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May 23rd
Winter Camping Can Be Lots Of Fun PDF Print E-mail
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Camping is a fun adventure for the whole family. Every camping trip takes a little planning to be sure you have necessary supplies and safety equipment. However, camping during the winter has specific cautions that should be taken. Being prepared for anything is essential during the cold.

Clothing is particularly important during the winter. Whether staying at the campsite or venturing out for a hike, it is important to maintain your body temperature and avoid ill effects of cold weather such as hypothermia. Always wear a hat. Up to eighty percent of your body heat can be lost through your head, so wearing a hat is essential.

Dress in layers of synthetic, wool or silk layer. Leave the cotton in the drawer for summer picnics. Cotton does not have insulating properties, doesn’t wick moisture away from the skin and wet cotton will quickly rob your body of precious heat. These are all qualities that in the heat of summer make cotton king, but for winter or cold weather camping cotton kills.

The basic layering system should be snug fitting light to medium weight base layer worn next to the skin, next add a fleece or wool sweater in a weight appropriate to the temperatures you will encounter.  For maximum flexibility you may want to add a synthetic, down or fleece vest. (Down should only be used under a water proof layer if it is raining or snowing. Once down is wet it looses all its insulating properties.) All this should be topped with outer clothing that is waterproof and preferably breathable.

Again the amount of insulation you will require of your outer layer depends on the temperature. Make sure that each layer fits well, not too tight or too loose. Everyone has a favorite layering system, find one that works for you and modify based on weather conditions. An important consideration is over heating. If you get too hot you sweat, if you sweat you base layer becomes wet and even the best wicking material will have trouble moving moisture fast enough to keep you from getting cold.

The beauty of layering is the ability to regulate temperature, so peel off a layer as soon as you feel hot to stay comfortable during winter activities. Wear warm, wool or synthetic socks. Wearing two pairs of socks may be advisable for warmth and comfort if this doesn’t cause your shoe or boot to fit too tightly. (If two pair of socks cut blood circulation in your foot buy a bigger boot or lose a sock layer. Your feet will stay warmer with just one pair and a properly fitting boot.) The first pair, worn next to your foot, should be a lightweight synthetic, wool or silk liner (a cheap pair of dress socks work well) that wicks perspiration from your foot and the other is the insulating layer and can be a heavier weight. If you are hiking in damp conditions you may want to replace the insulating layer with a pair of dry socks.

Always wear boots that are suited to cold weather and are waterproof. Keeping your feet warm and dry is critical for warding off hypothermia. Make sure you have a warm fire at your campsite and that tents or sleeping arrangements are properly insulated from the cold.

Choose sleeping bags and sleeping mats that are waterproof and have warm linings. Down bags are warm and are extremely comfortable but if they get wet they lose their insulating properties. If you choose a down bag make sure the outer shell is Gore-Tex or a similar waterproof fabric. Your safest bet is a synthetic filled bag with a warmth rating at least 10 degrees warmer than the coldest temperature you expect to encounter. (if it I going to be 0 thjen you want a bag rated for -10 degrees) Make sure you get into the sleeping bag warm and dry.

Do some exercises and warm up by the fire before entering your tent and going to sleep. If you have wet clothing on, take them off. If you do not have a set of dry clothes sleep in the buff with your bag fully zipped you will be warmer without clothes in a properly rated bag than sleeping in damp clothing.

Some people report being less hungry in winter, but do not neglect nutrition. It will help keep your energy level up. Warm drinks will help. Cup of soup or canned soups are great for adding nutrition and warmth to the diet. For winter diets look for meals that will give you an even balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Stay away from coffee, tea and alcohol if you are feeling the effects of hypothermia as they will thin the blood and actually advance symptoms. But do drink warm liquids, even if it’s just hot water.

Be prepared for emergencies. It is not uncommon to have a sudden drastic shift in weather leaving you stranded and unable to return to your campsite. It is also possible to have an accident such as slipping on a slippery slope or having a fall through the ice into freezing water. Being prepared for such disasters may mean the difference between life and death. Always have waterproof matches, food and water supplies, blankets, and first aid kits available. That means on your person whenever you leave your campsite in winter. Make sure you and your camping buddies learn the sign of hypothermia and specific treatments before heading out.

Taking some time to plan and prepare for camping in the winter is essential for staying safe and making the most of your experience. Make sure you have items to stay warm and nourished. Plan for the unexpected and have gear available in case of emergency.