The decision to bugout is a serious one and not to be made lightly. If you’re forced to in the winter it could lead to the deaths of you and your family if you’re not well equipped and prepared, so I highly suggest that you have solid transportation and a destination before deciding to leave your house or apartment. Cold weather camping is a skill best learned by going with someone who has experience or going through some formal training. I grew up in Maine and did some cold weather camping when I was younger, but really got into it after I joined the Marine Corps. At one point we spent two weeks in Minnesota and the temperature plunged to between –30 and –40 degrees at night and never crossed into positive territory even during the day and we camped out for ten of those nights.
Yep, that’s ice. Me camping on a lake in Maine. Notice the military bag in the tent.
One of the first things you’ll want to get is a decent sleeping bag and a sleeping mat. If you have a very warm bag you’ll be able to survive after the power goes out even if you have to lay it out in your apartment. A good bag meant for backpacking (meaning lightweight) is expensive, but if you live in a cold weather environment I suggest you look into getting one. The military cold weather bags do the trick nicely, but they’re heavy! If you want to leave it in your closet at home or in your car in case of emergency I’d say go ahead and get one, but if you’re planning on carrying it in a backpack go out and get a lightweight mummy bag. I am currently working on a post about sleeping bags so I won’t go into too much detail here.
Another thing to consider when camping in cold weather is the amount of food you consume during the course of the day. If you’re hiking ten miles or more a day with a 35 pound pack in the summer you’re probably consuming somewhere in the neighborhood of four to six thousand calories a day. In the winter your pack weighs more and everything you do is met with resistance especially if there’s snow on the ground. People mountaineering can consume upwards of ten-thousand calories a day! The point here is that you’ll probably need to double your rations and food is heavy.
Clothing is also crucial when doing outside activities in the winter. First of all, the old saying, “cotton kills” is especially true in extreme cold weather. Think wool, polypropylene and fleece. Here’s a typical scenario when I’m winter camping: I start out hiking or snowshoeing and once I warm up I’ll strip down to a polypro top and maybe a fleece jacket with lightweight gloves if the temp is above 15 degrees F. Here’s a tip that could save your bacon if you’ve never done any hiking in cold weather. As soon as you get to your destination – top of the mountain, winter camp, whatever, IMMEDIATELY change your undershirt. Yup, unless the wind is blowing 60 mph and it’s 75 below zero change your bottom layer as soon as you can.
If you change immediately your body will still be warm enough to stave off the effects of having your torso exposed for the few seconds it will take to change. Any hike I’ve ever been on I’m usually quite wet with sweat by the time I get to where I’m going and if I don’t change the wet clothing will eventually make me colder. Change into something dry, put your hat and an outer layer on, and you will be much warmer and far more comfortable than if you didn’t change.
Hiking Old Speck in ’07. This is why I sweat. Look at the size of that pack!
To Be Continued…