Fall 2001 Edition
*Winter Wilderness Basics
*Giant Get-Gear Directory
Pack It Up
Camping Clues For Winter Fun
This isn't your average arctic, warm-your-toes-by-the-cabin-fire, hot-cocoa, off-road trip. This is your frozen nubs, winter wilderness camping trip guide. If there weren't a need for nonfreezing shoelaces, they wouldn't be available. Camping in the winter is COLD. But it does have its advantages. Like no gnats, mosquitoes, or other pests. And if you're lucky enough to live in a snow state, that means there'll be no brushing up against poisonous green stuff. But with the good comes the bad, and that is surviving the bitter cold by evading frostbite and hypothermia.
So why do people defy Mother Nature's torture and go camping when it's cold? Is it the yearning for a primitive sense of natural surroundings, the crisp clean air, or the responsibility of roaming unmapped freedom?
There are many reasons people like to camp in the wilderness. However, you can never outdo the reason of listening and telling great camping stories. They are the best-especially the "how I survived winching, Pull-Paling, and digging our way out of the snow" stories, or the "how I had to defrost my digits" stories. Plus, how often do you get an opportunity to dream under the stars?
Snow or sleet, rain or shine, tent or truck camping, hunting or bird watching, cold weather camping can be possible. Here are the basics.
When looking for a new tent, look for setup ease, strength and durability of materials, and cost. Newer tents include shock-corded poles so that you can easily pop together a shelter in 5 minutes. If you're planning on camping in the winter make sure that your tent has a rain fly and that the seams have a plastic tape construction. Mountain Hardware makes a practical Room for Three tent that has a killer rain fly and is designed for extreme conditions.
Practice setting up your new tent before you actually get out into the wild. That way you won't get frustrated and ruin a perfectly good camping trip. Use a little common sense when picking a spot for your tent. Be certain to set down a waterproof ground cloth or tarp like Mountain Hardware's Footprint, and remember to check the surrounding area for hibernating bear caves and the like. Carefully check the ground where you want to place your tent, as you don't want anything poking into your ground cover or the floor of the tent. Check for stones, branches, and the like, and then get to work setting up the tent.
There are three types of sleeping pads-open cell, closed cell, and air mattress styles. Pads that use self-inflating technology are mostly open-cell pads like the Therma-Rest LE, which uses an AirChannel foam (picture tiny plastic air bubbles squished together). All you have to do is open the air valve, which allows air to fill the pad, and then close the valve before you lie down. These pads are simple to use and convenient to store and carry and offer waterproof protection from the ground. They are also beneficial in insulating your body's heat during a cold night. Plus, you can roll them up and stuff them into a pack.
Closed-cell pads are made of Polyolefin closed-cell foam (picture tiny popped air bubbles squished together) and offer insulation and protection from snow and sand, and they won't absorb water.
While regular air mattresses are the least expensive sleeping cushion, they are not very effective in cold weather, as your body heat has to convect in the large air chamber below you to keep you warm. The process is not very energy efficient, as you should conserve your energy for keeping yourself warm instead of the mattress. Single pads are OK for spring/summer nights, but during the winter you'll want to double-up to keep your body heat as close to your body as possible.
You'll want a closed cell close to the ground and an open-cell pad close to you for comfort.