A Guide To Winter Camping
& How To Get The Most Out Of Your Wood Ashes In A Survival Situation
Calling All Snowbunnies!
Winter is coming.... No seariously though winter is one of the most magical times of the year to many folks, especially us here at Survive The Wild! There's just something magical about this time of year that brings out the beauty of nature in a unique way.
So if you're anything like the community we have here then you're a natural planner of the best ways to prepare for the worst situations. Which is what this post is for, we hope to help you get a handle on what you can expect on your winter trip and how to prepare for the worst.
So let's get you some information that will determine whether your trip is a winter wonderland or a nightmare before Christmas.
Know Before You Go
REI has an excellent resource list of how you should prepare before heading into a potentially dangerous trip.
- Don't go alone. Share the trip with a few friends who have expertise in different winter skills (snow shelters, route finding, snow travel, etc.).
- Study maps and research the area. How long will it take to get there and set up camp? If something goes wrong, what emergency services (i.e., medical, search & rescue) are closest?
- Talk to people who have been there and can give you pointers.
- Check the weather forecast. Are conditions favorable? TheNOAA-NWS Web site offers detailed backcountry forecasts.
- Check the local road and trail conditions.
- Recognize and avoid avalanche areas. Check the local avalanche forecast and don't go if avalanche danger is high. Keep in mind that avalanche forecasts may be general and not accurate for specific areas. If you are on or near any slope greater than 20°, your group should have formal avalanche training.
- Leave a trip plan. Let others know where you'll be, when you'll be there, when you'll return, vehicle information and names and contact number for participants in your group.
- Make sure everyone in the group has the same plans, expectations, turnaround times and goals.
- Don't forget to pack something important. Use our winter camping checklist.
- Carry some cash for unexpected fees or emergencies.
- Be prepared for the unexpected. Always have extra food and clothing just in case the weather changes, you get lost or your trip makes any unexpected detours.
What To Bring For A Winter Trip
Obviously you'll wan to bring some warm clothes to keep you safe on your camping trips, but here are a few more things to think about that will make life easier.
A Fireproof Shell For Outer Wear
Campfires are pretty great for moral and staying warm. But it's also one of the quickest ways to ruin the thick outer layer of your clothing that protects you from the cold you're trying to keep out.
Wool is your best bet if you're looking for something to keep you warm and not risk ruining your jacket. However, the thing to remember when picking clothes to take camping is that DOWN IS EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE. So don't do it.
Pee To Stay Warm
There's a lot of warmth lost when you have to undo all of your clothing just to relieve yourself, and since you're in a colder climate this will naturally increase the urge to pee. So get comfortable with the idea of a pee bottle for all situations.
Using the pee bottle will make life a whole lot easier on these trips. But one thing we need to mention, that should go without saying, is that MAKE SURE THE PEE BOTTLE IS PROPERLY MARKED! Nothing kills the mood faster than offering your little snow bunny a sip from your water bottle, only to realize you just gave her (or him) your pee bottle...
Don't Eat The Snow BOIL IT
We're sure that you're smart enough to know this is a bad idea for getting water. If you run out of water in your supplies do not start eating snow.
But snow is just water, why can't I eat the snow....? Isn't it just going to turn into water when it goes in to my body anyway?
No it's not John Doe Camper....no it's not....
If you choose to eat snow you might as well be drinking from a pee bottle, with razors on the spout. There's no way to tell what's been through your area and spread some kind of harmful bacteria or disease. And secondly if you eat the snow it will start to burn the outside of your mouth by pulling the hydration away from it.
If You MUST Bring Electronics, Choose Lithium
The whole point of camping in our eyes seems to be to leave nature behind, but to each their own. If you absolutely can't go without electronics or just need a few to help you navigate, then opt for lithium batteries.
Not only does lithium perform consistently down to much colder temperatures than alkaline or NiMh batteries, but they are lighter, last three times as long, and have a flat decay curve.
What Can You Use Wood Ashes For?
Well we're so very glad you asked!
Wood ashes will be an abundant resource on your camping journeys. And instead of walking away from each campsite leaving behind this resource, why not take a second to realize what you can do with it.
Home Made Soap
That's right, leave the dove at home because now you'll know how to make soap on the trails!
Our ancestors have been making soap from ashes for about 5000 years now, simply by running water through the ashes enough to get lye from it and then combining that with animal fat to get a solid block. And that's how you make soap! Obviously we skipped over a few steps, but you get the gist of what the process is, right?
Should you ever get stuck in the wilderness and need to either melt the ice quickly or get traction to move your car/sled, you can use wood ash on the surface of the ice to increase traction. And since the ice has salt in it it will melt the ice quickly.
Emergency First Aid
Certain types of wood ash can be used to treat wounds to stop infection.
The ash can also kill the bacteria that is on the wound to help with the healing process. Since it's most basic for is lye, this chemical helps to clean a wound and kill any infections.
Now it should be stated first that this remedy is NOT MEANT FOR HUMAN APPLICATION.
This is a caustic mixture that would damage your skin if you were to lather it on yourself. So don't do it. Instead what you should do is take this mixture and cover a piece of wood or something similar to be used a sort of Off Stick.
To make the repellant, let wood ash and water soak in a glass or plastic jar in the sun, do not use a metal container. Curiously you can add hot pepper flakes and/or oils to make the repellant a bit more potant. Once the wood ash has soaked for a good amount of time paint it on the piece of wood. Or otherwise apply to wood surfaces to repel insects. Lather it around doorways, windows or on any untreated wood surfaces inside or on the outside of the camp grounds.
So there you have it, a pretty fool proof guide to making your next winter camping trip a success! We hope that you enjoyed learning about this stuff as much as we had fun conveying it to you!
Remember that you can get your FREE RESOURCE HERE if you want to learn how to make fire in any situation! This is our gift to you for spending time with us.