Winter Camping

Gloves for Winter Camping

Gloves are an important part of your winter gear.  If you are like me, your hands and your feet are the most important part of staying warm.  Once my hands and feet get cold.. that’s it.. I want to go home.
So I keep my hands and feet warm.  The way I do that is by using a layering system.
Three things that gloves do, 1.  Keep your hands dry.  2.  Keep your hands out of the wind.  3.  Keep your hands warm.
Here is a video I shot some time back showing my glove system.  Even though it is a little old.. these are the gloves that I still use today.  Once you get a good system and spend the money on good gear, you will have it for a long time.
Remember.. It is easier to stay warm than to get warm!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Winter camping tips

DSCN1915Its that time of the year when we break out the winter gear and head out for some chilly, exciting winter camping adventures.
I thought it was a good time to throw out some things to consider when getting out there in the cold.
We will talk more about winter camping in the near future, but this short list should at least get you thinking about your winter adventure.
1.  When setting up camp, find a place out of the wind and on higher ground.  Cold air settles in low ground.  Camp away from your water source, it’s probably in the lowest area and will be colder.  Get in the trees as best you can to get shelter from the wind.  Look up and make sure there are no “widow makers”, you know, those branches that will fall and put an end to your winter camping adventure.  Shake the tree a bit to drop some of the snow.
2.  Stomp out a tent platform.  It will make it easier to set up the tent and give you a solid, level place to sleep.
3.  Never cook in your tent.  If you need to get out of the elements, carefully use your vestibule as a wind break.  NO FLAMES in the tent.
4.  A closed cell foam pad (CCF) on top of an inflatable pad makes for a comfortable insulated place to sleep.  Fluff up your sleeping bag and let it breath for a bit before you get in.
5.  Pitch your tent tight to manage moisture.  A tight pitch will keep the rain fly away from the main body allowing air to flow.  A tight pitch will also protect against the wind and allow for snow to run off.
6.  Make sure to “empty” before you hit the sack.   Make sure your bladder is empty before you go to bed.  Don’t hold it because it is cold.  You need to be empty to stay warm.
7.  Drink a hot beverage and stoke the internal furnace before you settle in.  Eating a high fat snack before hitting the sack will get the body working for a warm nights sleep.
8.  Heat up water.  Fill up your water bottles with boiling water.  Make sure they are sealed up tight.  One in the sleeping bag will put out some heat for you and will give you water for your morning routine.  If you don’t want to put the water in your sleeping bag, put the bottle in a sock and store upside down.  It should be good to go in the morning.
9.  Put your fuel in a sock and throw it in your sleeping bag.  It will make it easier to fire up that stove in the morning.
10.  Strip down to your base layer when sleeping.  This will regulate temperature and make it easier to stay warm in the morning.  Jacket under the head area of the sleeping bag and boots under the foot area will keep them warm and ready for the morning.

If you don’t remember anything else remember this… It is easier to stay warm than to get warm.  Do what you need to do to stay warm.  Move, eat, and prepare for the cold and you will have fun adventures while winter camping.
Check back for more winter camping posts!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Black Friday.. Opting Outside

There was a lot of hub bub over a decision that the outdoor retailer REI made to close it’s stores nation wide on “Black Friday” encouraging their customers and employees to get outside on the that day and have an adventure. I LOVE IT. The fact that they value the life style that they promote in their stores and literally put their money where their mouth is. Yeah its gimmicky as all get out (no pun intended), but to me it speaks volumes about the kind of people the Coop are.  Did they take a loss on Black Friday… I guess time will tell, my gut feeling is that over the holiday they will more than make up for it because of this “event”.
But more importantly is the fact that I too decided to #OptOutside on black Friday, get away from the crowds and enjoy time out doors.
My friend Greg and I made plans to get out and camp for black friday.  We took off and headed to Mt. Hood.  Set up camp out by Barlow Pass and had a fantastic night in the woods.  We plan on doing it again next year.
There was a high of 20 degrees during the day.  We made a nice fire and just hung out, played with winter gear and cooked a lot.  Then we spent a cozy night in the hammocks.  The overnight low got down to 13 degrees and we awakened to a chilly 17 degrees.  It was a fantastic way to spend Black Friday!
The gear list:
Osprey Ather 60 Backpack
Warbonnet XLC Hammock
Warbonnet Super Fly Tarp
Hammock gear 0 degree Incubator Under Quilt
Army surplus cold weather sleeping bag (used as top quit)
Solo Stove
Trangia stove
Long spoon (Rei Lexan)
Marmot down jacket
Columbia fleece
North Face Hiking pant
Polertec fleece bibs
Columbia winter boots
Mountain Hardwear gloves
Standard packed items (compass, head lamp, etc.)
Here is a short video.  It was cold so the camera didn’t come out as much as I wanted it to.  I need to get better at doing that.

