To keep myself from getting depressed, I've been thinking of things I can do to prepare for next summer, and there's actually quite a few things you can do.
1) Try out potential recipes. Whether this means dehydrating something and seeing how well it comes back, or pulling out the camp stove in the back yard and seeing how easy it is to prepare a particular recipe with limited tools and space, winter is a great time to test drive a meal that you'd like to add to your camping menu. Sometimes a recipe that you think would be easy to make at camp, is either a lot more work than you thought, or it just doesn't come together right on a less precise stove. Things I've made at home that were simple, burned in seconds on the lowest setting of our camp stove, or boiled over on the lowest setting because I don't take big pots with me when camping. It's always better to find out something won't work when you can easily find another dinner option (or head to the drive-thru.) Also, I've made recipes that worked out well at camp, but the cleanup was a nightmare! I'd rather not be scrubbing scalloped potato goo off a pot for twenty minutes, so over the winter, I might experiment with making them in a foil pan on the barbeque. Red River cereal is another one that is easy to make at camp, but by the time we're finished eating, the seeds have cooled and hardened, stuck like glue to the pot. I never remember to dump hot water in as soon as I dish it up so it can soak while we eat.
2) Stock up on camping foods you know you'll use. I'll write another post on some of the things I'm going to watch for sales on. The more camp-friendly things you have on hand, the easier it is to head out or a last minute trip. If you have to head to a store and buy all your food, or spend two days dehydrating things, you could miss out on a great one or two night trip.
3) Treat yourself to a piece of gear you've been wanting/needing as a Christmas gift, or drop a few hints to your significant other. Even just making a "dream list" of gear you'd love is great for lifting the mood. Then, if you've got some extra money and looking to treat yourself, you've got a list already prepared.
4) Book your trips early. Few things get me as excited as knowing I've got a trip confirmed. It gives me something concrete to look forward to, and when I'm feeling the winter blues, I can do some pre-trip planning like working out a menu. Chances are I'll lose the notebook I made that menu in, but it gives me a bit of giddy-joy to do it. Also, if you've always envied the people at one awesome site, you can book it and get to experience it for yourself since Ontario Parks lets you book up to 5 months prior to your arrival date. We try to do this when we have our hearts set on a particular site, or when we are camping with others and want to ensure we get side by side sites.
5) Browse the internet for potential new locations to try out. If you've always wanted to try out a particular park or area, see if you can find someone's online trip log detailing their time there, or even better, if someone posted a video of their trip on YouTube. (I
So although it's depressing to count how many months until I can break the gear back out, I have lots of ways to keep the camping spirit alive over the winter. There's always the option of hauling your snowshoes or cross country skis out and travelling around a nearby park, and trying to see what sites are the best. I warn you, it's really hard to judge when there's a few feet of snow on the ground, but it's a good excuse to get out and get some fresh air.