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Tricks to Winter Camping


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I would recommend heading to midwest mountaineering for their Winter expo on 14-16. They put together a great winter camping seminar.

A few tips from last years seminar.

- Drink before your thirsty, eat before your hungry, rest before your tired.

- Don't go to bed cold and expect to be warm. Take care of a few camp chores before you go to bed and your extra heat will heat up your sleeping bag even more.

- Avoid alchohol when winter camping, it can be very dangerous, especially for beginners who are not used to the effects of alchohol in relation to your body and extreme temps.

- Staying dry = staying warm. Advanced technology in clothing such as poly pro, smartwool, fleece, etc can really make a trip more enjoyable.

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What was said above and...

Make sure stuff is put away before turning in for the night, three inches of overnight snow makes stuff hard to locate.

Use an open celled foam pad to sleep on (Thermarest). Use two if ya got em. That frozen ground will suck the heat out of ya in no time otherwise.

A quality sleeping bag, plus I've thrown a chemical hand warmer in the bottom of the bag on super cold nights.

With proper ventalation, a small catalytic heater is nice to pre-warm the tent before you turn in and before you get up. Helps dry out the condensation that forms in the tent overnight.

The fire is your best friend, a couple of good bowsaws and a splitting axe are a must.

It's dark most of the time, good headlamps and lanterns make things easier.

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It might SEEm like a good idea, but DON'T attempt to sleep with your boots on. your feet will get cold, stay cold, and you won't be able to sleep. Then, when you decide to take them off, you have to open your sleeping bag, which releases all the heat...

Also, make sure to cut enough wood before you turn in to start and keep the fire going in the morning, until you're warm. Desperately searching for wood is no fun. Thankfully, I've never been part of a group that has experienced this last one. also, do as mush as possible before dark, especially working with any sharp tools, such as butchering meat or cutting wood. And definately get the tent up as son as possible. Storms can whip up easily.


Does anyone know how well sand retains heat? This post just gave me an idea...

"Cast riiiiight....there."

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Plan for a disaster, prepare for and extended stay along with a self rescue. Give yourself plenty of time to get a camp setup. Stay dry, from sweat or wet snow, wet cloths are no good. Dress in layers that can be shed with differing levels of activity. Find a sheltered site out of the wind. Most my winter camping is done in mid January's bitter cold. For that reason a canvas tent w/liner and wood stove is a must. The Alagnak tent is commonly used for winter camping along with a lightweight wood pack stove. Plan for the worst with an ample supply of firewood. Get it cut, split and stacked close to the tent and cover it up. Locate your water supply and get it hauled. Filter or boil a couple quarts per person for instant use.
Don't rely on the wood stove for warmth at night. Get a bag for extreme cold weather. You can also add fleece liners.
Your sleeping bags insulating values are crushed under your weight so get as much insulation as you can between you and the ground. Footwear. Get yourself a pair of USMC or AF boots. The white or black ones. They have a rubber membrane inside to keep the felt dry from foot perspiration. Depending on why your camping preparing meals could be a a pain or a pleasure. I like meals made and frozen ahead of time. Then either heat them up on the wood stove or in a boiling bag. Either way bring extra food. If your going to be traveling you'll need instant energy snacks and water with easy access. I've covered a little here and depending on your mode of travel could add more.

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Jeez! I can’t believe it! Nobody’s mentioned the most important item.
The problem is describing it…

Let’s see… You need a liquid laundry detergent jug, the 3 qt size, with a big screw-on cap. When the soap is all used up, use a screwdriver to pry out the separate plastic pour spout. You should then have a jug opening about 2½ inches in diameter, which is covered by the big screw-on cap, and doesn’t leak!

If you’re not sure, take the cap to a hardware store, and get an O-ring that fits in the slot below the threads.

Now, when you settle down for the night, make sure this empty capped jug is setting against the wall of the tent, within easy reach. If nature calls during the night, just unzip your sleeping bag enough so you can slip your arm out, grab the jug and bring it back into the bag. Let the jug warm up for a few minutes, then take the cap off and CAREFULLY do your duty without ever leaving your warm bag! When you’re done, screw on the leak-proof cap, unzip your bag just enough to set the capped jug back against the wall of the tent.

Now, take a moment to consider what you would have needed to do, if you didn’t have that jug setting next to the wall of the tent… You’ll never go camping without it again!

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I have a buddy that always has a zip-loc bag in his sleeping bag. He has learned to gingerly place the used bags outside the tent and hopes for clear skies that night. Sometimes he has found a wet surprise if the bag was insulated with snow and didn't quite freeze all the way before he accidently put his knee on it when taking down the tent.


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Nalgene makes a nice collapsable bottle with the wide mouth. It's 96 ounces so you don't have to worry about filling it overnight. Keep the bladder empty and you keep the feet warm. Happy Thanksgiving!


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