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Cold Weather Camping Tips
2/8/2018 3:55:35 PM
By Chip Ward

#1. Wear appropriate clothing 

When it comes to staying warm, items like wool socks, warm boots, a knit hat, and a warm jacket are essential, but if possible you should avoid wearing clothing made of cotton. This includes fabrics such as corduroy, denim, flannel, or cotton-polyester blends. Cotton clothing touching your skin will absorb your sweat and other moisture like a sponge and will cease to insulate. Getting wet and staying wet, even in above-freezing temperatures can rapidly cool your body and as a result, can lead to hypothermia.

#2 Know how to layer clothing

Remember the three Ws of layering - wicking inside layer, warmth middle layer(s), and wind/water resistant outer layer.

The inside layer is basically your underwear or the layer next to your skin. Synthetic fabrics like polyester and merino wool work best. They wick perspiration away from your skin to outer layers so it can evaporate. They also dry quickly so you spend minimal time in wet clothing.

The middle layer is your insulating layer. It is primarily designed to help you retain body heat. Consider wearing a fleece or microfleece shirt, pants, and jacket and/or a goose down jacket for this layer.

The outer layer is your waterproof/windproof/breathable layer. The main purpose of the outer layer is to protect you from the wind and rain. Your outer layer should be a waterproof and breathable material like Gore-Tex or a similar fabric that will allow sweat and water vapor to escape and also keep you dry in wet conditions.

#3 Start shedding layers the second you start sweating

Strenuous activity such as hiking will naturally induce sweating. If you are overheated, the moisture you produce will chill you to the bone once you stop moving, so it is important to start shedding layers once you notice yourself getting overheated.

#4 Do not sleep with your face buried under the sleeping bag

The moisture from your breath will cancel out the insulating properties of your sleeping gear. If you are worried about your head getting cold, wear a knit hat or beanie when you sleep.

#5 Keep your clothes for the next day in your sleeping bag with you

If you keep the clothes you plan on wearing the next day in the sleeping bag with you overnight, you can avoid having big pockets of air between you and the sleeping bag - it is just more space that you will have to expend body heat trying to warm up. Also, you will not have to put on cold clothes in the morning.

#6 Do not sleep directly on the ground

Get a closed cell foam pad to provide insulation between your sleeping bag and the ground. A foam pad cushions and insulates.

#7 Choose the right campsite

Summer campers might prefer the shadiest and most secluded spot. In winter, however, the morning sun can be a welcome companion. Take note of where the sun will first appear at sunrise, and angle your tent to take advantage of the early rays while shielding the door of your tent from the wind.

#8 Bring firewood

Sometimes it can be difficult to find firewood on the ground during the winter. By the time winter rolls around, summer campers may have scavenged the forest for wood, or the winter storms may have made most of the wood too wet to burn. An evening campfire will keep you warm at night and make cooking outside more enjoyable in cold weather.  

#9 Bring plenty of water

Despite the lack of heat, it is still easy to get dehydrated during the winter. Although you are not visibly sweating, since the air is so dry, you still lose a lot of water through breathing. So, drink plenty of water!

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