What you’ll need for winter camping, part 5

In this part I will go trough what you must have in your back pack. These are items you might need all the time or the things you hopefully never need to use. The things you absolutely need to take with you is almost the same no matter what season you go camping. First of all you need a first aid kit. The kit should have all the basics like, plasters of different sizes(I prefer plaster I can cut to the size i want),something to treat burns with, antiseptic wipes, 2 rolls of sterile gauze, scissor, safety pins and last but not least a roll of sports tape. This is what I would have as a minimum. This is enough if you know your limits and can endure some discomfort until you can get professional help. Other things I have in my first aid kit is: pain killers,( I have four 500 mg paracetamol tablets) and a painkiller ointment like xylocain, Another thing that is good to have is a simple sowing set, just a needle and some thread. I also have some batteries for one of my flashlights if they should go out.

My primary first aid kit. I have others, but this is the one I bring with me the most.

First of all you need a knife. I use a Ka-bar knife myself, its good for regular cutting of things and it can be use as chopping down small trees and bushes. But any good quality all purpose knife will do.

A thing that is a must have is a multi tool  like a Leatherman or similar. I recommend to go for a good quality brand, because my experience have showed me that lots of the cheap unbranded ones have a tendency to break when you need them the most. You don`t  need the multi tool with all the fancy features, go for a simple one with a knife, saw, file and a good pliers. In know most multi tools have more features, but these are the things I use on mine the most. The multi tool work as an all-round tool, so if you lose your knife or saw you still have something in back-up.

Here is one of my multi tools. This is from SOG, it’s simple but useful and sturdy.

An axe is also a must, get a small lightweight one. There is always a saw in my backpack, the saw is also small and lightweight. I prefer a foldable one. These kind of saw takes up little space, are safe when they are folded, and are lightweight. They are maybe not the best to saw big trees or to forage wood for the winter but they are great for camping.

The last thing that you need to have in your backpack is some rope. I have 10 meter of 5 mm nylon rope and that has been sufficient for my needs.

I will write more thorough on every article in later posts. Hope you find my writing useful and interesting.

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It`s getting warmer this weekend!

It`s getting warmer this weekend, so we are planning a weekend on the ice. Our plan this weekend is to camp by a small lake, which is a good place to catch trout. And since the temperature is getting better, we can spend some quality time on the ice, without having to try to keep warm by moving or sitting by the campfire. The kids and I looked over the fishing equipment yesterday, we noticed that some of the fishing line was getting old and snapped to easy, so awe had to change them. We agreed that it would be bad if we lost fish from faulty gear. So according to the boys, now there is no limit how big fish we can catch.They might have a little bit to high hopes about our possible catch. We still have to bring the winter sleeping bags, since it might be down to -7 or so, spring is not here just yet, but we might come closer to it. We have stayed by the same small lake the past weekends, but now we are changing location to one of our favorite summer locations. The boys are still in their start phase of doing cross-country skiing, so it might be a tough trip for them since there is a lot of steep passages. But with enough encouragement, time and chocolate I think we will have a great trip.

An ice fisher in prospective
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What you’ll need for winter camping, part 3

Then we have the feet. They are important for a number of reasons, especially walking. And if they get cold, your whole body will feel uncomfortable and after a while you will freeze all over. So, how to dress your feet. First use a thin wool sock, then a thicker wool sock. I only use wool on my feet. Since the feet are crammed in a quite tight place, where moisture have little chance of escaping wool is the number 1 choice since it got the ability to keep warm even if its somewhat wet. So my advice is to leave your cotton and polyester socks at home. Your boots may need some adjustment too. The inner sole of your boot may be great for forming after your foot, but they might not insulate good enough from the cold ground. I buy boots a half or one size bigger than my feet, so i can insert a wool sole inside, approximately 7,5 millimeter thick. They might be possible to buy, but i make my own from an old wool carpet I have had for decades. This is what I use in my hiking and cross-country shoes. This works great for me, i rarely get cold feet, even when it`s down to -25 C. But, there is a but, if you get really wet on your feet, you will get cold. So always have extra socks in your backpack. This is paramount. Here comes a survival tip. Change to dry socks as soon as possible and if your boots are wet, which they probably are if your socks are, have a couple of plastic bags in your backpack, pull them on outside your socks and put on the wet boots. This way your new socks won’t get wet and cold. Wear it till you get the chance to dry your boots.

Here is one of the boys getting ready for some winter fun

We are still not finished with clothing, now we go to extremities. They are very important to look after. They get cold the fastest, and when they do, things quickly get harder to do. Its not only the freezing it self that’s bad, its also that you lose feeling in what you do. For example, when your fingers get really cold, simple things like packing your backpack can seem almost impossible. It hurts and you lose your strength. So we start with the mittens. I use a double layer mitten, they usually come with a fleece inner layer and a polyester outer layer. They work fine, but I replace the inner layer with a thicker wool mitten. Call me old fashioned, but I think wool works better if they get a little wet. The outer layer is also good to use with gloves inside. The reason for the double layer is that you can remove the outer layer and have better movement and feeling in the hand for setting up a tent or cooking. I also recommend an outer mitten with an elastic band lanyard, so when you take them off they won’t get lost.

