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Fall And Spring Camping Tips

Camping When It's Cold Outside - What’s To Enjoy About Camping In The Cold Of Fall And Spring?

On April 6, 1909, Robert E. Peary became the first explorer to reach the North Pole. The ultimate in cold weather camping a hundred years ago, but even today very few attempt this extreme. His desire was to be the first to explore the top of the world. No one is suggesting you try that, but there is no reason you should not to be the first to pitch a tent and explore what the early spring has to offer.

If you have cabin fever, it is time to take the cure. Rivers and streams are running strong with the freshest snowmelt. Like Peary at the North Pole, early spring camping offers plenty of solitude and privacy. Take advantage of this opportunity to pursue your wilderness hobbies. It is a great time to study and wonder over the intricate patterns in first growth flowers and flora. Spring is the beginning of fishing and bird watching is at its prime.

Also, late fall camping is too chilly for fair weather campers. Fewer people, means less hubbub and brings more wildlife watching, closer to camp. Who doesn’t enjoy the colorful autumn leaves? Everyone enjoys a pumpkin-carving contest during a Halloween camping trip. Don’t deprive yourself of a last chance camping experience before the long winter sets in!

Forests damp with dew or fresh rain means cozier campfires when there are fewer fire restrictions. Both spring and fall bring out a bazillion stars for gazing and pondering the meaning of life, on a chilly night. There are plenty of reasons to camp during cold weather, plan ahead, stay comfortable, and do it!

Why you need to stay warm

Consider Yurt camping during cold weather. A Yurt is a sturdy semi permanent structure available at some state and private parks. It is a cross between a tent and a cabin. A Yurt offers more comforts than a tent and is roomier for spending more time inside during shorter fall days.

The Oregon State Parks Service describes their Yurts as round with a pointy roof that are …” a quickly-growing national phenomenon that broke in to the public camping scene right here in Oregon.” Oregon’s Yurts sleep five, come with electricity, heat, lights, basic furniture and beds. Cooking is outside over the fire pit. You bring bedding and basic camping equipment except for the tent. Cost is between $27 - $30 per night. But Yurts aren’t for everyone and not all that common. Tent camping in the cold will be around for years to come.

Spending hours outside in cold weather means keeping warm. Body heat escapes three different ways. Bare skin radiates heat like a radiator or wood stove. Up to 90% of body heat radiates from the head. Bring a head covering. Sitting or laying on something cold like the ground or a log gives up body heat by conduction. An example is the feeling you get handling cold kitchen utensils with bare hands. The body also looses heat from convection when the wind blows across unprotected skin. Be prepared both inside and outside.

Staying warm in the tent

Cold weather sleeping bags with a barrier between the ground and sleeping bag are important. A foam mat or air mattress used for comfort during summer camping, doubles as a ground barrier for cold weather camping. In cold weather, you may need a couple of barrier layers. However, you will need a properly rated sleeping bag in the cold.

Sleeping bags have a temperature rating in degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius, depending where you buy them. People react differently to cool temperatures. A sleeping bag that feels comfortable to you at 30 oF, may leave others shivering through the night. Best to buy a sleeping bag with a rating several degrees below the lowest temperature you expect.

Consider these points when deciding the right rating for you. Do you feel warmer or colder than others do under similar situations? Smaller bodies in a large bag may not create enough heat to stay warm. Large bodies tossing and turning during the night crush the insulation. This reduces its performance. Look for a sleeping bag with the stuffing divided into compartments. The stuffing won’t shift. Fogging the decision even more is that a lower temperature rating depends on more insulation. Adding weight if you are backpacking into the campsite. Still, buy a bag rated lower than the coldest temperature you expect to camp in, you can always unzip it if you get to warm.

Think about buying a tent heater. There are many styles to choose from. Most operate on propane or electricity. Electric models are only going to be useful at campsites with an outlet. Propane heaters need ventilation, so read the instructions carefully. Several models burn propane outside, using a hose to blow heat into the tent. Propane heaters give off deadly carbon monoxide gas and cannot be run while sleeping. Don’t use a heater without a switch that automatically turns it off, if knocked over. Many models do double duty to warm you when sitting outside the tent.

Staying warm outside the tent

Staying warm outside the tent is the biggest challenge for early spring and late fall camping. Certainly more difficult than staying warm inside. Wearing water resistant, breathable, and layered clothing is the answer. Layered clothing serves two purposes. First, you can take layers off or add more as the temperature changes during the day. Second, it traps heat between the layers reducing heat loss. Start with thermal underwear, adding a thin turtleneck, a sweater, and overcoat.

Bring a parka. Head coverings are important when youare out for long periods. Think about covering your neck. Bring gloves with you. Wear two layers of socks, a thin silk pair under a heavy pair, with waterproof boots.

Clothing needs to be kept dry. Bring changes of clothes in case they get wet. Perspiration gets your clothing damp. Changing at least once a day lets the other outfit dry.

Join in athletic activities. Hiking is an enjoyable way to produce body heat and keep warm. Remember that the tent heater will help keep you warm when you are outside but not very active.

What else do you need?

Once you have the sleeping bag, matt, and layered clothes taken care, there are a few other items to plan. Pack water sensitive gear and food in watertight containers. A supply of large zip lock bags comes in handy for the unexpected. Remember the head protection and gloves. These are the most often forgotten items. Bring extra shoes in case the ground is wetter than expected. Pack a tarp for spring and fall camping. If using a propane heater, pack extra fuel. Be the first to roast marshmallows on the campfire in the spring and last to put out the fire in the fall. It just takes a little planning. Bring a card or board game just in case the weather keeps you inside a little more than you want to be. Happy camping!

Contributed By Brian Kline

For more camping tips on how to prepare for your trip, refer to "The Beginner's Guide To Getting You Started With Comfortable Tent Camping In 12 Easy Affordable Steps"


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