Are you afraid of being cold? That seems to be a common theme in the winter. Hence we have learned to build nice warm homes to live in. So you may wonder - "Why would I leave that warm home and stay somewhere I might get cold?" Good news! Yurts are also very warm and cozy, and they tend to be in the middle of beautiful forests that surround you with majestic, snow-covered trees and a sense of being alive.
After several yurt trips with friends and family, I've learned how to not get cold and enjoy the incredible experience that winter travel can provide. I'm about to dive into a lot of information, if any of it becomes overwhelming or you start thinking, "that just sounds like way too much work," just remember, life begins at the end of your comfort zone. We all have incredible abilities and are capable of way more than we give ourselves credit for. When you challenge yourself and do things that are hard for you, your confidence grows in every area of your life and your spark for living is IGNITED!
Here is everything you need to know:
Plan your clothing carefully. You want to start with a synthetic base layer on top, bottom and socks that wick moisture. Anything with cotton will get wet when you sweat and make you cold. Over your bottom base layer you can wear a breathable ski pant that is designed for movement. There are lots of great cross country ski specific pants you can get that are amazing. For your top layers, after your base layer you can add a thin jacket or another thin fleece layer and then a jacket. The layers will depend on your thermostat - but you don't want to get too hot and be sweating a bunch, so you need layers you can take off easily to prevent getting sweaty. I always bring a light down jacket I can grab from my pack for when we stop for eating or drinking or if we need to fix anything. You can get cold quickly when you stop moving, so it is good to have something to throw on that packs easily. I also bring a bigger down coat for hanging out at the yurt. Definitely test out your layering system before your yurt trip!
What clothes to wear and pack Here is a list of what to wear to ski into a yurt: base layers, light ski pants, light jacket, gloves, thin hat, thin neck gaiter, smartwool socks and sunglasses. Here is what I am packing in my bag: Light down coat, bigger down coat, waterproof shell I can put over both down coats in case of rain or wet snow, extra warm hat, hat with brim in case it is really sunny, extra warm gloves, extra socks, another base layer top and bottom so if mine are soaked with sweat I can put on something dry at the yurt (I will most likely sleep in that pair of base layers and wear them the next day, or my original pair if they are dry.) I will also bring slippers with a sole to wear inside the yurt. If I walk around outside the yurt it will just be in my cross country ski boots. Remember every ounce you pack you have to carry - ONLY TAKE WHAT YOU NEED!! Don't throw in anything extra. I always throw in hand and toe warmers that you can buy in little packs and activate quickly if you are getting cold.
Other things to pack: You will want a backpacking pack with a good waist strap that fits you well - practice skiing with this pack before your yurt trip! In the bottom of my pack I put my sleeping bag. I use a down backpacking sleeping bag that packs very small and is rated to 0 degrees. You will want a bag like this. You can rent one if you don't have one. Most yurts have sleeping pads on the beds and you just need the sleeping bag - but always check! Then I usually pack my extra clothing, then my food and finally I put my extra jackets in the top of my pack so I can grab them easily to throw on. I also put in some snacks and water that is easily accessible. Toilet paper and plastic baggies for the ski trip to/from the yurt should be accessible. I put my headlamp in the top of my pack where I can get it easily. I always put chapstick with sunblock in my pocket and a little tube of sunblock in my pocket. Also just remember you will be sleeping with other people in the same room. Sometimes those people snore or just make noise. It is smart to bring ear plugs!! There will not be pillows in a yurt, you can bring a backpacking pillow or you can use your down coats for a pillow, you could even bring a pillow case to put them in, but if you are very particular about having a pillow, look into the backpacker pillow!
