Cold-weather camping may seem like a drag, but it's really just another way to enjoy the outdoors during a time when you normally feel locked inside. Just like you prepare for an outdoor adventure in the warmer months, you need to plan ahead for a winter camping trip.
Weather conditions can be sporadic and dangerous, but this doesn't mean you should be scared away. Instead, prepare, pack correctly and prep for some fun in the cold.
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Hypothermia, Frostbite, and Dehydration
Hypothermia, frostbite and dehydration are the three main safety issues you can encounter on a cold camping trip. Hypothermia happens when the body's temperature begins to drop, and is most likely to occur when a person gets wet and cold.
Symptoms include shivering, low energy, shallow breathing and lack of coordination. If you see these symptoms in your group, get the person out of wet clothes and cover them with blankets or warm them with body heat. Don't apply direct heat to the person, but instead use warm, dry compresses such as warm water in a water bottle.
Frostbite is most apparent on body parts that are exposed to extremely cold temperatures or high winds. In extreme elements, try to make sure all skin is covered, and pay close attention to when your hands and feet start getting cold. To treat frostbite, use warm (not hot) water to pour on the cold areas. Don't use fire to warm the areas, and do not rub the areas, as this can damage the skin even more.
Dehydration can occur even when you don't think you're sweating a lot, like you would in warmer temperatures. Symptoms include dry mouth, dizziness, increased heart rate, muscle cramps and weakness. To avoid dehydration, make sure you're drinking plenty of water, even if you don't feel thirsty.
Bring the Right Gear
When camping in the cold, you should bring plenty of warm clothes, extra blankets and a sleeping bag liner. If you're serious about winter camping, you should also consider a four-season tent and a four-season or winter-specific sleeping bag. When it comes to clothing, dress in non-cotton layers. Aim for a moisture-wicking base layer, an insulating middle layer, and a breathable, waterproof outer layer.