down your spine, don’t let it! This past winter was the first winter that my family and I ventured into to the great outdoors to camp, but thanks to the numerous yurts and four season tents available in Gatineau Park, our camping experience was unforgettably comfortable!
So much so, that we did it again this past weekend! We packed up our sleeping bags, camp pillows, marshmallows (and other, more nutritious food), clothes for the weather (which was cool, but not freezing), and hiked the 3.4 km to our yurt to settle in for a weekend of fun.
We were lucky because this time we invested in the luggage and water transportation to our yurt (it’s available for an additional fee), but we didn’t when we went in December, and we managed just fine then too – thanks to my Hercules husband who managed to carry almost everything on his back. And yes, if you don’t pay for it you have to bring your own water – for cooking and drinking (if you’re lucky there will be plenty of snow, which lessens the amount of water you will need to bring).
Some of you may be wondering why we wanted to camp in the winter or early spring? There are many reasons to camp off season, including:
1) Peace and quiet
With the exception of a few hard-core tent campers, other than the people in nearby yurts and four-season tents, there were not many people around, which meant that the only noise we heard were from trees blowing in the wind, a couple of coyotes and raccoons at night, a grey-horned owl (which was incredible to hear!) and our own breathing – it was glorious!
2) Bright nights
Yes, you have to use an outhouse and sometimes children need to go in the middle of the night, but the bright snow makes walking in otherwise complete darkness a little brighter, and night in the middle of the woods in winter is a special kind of beautiful.
3) No bugs
Isn’t that great? No need to carry bug spray of any kind, nor did we have to worry about nighttime creepy crawlies while going to the outhouse (not to mention because it is so cold, the outhouse never smells!)
4) Winter fun and wildlife
To access the yurts and four season tents in Gatineau Park you can hike (if there isn’t a lot of snow), or cross country ski or snowshoe. Along your journey you may be honoured with the presence of deer, moose and other wildlife!
5) The Wood Stove
I can tell you right now, even in the middle of winter you will not be cold at night. The wood-burning stove (the wood is included in the rental price and is available near your yurt or tent) will heat up your accommodations quickly. The first time we spent the night in a four-season tent we were so hot that we opened all of the windows and doors to let some cold winter air in (my recommendation is to always have a window open at least a crack, it helps regulate the inside temperature)! It's an efficient source of heat and it's what you will use to cook your meals - a unique and educational experience for everyone!
6) Memorable Experience
I guarantee your kids will be talking about their winter camping trip for months to come! My daughter loved hiking to the nearby lake and looking for animal tracks in the snow. She loved having to cook everything on a wood stove and she loved eating dinner by candlelight (there is no electricity after all!).
There is also a journal in each unit with stories from people who previously stayed in the yurt or tent. Their stories are funny, interesting and relatable – like the first time winter campers in our yurt who didn’t realize the walk was so far so they chose to leave behind a beautiful orange skillet for future yurt visitors to use, simply because it was too heavy for them to carry back out.
My only complaint is that the online booking system can be confusing, especially for first time users and there is a chance something can get double booked (it happened to us once, but they were kind and gave us our money back plus a voucher); but once your yurt or tent is booked you’re all set!
Tell me, have you camped in the winter? It’s our hopes to check out some of the amazing yurts and four season tents in Algonquin Park next year. I’ll make sure to let you know how it goes…