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Better in the Cold

CE Winter Camp and Class

Faint morning light. It’s still before a frigid dawn. There’s enough light to see the dark patch of snow on the tent’s rain fly above me. I glance to the side out the mesh door. I see that there’s snow piled underneath the fly on that side. Fortunately, the other side is bare ground. Time to unzip the sleeping bag and get dressed. There’s only a wisp of vapor on my breath as I shrug on shirt, insulated vest and woolen sweater. I’m surprised to note that the partial bottle of water had not frozen, but there’s a rime of frost on the inside of the rain fly. Outside, there’s about 4 inches of snow on the ground. It had come during the night, starting with the patter of graupel on the tent, then switching to fluffy snow, blown on a stiff wind. The trees are decorated with a coating of snow that, as the sun rises, turn to shining bronze. The temperature is about 14F. Earlier risers than I have started a fine fire near our group tent and it’s a welcome sight. Also the mug of hot coffee.

Winter camping can be a joy, as well as a challenge. It’s quiet; few, if any, other campers, no bugs. A campfire is especially welcome, and hot beverages particularly enjoyable. It’s a bit more complicated, however, and requires preparation and being skilled at some things that are less essential in warm weather.

Colorado Experts on Wednesday and Thursday February 3 & 4 did a camp in the foothills above Woodland Park during which we enjoyed some crisp winter mountain air environment. We set up a camp of hiking tents, supplemented by a traditional canvas wall tent to gather in. The overnight camp also let us get some more use out of the Hyke & Byke Antero sleeping bag we are reviewing in this issue. It kept us comfortable during the night.

Wednesday was bright and sunny. Our camping spot was about half bare ground and half old snow. We put the hiking tents on bare earth, set up the wall tent on snow, with a fire pit on open soil. Skills necessary to ensure comfort and survival were taught: Fire-building using a variety

of methods, outdoor First Aid, basic topographical maps and use of compass for navigation, essential knots. We also discussed the basic kit we recommend to carry and the mind set required to survive if one is lost in the winter, along with some basic survival shelters. After the night’s snow Wednesday, we practiced mobility using snow shoes.

The primary lesson learned was that you don’t have to fear or avoid the pleasure of the outdoors in the winter. Camping in the winter requires a change of mind set and some skills, but is worth doing.

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