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#106405 - 11/12/08 05:31 AM Camping in the winter
bulrush Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/07
Posts: 132
Loc: Michigan
I'm going car camping with Boy Scouts this weekend. Weather forecast is rain and snow mixed, high in the 40s.

I would like to know if I should bring any thing else. I am the kind of person that is cold all the time. I wear my scarf and knit hat in the office while my heater is on. Here is my winter-specific packing list for keeping warm:

- Sleeping bag rated to 0F. Plus extra wool blanket.

- I will be wearing these layers of cotton all at once: tshirt, sweatshirt, sweatshirt with turtleneck, with thin winter coat. Also long underwear, jeans, followed by heavy snow pants (cotton, very warm). I will swap my turtleneck sweatshirt with a wool sweater if needed.

- 2 thin sleeping pads to insulate against the cold ground. They should also bring straw to put under the tent.

- I also have knit hat, fleece balaclava, winter gloves, waterproof wading boots (very warm) along with disposable heaters (enough for all day and all night all weekend), and a charcoal powered heater.

- I have a thermos and tea bags with my alcohol stove. The idea is to drink hot liquids to help stay warm.

- There will hopefully be a fire there. I bought cardboard soaked in wax to help with firestarting, along with dry pinecones. Of course I have matches and a butane lighter.

I did not get any electric socks as I do not camp in cold weather much. I might want to invest in a warmer coat later as this one is rather thin. If I'm moving around gathering wood I think I will be warm enough. I am worried about keeping warm at night when I am laying still. I will have my disposable heater to help with warmth.

Am I missing something else I could bring? For example, to help me out at night?

Thanks.

EDIT: Forgot to add, I have a rain poncho too.


Edited by bulrush (11/12/08 12:48 PM)

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#106406 - 11/12/08 06:56 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
jasonklass Offline
member

Registered: 08/27/05
Posts: 551
Loc: Denver, Colorado
Hi Bulrush,
You probably want to avoid cotton altogether. It will make you colder if you sweat while hiking. You might want to look at some heavyweight synthetic long underwear instead--something that wicks moisture.

At night, you might also want to heat up a water bottle full of hot water and throw it in the bottom of your sleeping bag a few minutes before you get in. This will keep your feet warm which will make you feel warmer overall.



Edited by jasonklass (11/12/08 06:58 AM)

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#106407 - 11/12/08 08:54 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: jasonklass]
JAK Offline
member

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 2569
I think you are way overkill on the sleeping bag, and your clothing is way wrong, but if you change just one thing just ditch the jeans and get some nylon hiking pants. If two things, change the cotton underwear for something else, anything else.

Wool blankets are always handy though, with kids about.

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#106408 - 11/12/08 09:28 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
mlipo Offline
member

Registered: 09/22/08
Posts: 15
What kind of activities are you going to be participating in while camping?

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#106409 - 11/12/08 09:50 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
bulrush... are you being serious? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" />

MNS
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#106410 - 11/12/08 10:26 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: midnightsun03]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
Bul, may I assume you are car camping and not backpacking?
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#106411 - 11/12/08 10:44 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: Trailrunner]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
You need more straw for sure. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" />
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#106412 - 11/12/08 12:46 PM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: mlipo]
bulrush Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/07
Posts: 132
Loc: Michigan
This is car camping.

As far as activities, I am just a chaperone for the Boy Scouts. I don't do much, maybe help the kids if they get hurt or something, perhaps gather firewood, help them pitch tents, inspect their tents (ground cloth must not be exposed under the tent or rain will collect there).

The kids have their own activities where they earn merit badges. I'm there to supervise but they are required to do all the work.

Do you mean I should wear nylon pants to keep the water/rain/snow off me? We're supposed to get rain this weekend. I don't have any nylon pants or special long johns, and we leave in 2 days. I am bringing a rain poncho. That will help keep me dry and I don't expect to sweat too much.


Edited by bulrush (11/12/08 12:50 PM)

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#106413 - 11/12/08 01:20 PM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
Bulrush...

First and foremost, you are an example to these scouts, and if you show up with gear inappropriate to the siutation it sends the wrong message.

Cotton is not the choice for these conditions, period. You are asking for hypothermia, period. You get wet, you'll never get dry. Period.

As this is car camping and not lightweight backpacking, your local Wal-Mart should have very affordable options for rain gear and non-cotton long johns. Wool or poly socks, several pairs, would be good. Go to your local thrift and find a "beater" wool sweater, maybe even rain pants or nylon pants.

