The long winter nights – What to do?

Joan and I like to get out in all four seasons. We enjoy car camping for sure, but also backpacking. While winter car camping is something we enjoy in many areas, backpacking always calls out to us for more immersion into the backcountry of the Colorado Plateau.

Sunrise on Jan 1, 2024. You can also sleep in a bit to see them during winter!

We love backpacking out here in the High Desert this time of the year. The popular places have no people out and about. And though somewhat cold (mid to high teens typically), unlike snow camping with specialized gear and clothing as I did in Colorado, the desert requires thicker pads, puffies, and sleeping bags/quilts.

Winter does not always mean staying inside. It’s another season to see the familiar differently.
But the question people have is: What do you do during those long night hours?
Even solo, I do not find it hard to endure the long nights.

Mitchell Lake in winter

Here are the strategies Joan and I like to use to enjoy those longer nights.

  • Get a Luci “candle lantern.The ambient and soft glow makes a welcoming light reminiscent of an older-style candle lantern without the mess, fuss, and need to carry more candles. At less than $20 and fewer than 3oz/85g, it’s one of our favorite items for the long nights. The cold light of a headlamp somehow makes the tent less cozy and welcoming. The Luci Candle lantern light lasts up to 18 hours, and we charge it up again during the day. It is a luxury item that adds a lot for its low cost in weight and price.
  • Sleep! During my Colorado days as a burnt-out office worker, I’d ski in at sunset and then, by headlamp, set up my shelter after a few miles and enjoy making up my sleep deficit. One can question the healthiness of this lifestyle (I certainly did!). Still, the slumber of a long winter night with an enjoyable dinner and then a hearty diner breakfast the following day makes specific points of my life much more bearable. And the winter landscape of the Rockies did not disappoint.

  • Hot drinks course and chocolate. It is very critical for Joan and I. Making the hot water, adding a “little something,” and conversing over our hot drinks and after-dinner chocolate takes a surprising amount of time in a good way. It’s often well after 7 PM by the time we finish this crucial part of our winter backpacking experience. And bedtime is not too far away.

It is a bit of a cheat as I am eating here, but I do drink out of the pot often.

  • Reading With no distraction, it’s easy to dive into a book. We typically take our phones with eBooks we get from the local library. It’s a treat to read in a quiet tent, with the glow of the light above, and feel quite comfortable after a full meal, hot drinks, and a day of hiking.

  • Movie night! I’m less of a technology purist during winter than in the past. We’ll sometimes watch a movie or show on my phone for ~an hour or so. Throughout a multi-night weekend, we can watch a whole film. By 9 PM, if not earlier, we are typically tired and rarely watch an entire movie in one shot.

My favorite backpacking partner and one of my closest friends happens to be my wife, and we both feel fortunate to enjoy each other’s company so much while sharing these wild spaces.

One of my favorite photos.

We don’t find the winter nights long but another way to add memories to our lives and a crucial part of strengthening our relationship.

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