Cold Weather Camping Tips - How to Stay Safe and Have Fun
Dressing properly and eating properly are two important ways to stay warm when you are outdoors for long periods of time.
Start out by dressing correctly -
Dress in layers- three or more layers is essential. Base layer should be a wicking type of fabric like polypropylene to pull moisture away form your skin. The next layer should be insulating - wool or fleece. Avoid cotton which does not insulate when wet, and is very difficult to dry in cold conditions. In extreme cold, you may add more of these kinds of layers. The outer layer should be a wind proof, waterproof shell. Ideally it should be breathable to allow moisture to escape. Add or take off layers as your activity level and the outside temperature changes. Wear a hat - fleece or wool. You lose a lot of body heat through your head!
Stay dry - change your clothing if it becomes wet.
Stay hydrated -
Dehydration can seriously impair the body's ability to produce heat. Drink fluids as often as possible during the day and keep a water bottle or canteen with you at night. Drink hot liquids whenever you can, as this helps warm you form the inside. A wide mouth water bottle, like a Nalgene, will freeze less quickly than one with a small mouth. You should store your water bottle upside sown in case ice does form. Keeping it inside of your jacket will keep it thawed and warmed! You can keep a leak proof bottle inside your sleeping bag at night. Fill it with hot water to begin with.
Stay fueled -
Eat foods that are filling and heavy on protein and fat content. This gets your metabolism going which helps to keep you warm. It also takes longer to metabolize these foods, so they provide a longer, steady source of calories. Snack throughout the day if you are outdoors for a long time. Avoid high sugar content foods. Snacks like nuts, peanut butter, cheese, whole grain crackers, and pepperoni are good snacks. Have a snack and hot drink before you go to sleep at night to keep you metabolism going.
Frostbite is, literally, frozen body tissue - usually skin but sometimes deeper - and must be handled carefully to prevent permanent tissue damage or loss. Children are at greater risk for frostbite than adults, both because they lose heat from their skin more rapidly than adults and because they may be reluctant to leave their winter fun to go inside and warm up. You can help prevent frostbite in cold weather by dressing your child in layers, making sure he comes indoors at regular intervals, and watching for frostnip, frostbite's early warning signal.
Frostnip usually affects areas that are exposed to the cold, such as the cheeks, nose, ears, fingers, and toes, leaving them white and numb. Frostnip can be treated at home.
What to do for frostnip:
Bring your child indoors immediately.
Remove all wet clothing. Wet clothes draw heat from the body.
Immerse chilled body parts in warm (not hot) water until all sensation returns.
Don't let the person control the water temperature during rewarming. Numb hands won't feel the heat and can be severely burned by water that is too hot.
Frostbite is characterized by white, waxy skin that feels numb and hard. It requires immediate emergency medical attention.
What to do for frostbite:
Get the person into dry clothing, then take him to a hospital emergency room. If feet are affected, carry him.
If you cannot get him to a hospital right away or must wait for an ambulance, give him a warm drink and begin first-aid treatment:
Immerse frozen areas in warm water (around 100 degrees Fahrenheit) or apply warm compresses for 30 minutes. If warm water is not available, wrap gently in warm blankets.
Do not use direct heat such as a fire or heating pad.
Do not thaw the area if it is at risk for refreezing, which may cause severe tissue damage.
Do not rub frostbitten skin or rub snow on it.
Rewarming will be accompanied by a burning sensation. Skin may blister and swell and may turn red, blue, or purple. When skin is pink and no longer numb, the area is thawed.
Apply sterile dressing to the area, placing it between fingers and toes if they are affected. Try not to disturb any blisters.
Wrap rewarmed areas to prevent refreezing, and have your child keep thawed areas as still as possible.
A life:threatening condition when the core temperature of one's body falls below normal. It is the failure of the body to maintain adequate production of heat under conditions of extreme cold.
The associated symptoms
Intense shivering, ability to perform complex tasks is impaired, fatigue, poor coordination, immobile and fumbling hands. THESE ARE THE FIRST SIGNS OF HYPOTHERMIA – WATCH FOR THESE SIGNS IN ANYONE WHO IS OUTDOORS IN THE COLD!!