The suggestion of using a hot water bottle in your sleeping bag is a good one... I'd take up that suggestion. Also, socks in bed are good, but only if they are not tight fitting. Tight socks will shunt the blood out of your feet and make it hard for the blood to return, leading to cold feet and a miserable night.

Drinking warm drinks do not keep you warm... calories keep you warm. Warm drinks are more beneficial psychologically than anything else. Before you leave, go to the winter camping forum and scan back through the last few years worth of posts. This thread should be in that forum as well.

MNS
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#106414 - 11/12/08 01:44 PM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
azcanyon Offline
member

Registered: 07/12/04
Posts: 264
Quote:
I'm going car camping with Boy Scouts this weekend. Weather forecast is rain and snow mixed, high in the 40s.


The cotton thing: others have cautioned against it, I'm sure more will, and the advice to stay away from cotton clothing has been repeated literally thousands of times on these forums. I actually think cotton has a legitimate place in backpacking/camping, but not so much in the conditions you describe. At least try to get long underwear (next-to-skin layer) that's synthetic.

You're going to have at least one car, and who knows what else in terms of safety resources, but you should take care. Wet with highs in the 40's F is the classic scenario for risk of hypothermia. When things get colder, it's actually easier to manage in many ways because the precipitation is frozen and you don't, say, get all your heavy cotton clothing soaked.

Have a great time and enjoy your trip. I hope you don't mind, though, if I ask: Is someone besides you giving advice to the scouts about how to prepare? This is pretty basic stuff that the scouts should learn.



Oh...and one other thing. You mentioned an alcohol stove. It's going to be a tedious exercise at best to bring a tiny little cup of water to a boil in those conditions. Buy or borrow a real stove (canister, white gas, or propane).


Edited by azcanyon (11/12/08 01:55 PM)

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#106415 - 11/12/08 02:13 PM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I hate to seem mean spirited, but based on your post, you are woefully uninformed as to what is involved with winter camping. If you think we are all jumping on you, it is for good reason based on lessons learned, so do youself a favor and pay attention. We have a great Winter Forum where you can read through the archives and learn from others, including learning from their mistakes, mine included.

Too often we have read stories about inexperienced campers out in bad weather and too often they do not have a happy ending. Granted, car camping is a different story, but still, it should be treated seriously.

What also concerns me, is that if your list is anything like what the Scouts will be taking, they also need a complete rethink of they will be taking. Whoever is leading this trip needs to make sure that each one of them has the right clothes, footwear and accessories-gloves, hats, lights, etc.

The Winter Forum has many gear lists for winter camping and there is a Winter camping section here on the site. Mixed rain and snow is about the worse condition I can think of. I've done it. I much prefer cold, clear weather over warmer, but rainy any day.

Where to start?
What kind of shelters are you using? In bad weather, you need decent tents even if you are car camping. By decent, I don't mean expensive, but a tent that will withstand wind, rain and snow loading. Something like a Eureka or REI tent will do fine and they don't cost all that much. Whatever it is, it must be seam sealed, otherwise, you are looking at water in the tent.

Forget the straw idea, that makes no sense whatsoever. A decent tent needs at most a footprint, which can be made out of Tyvek or similar material.

Clothes-The only cotton I wear is jeans and a t-shirt while driving up to the trailhead. Once on foot, NO COTTON IN WINTER, not even underwear or socks. Even the cheapest fleece from Target is better than cotton in winter. All layers of cotton will get you is layers of soaking wet clothes that will never dry out and will not keep you warm.

Wool is fine, it will be warm, even if wet. Make sure whatever you take is real wool, not some cotton/wool blend. They are not the same thing. If it is raining or snowing, keep your jacket or poncho on. If either has a hood, use it.

You can get relatively inexpensive synthetic underwear-long johns and a long sleeve turtleneck shirt (my preference) at most sporting goods stores like Dick's or Chick's or Sports Authority. Maybe even at Target or Wal-Mart. There isn't a Wal-Mart anywhere close to me, so I don't know what they carry. I even have synthetic briefs. Mine are Jockey brand, but I imagine other companies make them. Again, nothing I have on is cotton from the skin out in winter.

Bring extra gloves, you can get Kinco brand winter gloves at hardware or feed stores. Cheap and durable according to skiers who use them. Wool or synthetic liners in light waterproof mitt shells also work well.

