This winter cabin camping
Camping was a great way to spend a pandemic summer: You got social distance as a matter of course, you didn't have to spend time indoors with someone you didn't know, and, assuming you chose a place close to home, you didn't have to deal with the risks of airports and mass travel. Well, here is your winter alternative: cabin camping.
Many state parks offer cabins, and some private campsites also offer cabins. Check with your preferred state park or campground to see what they offer in winter. Some cabins are for summer only, others can be available all year round, and these are often heated.
Do your research
The key to planning a cabin camping tour is to recognize that there is no single definition of what a "cabin" offers. I spent a summer weekend in a cabin at Bowman Lake State Park in New York that consisted of just four walls surrounding a group of beds. For another year I took my family to a cabin at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, which had a full kitchen and a bathroom with shower and refrigerator. Most of the cabins are somewhere between these two extremes.
It often helps to learn the jargon of the park system. In Pennsylvania, a "modern cabin" has different amenities than a "rustic cabin". In some places you will find yurts, lodges or other structures where you can stay overnight.
The list of amenities on the park's website may not tell you the whole story, so I always like to look at photos, especially of the interior design. This way you can find out if the kitchen has a microwave or not, or if there is a dining table inside or not. You can also search for reviews and other photos in social media, perhaps by browsing through photos that are labeled with the name or location of the campsite.
Things you may need to bring
Don't expect experience at the hotel level, where everything is provided for you. In most cases you will still have to do some of the basics yourself.
Sheets and pillows
The cabin beds I have stayed in often have a vinyl-coated mattress and nothing else. You can bring your own bedding, including sheets and pillows, and make a bed just like home. Another option is to bring a sleeping bag and just sleep in the sleeping bag on the bed.
If you bring sheets, be sure to check the size of the beds. Twins and sates are common, but you never know. If you are not sure, a flat sheet plus corner straps can be more versatile than a fitted sheet.
Towels and toiletries
If no sheets are provided, probably no towels will be provided. Plan to bring your own bath towels, washcloths and towels (including kitchen towels if your cabin has a kitchen).
Cabins will not necessarily have bathrooms, so check the toilet and shower situation before you leave. You may have to carry your toiletry bag to a separate building every evening, which makes camping style toiletries more comfortable. Better than assuming that you can spread your stuff out like in a hotel bathroom.
Cooking utensils for the campfire
Often a hut is delivered with a fire ring and a picnic table or similar equipment for eating outside. Check what is offered. Even our hut with the complete kitchen had a fire ring and a charcoal grill in the yard. Consider bringing your marshmallow supplies and cooking utensils that you would use around the campfire. (Always buy firewood at your destination to be sure you are not bringing invasive pests to new areas).
Chairs and other useful furniture
Camping chairs are not only meant for camping, they are also a great addition to the veranda of a cabin. Maybe you should also consider other practical things like a folding table if the furniture in the cabin is quite bare. A doormat by the bed can also be a nice change on a cool morning.
Garbage bags and cleaning products
Garbage bags are the kind of things you take for granted in a house, but we don't take anything from cabin camping. Bring garbage bags and bring at least basic cleaning equipment.
Once again, I have experienced both extremes. In the fully equipped cabin there were a lot of cleaning utensils and we were expected to use them before checking out. The simplest cabin I stayed in did not even have a broom to sweep away the dirt we accidentally got into.
When we talk about camping in cold weather, the first thing you should check is whether the cabin is heated. And then you should realize that even if the cabin has a heater, that does not necessarily mean that it is warm. On a cold night there can still be drafts and it is always possible that the heating cannot keep up. So pack warm sweaters and socks - or even better: fluffy slippers.
Was this article helpful?162 Posted by: 👨 Linda J. Schatz