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Gear for Long, Dark Nights

Cold and dark conditions shouldn't stop you from camping during winter. Just be sure to pack the right stuff. Here are some suggestions to help you brighten the experience: 

MH tentA good cook tent, like MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR's Hoopster, makes a warm hangout for up to six people. Its innovative design, in which fabric functions as frame, provides stability against high winds and inclement weather. If your crew is hardy, you can use the Hoopster, designed with a removable floor, as a sleeping shelter for four. $600 Petzl headlamp

With the Tikka RXP, PETZL took its reactive-lighting technology and applied it to a smaller, lighter-weight headlamp. The glow automatically adjusts to the degree of darkness you're in, reducing glare and battery usage. Depending on the situation, your beam will be focused, wide, or medium. $95 MSR stove

Equipped with a radiant burner, a heat exchanger, and an internal pressure regulator, the MSR Reactor Stove impressed us with how quickly it got things boiling. In winter, splurge on the $30 hanging kit so you can suspend the stove in your (adequately ventilated!) tent. No more making the cook freeze outside. Choose a 1-, 1.7-, or 2.5-liter system. $170 to $200, depending on size

Big Agnes padFilled with PrimaLoft, a synthetic insulator, the BIG AGNES Triple Core sleeping pad towers 4.5 inches off the ground and has an internal reflective coating for added warmth. It's a bit heavy for a pad (from 2 pounds, 3 ounces to 3 pounds, 3 ounces), but will keep you comfy through a long winter night. Our backs loved this product. $140 to $240, depending on size Square One vodka

A mug of hot coffee or tea laced with hard liquor can turn winter camping from misery to mirth. Fill a flask with SQUARE ONE Organic Vodka, a high-end, pure-tasting spirit made from organic rye—and earn bonus points if you end up using the stuff for cleaning wounds or lighting your stove in an emergency. About $35 for a 750-milliliter bottle Vaude sleeping bag

Rated at minus 11°F and weighing about 3.5 pounds, VAUDE's Cheyenne 700 sleeping bag strikes an excellent balance between warmth and weight. We appreciated thoughtful details like the interior pocket, contoured cut, and silky-soft inner fabric. It's made with down fill and a water-resistant ripstop nylon shell. About $240 Black Diamond lantern

Cutthroat card games are just one of many reasons a lantern ought to be on your packing list. BLACK DIAMOND's super-lightweight Voyager comes with a handy hanger, making it easier to evaluate your tentmate's poker face. The Voyager also extends into a flashlight and has a dimmer, which could be useful during romantic moments. $40 Star Walk app

Winter nights can be incredibly clear, so stargazing should be big on the agenda. Download the easy-to-use Star Walk app by VITO TECHNOLOGY to get a 360-degree view of more than 20,000 objects in the sky, oriented to your location, date, and time. It even tracks satellites and can zoom in on specific stars at the galaxy's outer edge. $3

--Molly Loomis / vodka photo: Lori Eanes

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