The act of camping is when a person or group is lodged in a tent or created shelter temporary shelter for a given amount of time. Winter camping is the exact same concept, except the act is during the winter season. The main difference is the temperature and moisture in the air. Most times when a group or person goes camping it is usually dependant on good warm and dry weather due to the shelter never being perfect. Winter camping is usually only performed by experienced outdoors people and should not be performed without a well thought out plan.
The supplies utilized in winter camping again are similar to that someone would use for summer camping, except preparations for colder temperatures must be taken into account. These are some of the key supplies someone should bring with them on a winter camping excursion:
- Hiking boots - These should have good tread and at the very least be water resistant due to the snow laying on the ground.
- Water proof pants - A lot of the activities will require one to kneel or be close to the ground. Having water proof pants doesn't let the person get wet.
- Water proof + insulated jacket - The jacket must be waterproof incase of any precipitation falling and due to the low temperatures in winter the extra insulation is needed.
- Warm under layer clothing - This includes many layers. Dressing in layers is extremely important due to the dangers of sweating. It is important to always regulate body temperature.
- Sleeping bag - The more insulation the better here, however it should be valid for at least -10C.
- Camping knife - A durable sharp knife is important in performing many tasks such as creating kindling or cutting up cooking supplies.
- Saw/axe - Either will work here, completely preference as one will need to collect firewood and will need a tool to cut the wood.
- Paracord - A type of twine or string will be needed for putting together a shelter and holding supplies up together.
- Food - This depends on the person, however, it is always good to be prepared incase of emergency.
- Flint/Lighter - Again depending on the person, however, being prepared for a fire is necessary.
- Tarp - This will be needed in the shelter creation or can be used as an overhang incase of precipitation.
Perspiration or sweating is extremely dangerous when spending an extensive amount of time in colder temperatures. When this happens it means that someone is overheating and can even lead to hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when someone is exposed to moisture as well as cold temperatures without adequate layers and shelter. In order to avoid this the number one concern in regards to body temperature is to fend off sweating. In order for this to happen persons must dress in layers. These are the ideal layers:
- Some sort of spandex sweat absorbent initial layer to avoid sweat laying on the skin.
- Multiple pairs of socks, wool is the best material as it allows for circulation.
- Warm leggings for underneath waterproof pants that can be removed.
- Warm upper layers that can also be removed.
- Winter toque
- Waterproof/resistant gloves
Another key aspect to avoiding hypothermia is to keep energy levels up by feeding the body correctly. Warmth begins at the stomach, therefore food provides heat and replaces energy that was spent else where. The more calories the better here as they are a measurement of energy, leading to warmth. It is also important to stay hydrated as even though one will try to avoid sweating there will be an unavoidable amount of sweat as well as perspiration lost due to breathing.
Depending on the level of experience one might bring a tent on a winter camping excursion or someone might rely on building a shelter once arriving to the site. Either way the camping group will need to leave themselves lots of sunlight to setup the shelter. It is difficult and unnecessary to setup in the dark when setting up with sunlight is a possibility. First one needs to select the site, it should be a relatively flat and dry area with no showing roots that could stick into someone laying on it. Next the tent can be setup if one was brought. If a tent isn't being utilized supplies need to be collected. There are many different types of outdoor shelters that can be made, some of them include a tarp shelter, lean-to, a-frame, tipi. All of these methods suitable for winter camping and relatively simple for setting up however do require extensive setup time. In regards to the shelters that aren't using a tarp, it is first important to collect straight logs approximately 6 feet in length. These will be utilized for the skeleton of the shelter and tied to a stationary structure using paracord. Next an insulation layer must be added, leaves and the duff layer on the ground are both good insulation. Finally the tarp brought can be added to prevent any precipitation from entering the camp, however, thick evergreen branches are also useful here.
Developing a fire is one of the most essential pieces to winter camping. The site for the fire should be within a two or three feet of the shelter in order to keep persons warm while sleeping at night. It should be noted however that it isn't too close to the shelter as it may pose a fire hazard. While collecting logs for a shelter, one should be keeping an eye out for useful logs for a fire due to the restricted daylight. Dry logs are the only ones someone should be collecting as anything else is a waste of necessary energy. A wide variety of logs should be collected, thicker logs for burning throughout the night as well as smaller kindling pieces. Once a large collection is made one should begin creating kindling pieces with both the axe and knife brought. The fire should then be setup with a good base of larger logs to ensure once the fire is lit that it will burn for an extended period. It is also important to use the larger logs prior to sleeping in order to keep the fire burning throughout the night as this is the only source of heat. The fire can also be utilized for cooking any food products.
It is always important that once a person is finished utilizing the campsite that the shelter is completely taken down and everything left as it looked prior to camping. This is important as the persons camping are entering the wilderness environment in which they do not own. Animals most likely use this area in some sort of regard, therefore, to encourage use again it is crucial to leave the site unharmed.
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