Food and water: It is EXTREMELY vital that you make sure your water bottles do not leak. A leaky water bottle in your pack can be very dangerous. You do not want all your stuff getting wet! This is why I don't usually use a camel back because I have had issues with the hose leaking or water in the hose freezing - but some people do use an insulated hose and it works great for them. I like a nice big 32 oz. Nalgene bottle with a screw lid that is leak free, full of water. I also like a small thermos with a screw lid and some hot tea and honey. I also throw in a bottle of electrolyte drink in about a 20 oz. bottle. This is a good amount for a 3-5 hour ski into a yurt if you are starting hydrated. You never want to start dehydrated. The day before your trip you should be very conscious about your liquid intake and drink enough to keep your urine clear. Then also remember to drink the morning before your trip but not a TON right before you start - try to plan it so you hydrate well early, and then use the bathroom before you start; that way you aren't peeing on the side of the trail the whole way there. Once you get to the yurt, you get more water by melting snow, sometimes it tastes funny so I bring drink mix and electrolyte mix to add to it. Good snacks for the trip are granola bars, dried fruit, nuts/seeds, things that are dense in calories. If you are bringing your own meals for the yurt, bring things that are light to pack: pasta, dehydrated meals, oatmeal, backpacking meals, dried soup, etc. Most yurts come with a complete kitchen and you just need to supply a mess kit (plate, bowl, silverware). The kitchen will have a cooking stove, pots and pans, but not a sink. There will not be running water. For all water you will melt snow and to do dishes you will use plastic tubs(usually in the yurt), one for washing one for rinsing. Always check with your yurt to see what they provide.
Heating the Yurt: Most yurts have wood burning stoves and a pile of wood. You will need to know how to start a fire and how to operate a wood burning stove. One yurt we stayed in had problems with the stove and the smoke wasn't being drawn out properly. We had to choose between a smoky yurt or a cold yurt. Usually it is no problem to get a fire going and warm the yurt up. They can get quite warm and very comfortable. You will need to add wood to the fire during the night to keep it burning and keep the yurt warm. Before going to bed, close the vents on the stove so there is just enough oxygen getting in to keep it burning, but not burn out. The more oxygen it has the faster it burns. To get it to burn longer limit the oxygen. Just remember that whatever happens during the night is all part of the adventure.
Navigation: Make sure you are very familiar with where you are going, and have a physical map, or one that has been downloaded on your phone. If you are relying on your phone, you'll need a backup power charger. Most yurts do not have electricity. Don't plan to charge anything there.
Bathroom: There are no flushing toilets at yurts. But there is almost always an outhouse with a pit toilet. If you need to pee or poop on the way to the yurt you will just pull off the trail, find a good tree to get behind, for poop - dig a hole in the snow, and then when you are done use the toilet paper you packed and put it in a ziplock to carry out. Bury the poop as best as you can.
What skis to use: The skis you use to get into a yurt all depend on where your yurt is located and what you are comfortable using. If your yurt has a groomed trail that leads to it, you could consider using skate skis - however there is always a chance there could be a big snow dump the night before and the trail will not be groomed and you'll have to skate ski in powder, which is very challenging - and could be impossible. That is why I recommend using classic cross country skis, because they will work great on a groomed trail or in new powder. You could also wear backcountry skis, they will just be heavier, but if your yurt is not on a groomed trail and you have to gain some elevation this would be a great choice.
Here is a packing list to look over to make sure you don't forget anything:
What to wear on your ski into the yurt:
Socks-wool or synthetic
Moisture-wicking base layer(s)
Wind-resistant soft-shell ski pants and jacket that allow you to move freely.
Gloves or mittens, hand warmers
Ski hat (thin for warm days, thick for cold days) if really sunny wear a ball cap or visor
What to bring with you:
Skis with bindings, boots, poles, wax if needed
Extra base layers, light coat (down is great), warm coat (again I use down), waterproof shell you can put over all your layers and coats if it is raining or wet snow is falling.
Extra gloves, hat, socks, slippers to wear in the yurt, hand warmers
Food/hydration - 100-500 calories/hour, 20-25oz/hour (these numbers are different for everyone, the conditions and on how well fueled you are when you start) It’s great to bring an insulated mug with a warm beverage, drink/electrolyte mix, some kind of bag (ziplock) to pack your trash out in.
toilet paper in ziplock with extra ziplocks to pack out used toilet paper
wet wipes for freshening up
Kleenex or hankie for your runny nose or wiping glasses
map / navigation device
phone / charger
personal hygiene/ medication needs - deodorant, etc
Here is a picture of what you would wear to ski into a yurt and a picture of what you would bring in your backpack.