Heading into the wilderness is a whole different animal in the winter. It’s not just about picturesque scenery, snow activities and majestic wildlife. Winter adventures carry a number of risks as well. Preparation is key to making sure you not only survive but also leave with all your toes intact.
If you’re heading to the back country this winter, be sure to have these 10 items packed.
Sounds like a no brainer, but key to staying alive — and making sure your digits are intact — is to stay warm. In fact, items numbered 1 to 3 on this list all help minimize heat loss. The key with clothing is layers. That means a base layer (think: long underwear, Under Armour), mid insulating layer (jacket, pants), shell (rain jacket) and accessories (gloves, cap, boots).
Winter camping in Tibet
Unless you have reservations at the Ahwahnee, you’re likely going to be bringing your own shelter. When shopping for a tent, find one that is four-season rated, which usually have stronger poles to hold up in snow. To make sure the weight of the snow doesn’t collapse your shelter, find one with a roof line that lets snow fall off. You might also need a larger tent than expected to store the extra gear you’re bringing along.
Bring along materials to help start a fire, including matches or a lighter. And if your Boy Scout skills are a bit rusty, look into a Jetboil stove, which makes cooking outdoors a breeze, as simple as pushing a button.
Don’t pack enough; pack extra. You never know what’s going to come up. Include high-protein snacks for hiking, such as trail mix and energy bars.
In addition to filled-up Nalgene bottles, also pack something to treat water, such as a filter/purifier or iodine tablets. If nothing else, boiling water requires no extra gear.
Winter nights are long. In addition to flashlights or headlights, don’t forget fresh batteries. Keep them out of the cold if possible, since low temperatures can quickly drain power. I’ve written about Joby’s line of GorillaTorches, which were designed for the outdoors. Some include red lights to help you see at night and strobe to signal for emergency. The Switchback even transforms from lantern to headlamp.
Knives are useful in a number of situations: first aid, preparing food, repairing gear, to name a few. Fellow Discovery adventurer Derek Markham says the right knife can make or break you, so check out his tips on finding the right survival knife.
Avoid getting lost in the middle of nowhere without reception. An old-fashioned map is handy, but keep it waterproof. You can also choose to bring a GPS device. In the past, I’ve highlighted the mophie outdoor, which is part battery pack for your iPhone but also includes an app with hi-res maps you can download before reception slips away.
Given the extra gear you’ll be lugging around, use a lightweight, high-volume pack. Find the right balance between packing lightly and being prepared (easier said than done), and you’re ready.
Lastly, never forget that you’ll be far from civilization, so expect the unexpected. Your first-aid kit should include bandages, gauzes, adhesive, disinfectant, ointments, and pain killers.
There’s no great mnemonic for it, but consider this list your essentials checklist and add to it to fit your needs and activities.
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