The following will help you decide whether to apply for the Snowcamping Training Series. Please read it carefully, check the equipment list, and measure yourself realistically against the physical and experience requirements before applying.
The objective of the series is to provide experienced backpackers with the information, training, and support needed to ensure safe and enjoyable winter travel experiences. Participants will be divided into sections with 1-2 leaders and several assistant leaders. Each section will follow the same basic format: a one day class orientation to the series and two weekend trips in the snow. Our trips are highly participatory and learning is achieved through group involvement, the sharing of personal experiences and skills, and practical experience in the field. The group experience allows each student to see and experience a great variety of techniques and equipment.
With the coming of winter, places you’ve visited in summer are transformed and offer new recreational opportunities. Along with the beauty though, come new potential hazards. This series is designed to provide you with the basic knowledge and skills that are needed to deal with cold, wet, and windy weather in any season.
We strongly recommend that you do not take any overnight winter trips without having learned the skills and information we cover. There are other Sierra Club sessions outlined in the winter schedule of trips and some commercial courses are available as well.
Required experience must include many overnight backpacking trips and a basic familiarity with backpacking equipment, travel, food, cooking, and maps used for backpacking. The minimum age is up to each section leader. If you are under 18, please outline your experience carefully and have your parent or guardian sign your application. Preference will be given to Sierra Club members in the event that the response is overwhelming.
Selection will be based on previous backpacking experience and general physical condition. Winter experience is not a prerequisite. If you meet the basic qualifications, you will probably be accepted.
An email notifying you as to whether you have been accepted will be sent out after December 19, 2022. If you do not receive notification by email within a week of December 23, 2019, please check your spam filter first (each year several acceptances get caught in spam filters) and then either call or email the Sierra Club Snowcamping Section at or email@example.com.
The orientation day mentioned above will be held this season on January 07, 2023, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. All participants must attend the orientation day in order to go on the first trip. Also, you must complete the first trip in order to go on the second trip. The location of the orientation day will be in the East Bay and you will be given directions when you are accepted. The morning will consist of an introductory presentation, a film, and some informal discussions on winter safety and travel. Each group will then meet for the duration of the day and talk about equipment, food, and general trip logistics. Time will be provided for participants to form small groups and make arrangements to share rides and equipment, and plan shared meals. Do not bring any gear along and we suggest that you wait until after the orientation to purchase any gear. Most major items can be rented locally and we supply rental information. You should not have to buy any major item unless you need it for 3-season camping anyway.
Six adult groups, one family group, and a set of alumni snowcamping trips. Upon request, we sometimes also provide an additional Youth Group (e.g., for an organized youth group or club) that is separate from the family group. Please see our online application and calendar for the specific dates. You must indicate a second choice group. Please note that trips may be rescheduled due to severe weather, and that backup dates are also indicated on the application. Travel in all sections will be on snowshoes. However depending upon experience, skis may be allowed at the discretion of your leader. Our Groups are training classes in the snow, so expect the group size to of up to 24 people, with a student:leader ratio of roughly 2 to 1.
Training Trips (Groups 1-7)
On the first trip, the group will travel a short distance spending most of the time learning basic snowcamping skills. Specifically, there will be field instruction in snowshoeing, keeping dry and warm, pitching tents, building snow shelters, locating water, map and compass navigation, building snow kitchens and cooking. Most of the time is spent getting accustomed to traveling across varied terrain and learning to deal with the demands that you encounter in the winter environment. Learning will be accomplished through the group experience by observing and evaluating different techniques and equipment. This is a good time to evaluate your own equipment and plan for future purchases of winter camping equipment.
The second trip will be a 3 day trip over more difficult terrain. This will give you an opportunity to reinforce what you have learned on the first trip, try equipment modifications, and learn some more advanced techniques. Trip locations will be determined by each leader. Most trips are within a 4-5 hour drive from the Bay Area. Be sure you can fully commit yourself to the third day for the second trip.
Training Trip Fee Structure
|Trip Type||Sierra Club Member||Non-Member
(Join now to save!)
(postmarked on or before 2022-11-30)
(received by December 16, 2022 (5pm))
(Family group only)
(Youth group only)
(except where noted on certain trips)
|$35 per trip||$35 per trip|
A limited number of scholarships are available. A scholarship application can be found at the end of this form.
NOTE: Any trip specific fees such as Sno Park Permits, Wilderness Permits, etc. are the responsibility of the student. Cost of food and transportation is not included in the application fee.
Possible Extra Costs: The following costs are voluntary, but will give you an idea of what to expect on a typical snowcamping trip. Most students carpool and pay their share of the gas (~$20 each), share motel rooms and breakfast the night before the trip (e.g., ~$35 each), and post-trip dinner on the journey home (e.g., $25 each).
