Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wandering Winter Tips

A first snow fall a few years ago during a camp out I had along Trout Creek.
So we've had the first snow fall of the season and so people are starting to talk about winter activities such as snowshoeing and winter camping.  I've been asked on a number of occasions if I could offer any advice for first time winter campers.  I'm not an expert but I have done a significant amount of tenting in the winter time.  I recently was reading Backpacker magazine and they offered some tips on winter camping and it was very informative and I thought, huh?  I can do that and put my spin on it.  So here are some points on wandering in winter.

1. Get to know your local gear stores: Some people don't like asking questions when shopping but I encourage you to build a relationship with your local gear store.  Don't be scared of asking them for help in getting the proper layers of clothing, boots, pack, or tent for your specific outing.  In Sussex, talk to the great staff at Outdoor Elements.  They are easy to talk to, treat you like family, and take great pride in outfitting you well.  If all you have is a Canadian Tire then try to make the most of the advice staff there can give.  For those who are more experienced, you may not need the advice given as far as picking out gear, but your local store staff can inform you on new technologies and trends for gear.

I hiked into these falls on Beatty Brook a couple of years ago.
2. Know your terrain:  It is always tempting to explore new territory when going out camping but your first winter camp out is not the time to do that.  I would even go so far as to say that your first winter camp out of the year is not the time to do that.  Camping, even in summer, is easier when you establish routines and are comfortable with your gear.  This is even more true in the winter time, when even the slightest gear failure can put you in a bad situation. Knowing your terrain improves your comfort level and leads to a more enjoyable outing and builds your confidence which means you'll enjoy your next trip too.

3. Avoid working to hard:  Hahaha I know this sounds funny but honestly, during winter camp outs, I strongly encourage working a little less.  Ok, so what I am really saying here is, avoid sweating....at all costs.  If you're working up a sweat, then slow your pace to avoid cooling to quickly later.  Once you get your tent up and you go to snuggle into your sleeping bag, that sweat you worked up later, is going to give you the chills first and you won't sleep that well because of it.  This once again will lead to a less enjoyable outing.  While hiking or snowshoeing, take layers off to control your body temperature and when you stop the physical activity put another layer on to again control your body temperature.
During a winter excursion into Hidden Valley I had this fire.

4. Have a fire:  Heck have a big fire, but make sure you dig out a spot where your fire won't collapse into a deep snowdrift and go out.  When you pack your gear for the winter camp adventure make sure to add some type of fire starter to your gear.  Lighting a fire in winter is not easy and I've heard many stories of "experienced" campers getting into a cold situation because they couldn't start a winter fire.  Make sure when you start a fire not to deplete the wood resources for future campers.  The fire will do a couple of things for you.  The obvious thing is keep you warm but it will also warm your spirits and make your trip more enjoyable.  If need be, practice lighting a fire in your backyard to make sure your technique is right.

5. Don't eat yellow snow:  Okay so don't eat just yellow snow, don't eat any snow.  It can be full of bacteria and it won't actually provide you with sufficient hydration.  You are better to melt snow first and if you're using a camp stove to do so, again make sure to set up your stove so that its heat won't melt a hole into the snow you placed it on and not the snow in your pot.  Remember too that when you melt snow to drink or cook with you should bring it to a boil for about 10 minutes.  I know water is better consumed cold and I strongly suggest you wait for your boiled water to cool down before drinking it.  I once scalded my tongue when I tried to drink right from the recently boiled pot.  Don't ever, ever, do that.

So there you have it.  Five not so common tips on how to improve your winter camp out.  Maybe at a later date I'll discuss some more technical points about winter camping.  I think I have some time yet before we are in the dead of winter here in southern NB.

See you in the woods or on the water.
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