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Late-winter camping

Good preparation makes for a great outdoor experience

March 11, 2011
By ANDY NELSON-ZALESKI Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - When planning a winter camping trip a key consideration is to almost be over prepared for the worst scenarios such as snowstorms, ice storms and possible injuries.

There are several important supplies that should be taken to make a winter camping trip a success.

"A lot of things can go wrong in the wintertime and you just want to make sure that you are prepare for almost anything," said Nic Dobbs of Down Wind Sports. "It is really important to be over prepared."

Article Photos

Different sized sleeping bags with variety of temperature ratings hang on display at Down Wind Sports in Marquette recently. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski).

Whether it is a quinzee (snow shelter) or tent, a shelter is at the top of the list in terms of importance, he said. Tents are by far the easiest and quickest shelter, but be cautious what type of tent you use.

Dobbs suggests a single walled tent when winter camping. The single walled tents have a nylon structure on all four walls and aid in cutting down the ability of wind to travel through the tent.

Sleeping bags and sleeping pads are other important pieces of equipment to have when sleeping outdoors.

Using a bag with a minimum rating of 15 degrees is fine, but a bag with a zero rating is ideal. The rating of the sleeping bag is based, in large part, on having a good, insulated sleeping pad.

"A lot of people are unaware of this but the rating of a sleeping bag is based on the sleeping pad," he said. "Without the pad a 15 degree sleeping bag may actually be rated at 30 or 40 degrees."

A good sleeping pad will raise the bag off the ground and puts an insulating barrier between the user and the ground.

"Some people will even pull a sled behind them loaded with all their gear instead of a backpack," Dobbs said.

Regardless of whether you carry a backpack or pull a sled, some additional essentials will be needed to make the experience a positive one.

Foods that are high in protein and calories are good to pack.

Dobbs said that your body burns more calories in the winter as a source of fuel to keep your body warm. So carrying a variety of high protein, high calorie foods is beneficial.

Carrying and drinking plenty of water is a safety concern because you can become dehydrated and not even realize it.

Normal water sources like streams, ponds and lakes will more than likely be frozen over and will be difficult to retrieve water.

Although there will be an abundance of snow that can be boiled and used as drinking water, this should be a last resort.

It takes far more fuel to boil enough water for drinking than it is worth.

Clothing from head to toe is important.

"Cotton kills," Dobbs said. "Clothing whether it is shirts, pants or even socks should be make of wool or some sort of synthetic material."

These materials have a better quality of wicking way moisture and keeping you dry.

Clothing should be worn in layers.

Layering allows the ability to easily adjust clothes to regulate body moisture and temperature.

A base layer, insulation layer and an outer shell are typically the three layers used.

The base layer usually consists of a synthetic material such as polypropylene. These materials aid in wicking moisture away from the body and keep the body warm.

The insulation layer usually consists of a fleece material. This layer helps to retain body heat.

The final layer is the outer shell. This shell should be a water and/or wind-proof protection layer.

A well stocked first aid kit with a silver thermal blanket, some sort of fire starter such as a flint and a water filtration unit are some additional equipment that shouldn't be left at home.

Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is



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