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How to Enjoy Winter Camping | UNITED STATES, CALIFORNIA | 01/14/2009, by HappyGoTahoes
Snowcamping. Doesn't the thought just make you cold? Walking, eating, even sleeping on snow, carrying in all your food and warm gear and fuel...it just sounds hard.
It is, actually, but not as hard as I thought. Snowcamping is best done with someone who has done it before. In my case, my boyfriend has made a tradition of going out on New Year's Eve with friends and sleeping on a mountain. He even took a snow camping class in college, and has all kinds of tricks to make the whole experience fun.
We've done a variety of camps. My first time, we camped 500 feet from the car so I could get used to the idea. That was when I realized that snowcamping is much harder than just backpacking. It's not just that it's cold. It also takes so much more effort- to walk, to zip up your pants and tie your shoes, even to make dinner. And that's part of the fun, usually.
Finally, we worked up to a full-blown camping experience, where we skied in with frame packs and set up a tent in the woods. It was awesome, mostly because I felt prepared.
Here are some tips and tricks for snowcamping! Best of luck, and be safe!
1) Go with someone who knows what they are doing. This will make you feel much safer, plus you can learn all kinds of things about gear and food and tent placement.
2) Snowcamping is not the time to develop Golite sensiblilities. Bring extras of everything: hats, gloves, and socks are the most important. Socks just to sleep in are vital. And bring so many layers that when they are all on, you can't actually move. Hopefully you will have one layer still in your bag when you get ready to sleep. Plus, not everyone you are with will know all this stuff, and they will be really grateful for your second extra hat when theirs is soaked in a snow-ball fight.
Here's what I was wearing by the time we got ready to go to bed:
- 2 pairs of long underwear- medium weight and expedition weight
- wool pants (I skiied in these too)
- synthetic down pants on the outside
- wool undershirt
- wool longsleeve shirt
- wool sweater
- dri-climb (mid-weight layer)
- down jacket
- outer wind and rain layer- my ski jacket
- wool gloves
- thin wool hat
- thick wool hat
And I still had a down jacket to put on if I was cold. Do you see a wool trend here? Remember, cotton does kill.
3) The tent is sacred no-snow space. Your 0 degree down bag and sleeping pad goes here, and your wet boots don't go anywhere near them. Except that you want to keep your boots in the tent so they don't freeze...what do you do? One idea is to bring a plastic bag to put at the foot of your bag, and put your boots there. Be sure and break off as much snow as possible.
4) Before you go to bed, bring a pot of snow or water to boil and fill a Nalgene-type bottle with it. Dry it off if you've spilled. Immediately put the bottle in your sleeping bag. It will stay warm for hours and provide a wonderful reassuring heatsource for cold fingers and toes.
5) Don't let yourself get cold. Some good ways to stay warm: build a kitchen/ living space with snow, make more hot drinks, heat more food, and do jumping jacks. Just don't get cold. If you start feeling chilly, put another layer on and move around.
6) Eat. Fatty, hot foods are ideal. Also, instant soups for late-night snacks help you stay hydrated. And snacks.
7) Even though relieving yourself while wearing tons of clothing in the snow is a bummer, stay hydrated. Warm water, hot drinks like tea and cocoa, and broth are all good. It's really easy to forget to drink when it's cold out, but your body functions much better if you do.
8) Avoid sitting and standing directly on snow as much as possible, especially when you are just hanging out. Everyone should have an extra lightweight sleeping pad with them to sit on and put their feet on.
9) If you, or someone with you, starts freaking out, here are some ideas to help you deal: remember, if you have a good sleeping bag, once you are in it with a warm Nalgene, you will be warm. Do more Jumping Jacks. Take deep breaths and focus on what's cold- then put more/better/drier clothing on.
10) Bring a piece of wood to put the cookstove on, or it will melt downwards. Also, bring lots of extra fuel because you will probably be melting snow for hot drinks.
11) You will need a shovel to dig out a "kitchen" and living area. The most simple construction is just to make a bench to sit on and a space to put your feet. But remember- building a snow structure is a great way to keep warm and play in the snow! Just don't get too sweaty and wet. And change into your extra dry gloves when you are done.
12) Finally, a really nice touch, especially if you dig out a little shelter, is to bring candles. You can make little candle shelters in the snow, and their light is truly magical.
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