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Avoiding Heat Loss

Our bodies lose heat in five ways.

heat-loss1

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Fire Styles for Winter Campers

The purpose of a fire – reflected heat, quick or long cooking or merely aesthetics – dictates the appropriate style.  Four common styles are tepee, reflector, log cabin and top down.

Tepee Fire

For a no-hassle fire, use the classic tepee method: In the middle of your foundation, sandwich a handful of loose tinder between two layers of kindling. Prop small and medium sticks, no bigger than your wrist, upright around the kindling, their tops meeting like the poles of a tepee. Leave a larger opening on the windward side to ensure enough air for the fire, and light the tinder. A teepee fire is suitable for quick cooking or as an entertainment fire.

 Reflector Fire

A reflector fire has a flat surface behind it to direct the heat back out past the fire. This surface is erected behind the fire and pointed, for example, at the face of a tent, lean-to or other shelter. This back reflector can be made out of a few large slabs of bark, several logs laid against supports and stacked upon each other to form the surface.

Lay a few logs on top of one another against the sloping back. Form a platform at the base of the slope. By lighting a fire in the middle most of the heat will be reflected back to the front of the fire, making cooking easy. Be sure that you build it so the ‘grate’ or fireplace faces the wind.

A good reflector close to the fire will help reflect the heat back towards you. In addition it helps to draw the smoke upwards instead of getting in your eyes. You can use this to your advantage by also reflecting heat into your shelter.

Don’t make a fire up against a large boulder or tree stump. Build the fire away from the rock/stump and place a reflector on the opposite side. As this object reflects the heat onto your back, the reflector warms you to the front.

If there are no ‘natural reflectors’ simply build several reflectors of your own and place one behind you, then one on the other side of the fire.

Log Cabin Fire

A log cabin fire is made by stacking layers in alternating directions; be sure not to stack the wood too close to prohibit air movement. A log cabin fire is suitable for cooking food as it provides uniform heat.

Top Down Fire

The conventional approach is to light your tinder, put some fine kindling on that and some heavier kindling on top of that. Hopefully, it catches enough that you can begin to add bigger pieces until you have a respectable fire. Frequently you watch as the whole affair collapses into a smoldering mess.

The top down technique can be counter-intuitive. The secret to a successful top-down fire is making the pieces for each layer a little smaller than the one below. The fire grows progressively, gaining intensity, down through the layers to the biggest logs on the bottom. It’s a wonderful thing to watch.

  • First, put down three or four full sized pieces of firewood on the bottom as the fire platform. These will be the large, dry, split firewood.
  • Second is a layer of smaller, split pieces across the main logs.
  • Place third layer of still smaller pieces across the second layer.
  • Cover this with a layer of coarse kindling that are only about an inch across.
  • Then top off the pile with tinder mixed with the fine dry kindling.

The top-down technique takes a little longer in preparation, but the reward is less of a chance that the fire will collapse and smother itself; less smoke, less fussing with the fire after it is lit and a long burn time without having to reload.

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Building a fire in the winter

Build a winter campfire using these components:

The Platform. Step 1 is paying attention to base the fire is going to sit on.  Whether you are trying to promote Leave No Trace techniques and establishing a protection layer between the fire and the ground or shielding the fire from dampness or trying to keep it up out of the snow and direct it’s heat; a platform is all important.

The picture below depicts a good platform.  It is built in the existing fire pit at the Tirrell Pond lean-to.  It has a solid base of logs; getting it up out of the snow and a couple of reflective walls to channel the heat back to the fire and towards the lean-to.  Len the Fire Master preaches “Get It Off The Ground”, especially if it is damp and/or cold.

Firestarter. Whether you use matches, butane lighters, flint and steel, or decide to rub two sticks together, you need a flame or spark and something to catch fire.  There are commercial materials such as wetfire or esbit tablets, homemade starters such as cotton balls dipped in Vaseline (a favorite), or wax and shavings cupcakes, or natural materials such as birch bark.

Tinder. Tinder should be bone-dry, snappable twigs, about as long as your hand. You need two complete handfuls.

Kindling. Kindling should be as thick as your thumb, long as your forearm, breakable with two hands. You need at least two armfuls.

Fuel wood — anything thick and long enough that it can’t be broken by hand. It’s okay if it’s slightly damp. You need a knee-high stack.

The Process.

Step 1: Light the tinder, turning the pile gently to get air underneath it.
Step 2: Feed the kindling into the emergent fire with some pace.
Step 3: Lay on the fuel wood. Pyramid, the log cabin, whatever — the idea is to create some kind of structure so that plenty of air gets to the fire.

Fire making tips.

