01 Sep WINTER WILD: HOW TO CAMP IN THE WINTER
Fight the post holiday blues, set intentions for the new year, and get some good bonding time with your closest buds by getting rugged and journeying into the great unknown. We’re talking wintertime camping – fresh pine, long walks and peeing in the snow. Not sure if it gets any manlier.
You won’t be roughing it like Chris McCandless in “Into The Wild,” trapping rodents, foraging for wild berries and living in the hollowed out remains of a rusted old bus. You might feel bone chilling temperatures, drifts of snow and you will face yourself in a very tired, hungry and possibly cold/wet partially frozen state. Hopefully you can avoid the last two.
Check in with the park services before traveling to a state/national park. Many places require permits to stay overnight. It’s also good practice so that park rangers know where you are in case a bear gets you or you lose your compass. You need to find a place that has shelters to protect you from weather conditions like wind, snow and freezing rain. At this time you can also check to see if the park allows small fires near the campsite.
Backpacking in the winter is like no other time. The glow of the sun bouncing off of the snow as it dips down beneath the horizon is true Earth Porn. With that said, here’s a checklist to make it out alive.
1. Trash Bag
Man must be good to mother Earth. It is important to remember that you bring everything out that you bring in. Practice the leave no trace method.
2. Sleeping Bag/Mat
This is your ticket to warmth and comfort. There are many options of synthetics and natural goose downs. Make sure the mummy sleeping bags you brought can handle temperatures dipping down low. To protect your back, Thermarest makes some comfortable sleeping mats that are lightweight and compress down to practically nothing. Check out the waterproof stuff sacks from Sea to Summit.
3. Waterproof Everything
It’s important to layer so that you can adjust your comfort level as you walk. You’ll likely sweat, so make sure you choose a moisture wicking base layer. Merino wool is also a great option as it’s breathable, insulated and lightweight. A waterproof shell coat and pants are also a must. No blue jeans on this campout, even if you’re in Tennessee.
4. Warm Feet, Warm Head, Warm All Over
The biggest rule about staying comfortable is keeping your head and feet warm as this is where you tend to lose most of your heat. Be sure to pack an extra pair of wool socks, so that your feet can warm up when you reach the shelter.
Post holidays there’s an abundance of leftovers. Wrap the cooked prime rib roast in foil with some veggies, toss it in a ziploc and throw it in the pack. The ziploc will later be used for carrying trash out. Don’t take anything in you don’t intend on bringing out. Prepared food definitely adds weight to longer hikes but it’s so worth it. You can also purchase rather tasty dehydrated meals at your local outdoor outfitter. This is a great option as they cook in a bag and do not create a lot of waste. With a few miles left to the shelter you’ll be drooling at the thought of a hearty meal. Great motivation for some tired legs. Protein bars and dried nuts are a great accompaniment for snacking while hiking.
6. Something Sharp
There are some great hiking saws on the market. These come in handy for cutting up a bit of fire kindling. They are also good shall you need to find a source of food. Donner Party anyone? At the very least carry a pocket knife for emergencies.
7. Fire Starter
Some shelters have a fireplace, and you might be lucky enough to find some dry wood. The best way to get a fire going is to bring a Ziploc bag of dryer lint. This stuff goes up like the fourth of July.
Scratch that, a good lighter is really the better option, easier to stoke the celebratory cigar at the top. A lighter is also good for lighting a stove in windy conditions.
Warm up with some deep woodsy flavors of your favorite stogie.
Nothing like passing around a flask of good scotch after a grueling hike in the snow. You’ll be feeling your toes again in no time.
Most shelters have a latrine nearby. Bring some TP in a Ziploc bag. Be careful! The toilet seat will be cold!
When you make it back to the city all disheveled, cold and hungry you should visit the Korean spa and get a reflexology foot massage. That is, of course, after finding the buffet.