Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the only person on the EarthfiSome people may ask what would it be like if only a handful of people were left on the planetfi You can get close to that answer by going camping during the winter.
As a matter of fact, you may even get the tingle that you are the only living thing on Earth. Sometimes when you are just sitting in a snow-filled valley miles away from civilization, it becomes so quiet you can hear snowflakes hit the ground. Few people will brave sub-zero temperatures for a chance to get away from the hustle of big cities to experience the solace that winter camping has to offer.
Camping in the winter is an amazing experience. Like summer camping it can affect you in many ways. You may feel renewed, relaxed and scared. Unlike warm-weather camping, it isn't something that you can just do with minimal experience, knowledge or preparation. Winter camping has significantly greater consequences and challenges.
First, and foremost, is experience. Getting lost in the summer isn't too bad. Many people are out and most of the trails are frequently traveled. In the summer, you have warmth and are less likely to have to provide warmth for survival.
If you get lost in the winter, however, there is a much higher chance for death. An experienced person has the ability to make a snow shelter. The same person can start fires for warmth.
All the knowledge and experience in the world won't do any good without the right equipment to stay warm and dry. For the most part, decent winter equipment is not cheap. But it is cheaper than a medical bill for frostbite or hypothermia, and it is a lot cheaper than a funeral.
TENTS: You need a solid four-season tent. Many people have luck with cheap summer tents, but it doesn't take much snowfall to collapse a summer tent. The tent you choose should be a quality brand, and labeled as a four-season tent. It needs to have a full rain-fly that reaches the ground on all sides of the tent. Making a snow shelter requires skill. If you are skilled enough to make a snow shelter, by all means make one. If you aren't and you want to try to make one, you better have a tent for a good backup plan.
SLEEPING BAG: If you have small compressible summer bags, you can take two and put one inside of the other. The down side to this is you really don't know what temperature rating they will have together. You would probably be better off buying a cold-weather bag. Some bags are rated for survival and some are rated for comfort. People can survive with frostbite, so buy a bag that is rated to comfort, and not just survival.
SLEEPING PAD: A quality sleeping pad is as important as your sleeping bag, because it insulates your sleeping bag from the cold ground. All sleeping bags are rated on the assumption that you are using a sleeping pad. If you have a zero-degree sleeping bag that is rated to zero degrees at comfort, and you have a poor sleeping pad, you can be cold in 20-degree weather. Make sure your sleeping pad has an "R" value of at least 4. R value is how much insulation it will provide.
STOVE: Get a good multi-fuel liquid stove. One that burns white gas is optimal. Air gas stoves don't work too well in cold temperatures. Liquid stoves work the best. In an emergency situation you can use the liquid fuel to help build a fire.
LIGHTERS: Take a couple of cigarette lighters.
HAND WARMERS: These can be used for everything from heating up your sleeping bag to keeping your hands warm.
BASE LAYER OF CLOTHING: This layer should be light, thin and stretchy. The most important thing is it should be non-cotton. Merino wool is your best option, but synthetics work well, too. Cotton absorbs water too easily. Your body will burn all of its energy trying to warm the water.
SOCKS: You should have at least two pair. Your socks should also be non-cotton. Merino wool is a must in this department. If you're afraid of cold, feet you can use a liner as a base layer. If you have a decent boot, you shouldn't need to wear more than one pair at a time. Too many socks on can restrict blood flow and cause your feet to be cold.
MID-LAYER: This layer should be an insulating layer. Wool and goose down work great for these layers. A good fleece works well, too. If you are going to be doing a highly aerobic activity you may want to use a softshell for this layer. If the weather will be really cold you may go with two layers here.
EXTERIOR LAYER: Depending on anticipated cold, this layer could vary. The most important thing about this layer is that it is water- and windproof. Remember, just because something says it is waterproof, doesn't mean it actually is. If a fabric doesn't absorb water it can be advertised as waterproof. Water can pass through the fabric and still be considered waterproof. Also consider the level to which the fabric is waterproof -- a light sprinkle, a downpour, or standing in front of the fire hydrant for four hoursfi The waterproofing layer will have to be a membrane, and it shouldn't be cheap.