All in all it was a great weekend/overnighter and a better way to spend Black Friday.
I got excited with REI pushed the #OptOutside campaign out there.  It restored some idea in me that yes, they do think there are more important things than big sales.  Yeah Yeah.. they will surely come out of this better off.. but so will their employees and the folks that took part in the event.  I know it made my black friday better.
What’s it got to do with Scouting..not much other than to reinforce the outdoor program and the values that happiness does not always come with the swipe of the Visa card.
Perfect way to start the Holidays!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Triangle Thingies

Yes… Triangle Thingies.. that’s what they are called.  What do they do?  Well, if you are like me and want to have an enjoyable time when you get into camp you find ways to stream line your set up and take down.  No knots, no instructions, no fuss.. no muss.  If you look at my set up you will find that it is easy up and easy down.  The Triangle Thingie is a simple add on to the hammock that allows for quick set up and take down and the ability to have your underquilt hung in the same place every time without any adjustments.  This ensures a great nights sleep and getting it ready to hang super fast.
The Triangle Thingies are from a company in Idaho, a cottage industry owned an operated by outdoors folks that love to get out in the woods and hang and fish.  You can check out their site here.  The Triangle Thingies weigh in a 1 1/4 oz a pair and come in four colors.
Here is a quick video on how I installed the Triangle Thingies on my Warbonnet XLC hammock.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask.Have a Great Scouting Day!

Reflection

campfireIf you play a game that has a desired outcome or purpose it is important that you first know what that purpose is and then have some way of knowing if you achieved the results you were looking for.
By and large that is the reason we have an Eagle Scout Board of Review.  We can assess and determine though the interview with the Scout whether or not the program is delivering the promise of Scouting and achieving its goals of helping make young people of character, good citizens, that are physically fit.  Along with all of that, do they make ethical choices and does it look like they will do the same in the future.
Reflection is an important part of every thing that we do in Scouting.  It allows us to take a look back and see if we achieved the outcomes we want in playing our game.
Reflection comes in many forms, we can do it as a group or take time in silent reflection.  But no activity is complete until the reflection is done.
This last weekend our Troop went camping.  First winter camp out of the year and we went caving on Saturday exploring the largest Lava tube cave in the US.  It is adventurous and challenging and our Scouts love to test themselves.  As with most outings or activities a theme develops throughout the weekend.  This weekend the theme quickly became “Rising to the Challenge”.  Overcoming hardship, attitudes, and things that make you uncomfortable were some of the behaviors that we noticed in our Scouts as they went through the weekend.
For some of the Scouts it was the first time they would camp in sub freezing temperatures.  For some it was their first time in a cave.  For others it was a leadership challenge as they learned that as a leader there were Scouts that depended on them to just get through the weekend.  Cold weather, challenging experiences, and doing something new and difficult.
These young men learned and practiced great leadership.  I was pleased to watch as members of the Patrol Leaders Council made their way through camp checking on the younger Scouts.  Instructing them on how to get through the night.  Reassuring younger Scouts that they will be ok and that if they do what they are taught, they will be warmer in the morning and will be able to have a better experience in winter camping.
I walked through camp Saturday night around 10:30 and found gear properly stored, tents pitched with all the tie outs in place and the sounds of tired happy Scouts sitting in their tents, the gentle glow of a headlamp lighting the green nylon of a tent fly.
Sunday morning leadership was once again challenged as cold fingers attempted to pack even colder nylon tents and sleeping bags.  Our departure time was supposed to be 9:00 AM.  We missed it by 20 minutes, but the reason was acceptable to me.  The Troop was in Patrol lines taking a few minutes to share a few things they learned over the weekend.  Patrol leaders talking with their patrols about the challenges they faced over the weekend and how they all rose to the challenge.  Before we loaded up I shared with them my pride in them and how they are great young men.  I shared with them the fact that they needed to reflect on the weekend and see just how much they learned about skills, their attitude, and how they grew because of the experience.  The final question that I asked them to reflect on was this, Is there any place you would rather be?
When we got back to the hall and parents started arriving to pick up their Scouts, many of the Scouts came to me and shared the answer to that last question.  Each and every one of them say “NO WHERE ELSE”.
So reflecting back on this weekend I would say Promise Delivered and Program solid.
It is important to reflect.  You may not always get the answer you want, that is your opportunity to learn and grow doing better next time.  If things are going well… keep it that way!  Don’t let it slip.
Make sure that reflection time is a part of your program.  Have the Scouts take time to reflect and have serious reflection on how they are doing in the Scouting program.  It is a game with a purpose, without reflection, you will not know if that purpose is being met.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Anchoring your tent

