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Backpacker Magazine – Fall/Winter Gear Guide 2012

Winter Survival Guide: Camp

Humans weren't built to sleep on snow. Defy nature and sleep soundly with these winter camping tips.

by: Kristin Bjornsen

PAGE 1 2
Tent setup (B. Fullerton)
Photo by Tent setup (B. Fullerton)
Tent setup (B. Fullerton)

Sleep Soundly
“A good night’s sleep gives you the best chance for success the next day,” Shillington says. Follow these secrets for peaceful slumber.
>> Manage moisture. Double-check the tightness of your tent’s guylines and batten them down. “A taut pitch prevents the fly from touching the tent’s inner canopy, keeping the interior well-ventilated and dry,” he says. Also, shake snow off your clothes and shoes before climbing in, sweep out any piles of powder, and crack the door (near the tent’s base) and a vent in the tent’s canopy to prevent condensation.
>> Insulate against the cold ground. Put your inflatable pad down first, then place a closed-cell foam pad on top of it. “The latter seals you off from both the frozen ground and the cold air inside the air-filled one,” Shillington says.
>> Loft your bag. At least one hour before going to bed, unpack your sack, lay it down, and shake it out (for example, by flicking it back and forth in a wave motion) to loosen the down.
>> Strip down. Opt for lightweight baselayers and a hat. Your body heat will warm the bag, and you won’t sweat.
>> Stoke your internal furnace. Consume a high-fat snack before going to bed. “I like a mug of hot cocoa with a blob of butter stirred into it,” Shillington says.

Clear Fresh Snow
“Snow buildup can collapse a tent and block vents. Thwacking the canopy from the inside can clear a light dusting, but in heavier snow you’ll have to go outside. Use your arm to sweep snow off the fly; don’t use your shovel, which may tear the fabric.”
Nat Patridge, president of Exum Mountain Guides

Cuddle Up
“My most valuable piece of cold-weather gear is my wife. I never sleep better or warmer than when we zip our sleeping bags together for the night.”
Jonathan Dorn, BACKPACKER Editor-in-Chief

Dry the Dog
“If you bring the dog inside your tent, let him roll in snow first—the dry flakes absorb water. Also, wiggle him into a coat to help him stay warm.”
Jen Raffaeli, Denali National Park kennel manager

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Star Star Star Star Star
AZ Hiker
Jan 28, 2014

Don’t forget your compass! When snow cover causes you to lose sight of the trail and landmarks, stay found by using a compass and reading Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart (Amazon). This book makes learning how to use a compass easy. Before you hit the trail, be sure to calibrate your compass to the declination of where you will be hiking or skiing. Go to: A compass doesn't need satellites, a signal, or batteries and works in all types of weather, day or night, but you need to know how to use it. Learn how to orient yourself using a compass, a compass and a map, a map and no compass, no compass and no map. Look for it on Amazon, "Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart". The ability to know your way and know where you are is something we all need in any survival situation not just while hiking and camping. Learn to stay found day or night by using a compass and paying attention to your surroundings. Learn what to do if you get lost, how to get rescued, and survival packing (for the car and for the trail) just in case you end up unexpectedly spending the night outdoors.


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