Thursday, January 9, 2014

Snow and Winter Survival Essentials

Fresh snow on the back acre of my New Jersey estate.
I really enjoy snowshoeing and everything snow related in the winter-time. In fact my fondest memories are of my father taking us all sled riding in deep winter at night. Super cold but we loved it! So I've learned a few things about keeping warm and safe in snowy-winter conditions, especially if you have to unexpectedly spend extended times outdoors.  Here's what I pack:

Make sure you dress in breathable layers like wool but skip the cotton. When you sweat, cotton stays wet and will eventually chill your core. Same thing for your socks and footwear. Pack an extra pair of Smartwool socks to change in case snow gets inside your boot. Weather-proof your boots with Sno-Seal or NikWax to help keep moisture out.

Hardshell Pants
Over top of my wool socks and boots, I wear Gore-Tex Paclite Snowboarding Pants. The zippers go all the way up and are sealed to keep snow and water out. The knees are articulated making them easy to bend and move in.

Warm Gloves
Lole of Montreal's Chunky Knit Ski Cap
I have many pairs of gloves but the ones I wear most in winter are made of soft kid leather and fur lined. Just like my boots, I give them a quick treatment with Sno-Seal once a year. This keeps them soft and supple because water exposure is what dries out the skins. Mittens may be warmer but won't help much with ski or snowshoe bindings.

I've said it before but it bears repeating that covering your noggin and neck area is perhaps the best way to prevent heat from escaping. 

A Balaclava which also covers your chin and mouth is ideal especially when worn as a layer beneath a loose knit wool hat.

The Kestrel 4500 gives you both weather tracking and compass directions.
Weather Tracker & Compass
You may be able to use your cell phone to get updates on the weather but what if you are out of signal range? Also remember that the information you get from that source is from the nearest weather reporting facility, not necessarily where YOU are at the moment.

I take along my Kestrel Weather Tracker because it calculates the changing atmospheric conditions where I am, alerting me to a falling barometer and wind-chill factors that can precede hypothermia. Additionally it has the ability to track wind speed and direction via a very accurate compass.  If you get turned around in white out conditions, the compass will be very handy to help show the way home.

Hot Food & Drink
Bringing along some hot soup is a really good idea as well. Even if you want to take a smaller sized 12oz thermal container, this will both hydrate, nourish and warm you while you are in freezing temperatures. 

Hot soup, broth or tea will help warm your core on the trail.
Even if it is something as simple as a fire-starter, keep one with you in case you are lost, injured or just need to get warm. I keep one on my key-chain and always have one plus fire starting materials in my backpack. Cotton balls smeared with petroleum jelly work great to get a fire going. Don't leave home without it!

Camp axe, British Army Knife and Aurora Fire Starter all from Camping Survival.

First-Aid Kit
You don't have to go crazy but throw together a few bandages and antiseptic for the trip. Adventure Medical Kits has a not so bare bones Ultralight-Watertight .3 Kit that is just that and a lot more. I keep one with me in my handbag but for outdoor expeditions I will take a larger kit in the same series as I am carrying in for my hike companions. Every kit I've tried has been complete and totally worth bringing.

Adventure Medical Ultralight/Watertight Kits are perfect for snowy dayhikes.

Now you can certainly add other things to your winter backpack, but these are the essentials I take every time because they are lightweight and really earn their space. With the metal Klean Kanteen you can heat and melt snow for extra water while hiking so you needn't haul extra gallons. Definitely the way to travel light in the snow.

The main goal is to get home safe and stay warm!

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