Winter Campers Weekly Round-up

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Camping in the cold: Believe it or not, it has its rewards

Article from Utica OD.

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It’s cold. Very cold. The nights are long. You’re bored to tears. It’s winter in Upstate New York. So … why not go camping?  What? Camping? In all that ice and snow and air so frigid you could crack it with a hammer? Yes, says Jim Muller. And Bill Ingersoll, too.

“For me, there are two reasons,” said Muller, who has been camping in the cold for 20 years or so. “Winters can be long here, and I want to do something. I don’t want to be house-bound the whole time. … We’re not ice climbing; we’re not bagging peaks. We’re just going out and camping with friends.  “And there also is the feeling of competency and being able to take care of yourself, that feeling of self-sufficiency.” Another bonus? You can camp in areas that you can’t get to in open weather, and travel, in many cases, actually is more convenient. “It is a whole lot easier to cross a lake in winter,” Muller said.

Ingersoll, too, has been a cold-weather camping aficionado for a couple of decades.  “Just about everyone who does cold-weather camping appreciates that there are no bugs and few people,” he said. “Those are the primary attractions. It is not a popular time to go into the woods, so the entire forest is yours. Essentially, people who winter camp are people who summer camp and don’t want to give it up.  “It’s more about the experience than the sights – essentially it is dark at 5 p.m. – so it’s the peace and quiet of being in the back country.”

Muller, who lives in Holland Patent and is a project manager at Northrup Grumman at Griffiss Business and Technology Park, has developed a website, www.wintercampers.com, devoted to his avocation. Ingersoll, who lives in Barneveld, writes and publishes the Adirondack Adventures book series through his own Wild River Press. Both have solid advice on winter camping, including what kind of attitude to bring to it.  “A lot of it is mental,” Ingersoll said. “If you think you are going to be miserable, you aren’t going to enjoy it. But you can be happy and content and warm outdoors overnight in the cold. It’s mind over matter.”  That being said, a test run isn’t a bad idea. You probably don’t want to drive up into the mountains, walk out into the woods, set up camp and discover, as night falls with an icy thud, that you simply can’t do this.  “Try it in your backyard,” Ingersoll said. “Your neighbors might look at you silly, but if you can’t do it in your backyard, you’re not going to do it in a lean-to three miles from a road.”

For those who would like to know more, Muller will make a presentation on winter camping at a meeting of the Iroquois Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club on Tuesday, Feb. 3, at the First Presbyterian Church in New Hartford. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m., with Muller’s presentation following a 40-minute business meeting.

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Magnesium Fire Starter

On a trip to Tenant Creek Waterfalls we decided to use our magnesium fire starter to “initiate” the fire. Both Matt and I have carried these fire starters on many camping trips and decided that a little practice would be in good order. If you are not familiar with the device it is basically a block of magnesium with a flint rod embedded within the block. One shaves off slices of magnesium and then creates sparks igniting the magnesium.

Granted there may be differences among the various brands, but ours (probably both from Campmor) didn’t work. It was too hard to get any shavings using a knife. I did a little research and saw where some users recommended bringing a small hacksaw blade to make shavings, but that was more to save the edge on a knife than due to any complaints about making shavings. Maybe our blocks were cheap or old or something, but they didn’t work.

We got frustrated. We lit our fire with matches and then put one of the magnesium blocks in the flame to see how long before it would ignite.

Again, there may be problems with our blocks, and maybe there is a need for the increased surface area offered by shavings, but it took several minutes (5 or more) to ignite the magnesium block. However, once going it created a white, hot, intense flame warranting a welder’s helmet.

Has anyone else had experience using magnesium fire starters? Any ideas or recommendations for another attempt?

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Layering Decisions

When taking off for a hike during the winter one always has decisions to make.  Do I start off wearing extra clothes knowing that in 10 minutes I will have to stop and shed layers?  Or do I start off with fewer clothes knowing that, once hiking, I will warm up comfortably.  In either case extra clothing will end up in my pack for the majority of the hike.

Below Jim, Skip and Matt arrange layers prior to a hike up Kane Mountain.

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Ray Mears Winter Camping

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Rob West’s Wool Sweater

I have gone on winter camping trips with Rob since January 2002. The picture below depicts Ian, Mark and Rob at a rest break during the hike into Puffer Pond.  Ian is hydrating, which is good, Mark is looking pretty chipper, and we can see Rob, although he has his back turned to us, modeling a grey/light tan wool sweater.

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The wool sweater is a good choice.  It is warm, ventilates well, the color blends in with the environment, and it provides warmth with a shell over top.  Below Rob (seated 3rd from the right) is layered up, but you can see the wool sweater is still part of his outfit.

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A couple months later we did another camping trip to Peaked Mountain and, again, Rob was wearing his wool sweater.

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Fast forward seven years more years to January 2009.  We went camping at Dead Vly with Rob and, once again, his venerable wool sweater makes the trip.  In fact, I don’t think I have ever winter camped with Rob when he didn’t have his wool sweater.

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When we camped at Cascade Lake in the late fall; temperatures were moderate and although he is slightly hidden behind Mark you can clearly see Rob wearing his grey wool sweater.  That’s over 10 years of winter camping usage for that same wool sweater!

I am always dragging different clothes on camping trips trying to find out what works best for me for those conditions. I admire Rob for his consistency. BTW, Rob does that sweater come in tall sizes?

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