Here’s a set of tips that will help you during your winter training, especially if you’re new at it. First, a review of “COLD” to stay warm:
- C – Clean – Since insulation is only effective when heat is trapped by dead air spaces, keep your insulating layers clean and fluffy. Dirt, grime, and perspiration can mat down those air spaces and reduce the warmth of a garment.
- O – Overheating – Avoid overheating by adjusting the layers of your clothing to meet the outside temperature and the exertions of your activities. Excessive sweating can dampen your garments and cause chilling later on.
- L – Loose Layers – A steady flow of warm blood is essential to keep all parts of your body heated. Wear several loosely fitting layers of clothing and footgear that will allow maximum insulation without impeding your circulation.
- D – Dry – Damp clothing and skin can cause your body to cool quickly, possibly leading to hypothermia and/or frostbite. Keep dry by avoiding cotton clothes that absorb moisture. Always brush away snow that is on your clothes before you enter a heated area. Keep the clothing around your neck loosened so that body heat and moisture can escape instead of soaking several layers of clothing.
Overnight Site Selection – When selecting the camp site, try to ensure that the site possesses as many of the following traits as possible:
- Protection from the wind to decrease wind chill effects
- Southern exposure to the sun for morning warming & frost dissipation
- Sized to fit more than one shelter but no more than 3 or 4
- Natural camouflage from observation in situations that you don’t want to be easily seen
- Slightly higher than surrounding ground
- Slight grade acceptable, but level as possible
Site Preparation – When preparing the spot for your tent or lean to:
- Do not use ice covered ground areas if at all possible
- If no choice, place pine or other tree branches over area to insulate tent/shelter bottom
- Sweep loose snow and/or ice from tent site as much as possible
- Use surrounding trees to anchor guy lines rather than stakes in frozen ground
- Use easily ‘broken’ knots such as a ‘Trucker’s Hitch’ to secure lines to tarp/tent and trees
- Face tent door/open side of lean to downwind
Sleeping Area Preparation
- Place heavy poncho on tent/snowtrench floor or tree branches cut for insulation
- Place ground pad on heavy poncho
- Place sub-zero sleeping bag (Wiggy’s is about the best) on ground pad
Winter Sleep Wear
- Long underwear (wicking type) used only for sleeping
- Socks (not the pair worn during the day)
- Knit or fleece stocking cap
- light face mask (for extreme cold)
Next Day Clothes Prep
- Slightly Damp Previously Worn: If the clothes worn during the day are only slightly damp from perspiration and/or minimal snow exposure, they can be worn again and prepared in the following manner:
- Place clothes as flat as possible between gorund pad and sleeping bag
- Place sleeping bag on top of clothes
- During the night, body heat will dry the clothes and keep them warm throughout the night. Note: This is not for soaked through clothing!
- Clean: Place clothes between sleeping bag and thermarest/foam pad as above; clothes will be much warmer in the morning when you change.
- Do not sleep with your head inside your bag! Moisture from your breath will condense inside the bag and you will wake up damp, cold and miserable.
- Eat shortly before going to sleep to help keep body heat higher—high calorie/protein food is best.
- Urination should be the last thing you do prior to getting in your bag so that you will have as long as possible to sleep without losing heat.
- Consider including a clean quart plastic jug with a screw on top that doesn’t leak near your bag so you won’t have to completely leave your bag and lose body and residual bag heat.
- Check the color of your urine often – the darker it gets, the more dehydration has occurred. It’s a signal to drink more water.
Heat Loss – There are four ways to lose body heat.
- RADIATION – The emission of body, especially from the skin areas exposed to the elements. A good set of gloves, hat, and scarf can help best in keeping bare skin to a minimum.
- CONDUCTION – The absorption of cold by the body when sitting or laying on cold ground, or handling cold objects such as metal cooking utensils and metal canteens. This is why a decent sleeping pad is required for cold weather camping. The same goes for wearing gloves. Try not to sit on the ground.
- CONVECTION – The loss of body heat due to wind blowing across unprotected body parts. This situation can also be reduced by keeping bare skin covered with hats, scarves, and gloves. It is important to keep exposure to a minimum, ESPECIALLY in a windy situation. Convection heat loss can reduce body heat the fastest. Wet clothing will accelerate this process, making staying dry even more important.
- EVAPORATION – This is simply the process of heat leaving your body through perspiration or through respiration.
Body Heat Retention
- Drink Hot Water: In the morning, heat some water and drink it much as you would tea. Flavor with lemon or a slight amount of sugar if desired. Coffee/Tea are diuretics and will cause dehydration more quickly. If caffeine is a must, drink it when eating a meal during the day.
- Eat Hot Food When Possible: Quick Oatmeal in hot water or a ‘Mountain House’ scrambled egg reconstituted pouch are superb breakfasts that heat the body trunk and to get you going.
- Eat High Fat (unprocessed)/High Protein Meals: The body’s metabolism will rapidly increase and burn more calories/fat to keep itself warm. A higher fat/protein content in meals will help the body stay warmer longer.