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.