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
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
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!