1. Don’t build a fire under snow-laden branches (to avoid a flame-smothering avalanche).

2. Make a foundation for your fire with medium-size logs or thick bark, or dig down to the frozen earth. Without these precautions the fire will melt into the snow and suffocate.

3.  Gather only dead wood from downed trees and branches to feed your fire. If the available fuel is snow-covered and damp, use more tinder and kindling, and start with a smaller fire. “If you keep at it,” explains Kostoss, “you can dry out any wood enough to burn.”

4. For a no-hassle fire, use the classic tepee method: In the middle of your foundation, sandwich a handful of loose tinder between two layers of kindling. Prop small and medium sticks, no bigger than your wrist, upright around the kindling, their tops meeting like the poles of a tepee. Leave a larger opening on the windward side to ensure enough air for the fire, and light the tinder.

Maintenance and feeding

Pre-heat and dry larger pieces of wood by laying them discretely alongside the fire before placing them in the fire to burn.  If you keep at it you can dry out any wood enough to burn.

Finally, fires by committee are notoriously problematic.  Everyone has a different thermostat and style.  Our process is to appoint someone as “The FireMaster” and request the FireMaster for more or less heat.

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Somewhere cold and caked in snow

Shut your eyes and think of somewhere
Somewhere cold and caked in snow
By the fire, we break the quiet
Learn to wear each other well

Photo  11

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DIY Insulated Water Bottle Cozy

If you want to keep your water bottle from freezing you can buy a commercial bottle insulator or you can  use an old wool sock/mitten and slip that over your water bottle. Or you can make your own insulated water bottle cozy.

What you’ll need three items to build your cozy: Reflectix insulation (available at any hardware store), duct tape and velcro strips (6 inches).

You will need three tools: a measuring tape, heavy-duty scissors and a marker

Steps

  1. Trace the water bottle bottom on a piece of Reflectix and cut out the resulting disc.
  2. Measure the water bottle height and outside circumference, then cut a strip of insulation matching these dimensions.
  3. Place the water bottle on the disc and wrap the insulation strip around it.
  4. Tape all seams with duct tape or aluminum foil tape. Make sure it fits the water bottle snugly.
  5. You can add more insulation by placing a second, smaller disc of Reflectix inside the cozy.

Follow the same steps to make a pot cozy.   You can tailor the cozy by wrapping the insulation’s exterior in tape to protect it from abrasion.

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Compelling Reasons To Go Winter Camping

As a supplement to our “You Might Be a Winter Camper If….” and Top 10 Reasons to Go Winter Camping series we have adapted  the New Nomads  list of 101 truly compelling reasons to do a long distance hike to fit the winter camping theme.  Here are more compelling reasons to go winter camping.

  1.  Create more empathy with the homeless
  2. Learn to accept help from others
  3. Learn how to balance a pack on skis/snowshoes while performing an icy water crossing
  4. Develop an admirable tolerance for cold toes
  5. Make yourself qualified to write a book / blog
  6. Join interesting group of people who are just as antisocial as you are
  7. It will make for an interesting blog topic
  8. Find yourself; find God; or find cool things left behind by those summer camping wimps
  9. Make peace with the voices in your head
  10. Learn how to protect your bag of trail mix or learn to share
  11. Be judged not by the amount of money you make, but by the warmth of your toes
  12. People just have to take your word for it when you tell them how much fun you had
  13. Become obsessed by idle thoughts of hot chocolate
  14. No reason \ nothing better to do
  15. Break your addiction to Facebook
  16. Release yourself from the claws of culture
  17. Ample meditation time during the 12 hours of darkness
  18. It provides an excuse to wear a red union suit with a back panel
  19. Breathe clean air
  20. Hot salty soup never tasted so good
  21. Become more in tune with a natural existence
  22. Restore your feeling of love for life
  23. Great opportunity to practice otherwise useless skills learned at scout camp
  24. No chance of drunk texting anyone
  25. Confront and overcome fears of the dark, animals, death, storms, and loneliness
  26. Fun
  27. Acquire an unflattering nickname based on a stranger’s perception of your primary qualities
  28. Develop strong leg muscles from snowshoeing
  29. Get that “look” in your eyes
  30. Give your mother a real reason to worry about you
  31. You can completely change your personality and blame it on “What happened out there.”
  32. Learn to appreciate the distinctions among brands of instant oatmeal
  33. Eat absolutely whatever you want with no ill effect
  34. Acquire winter camping stories
  35. Justify purchase of expensive winter clothing
  36. Take your mind off anything unpleasant going on in your life
  37. Learn perseverance
  38. Learn to read the night sky
  39. Gain survival confidence
  40. Redefine your standards for cleanliness, hunger, and entertainment

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