If you would like to participate this season, please fill out the online application. You can pay online using a credit card or paypal. Alternatively, if no other option is available, you can also print out a copy of your application confirmation and mail it to us along with a check (payable to the Sierra Club Snowcamping Training Series). Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for the current mailing address.
All applications must be received by December 16, 2022 (5pm). The fee covers the facility and film rentals, student manual, a student snowcamping training series memento, refreshments, group equipment purchases, and a $5.00 donation to the Sierra Club. If you are not accepted, your fee will be returned.
The family and youth section is specifically designed for parents who wish to teach their children the safety and fun of snowcamping. For more information, please check out the pages for the Family Training Group and the Youth Training Group.
After completing the training series, we invite alumni to look for further trips in the Events and Activities Supplement in the Sierra Club Yodeler or look at the alumni trips listed under the Alumni Snowcampers Group.
As experienced backpackers, all of you can appreciate the benefits of proper conditioning for any physical activity. Winter camping will place the same demands on your mind and body as warm weather travel does, but will be less forgiving if you haven’t adequately prepared yourself. Keep in mind that you will be wearing snowshoes or skis and carrying a heavy pack. You will enjoy the experience much more if you are in good physical shape. We ask that you get yourself in shape. Aerobic exercise, jogging, swimming, cycling, running stairs, or cross-country skiing, at least 30-45 minutes three to five times a week is our minimum recommendation. Sit-ups, pull-ups, and push-ups help, too. Please come prepared and cancel out of a trip if you are feeling ill prior to departure. Snowcamping while sick is very dangerous and no fun!
Clothing and Equipment
Staying warm and dry is the key to an enjoyable snowcamping experience. Therefore, it is vital that you choose your clothing and equipment carefully. Your leaders will spend a lot of time on Orientation Day talking about clothing and equipment recommendations, explaining where to buy or rent gear, and answering all of your questions. Therefore, we suggest that you postpone major gear purchases until after Orientation Day. The following is an overview of what to bring on a snowcamping trip. When selecting gear, keep these two points in mind:
- NO COTTON CLOTHING. Cotton retains moisture next to your skin, causing rapid heat loss.
- You do not need to buy lots of new gear. Summer backpacking gear can typically be easily adapted to winter camping. Snowshoes, tents, sleeping bags, and stoves can be rented from outdoor stores. Also, many items can be borrowed from friends, family, and co-workers.
Dress in layers to maintain a comfortable body temperature while hiking, resting, and relaxing in camp. The idea is to have three main layers: a moisture-wicking base layer next to your skin; a middle insulating layer; and a waterproof outer layer to protect against snow and wind. You can easily remove layers as you warm up and add layers as you cool down. The layer system is applicable to all body areas, including the head, hands, and feet.
Base Layer: Long underwear, liner gloves, and thin socks made of silk, polypropylene, or capilene. Make sure this layer is close-fitting, comfortable, and stretches as you move around.
Insulating Layer: This may consist of multiple warm clothing layers, or a single, thick layer. Suggestions include wool shirts and fleece, down or synthetic filled jackets, a wool or fleece hat, wool socks, and wool, down, synthetic-filled, or fleece gloves or mittens (gloves allow more dexterity, while mittens are warmer).
Outer Layer: Nylon or Goretex pants and jacket (with a hood) block wind and keep you dry. Add waterproof gloves or over-mitts.
Foot Protection: Sorel-type boots (leather with rubber toes and removable, warm liners) are ideal for snowcamping. Summer boots will also work as long as they are waterproof and roomy enough for both thick and liner socks. It is a good idea to apply water-repellent to summer boots and ensure that the seams are well sealed. Waterproof gaiters are essential keep snow out of the top of your boots (depending on conditions).
- A warm sleeping bag: we will discuss methods for extending the range of your bag
- Two Sleeping Pads: closed cell ensolite or Therm-A-Rest
- Tent: your summer tent is probably adequate
- Backpack: external is OK for snowshoeing; internal is best for skiing
- Lightweight Stove: white gas works best in winter; butane does not work well
- Snowshoes (or Skis, based on leader permission)
- Ski or Trekking Poles: good to use for balance when snowshoeing
- Sunglasses and Sunscreen
- Map and Compass
- First Aid Kit
- Fire Starter: waterproof matches, BIC lighter
- Cookware: lightweight pot, mug, bowl, spork/spoon+fork, wide-mouth water bottles
- Tire Chains, Tool Kit, Jumper Cables, Flares – for winter driving