Out in the cold, eating a on an icicle. Good times!
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Plan long trips, do “near trips”

Our family do quite a lot of “near trips”. This is when we just walk out of the door and go to the forest. Since this is something we do often, we don’t plan to much. We have our backpacks packed with the basics, it’s just some extra clothes according to the weather and the kind of food we want that need to be packed. On these near trips, we are at the most 3 km from our front door. Between us and those 3 km it’s literally thousands of campsites. We never need to stay at the same place if we don’t want to. But for some reason we usually end up at the same location at least for a couple of times. I actually like that, you get a feeling of safety and comfort when you know the place you stay. And when you have found a good spot it is for a reason. There might be an abundance of firewood or easy access to water and a nice view, most of the times it’s all of those. But on these shorter trips, it’s just do it. No need to hesitate, walk out the door and find a nice spot. This is also applicable if we drive somewhere and park car. If we walk up to 3 km from the car it’s also a “near trip” .

For the longer trips, we need to do some planning. We have to go over the map to find a route and a area where we can set up camp. We get to assess the are we are going into. On the map we can spot dangers we can encounter, like steep cliffs or areas prone to avalanches in the winter. Other things to think about on longer trips is all the other small stuff you need to bring. Like a spare or repair kit for the tent poles. Or an extra tip for your skies. These are things you seldom need, but they are invaluable when you do need them. I will get more specific on this topic in later posts.

The boys are ready for a new and exciting day in the forest
On our way home, the boys have put on their skis by themselves and headed home, luckily in the right direction.
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What you’ll need for winter camping, part 2

Now that we have gone trough how to get a decent sleep outside in the winter, its about how to have a nice time during the day. First and foremost when camping during winter is to try to stay dry, if you get wet, you’ll freeze much faster. And the most important place to keep dry is  your feet. If your feet get wet and then cold, the rest of the body will most likely turn cold to. I will go through what I recommend to wear in winter. I will start closest to the body with a thin wool underwear, I personally do not care what kind of wool it is made of, but Merino wool is non-itchy, so many people prefer that. As a second layer its good to use a medium thick fleece that helps to transport moist away from the body. This layer is most important to have on your upper body as an adult, but on the kids i use on both lower and upper body. What we have gone trough now, is good when you are on the move or do tasks in the camp when its not to cold. If there is low activity like making food or ice fishing, I would add another layer. This would be a thick wool sweater a thick fleece sweater, but i recommend wool.  And last the outer layer. Here you need something wind and waterproof. The lighter and thinner it is is best, but those jackets and pants are really expensive, so I have never had one, my outer layer might be a bit heavy and bulky, but it have served me well for years. For the kids i prefer putting them in a snowsuit, these are usually well insulated and somewhat waterproof and as far as I know windproof. If its colder then -5 C the kids won’t get wet, since they are so well insulated that the snowsuit will be as cold or colder than the snow, so it won’t melt on the suit. This was the body, the next part will be more detailed about what to wear on the feet, hands and head

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What we do on our trips

There’s so much to do and so little time. Camping I the forest is time consuming, especially for the camp boss. But as soon as the shelter or camp is ready, you can go play with the kids or go fishing. As long there is daylight we can go exploring around the camp site. We always find something around camp, it can be an awesome ice crystal from a frozen stream or a tree that a woodpecker has made a giant hole in to get to the delicious beetles or worms deep inside it. In the winter, when you have your skies, it’s easy to make a track and have a race, or make as ski jump and see who can jump the longest.Other snow related things to do is to make a maze on an open area like a lake and try to catch each other without stepping outside of the track. Both fun and warming.  There is so much fun things to do, so it’s impossible to get bored. And to let the kids explore and go on adventures and letting them be the leader is something they really grow on. You just tag along asking questions, and maybe give an advice from time to time.

Checking out a hole made by a woodpecker
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What you’ll need for wintercamping, part 1.

Wintercamping is very rewarding. You get to see nature as its sleeping, in wait for the festivities of spring, and you get a great feeling of achivement as wintercamping is something not all people do. So, what do you need to sleep reasonably comfortable? First of all you’ll need a good sleeping pad. I use sleeping pads that are 2 cm thick and made of a dense foam material, these are lightweight and can be used directly on snow or frozen ground. Second is a good sleeping bag. Our winter sleeping bags are either pure winter bags, that are great to keep you warm, but they are heavy and bulky. We also use 3 season bags, they work fine, but you’ll need a extra layer on the outside to keep warm when the temperature drop. We use a bag called Jerven bag, which I think is an invaluble piece in our equipment. The winter bags should have a comfortable temperature at -10 C. Then its possible to use to at lower temperatures to, but it probably won’t be comfortable without some extra insulation like the Jerven bag or something similar. As it can be cold in the winter, wintercamping is not without risk. There is a chance for frostbite and hypothermia. So if you are new to wintercamping I recommend to start with bringing your sleep pad and bag out in the backyard so you can get used to the feeling of sleeping out in the cold and to get inside if you get to cold. We still do backyard camping, it’s a great way to test out new equipment or just hone our skills.

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