Winter Camping Handout

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What You Need to Know About: WINTER CAMPING
Camping in the winter is not like camping in the summer. It's cold and there's the chance of storms. If
you don't bring the proper gear, you won't just be uncomfortable, you could get frostbite or
hypothermia. Therefore if you show up without proper gear, you will be sent home. To make sure
everyone has the proper gear, we will be doing a gear check two weeks before we go camping.
Here are the guidelines you should follow when you're collecting your gear.
Kitbag
When you pack your kit, check the list twice to make sure you have everything. Pack your things into a
soft bag like a duffel bag, hockey bag, or big camping backpack. Have as few bags as possible to cut
down on the number of places things could be when you're looking for them. DO NOT BRING
SUITCASES. The bottoms of suitcases will put holes in the tent floor. Put all your things into plastic
bags (such as Sobeys bags or large Ziploc bags) and them into your bag to waterproof them. Make sure
you have a garbage bag or recycling bag you can put your wet or dirty clothes in to keep them from
messing up your clean dry clothes.
Fabrics
Cotton is the most common fabric used for clothes and blankets. When you camp in the summer, cotton
clothes are good because cotton that is damp from water or sweat helps to cool you off. In the winter,
this property of cotton is dangerous. Therefore you should NEVER WEAR COTTON CLOTHES TO A
WINTER CAMPOUT. This includes flannel and especially denim. Good fabrics to wear are wool,
polyester, polypropylene, and fleece, because they will still keep you warm even when wet, and polar
fleece will actually reflect a lot of your body heat back to you, keeping you warmer. If you're not sure
what your clothes are made of, check the tag.
Sleeping Bag
This is your most important piece of gear. You should have a good winter sleeping bag that is rated to 10 degrees or lower. These type of bags are expensive, though, so if you take two or even three threeseason bags rated to 5 degrees or lower, you can stick them inside one another. Mummy style (tapered)
bags (especially with hoods) are warmer than rectangular ones. Synthetic fillings are better than down
fillings because down stops being warm when it gets wet, and you sweat at night. Flannel or cotton
linings should be avoided. You should also have a sleeping bag liner made of polar fleece to put inside
your bag. You can make one by buying a polar fleece blanket designed to fit a twin bed, folding it over,
and sewing up two sides.
Air Mattress
Foam roll-up pads are best for summer, but in winter you'll want some air between you and the cold
ground for insulation, so you'll need to get a roll-up self inflating air mattress such as a Thermarest. DO
NOT BUY A BYO BED or inflatable mattress. These are too big to fit inside tents and have a pump
that needs to be plugged in to inflate them. You'll also want to bring your foam roll-up pads to put
underneath your air mattress for extra warmth.
Blankets
Bring several extra blankets – the thickest and warmest you can find. It's always better to bring too
many than too few. The best kinds of blankets are wool and polar fleece are best. No cotton or flannel.
You'll also want to bring two foil emergency blankets. These reflect your body heat back at you, so
you'll want to sleep on top of one and under the other. You need to have one small personal sized tarp
to put underneath your foil blanket and air mattress to block any moisture that may come up through
the tent floor from soaking into your sleeping bag.
Testing Your Sleeping Gear
To test out the sleeping gear you're planning to bring winter camping and make sure it will keep you
warm enough outside at night, you should do a test run by sleeping in an unheated area, such as the
garage, basement, shed, mudroom, attic, or yard. Make note of whether you were warm enough and
add more blankets or sleeping pads for the trip day if necessary.
Kneeling Pad and Situpon
Kneeling or sitting in the snow will allow your body heat to melt the snow and let the moisture into
your clothes, so you should have something to sit and kneel on. The foam kneeling boards designed for
gardening are excellent, as are the foam flutterboards used for swimming. For a situpon, the best thing
to bring is a folding camp chair, which will keep your bum away from the snow.
Outerwear
We'll be doing a lot of outdoor activities, so you'll need a warm, waterproof, snowproof jacket with a
hood and ski pants. With ski pants, it's a good idea to get the overall kind or wear suspenders to make
sure they stay up and don't let snow down your back. The cuffs should fit over your winter boots so that
snow doesn't go down them. If you have an extra jacket and ski pants, bring those too.