BONUS LAYER: If you can afford a nice down jacket, this is an excellent option for when you are standing around camp. If you are moving it may be too hot, but at least you won't have to use six layers to stay warm. These are compressible enough so they don't take up much room. You can also fold it up and put it in a bag for a pillow.
GLOVES: You should have at least two pairs of gloves. One pair that may be a little more bulky with a sole purpose of warmth and another pair that allows you to use your hands for dexterous actions. Your warm glove could be a mitt. Some gloves have removable liners that work great, but I would still bring a backup pair. Your gloves also should be waterproof to a high standard.
BOOTS: They should reach up several inches above the ankle. If not, you will need to invest in a gator, which is basically like a sleeve that hooks under your boot and extends up the calf. Both of these should be fully waterproof and windproof. They should have adequate insulation. Boots with a removable, insulating booty that can be warmed and dried by body heat are ideal. Be sure you get ones with a high waterproof standard. You can always get a pair of over-boots that will go over your regular shoes, just make sure your regular shoes have adequate insulation.
HAT: A good hat is mandatory. You can even use this while you are sleeping. Keeping your head covered with a hat while you are sleeping is a great way to warm up your toes.
Now that you have the right equipment to stay warm, it's important to get prepared for winter camping. Many people do not know what they are getting themselves into when they plan on a winter campout.
To get used to the idea, spend the night in a tent and sleeping bag in your yard. If you don't like it, don't go winter camping. If you think you can handle it, make your first couple of camping trips close by but at increasingly higher elevations. You don't have to travel very far in winter to avoid the crowds. Don't wander too far from the car. Take extra gas for your vehicle and keep extra food, blankets and clothes in your car. Many campers have perished when their vehicles have become stuck in snow and they didn't have enough supplies to wait out the rescue.
Now that you have got the most important goods, here are a few tips.
• Use one pair of socks during the day. If they get wet, sleep with them in your sleeping bag. If they are a decent wool sock, then your body will dry them out before morning. You can also put them in between your base layer and your skin. If you don't do this, they will freeze.
• If you are sleeping in a tent, move the zippers to the top of the door. If it snows during the night, when you open your tent it won't pour inside. If you are sleeping in a snow shelter, keep your shovel inside with you.
• Don't drink cold liquids fast! Just sip. If you drink them fast, your body will burn a lot of energy warming it in your stomach.
• Go to the bathroom before you go to bed. Your body spends a lot of energy keeping your waste warm.
• Put your insulating layers underneath you in the sleeping bag. This will act as another thermal layer between you and the ground. It also keeps them warm so you can put them on in the morning without too much heat loss.
• Dig down a couple feet into the snow where you plan on setting up the tent. Make sure to pack the snow where your tent will set. This will prevent too much wind from hitting your tent and stop your body heat from melting an uncomfortable depression where you are sleeping.
• Exercise before you go to sleep. Increasing your body temperature makes it easier to warm your sleeping bag.
• Tie loops of string to all of your zippers so it is easier to open and close them with gloves on.
• Take snacks to bed with you. If you wake in the middle of the night, munch on them. This will give your body enough energy to keep you warm.
• Butter, butter, butter. This is one of the best sources for the type of calories your body needs to stay warm.
• If you are going to start hiking, take off some layers so you are a little cold. When you start hiking, the heat your body generates will keep you warm. When you stop, put on the insulating layer before your body gets too cold.
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
Just because something says it is waterproof, doesn't mean that it is. Remember, what you pay for is what you get. When it is your life at stake you should get the best. Check to make sure water can't pass through the fabric.
Sleeping bags are rated to two different standards: comfort and survival. You can survive with hypothermia but you won't be comfortable. Comfort is the better standard.
Cotton clothes are terrible to have in a wet environment.
AND NOW, THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT THINGS:
Let people know where you are going and when you will be back.