Violent shivering, difficulty speaking, sluggish in thinking, amnesia starts to appear, starts to lose contact with environment, stumbling gait, feeling of deep cold and numbness.
Shivering decreases, in it's place is muscle rigidity, erratic movement, thinking is not clear, victim can't still stand, hallucinations, loses contact with the surroundings.
Rigid muscles, no shivering, very irrational, starts into a stupor, pulse and respiration slow, pupils start to dilate, skin is turning bluish, drowsiness.
Does not respond to words that are spoken, pulse is very erratic, reflexes do not function, victim will be only semi-conscious, heart starts atrial fib.
Heart and respiratory failure, ventricular fibrillation, probable brain and lung hemorrhage, apparent death. <br>
Victims have been saved with core temps as low as 75.0 F. The best chances of recovery are from early diagnosis and treatment. Even though there may not be a pulse or breathing, the victim can be saved.
The treatment : Basically it requires that the body core temperature be raised to a normal level, aided by outside sources of heat. Some recommended suggestions include: stripping the victim, who is then placed into a sleeping bag along with one or two likewise attired companions (in such a situation there's no room for modesty); get dry clothes on the victim then huddle together; the use of fire, alone, or with either of the foregoing; administer hot, non-alcoholic drinks; or the warm breath of rescuers (or steam) can be used via the victim's inhalation. Once the victim is properly rewarmed, he can be moved. At this time he should be checked by the nearest doctor; never even think of merely continuing your activities.
PREVENTION OF HYPOTHERMIA
Dress properly for current and possible conditions. Be prepared for sudden weather changes especially at elevations. Have at least one wool garment for the upper and lower parts of your body. Wool is the only material with any insulating value when wet. Carry or wear a windproof, waterproof garment. Always have a wool hat and wool mittens. Have extra clothing available especially mittens and hats. A large proportion of body heat is lost through the head. Wear suitable boots, insulated if necessary; wear wool socks, and always carry extra wool socks. Avoid getting overheated and perspiring, this cools you down - fast. Wear layers and remove clothing as necessary. Better having extra than too little. Dress sensibly and expect the worst.
Sit out bad weather. Better waiting than be overtaken by a blizzard or thunderstorm. Do not push on through the night. Make camp early and rest thoroughly. You can continue tomorrow with a much greater safety margin.
Stay dry- body heat is lost much more quickly in wet conditions. This includes wet clothes, wet weather conditions, and being in a body of water.
Do not get exhausted. Exhaustion promotes heat loss, and thus hypothermia. Besides, if your exhausted, you are probably drenched.
Do not get in over your head. If your experience is limited to day hikes on moderate trails, do not try to go out and tackle Mt. Washington in February. Be smart. Learn to use a map and compass. Learn fire starting techniques. Learn first-aid. Be calm. Be prepared.
Lastly, learn about hypothermia. Know the causes, warning signs, and treatment. Learn how not to get cold.
CONSERVING BODY HEAT - THE PRIME OBJECTIVE
There are three major ways to lose body heat. Keeping them in mind will help you be much more aware of what you are or could be doing to keep your body warm.
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. A camp stool is a must on a winter camping trip. 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.
Tent Placement Whenever possible, place your tent in a location that will catch the sunrise in the morning. This will aid in melting off any ice and evaporating any frost or dew that may have formed during the night. This will also warm your tent as you awaken in the morning. Cold air sinks. Try to place your campsite on slightly higher ground than the rest of your surroundings. Try to choose a protected site if it is snowing or the wind is blowing.
Cooking In Cold Weather Cooking in cold weather will take about twice as long as normal. Always use a lid on any pots that you are cooking in. This will help to hold in the heat and decrease the overall heating time. Make sure you start hot cleaning water before you start cooking. The pots and utensils must still be cleaned. Try to keep your menu to good one-pot meals. Things like stews, chili, and hot beans stick to your ribs, lessen the cleaning time, and provide good sources of energy and fuel for your internal furnace. A good high-calorie snack before bedtime will also keep you warm all night. Stay away from an overabundance of sugar, cheese is a good high-calorie bedtime snack.