Boots
You'll need a good warm, waterproof pair of winter boots that come up to your shins. No ankle boots,
hiking books, or boots that are more for looks than practicality, like leather boots or Ugg boots. At
night, put chemical hand warmers into your boots to dry them out.
Hat
You need a good warm hat that will cover your ears. Earflap hats and trapper hats are great. No
earmuffs or earbands. It has to cover your whole head. It should also be lined with fleece, not simple
knitted wool, otherwise the wind will blow right through.
Gloves and Mittens
Waterproof ski gloves or mittens are the best thing to bring. Mittens will keep your hands warmer than
gloves. Don't bring knitted mitts or gloves unless you also have a waterproof over-mitt. Bring two pairs
in case one gets damp or sweaty on the inside. You'll also need one pair of plain wool gloves for
cooking.
Other Accessories
It's also a good idea to bring a scarf or balaclava (robber's mask) to cover your face and neck if it gets
cold. You can also bring ski goggles if you have them to keep blowing snow out of your eyes, but
they're not necessary. You will, however, need polarized sunglasses that will protect against UVA and
UVB rays. Otherwise the sunlight reflecting off the snow will cause a condition called “snow
blindness.” You should also have a cord for your sunglasses so they will not get dropped and lost in the
snow.
Socks
Bring lots and lots of socks. When your feet get wet, your feet get cold, which makes your whole body
cold. When your feet get sweaty, change your socks. Wool socks are the best to wear, but if you find
them itchy you can wear silk or synthetic ones underneath. No cotton socks. You'll probably want to
wear two pairs at all times. You also need fresh socks to change into at bedtime. During the day, you
should wear plastic bags (such as Sobeys bags) between your socks and your boots to keep sweat from
seeping into the lining of your boots.
Clothes
Bring more clothes than you think you need, but don't bring your bulkiest clothes because the best plan
for winter is always to dress in layers, because air is the best insulator. Remember: DO NOT BRING
JEANS, COTTON SWEATS, OR T-SHIRTS, because they are cotton.
Here's an example of what you should wear for an outside activity:
Top: long sleeved synthetic undershirt + polar fleece or wool sweater + insulated vest + winter jacket
Bottom: underwear + long synthetic underwear + wool or fleece pants + ski pants
Feet: thin synthetic socks + thick wool socks + plastic bags + winter boots
You can add or take off layers if you're too hot or too cold. If your hands and feet start to feel cold, this
means you should put more layers on your chest and legs, not your hands and feet, because your body
is drawing heat from your hands and feet to warm your chest and legs.
When dressing for winter camping, the goal is not to sweat, so don't keep putting on layers until you
feel warm otherwise once you start moving around you will overheat. You should “start cold” for any
physical activity, such as walking or playing.
Before going into your tent or a warm building, brush off any snow you have on you. Snow itself is dry,
but snow in the tent will turn into water overnight when your body heat warms up the tent, and snow on
your clothes will melt and soak into your layers when it hits the warm air inside a building.
To make it easier to take clothes on and off, put keychains or rope loops on your zippers so they're
easier to grasp and pull with your gloves on.
Pajamas
Your body temperature drops when you sleep, so this is when you need to keep the most layers between
you and the cold outside air. Always change ALL of your clothes, including your underwear and socks,
before bed so you don't bring the chill and sweat to bed with you. DO NOT GET CHANGED until you
are in your tent and ready to climb into your sleeping bag, otherwise the outside dampness will get into
your PJs. Have an extra set of long underwear to wear to bed underneath some warm PJs. Polar fleece
pajamas are best. Fleece hoodies are good: they help keep your head warm. You'll also want a fresh
winter hat to prevent heat from escaping through your head. NO COTTON OR FLANNEL.
Once you climb into your sleeping bag, do not breathe into it to warm it, as it will cause dampness that
will chill you later on. If you wake up in the night and have to pee, get out of the tent and go to the
washroom instead of holding it. When you hold your pee in, your body wastes energy keeping it warm.
