Winter Backpacking Essentials


Spending time outdoors in winter can be an incredible experience, but also can be a little bit daunting. In this 2-day, 1-night course, you’ll gain the knowledge and the confidence to recreate safely outside this winter. We’ll cover gear, clothing layering systems, information, safety, cold weather nutrition, winter footwear and traction devices, and some of our tried and trued strategies for staying warm and happy while winter backpacking. 

What to Expect

Mountain Shepherd’s gorgeous 100-acre campus provides an immersive wilderness experience, and we’ll start exploring it right away. The course begins at the Mountain Shepherd Lodge, where we’ll gear up with backpacks and a few other essentials to take with us as we hike around the property learning the fundamentals of winter backpacking and the seven survival priorities.  Throughout the day, topics including what to pack, what to wear, and weather and trail considerations will be covered. We’ll return to the Lodge for a hearty dinner where we’ll warm-up before packing up our gear for the evening, and spending the night out at one of Mountain Shepherd’s rustic campsites. The next morning, you’ll warm-up with hot drinks around the campfire before enjoying a famous Mountain Shepherd hot breakfast back at the Lodge.  A few more topics will be covered in the morning before the course ends around lunch time. 

Students can choose to overnight in a tent or a hammock.  Loaner gear such as tents, hammocks, and sleeping bags are available, so this is a great opportunity to try something new or test out your own sleep system.


Adventure Highlights

  •       2 days/1 night
  •       Hiking and Backpacking prep
  •       Winter essentials
  •       All meals included
  •       Confidence to try out on your own after the course
  •       Small group environment (10 maximum)
  •       Hands-on learning


December 17-18, 2022, January 28-29, 2023

Why choose this adventure?

This adventure is for adventurers who are ready to challenge themselves in a supportive, small-group environment.  Whether you’re an experienced hiker looking to take your skills to the next level, a novice hiker just getting your bearings, or somewhere in between – you’re sure to learn a lot and enjoy the journey.

Participants must be at least 18 years of age if attending solo. Mature 16 & 17-year-olds may attend if accompanied by a responsible partner over the age of 18.

What's Included?


Have your own? Bring it! Don’t have your own, or want to try something new before you buy it? Use ours! From shelter systems to stoves to sleeping bags, we’ve got everything you need aside from clothing and well-broken-in footwear. Find details on the packing list below, and reach out with any questions. Never fear, we’ve got the gear!


All meals and snacks are provided, with plenty of options and dietary accommodations available. Fuel up with hearty home cooking while at the Mountain Shepherd lodge, and let us help you pick out the best lightweight snacks and meals to carry as we hike around the property. 

Overnight accommodations

This is your adventure! You may choose to fully embrace the experience by spending the night in your own tent, or you can borrow a tent, tarp, or hammock from us. It’s also totally fine to sleep in a bunk in the lodge. The choice is yours.

Travel Arrangements

Your adventure begins and ends at the Mountain Shepherd Lodge in Catawba, VA.The nearest airport is Roanoke (ROA), which is approximately a 30 minute drive time.

Arrival time is by 9:30 Saturday morning. The course concludes by 1:00 on Sunday. If you prefer to travel on Friday, you can stay at the lodge. $50 includes a bunk and breakfast. $25 for each additional person in your group. Group, semi-private and private rooms are available. Contact us for reservations. Payment due before you leave.

Activity Level


After meeting at the Mountain Shepherd Lodge on Saturday morning, we’ll do some introductions and pack our packs for a day in the woods. We will learn as we travel around the Mountain Shepherd property, with some short, steep climbs along they way. Plan to hike around 5-7 miles over the course of the weekend. Described as moderate due to the potentially low temperatures/cold environment.

What to Pack - Spring/Fall
  • Your favorite trail snacks. Many options will be available – but if you have favorites, bring them.
  • Personal toiletries and medications. 
  • Water bottles (2-3 Liters) – avoid hydration bladders in the winter due to cold/freezing temperatures
  • Seasonally appropriate clothes:
    • Good fitting and broken-in hiking boots/shoes
    • 2-3 pairs of hiking socks (wool or synthetic recommended)
    • 1-2 sets of undergarments (wool or synthetic recommended)
    • Active T-shirt (synthetic or merino wool recommended–avoid cotton)
    • Lightweight insulating top layer (a light, long-sleeve synthetic fleece or wool shirt, sweater, or jacket)
    • Second insulating top layer (an additional synthetic, wool, or fleece shirt, jacket, or vest)
    • Third, heavier insulating layer such as a puffy jacket or thicker fleece
    • Rain jacket (hood and ventilating zippers recommended)
    • Hiking pants (durable, quick drying synthetic pants are ideal)
    • Bottom base layer, e.g. midweight synthetic or merino wool long john pants
    • Warm winter hat and gloves or mittens
  • Any gear you already own that you’d like to use or evaluate. No need to buy anything for the adventure, we’ve got you covered.Could include things like:
    • Backpack
    • Sleeping Bag
    • Sleeping Pad
    • Pillow
    • Flashlight or headlamp
    • Knife – fixed and/or folding blade
    • Whistle
    • Signal Mirror
    • Cooking pot and utensils
  • Optional: one lightweight luxury item to carry on the trail (e.g. a slim book or magazine, journal or sketchpad, deck of cards, etc)
What to Pack - Summer