Stove-forget alcohol stoves in winter. I know people here use them, but for winter, especially for groups, you need a real stove, not some dinky thing made from a Coke can. Your best bet is a canister stove. There are cheap ones for about $25 or so. Not the lightest, but they work just about as well as any other, regardless of price.

Canister stoves do not work well in really cold weather, but at 30-40F, they are fine. Lower temps, I'd get a white gas stove of some sort. Don't let anyone talk you into an XGK, you don't need one and they are really expensive.

If you think you can melt enough snow for cooking and drinking with an alcohol stove, you are wildly overestimating what those stoves can do. In winter, you need to eat real food. You can't live on just Ramen or something like that. Winter sucks up a lot of calories just staying warm. Since you are car camping, I presume you mean the car is within a short distance of the campsite. If so, you could even bring canned food like stews and soups since weight won't be an issue. Otherwise, dried meats, pasta etc. to boost your protein and calorie intake.

Forget the charcoal heater. If you use it in your tent, you may get carbon monoxide poisoning. When I say "may", I really mean "very likely" so don't chance it.

Your bag sounds fine. Use the two pads. If you bag is really a 0F bag, that should be enough. My bag is a +23F bag combined with an overbag and it is good to about +15F.


Edited by TomD (11/12/08 10:38 PM)
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#106416 - 11/12/08 03:11 PM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
bulrush
You've been around here for a while. I'm surprised that you didn't take the Winter forum more seriously, and post there. Most hypothermia deaths occur in rainy 40s, its more dangerous than when its below freezing. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />


However I realise <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />u were probably roped into this and the scouts need an adult and sure they're supposed to be campers BUT - Your choice of personal gear indicates that you are not qualified to lead a bunch of people in the potentially disastrous circumstances, AND you are not personally prepared. You must lead if need be, you cannot become a liability. You should refuse to go unless a qualified leader goes, and get him to help with your gear.

Just my $.02 <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />

P.S. to see if you are prepared, stand in a shower in your hiking gear for ten minutes. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />
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#106417 - 11/12/08 04:16 PM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Quote:

Do you mean I should wear nylon pants to keep the water/rain/snow off me? We're supposed to get rain this weekend. I don't have any nylon pants or special long johns, and we leave in 2 days. I am bringing a rain poncho. That will help keep me dry and I don't expect to sweat too much.


Yes, this is what we mean. If it means a trip to the store for some inexpensive rain pants, then I'd do it.

You don't need to spend a ton of money on fancy stuff for this one weekend, but you do need to be prepared.

Perhaps another question is why you all are going out in bad weather? If learning to camp in bad weather is the goal, that's great, but everyone, you included, needs to be prepared for it.

The good news is that if things really get bad weather-wise, you can all just pile back into the cars and go home, but that kind of defeats the whole purpose of the trip.

The example you and the other leaders want to set is one that shows the Scouts that they can eventually go out on their own if properly equipped. and that starts with you and the other leaders having the right gear.

There are some extreme examples of how not to do this posted in the Health & Safety and Winter forums.
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#106418 - 11/12/08 04:54 PM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
JAK Offline
member

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 2569
On a positive note, there are many things you are doing right in your original post.

1. going car camping with Boy Scouts

2. sleeping bag rated to 0F.

3. extra wool blanket.

4. thin winter coat. (wind layer for over wool sweater)

5. 2 thin sleeping pads. ( 2 x 3/8" is excellent )

6. knit hat, fleece balaclava, winter gloves

7. waterproof wading boots (+ felt insoles and thick wool socks)

8. thermos and tea bags with my alcohol stove... to drink hot liquids to help stay warm.

9. cardboard soaked in wax, dry pinecones, matches and a butane lighter.

10. rain poncho.

I think you will be just fine if you just ditch the cotton and add some synthetic and wool layers.



I agree that cotton is sometimes under wool, but that is usually in a situation where you are at a camp with a wood stove over several days/weeks and do laundry regularly. For a weekend cotton has no advantages and many disadvantages over silk, polypro, polyester, polyester fleece, or wool. It is somewhat fireproof, as is wool. Find a suitable skin layer, 100wt fleece, a wool sweater, something along those lines.

