Winter Camping Tips

Here are some handy cold-weather camping tips that can make camping more comfortable through the fall/winter camping season. Stay warm!

1. Keep hydrated during the day and avoid drinking lots of fluids at night, so you won’t have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

2. Eat a big dinner with lots of calories. Calories are a unit of heat, without them the furnace won’t burn hot.

3. Keep a snack with you for the middle of the night, so if you do wake up cold you can replenish lost calories and warm back up again.

4. Go to bed warm. Warm up by taking a brief hike around camp or doing some jumping jacks. If you wrap a frozen salmon in a sleeping bag, will it stay frozen? Yes, because your sleeping bag will insulate cold or heat, just like a Thermos.

4. Select a protected campsite out of the wind and off the valley floor and other low areas where cold air settles. A good rule is to be about 50 feet above the valley floor.

6. Fluff up your sleeping bag with vigor to gain maximum loft before you climb in.

7. Use a good insulating pad between you and the ground. Studies show that what you have under you is more important in keeping you warm than what is on top of you.

8. Wear a stocking hat to bed, you lose most of your body heat through your head.

9. Keep your nose and mouth outside your sleeping bag. Your breath contains a great deal of moisture that can cause dampness to collect in the bag as you sleep. To keep your face warm, wear a balaclava or wrap a scarf around your face.

10. Roll the moisture out of your bag each morning when you get up (roll from foot to head), then leave it open until it cools to air temperature. If weather permits, set it out to dry.

11. Use a layered sleeping system (i.e. sleeping bag, liner, half bag, bivy sack). A layered system helps to remove the frost buildup that naturally occurs when your body warmth meets the cold air (a concern if you’re staying out multiple nights).

12. Avoid overheating at night and make sure you go to bed dry. Being too warm produces perspiration, so vent your bag if needed or take off your stocking hat.

13. Make sure your feet are as dry as possible before going to bed. This can be done by having a pair of dry sleeping socks in your bag for sleeping only. Also, you can “dry” wash your feet with a good foot powder that contains aluminum chlorohydrate, which helps dry the skin and reduce perspiration.

14. Wear loose fitting clothing to bed so it doesn’t restrict circulation.

15. Keep your sleeping gear clean. Dirt clogs air spaces in the material and reduces insulation value making it harder to stay warm.

16. If you have cold feet, sleep with your feet together in an elephant foot or half bag. It’s a bag that uses the principle of the buddy system, where the feet share heat instead of being isolated, much like mittens are warmer than gloves. The bag slips over your feet and legs and then drawstrings pull it shut or you could just use a fleece jacket wrapped around the same area.

17. Fill a water bottle with hot water before you go to bed and then strategically place it at any cold spots in your sleeping bag. Just make sure it has a screw on lid like the Nalgene bottles. A variation of this is to use disposable heater packs or hand warmers, which costs a little extra money. Or, in the old days they would take some heated rocks from around the campfire and place them in a wool sock. Just make sure they’re not too hot. (Editor’s note: If using this old-fashioned method to keep warm, make sure that the rocks are completely dry before heating. Trapped steam may cause so much outward pressure that the rocks may explode.)

The Gear Doctor For December 2014

Cold Weather Camping Gear Tips

There is something special about winter camping. Whether it’s the hush of a snow-covered world or the glint of sunlight reflecting off icicles, winter camping shows you things you could never see in any other season. In the winter you can see farther through the woods without leaves to block out the light, you can step onto frozen waterways, and spot winter migrant birds looking for seeds on the white-packed ground. The air often feels cleaner in winter, and cold nights make for better star viewing opportunities.
The best way to enjoy these rare experiences is to go camping! Below you’ll find a few suggestions for making your all-season camping trip more pleasurable, along with safety tips and techniques. So read on, then head out into the snows for a winter day of frolicking fun.
Before you get started, be sure to check the weather report. Dramatic winter storms can be dangerous with the threat of blizzards, ice storms, freezing rain, and avalanches. Get your trip off to a good start by planning to go when the weather is calm and, ideally, clear. If you’ll be driving to your campsite, consider putting on snow tires or carrying tire chains.
Next, turn your attention to packing your clothes. If you’ll be camping in snow, it’s important that your outer-most layer be something water and wind resistant. Waterproof jackets and pants are best because they wick moisture away (and it’s moisture that will do the most harm while winter camping, keeping you from warming up). Alternatives include waterproof windbreakers for the outer layer and snow pants or baggy wool pants for the inner layers.
Below this top layer, be sure to dress in layers of wool and synthetic fibers. As your body warms up, it gives off warmth that heats the air around the skin. If you’re wearing layers, this warm air gets trapped next to your body, keeping your skin warm. More layers create more pockets in which warm air can be trapped, so you can stay nice and toasty during your walk through the woods.
Dampness, however, is the enemy in your effort to get and stay warm in winter. Once you start to sweat, the moisture cools your body down. If you’re wearing wicking layers next to the skin, like polypropelene or wool, the moisture will be carried away from your skin and will, ideally, evaporate in the air. If your upper-most layer is too waterproof, the moisture will have trouble escaping. If that’s your situation, then be sure to travel with extra dry layers, so you can change your undershirt when it gets damp. If you’re hiking, it’s best to change your under-most layer whenever you stop for a long break.
Ground cover is also important during winter camping. Damp ground and rocks (even dry ones) can sap your heat away, so carry a piece of waterproof foam pad or other layered pad for enjoying picnics outside. Tent campers will also want to store their water bottles inside the tent, and possibly even inside someone’s sleeping bag, to keep the water from freezing completely at night.
Once you’re well-dressed, with water-proof footgear on your feet, you’re ready to tackle the wintry world. Put a wool hat on your head to preserve your heat, then head for the trail! And remember to bring lip balm, sun glasses, and sun screen (yes, even in December) with you on your all-weather adventure.

Winter Camping

There are many brave souls among us that enjoy winter camping.  As a Boy Scout I spent many cold, snowy nights in a floor-less tent, with only a plastic sheet and a pile of pine needles between me and the cold hard ground.  I remember well the stillness of those cold nights, the roaring fires, and the feeling that somehow we were sharing an experience that few would dare to try.  And that even fewer could survive if they did try.  Certainly there were some kids who didn’t make it, and who probably never camped again even in summer.  It was like learning to ski in a pair of blue jeans.  Your first time out, you’re gonna spend a lot of time on your butt, your pants are gonna get wet, and you will end up feeling cold and miserable.  Chances are you won’t be back for more.  Same with camping – the right equipment makes all the difference, especially for beginners.  One wet night in a leaky tent is usually enough to turn all but the more dedicated lifetime campers away.  And nothing tests your gear more than camping in winter.   Most gear will work well on a warm summer day, but will it perform just as well in sub-freezing temperatures?  When covered with snow or when damp?  Stoves, tents, lanterns are all susceptible to cold or moisture, some more than others.

What is your favorite piece of foul-weather camping equipment?