How to cut weight, stay warm and enjoy all the luxuries of a ski lodge in the middle of nowhere.

First published June 2020 in the 21st anniversary edition of Chillfactor Magazine.

For many, backcountry ski trips in Australia and snow camping are inextricably linked. Many of the best ski touring zones are hours from the road with approaches from below snowline common. A multiday trip is a good way to get plenty of return after the investment of such grueling approaches. It’s also loads of fun, just like regular camping but with fun stuff to do during the day.

We caught up with some of Australia’s most seasoned snow campers to develop this incomplete guide. Between us Jock Gunn, Georgie Cameron, Teddy Laycock and myself have enjoyed over a year’s worth of nights over snow under stars. We have savoured blizzards and sunsets alike and we continue to tinker and master the art of snow camping.



  1. Stay Warm

It’s easier to stay warm than get warm. Keep a puffy in easy reach and put it on in anticipation of getting cold. An easy rule is put a layer on as soon as you stop moving or the sun goes away.



2. Number 2

Define a latrine for the group and carry out your shit.

  1. Have one spot where the whole group does 1 and 2. This keeps everything tidy for the next people to stroll on through. You will also be less likely to contaminate your drinking water.

  2. Wag Bags are a great backcountry poo system product that makes the shit carrying procedure less shit.



3. Water

You can melt snow or collect water from a stream. Collecting water from a stream is much easier but the higher you get the more likely the stream will be frozen or covered by meters of snow. When planning your trip consider whether you will have access to liquid water. With accessible liquid water a 10L(ish) bladder can be a useful bit of kit to reduce the number of trips you have to make from camp to the creek. If melting snow, your stove becomes really important. Trangias just won’t cut it.



4. 000

In an emergency call 000 and ask for the police. Police are first responders in remote incidents. But always remember in our isolated mountains phone coverage is not guaranteed and help can take days to arrive. Carry a personal location beacon. Be careful. Be prepared. Help others.



5. Multi-functionality

Pack items with multifunctionality in mind. It will help you to bring up less stuff but enjoy more luxuries. Here are some of our favourite multifunctional items:

  1. Nalgene drink bottles – drink bottle, thermos, jug, hot water bottle, cocktail shaker;

  2. Rescue tarp – shelter for emergencies and group hang, space blanket;

  3. Ice axe – self arrest, climbing aid, snow peg, hammer, bottle opener;

  4. Shovel – shovel for jumps, rescue and camp, climbing aid, anchor, toboggan, snow peg; and

  5. Foamy – Warm seat out skiing and at camp, keep casualties off the snow, backpack padding, spring-sling-ski carry padding.



6. Frozen Shells

If you have trouble putting your cold ski boots on in the morning then try putting a 500ml “Baby” Nalgene filled with boiling water in your shells for several minutes to warm them up and soften the plastic. It’ll make it as easy as slipping your boots on in a drying room.



7. Apres-ski

Master apres-ski and you have mastered snow camping. It is the most challenging time of day but also the most rewarding. Hanging out with friends as you watch dusk envelop the mountains is one of the joys of snow camping. Big dome tents with no floor are perfect for apres-ski but they’re expensive and heavy. Instead bring a lightweight tarp. Simply peg it over a hole in the snow with cutout benches ideally facing the setting sun and out of the wind. Snow caves can work here but they are a lot of work and can be dangerous.



8. The Vestibule

One of snow camping’s greatest pleasures. Dig a 30-50cm deep hole in the vestibule of your tent. This gives you lots of space to store gear, cook and hangout. In lieu of a group hang-out spot we have found abutting the vestibules of two tents can create a neighbourly space for Apres-ski.



9. Camp booties

Old Sorel liners make great camp shoes. Cut the woolen cuffs off and wear them like slippers. They will fit into your boot shells making them as practical as ski boots but a refreshing change from your liners that you had on all day.



10. Drying Room

Make the most of the sun. If it’s out your tent will act like a greenhouse. Put anything you want to dry in there with the vents open a touch. If it’s not sunny, stuff anything wet into your sleeping bag. Soggy mitts aren’t the best sleeping companion but they’re not as bad as frozen mitts in the morning.



If you you’ve got something to add please reach out. Have fun. Stay safe. Live, love Australian skiing.