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#106419 - 11/12/08 07:23 PM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
jasonklass Offline
member

Registered: 08/27/05
Posts: 551
Loc: Denver, Colorado
Hey Bulrush,
There's some good advice above. It seems to me that your initial strategy was taking "more" gear, rather than taking the "right" gear--an approach a lot of people take. But I think that if you heed some of the advice of more experienced winter backpackers here, you will find that "more" isn't always necessarily "better". I'm sure there will be more good advice to contemplate. I hope you have a great trip and we're looking forward to some pics! I want to see you in those waders! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />


Edited by jasonklass (11/12/08 07:26 PM)
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#106420 - 11/13/08 06:53 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
bulrush Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/07
Posts: 132
Loc: Michigan
Ok ok, cotton in winter is bad. I know you mean well and I was just going off my (bad) knowledge from what I was taught as a kid. I don't think they had a lot of affordable polypro in 1974.

I did buy this morning, long underwear which is merino wool and polypropylene for my torso. It is supposed to wick away moisture. I did not get the bottoms, perhaps I should. I will go to MC Sports to look for rain pants as Meijer does not have them. I also picked up wool socks which will be loose. I intend to use them at night when sleeping.

Next, I am not the leader of this trip, just a chaperone. I have no idea how the kids have been prepared for winter camping. I did go to one meeting and the scout master said something like "Dress warm, and in layers. Bring disposable heaters for night time." He did not elaborate as I recall.

I did do this last year in the same conditions (high temps in 40's rain most of the day) and was very cold as my old and cheap rain pants broke. I was also wearing all cotton and no wool.

I may consider picking up a water bottle too.

As for my alcohol stove, I did use it last year in the same conditions (high temps in 40's, rainy) and it was hard to start but not impossible. And I have alternative fuels, such as fuel gel, one is alcohol based one is corn based. The trick is to preheat the stove with a lighter or over the fire, very carefully, making sure the fuel does not ignite. I may use a primer pan for this. (I use the top of a can. A side-cutting can opener leaves a lip on a can top, perfect for use as a priming pan.)

I guess I wasn't clear about the stove. The scouts have their own duel-burner propane stoves powered by 20lb tanks, but since I am on a special diet, I bring all my own food, and my stove is for my meals only. I also like to test my equipment. If my alcohol stove doesn't work, I have several alternatives: use the scouts' propane stoves, use the fire pit, or alcohol gel, or corn-based gel. We are not that far in the wilderness, we are 15 minutes from town. We should also have access to a water spigot so melting snow is not needed.

I also have brought all soup for my meals providing calories and liquids, which can also be heated over the fire which we will have (assuming we can find dry wood).

As for tents, they are name brand tents found in the Campmore catalog. I forget the name, but they have bathtub-bottoms (good for keeping the rain out), rainflies, but are not the most expensive model. They are non-profit after all. They are very likely 3-season tents, not designed for winter. They also use these in winter camping January-March. They use them year round.

Thank you for your prompt replies. I will be checking back here often as we leave Fri night. I can give you an update after the trip.


Edited by bulrush (11/14/08 05:49 AM)

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#106421 - 11/13/08 06:56 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: jasonklass]
bulrush Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/07
Posts: 132
Loc: Michigan
Quote:
Hey Bulrush,
There's some good advice above. It seems to me that your initial strategy was taking "more" gear, rather than taking the "right" gear--an approach a lot of people take. But I think that if you heed some of the advice of more experienced winter backpackers here, you will find that "more" isn't always necessarily "better". I'm sure there will be more good advice to contemplate. I hope you have a great trip and we're looking forward to some pics! I want to see you in those waders! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />


Yes I am busy purchasing the right gear. I won't use it much but I will use it again. I was REAL cold last year (same conditions, cold and rainy), and surprisingly, I did not get even a cold. I will:

- Drop my cotton turtleneck sweatshirt and keep the wool sweater.
- Drop the cotton long john's and buy polypro/wool long johns.

Sorry, they are not waders, the are waterproof boots going to mid-shin or a little higher, not quite knee-high. But they are waterproof and WARM! I found them at Meijer for $25 years ago and they are much better than anything you could buy at the mall for $100. These boots have kept my feet toasty in -20F weather while I shoveled snow. (Must shovel snow to go to work.)


Edited by bulrush (11/13/08 07:29 AM)

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#106422 - 11/13/08 08:04 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

40 and rain/slushy/snowy? That ain't winter man.. that sounds like a colder day in june, or august <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

(however in all seriousness, everything that's been said about the right gear you need to
consider - and ditch the cotton as has been mentioned).
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#106423 - 11/13/08 08:27 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
Bulrush...

