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Winter camping at Wisconsin state parks can be fun

A vacation without bugs, crowds, coolers and airport delays?

It's all right here in Wisconsin with winter activities at more than 30 state parks, forests or recreational areas.

Choose backpack camping to family campsites - with or without electricity, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, animal tracking, bird watching and ice fishing.

Parks open to winter camping have water available and open toilet facilities.

Some park and forest campgrounds and campsites are plowed out for recreational vehicles.

For reservation information, call (888) 947-2757. Most forest offices are closed on weekends during the winter. For park information, call (608) 266-2181.

Once the destination is decided on, the next step is to gather up the gear.

James Bishop, DNR public affairs manager and avid winter camper, said "Winter camping, whether in a campground or remote wilderness at minus 20 below zero or 30 degrees above, can be fun, but only with the right preparation and gear."

The following are his recommendations:

  • Free-standing four-season tent with metal spikes.
  • Goose down or synthetic sleeping bag rated to at least minus 30 degrees or two heavy summer sleeping bag inside of another. If no mummy-type hood and drawstring, wear a hat and gloves.
  • Closed-cell sleeping pad, with a plastic or waterproof sheet under the pad.
  • Chemical hand warmers to warm up sleeping bag.
  • Easy-to-prepare meals like tin foil dinners and boiling bag meals.
  • Cooking gear -- 1 or 2-gallon pot for boiling water, insulated mug, spoon and bowl.
  • Drinking water in either a wineskin type bota or a plastic bottle placed inside of a jacket either on a shoulder strap or in an inside pocket.
  • Layered clothing. Polypropylene or other synthetic underwear tops and bottoms. Next a wool shirt and pants followed by a nylon wind jacket and pants. Lastly have a parka or heavy coat.
  • Bring several hats, gloves and mittens to replace those that get wet. Chopper mitts for extreme cold and for holding hot foods.
  • Warm and light boots big enough for two pair of heavy wool socks. Spare pair of boots.
  • Headlamp with extra batteries, pack saw, sunglasses, pocketknife, waterproof-windproof matches, 12-hour chemical hand warmers and a lightweight shovel.
  • Sled or toboggan to pack gear, if needed.

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