When Temperatures Plummet by David Jackson

When temperatures plummet and the realities of winter set in, people turn to hot drinks and warm fires. There are nights when I’m happily a member of that crowd, however, on many occasion, I love the challenge and thrill of winter camping. Now, winter camping might seem a tad masochistic to all except mountaineers, ice fisherman, and dog sledders, but the common connection between all winter daring crowds is that they have the gear to keep them safe and most importantly, warm. Gear is the most important aspect of winter travel, without it, you might as well stay by the fire. For those willing to build your fire outside, listen to wolves in the distance, and hear the shotgun pops of freezing tree’s, here are a few tricks I use to stay happy and inspired.

First off, there are two types of winter nights. There are extremely cold nights with little to no moisture, and there are warmer nights with dense, moist air. Both have challenges and neither is easier than the other.

Unless I’m pulling a sled, I always operate out of a pack. Longer winter travel demands a sled, but for trips that last only a few days, a pack suits. Convenience is key in winter travel as every little task demands more work, even tasks as simple as getting a layer out of your pack can be tedious. Because of this, your pack should be easily accessible and the Kajka pack is ideal for me as it has two full length pack zips on the front. This means I can access camera gear, layers, and food without having to tear my entire pack apart. The bigger pack also means I can keep snowshoes and a tripod on the outside without noticing the weight or size. 

Before you hunker in for sleep, a large parka over a down jacket is key. You need to keep the winter out and your body heat in, the Yupik Parka does the job perfectly. Features I use most are the large hood to bury myself in, large pockets so that nothing ever has to touch the ground (camera lenses, knives, firestarters) and the most important, two large interior glove pockets. I’m always removing my large mits for things like firewood, changing camera gear, and placing your gloves in the snow is dangerous because the moisture can quickly get in. Under your parka, a sweater like the Abisko Fleece and a Pak Down Jacket will keep your body temperature close.

For bitter cold nights, there is very little moisture in the air to dampen your gear and create a chill. On these nights, I use two sleeping bags and typically sleep out in the open. The trick with using two sleeping bags is to have an outer bag that is big enough to fit another bag. The Fjallraven Regular Move In bag is perfect for this, especially if weight is a consideration. This sleeping bag packs down really compact, leaving room for a warmer mummy bag to put inside. I find that the outer bag absorbs moisture and collects ice, allowing your inner bag to stay warm and dry. This is especially important for trips lasting more than one night.

The second type of night, when the temperatures are warm and the air holds a lot of moisture, require a few different techniques.

I always expect snow when the weather is warmer, and moving through the woods with a big parka can be both cumbersome and too warm. I ditch my parka in warmer temperatures for my Keb Eco-Shell. I use the same layering, but the hard shell means all of the moisture, snow, and elements are shed and my body temperature retained, without the bulk of a parka. The side vents also mean I can dump excess heat when I’m working around camp but don’t want to shed layers. 

Winter doesn’t have to be a time to stay inside, it just takes a few extra steps and the right gear to make a great night out. Remember, keep things convenient, keep your body heat close, keep moisture in the front of your mind, and own the cold!

Instagram: @davidjackson__ 

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