Thanks for being a willing student... you've taken the advice offered very well <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

Here is a link to information on cold weather injuries that I prepared for the Boy Scouts a year ago... item #11 is a powerpoint presentation that you might find helpful. Yes, it does address extreme cold weather as we see in AK, but much of the information is still relevant to your conditions. I'm giving essentially the same presentation again this year, except I will be updating some of the information to reflect some things I've learned about hypothermia this year (i.e. poor judgement can begin at a higher core temperature -- 97.5 F -- than usually presented... something I've witnessed first hand).

MNS
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#106424 - 11/13/08 11:25 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: midnightsun03]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2123
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Groundcloth, when it is going to rain, I either tuck edges in real good, (doesn't always work) or put the groundcloth inside. Other wise, the rain will wick or thru capillary action move under your tent. For your feet, put those chemical foot or hand warmers on your socks.


Edited by hikerduane (11/13/08 11:30 AM)

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#106425 - 11/13/08 02:00 PM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I would get the bottoms as well. I wear both and once I put them on, I rarely take them off until my trip is over. I've worn them as outerwear with a pair of nylon shorts over the bottoms. Mine are Patagonia Capilene.

I would take a water bottle for sure. Better yet, a water bottle and a Thermos or similar steel insulated bottle. Mine is sold by Liquid Solution, costs about $20, keeps hot liquids hot for hours.
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#106426 - 11/13/08 02:46 PM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
BarryP Offline
member

Registered: 03/04/04
Posts: 1574
Loc: Eastern Idaho
“…trick is to preheat the stove with a lighter or over the fire, very carefully, making sure the fuel does not ignore. I may use a primer pan for this.”

This sounds like a poor alcy stove. You shouldn’t have to do that at all. One match, and a good stove lights even if it’s not prewarmed; howbeit, the jet’s start working faster if the stove came right out of your pocket along with the alcy fuel.

It’s very easy with an open jet alcy stove. Some people get bad results because of poor stoves. If the stove doesn’t light at 0F, I consider this a bad stove.
If it’s 40F and raining (like it is in MI this weekend), I do it under the tent awning. You should have hot chocolate going before the scouts will <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />.

Most of our Klondike Derby’s are in conditions you are describing; wet, cold, muddy, rainy……so Good Luck!


-Barry

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#106427 - 11/14/08 05:48 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: BarryP]
bulrush Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/07
Posts: 132
Loc: Michigan
As for the stove, it is a Trangia style used by the East Germans, though it doesn't say Trangia on it. It is all brass. So it's not homemade.

After I bought my underwear bottoms, and a new rain suit with top and pants, my son called and said they had cancelled the camping. (I'm divorced and he lives with his mom.) I think that was a good idea. Camping it supposed to be fun, not annoying. But now I have all the right clothes for next time.

Thank you for your help, everyone. I'm wearing my wool/polypro top now. It is noticably warmer than a cotton tshirt.

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#106428 - 11/14/08 08:09 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
jaiden Offline
member

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 123
I agree with everything said already. You can get nylon wind pants for $15 or so from walmart, though real waterproof rain pants may be advisable if you know it's going to be that wet. These are your shell. Under that, the NON cotton long johns. If you need more, a pair of fleece pants in between (real fleece, again not cotton). if you can't find any, look for fleece pajama pants. they are the same thing. Same thing up top... wool/poly long johns, covered by fleece (maybe several layers if needed) followed by a shell such as a wind jacket or rain jacket (or both)

don't forget underwear and socks. Target and walmart both have non cotton ones. If you can't find real winter socks, two pairs of synthetic dress socks would be fine. I wear stretchy synthetic boxer briefs from target year round. You can't imagine how uncomfortably cold wet cotton underwear can be until you've experienced it.

Also, check the hunting section, they tend to have good cheap clothes, if you don't mind camo or blaze orange. A knit or fleece hat can be found there cheap too.

NO COTTON. Also, keep your sleeping bag dry or it will go from 0 degrees to nothing

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#106429 - 11/14/08 09:56 AM Re: Camping in the winter [Re: bulrush]
bmisf Offline
member

Registered: 09/15/03
Posts: 629
Quote:
Thank you for your help, everyone. I'm wearing my wool/polypro top now. It is noticably warmer than a cotton tshirt.


Hey, good for you for taking all this advice constructively and trying that out! I think you'll find the synthetic underwear dramatically superior for outdoor activities, and you'll be so much better off if it gets wet from sweat or precipitation.

Hope you get to take it all out for a trip soon - enjoy.

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