Flashlight
When batteries get cold, they don't give off as much energy, so you should keep your flashlight inside
your coat or sleeping bag to make sure it will work when you need it. This is one of the reasons why
you should not pack your iPod, cell phone, or portable game system: it will be too cold to work.
GORP
Your body has to work harder in winter to keep itself going, which means you have to give it lots of
fuel, especially sugar and fat. Every girl should bring a nice big bag of gorp, which is a sort of trail mix
made of things like candy, chocolate, dried fruit, pretzels, and the like. Choose your favorite things
from Bulk Barn, but avoid crumbly things and individually wrapped things, which will be hard to eat
with gloves on. Keep a small Ziploc bag of gorp in the pocket of your jacket at all times and munch on
it as you feel hungry. Refill your small bag from the bigger bag in your kitbag.
DANGERS
If you bring all the right gear and follow our instructions, you will be warm and happy even in the
coldest weather. However, if you're not careful about staying warm you could put your health in danger.
On any winter camping trip you will be assigned a buddy. Here are some things to watch out for in
your buddy and yourself:
Hypothermia – this is a serious condition where your body temperature drops dangerously low. When
you have hypothermia, you are so cold you stop shivering. If this happens you must be warmed up
immediately. Before this happens, though, you will get weak, pale, tired, and be unable to stop
shivering.
Frostbite – this is when your skin gets so cold it actually starts to die. Fingers, toes, and noses are most
at risk for frostbite because they are the furthest from the warm center of your body. Signs you might
be getting frostbite include clumsiness, numbness, tingling, and red skin with white dots. If this
happens, you must warm up the affected area immediately.
If you suspect you or anyone else may have frostbite or hypothermia, TELL A LEADER
IMMEDIATELY.
There's also the very real danger of having your things buried in the snow, so NEVER LEAVE YOUR
THINGS OUT, not even for a few minutes. If you're not using it, put it in your pocket or back in your
kitbag, otherwise it might not be there when you come back.
Kit List for Winter Overnight Camp
NO ELECTRONIC DEVICES
soft kitbag (such as duffel bag or camping pack – NO SUITCASES)
Winter sleeping bag or 2+ summer sleeping bags
polar fleece sleeping bag liner
3+ extra blankets
camp blanket
small camping pillow (no regular sized bed pillows)
roll-up inflatable sleeping pad
2+ foam sleeping pads
2 foil emergency blankets
1 personal sized tarp
kneeling pad
situpon/camp chair
waterproof winter jacket with hood
waterproof ski pants
insulated, waterproof winter boots
2 + pairs ski mitts or gloves
wool gloves
2+ windproof hats that will cover your ears
scarf or neck warmer
balaclava (robber mask)
sunglasses
glasses cord
ski goggles (optional)
lip chap
sunscreen
5+ pairs thick wool socks
5+ pairs thin synthetic socks
5 fleece or wool sweaters
2 sets synthetic long underwear
2 pairs regular underwear
5 pairs wool or fleece pants
1 set polar fleece pajamas
1 insulated vest
mesh bag containing plate, bowl, cup, knife, fork, and spoon
water bottle
insulated thermos or coffee cup for hot drinks
spatula/flipper
metal tongs
handful of clothespins
empty 2L ice cream bucket to use as personal sink
any medications you need (i.e. gravol)
female sanitary items if needed and brown paper bag to store used ones
toothbrush
toothpaste
facecloth
towel
hand sanitizer
deodorant
roll of toilet paper
baby wipes
hair brush
6 Sobeys bags
2 garbage or recycling bags
extra Ziploc bags
flashlight, head lamp, or lantern and extra batteries
school-bag sized backpack (no messenger bags or purses) for hikes
big bag of gorp
multitool
compass
15 feet of rope
small shovel for snow (such as kids' shovel from Dollarama)
individual first aid kit (band aids, antibiotic cream, etc)
4+ chemical hand warmers
book to read (optional)
notepad and pen
camera (optional)
cuddle buddy for sleeping (optional)
Note: Kitting yourself out for winter camping doesn't need to be expensive. Most of the things you
need can be found at the Dollarama. For wool and fleece clothes, check used clothing stores like Value
Village and Frenchy's. Remember: this is not a fashion show. Your goal is to be warm and dry, not
trendy.
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