Here is a technique for anchoring your tent.  In this video, I demonstrate using a snow stake.  A stick works just as well.  Snow stakes are versatile and light and are worth carrying into camp.
It is important to anchor your tent well.  Winter conditions typically include heavy winds so no matter what or how much gear you have in your tent, to keep your tent and the rest of your gear in good repair, anchor your tent well.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Cold Weather Camping – Sleep System

photo courtesy of Thermarest

photo courtesy of Thermarest

Getting a good nights sleep is an important part of any camp out, and very important when camping in the cold.  Sleeping in the cold creates some anxiety in young Scouts.  While the Scout is up and moving he can control his level of warmth.  Teaching the Scout that it is possible to be warm in the winter will help him get a good nights sleep.
First, lets talk gear.
When I talk gear for sleeping, I refer to it as a sleep system.  The system may vary depending on conditions, temperature, and he person.
The sleep system consists if the Sleeping bag, the sleeping pad (insulation), and sleep clothing.  You may add to the system a sleeping bag liner, a bivy sack, and of course a pillow.
The sleeping bag is the base of the system.  The rating of the bag needs to be at least 20 degrees.  Lover is preferred especially when the temps are known to frequently dip below 20 degrees.  Adding the sleeping bag liner will add another 10 degrees of warmth to you in the bag and is a light weight, inexpensive option to adding warmth.
Down versus Synthetic?  It really does not matter.  They are equally as warm, down is going to cost more, but you will get your savings in weight.  Down needs to stay dry to keep warm.  Synthetic materials fair better than down when wet or damp.  Which is an important consideration when coaching Scouts on which type of bag to purchase.
It used to be popular opinion to wear as little as possible when in your sleeping bag, now however, your clothing is considered a part of your sleep system.
First thing to remember is whatever you decide to wear, it needs to be clean and dry.  For most that means wearing a clean set of poly pro long underwear.  Again, keep in mind that it is easier to stay warm than to re warm.  Change into your “sleeping clothing” when you are warm.  Boil up some water and drink a hot beverage.  While you are drinking, boil up enough water to put in a water bottle.  Throw it in your sleeping bag as you change into your sleep clothes.   Hand warmers are also a good way to preheat the bag.
A change of your socks is also a great idea.  If you are like me, your feet are the first thing to get cold.  Dry socks going into a sleeping bag is fantastic and will keep you warmer.  Find a real thick pair of wool socks, you know, the kind that you would never hike in but look super comfy.  Wear them at night to keep your feet warm.
Possumdown socks or a good thick merino wool sock are what I find to work the best.
The set up of your gear is important.  Get out of the elements.
Don’t sleep in low ground.  Cold air settles in low ground.  When selecting your sleep area, where you pitch your tent, make sure you stay on the upper part of the slope.  If you must pitch camp in low ground, dig a sump outside of the door of your tent.  This will pull the cold air away from you as you sleep.
Vent your Tent.  If you fail to vent you will wake up wet, condensation will form in your tent.  You can expect a little, but if you don’t vent you will certainly get too much moisture in your tent.  This is bad for your gear and also will make your packing a bit harder.
The sleeping bag liner is a great piece of gear.  It is perhaps the biggest addition to my winter gear.  Adding ten degrees to my sleeping bag, it is made of fleece, which absorbs some moisture from my breath at night, keeps my bag dry, and takes away the feel of cold nylon as I slip into my bag.
Getting a great nights sleep is critical when camping.  Staying warm is key.  Knowing your sleep system and how to use it is an important skill in winter camping.
We will talk more about winter camping in our next post.
Have a Great Scouting Day!