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How To Pitch A Tent On Ice: Methods For Winter & Summer

How do I pitch a tent on ice?

How you pitch a tent on ice depends on whether you are camping in summer or winter. If you are camping in the winter months you can use abalykov threads, loops of tape or rope that are frozen into the ice for anchorage. In the summer, as the ice is melting, you must drill down in order to insert bamboo or plastic poles around a meter into the ice.

Other options which may be easier but not as effective are using rocks and packing bags with snow to use as anchors for guy ropes. Problems with this are, there aren’t always rocks available, especially if you’re on a large body of water. Also, the wind can cause guy ropes to snap due to friction against the rocks. Using bags stuffed with snow for anchorage is ok but not ideal and shouldn’t be relied upon unless there’s no other choice.

What if I am pitching a tent on ice in the summer?

The fact that the ice is melting as you camp means that the landscape is constantly changing. Using standard size tent pegs will not be sufficient as they would melt free too easily. This is why meter long bamboo or plastic poles are used.

Check this out for everything you need to know about wet tents and camping in the rain.

A tip to avoid your poles melting free is to pack over them with snow. This will help them to stay frozen and remain more stable over time.

Another thing to consider when pitching a tent on ice in the summer is insulation. As your body creates heat that will make the ice melt even faster, and you don’t want to become cold, it is important to create a thermal barrier between you and the ice.

Thermal foil quilting will help with this if you are on the move. If you plan to remain a while then wooden boards can be cut to the shape of the base of your tent and insulated on the bottom with reflective thermal foil.

Because the ice underneath your tent will be well insulated it will be kept cool. This means that the ice around the outside of your tent will melt much faster. This creates an iceberg effect and can leave your tent perched on high ground.

For this reason, you will need to move your tent from time to time, even if you plan to camp for a prolonged period. Not only this but, as the ice is melting, it is important to make sure your poles are set well also.

What if I am pitching a tent on ice in the winter?

Temperatures plummeting during the autumn and winter months creates the opportunity for stability. By drilling into the ice at an angle we can create a V-shaped eye in the ice which we can thread our rope or tape through and secure our tent. As the ice is not melting we only need to drill down around 20cm to maintain the structural integrity of the eye.

Use a drill bit that has a diameter large enough to fit your guy ropes through quite snuggly. Don’t worry if you have a wider drill bit, however, the freezing temperatures mean that we can make abalykov threads solid by packing in snow or pouring in water that will soon turn to ice.

You won’t have to worry so much about the ice beneath you melting away in the winter. However, we would still recommend using a thermal foil quilting to make it easier to keep warm.

You can also utilize the snow by banking it around the base of the tent. This will create a windbreak and give you a little more insulation.

Check out the best Winter Tents on Amazon

When is the best time to pitch your tent on the ice?

Ice usually means winter and winter mean it’s going to get dark. When it becomes dark temperatures will plummet further. This means you need to be wrapped up warm inside your tent.

Pitch your tent as early as possible when camping on ice. This means you won’t have to worry that you’re not ready when the night begins to set in. If it is the case that you are beginning to worry that you may not arrive at your destination with enough time to pitch your tent in the light of day then it would be a good idea to make camp right away and go again in the morning.

Remember, the low temperatures and dark early nights mean that a situation can become desperate quite quickly. Making shelter is a very important part of survival, especially in these conditions. Make it a priority.