Most people prefer to go out camping during the good, warm season and they do not appreciate the winter months due to the “issues” they have to face. Staying outside longer during the winter months requires some preparations and a good knowledge of the environment you live in. Winter weather conditions should not discourage you from making the trip and here is what you need to do.
While people have a hard time crawling out of the warm bed to face what nature prepared for them during this time of year, there are those who prefer the winter months for the tranquility they bring. They enjoy the hunting season in solitude since everyone else decided to stay home and they are able to recharge the batteries even during these frosty days.
Staying outside longer during the winter months is not possible without planning ahead and without using your creativity at full extent. The following tips and tricks helped me more than once, during my winter camping trips and I follow them to the letter.
Packing the proper clothing
Your clothes are the first line of defense against the cold and staying outside longer during the winter months is just not possible if you don’t have the right layers. You should tailor your clothing options so that it utilizes a layer system which can be adapted to your needs. You should be able to add or remove layers depending on your activity and the intensity you’re used with. Make sure you leave cotton at home and opt for quality wool or synthetic materials that provide warmth and keep moisture away from your body. Here are a few recommendations:
You should start by getting a lightweight shirt as the base layer to cover your skin and pull perspiration away. The next layer should have a double role, it should add warmth during the cold nights, but it should also be used as an outer layer during the day when temperatures warm up. A midweight shirt or pullover would be the obvious choice. The next layer is the insulation one and I recommend going with synthetic materials as they will keep you warm even when wet. There are various jackets that also have a vest incorporated, you can take both on colder camping trips as they will cover most situations. The last layer, or the shell system should be comprised of a quality jacket that can block wind and shed water.
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A light to mid-weight merino or synthetics bottoms should be the first layer to cover your skin and keep your legs protected. The next layer should be comprised of midweight pants that provide warmth and comfort. Some people prefer to carry insulation for their bottom clothing, but this really depends on how you plant to spend most of your time. If you are a person that typically moves from one place to another, you won’t need insulation. If you plan on spending most of your time ice fishing, then you should consider getting some. Just like the top clothing, I usually include a waterproof layer and I pack my rain pants.
Head, hands and feet
These are the body parts that need special attention because once they get cold, it becomes a challenge to warm them up. I often have trouble deciding between a hat and a beanie, but I never make compromises when it comes to neck gaiters as they help prevent the loss of too much heat from my head. Staying outside longer during the winter months can harm the skin of your hands if you don’t have proper protection. Depending on what you plan to do, consider getting a pair of liner gloves and pair them with a ticker pair of insulated gloves. Some colder climates would require thick mittens, but you should keep in mind that you are sacrificing dexterity for warmth. Keeping your feet in good health during the cold season can be tricky and once again, the type of activity you have planned should provide the answer for your gear choices. If you are stationary you could opt for a good pair of wool socks and a pair of insulated boots. If you will be on the move, think about getting a pair of medium weight socks and a pair of quality boots. Consider getting legging gaiters as well since they have a double role: they block snow and debris out of your boots and they trap warm air in, while blocking out wind.
Choosing a winter shelter
If you plan to stay for days at a time in the wilderness, you need to put some taught into your sheltering options. While there are many high-tech tents and shelter systems, I still believe that having a way to heat your sleeping area and dry out your gear is still required. Nothing beats a lightweight and collapsible wood burning stove or a propane heater. There are also propane lanterns that produce a surprising amount of heat and they can warm up your shelter. The problem with propane heathers is that they produce condensation and it’s risky to leave them burn all night because of carbon monoxide build up. Before you plan your trip make sure you do a bit of research about the shelter system you plan on buying so that it covers all your needs. Getting one or two inflatable sleeping pads becomes mandatory during the cold season and I have one that is 3 inches thick and has a R value of 5. I use it all the time and I also put pine boughs under it to create a barrier between me and the ground. Getting a quality sleeping bag is also a must and you shouldn’t cheap out when it comes to it. As a safety measure, get one that is rated to at least a few degrees below the expected temperatures from your region.
Food and drink
Staying outside longer during the winter months becomes incredibly difficult if you aren’t well fed and hydrated to have high levels of energy. A good, warm meal or beverage not only warms you from the inside, but it also regulates your metabolism and raises your morale. Fighting dehydration becomes a challenge and most people don’t notice how much water they are losing in perspiration. Not to mention that keeping your water from freezing is also a problem you have to face. Most campers use either a water bladder or a water bottle during their winter trips and as a good rule of thumb, they drink 150 ounces of water per day. Try to always drink liquids that have the same temperature as your body or warmer so that your body doesn’t spend any extra energy of warming the liquids during digestion.
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A few tips and tricks to learn for staying outside longer during the winter season:
- Learn to make the proper fire type for your needs even in a cold and wet environment. A long-log fire can help you warm your shelter or sleeping area during the night.
- Get a few chemical warmers. There are various types for both warming and cooking purposes. Toss one in each boot overnight to dry them out.
- Start all your activities with a warm up to get the blood flowing. Try a set of jumping jacks to warm your core and keep your extremities vascularized.
- When field-dressing an animal, build a small campfire to warm your hands and feet. This operation usually takes longer during cold weather since you have less dexterity.
- No matter how good your sleeping bag is, make sure you boil some water, pour it in a bottle and place it by your feet. This will keep your feet warm for most of the night.
- You can make a shell or stone base for your wood-burning stove using rocks to keep your shelter warmer after the fire burns out.
Staying outside longer during the winter months requires proper planning and you can’t survive, yet alone thrive without proper preparedness. You need to have the proper knowledge when embarking on such mission, you need experience and most important, you need perseverance in order to make it.
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