Flashlights Keep your flashlight and extra batteries in an inside pocket of your jacket or one of your middle layers. This will keep the batteries form freezing and you’ll have light when you need it.
Medications keep medications a the proper temperature per the packaging instructions. Inhalers, especially, should not freeze, as they won’t work and chemical changes may occur in the medication if it does freeze.
Do not sleep with your mouth and nose in your sleeping bag. The moisture of your breath will condense in the bag, and cause it to become wet and ineffective as an insulator.
WEAR A HAT TO BED
Put your clothing for the next day inside your sleeping bag at night. They will be warm in the morning, and will add warmth to your bag at night.
Brush off your boots and put them under your sleeping mat during the night to keep them from freezing.
Do not lay out your sleeping bag until you are ready to get in it! When you are ready to get in, give it a good shake first to restore loft to the filling. This will create dead air, which is what makes it warm!
Empty your bladder before you go to bed. You’ll stay warmer.
Buddy System Buddies can help each other pack for a trek, look after one another in the woods, and watch for symptoms of frostbite, hypothermia, and exhaustion.
Sun protection Just because it’s cold does not mean there aren’t strong UV rays. Wear sunscreen on your exposed skin, and lip balm with a n SPF of 15 or more on your lips.
Keeping warm is the most important part of cold weather camping. Use the C-O-L-D method to assure staying 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 frostbite and hypothermia. 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.
- Footwear As with other clothing, the layer system is also the answer for foot- wear. Start with a pair of silk, nylon, or thin wool socks next to your skin. Then layer on several pairs of heavier wool socks. When and if your feet become damp, change into another pair of dry socks at the first opportunity. Rubber overboots will protect the feet from water and will allow more comfortable shoes to be worn within.
- Mittens and Gloves Mittens allow your fingers to be in direct contact with each other. They will keep your hands warmer than regular gloves that cover each finger. Select mittens that are filled with foam insulation, or pull on wool gloves and cover them with a nylon overmitt. Long cuffs will keep wind and snow from getting in.
- Headgear The stocking hat is the warmest thing you can cover your head with in cold weather. Get one that is large enough to pull down over your ears. Also ski masks are great in the winter and can help in keeping your neck and face warm as well. Noses and ears can be very easily frostbitten, so a scarf or a balaclava can be an invaluable item to have.
- Parka and/or Overcoat Your coat or parka is the most important piece of your winter clothing. It needs to be large enough to fit over extra clothing without cutting off blood flow, and allowing ventilation to keep moisture away from your body. A large permanently attached hood will prevent heat loss around your head and neck.
- Sleepwear Never should you sleep in the same clothes that you have worn all day. They are damp and will cause you to chill. This could cause frostbite and hypothermia. It is advised that you bring a thick pair of sweats and thermal underwear to sleep in. Keep the thermals and sweats for sleeping in only. Do not wear them during the day, this will keep them the driest. Also be sure to have a couple of layers of wool or heavy thick cotton socks on as well. Always sleep with a hat on your head.
No skimping here. Down works great, but if it gets wet it will lose all insulation value…so a good choice is some man-made fibers which is almost as compressible as down. A good bag will be expensive, but many gear stores will rent them. Construction is probably more important than filling. Things to check for are:
full length draft tube
if quilted - make sure the inside seams are offset from outside seams,
a full coverage hood, mummy construction.
Your sleeping bag needs to be a winter rated bag: rated down to 15 degrees and stuffed with 5 pounds of Holofil, Fiberfil, or other polyester ticking. It is necessary to have some kind of sleeping mat to use in the winter. In cold weather camping you never want to sleep on an air mattress or off the ground in a cot. The air under you will cool you off in no time and this would create a threatening situation. Sleeping mats are not always expensive and are very important. Walmart offers some very inexpensive pads. A liner helps add warmth to your sleeping bag. Fleece or other synthetics or wool or silk are good choices. Outdoor stores and websites are good places to see the price and fabric options.