Ok, so I just returned yesterday from a brief overnight with my 18 y/o nephew. We just did an overnight because thats about all the time I can afford these days. He has never winter camped, and this was his first experience with staying out in sub-freezing weather. I have taken him on PLENTY of overnights, but never on a cold one...I am gonna miss that kid when the Army takes him...
Anyway, so the area we used was at my local gun club. As a member, I get 24/7 access to the club. They have about 70 acres of wildlife area, that is multi use, for hunting, and, if people want, they can camp out too. I had checked in with the guy who runs it, to check to make sure I could make a fire, and he said fine. So, with his blessing, we headed off on Saturday afternoon. Here was our gear list:
Karrimor 65L pack
EMS Pampero 4 season tent.
GoLite 20* down bag
military sleeping mat (CCF kind)
3 pairs of Smartwool socks (1 worn)
heavy wool socks for sleeping
EMS lightweight thermal underwear
EMS medium weight thermal underwear (for sleeping)
MY favorite pair of Hi Tec MAgnum boots that are like 20 years old
Condor fleece jacket
North Face GoreTex jacket
military issue GoreTex pants
rag wool half gloves, with glove liners
knit wool cap
ESEE 4 knife
Swedish alcohol stove kit
Karrimor 45L pack
thermal underwear (2 pair)
BDU bottoms (lightweight kind
Columbia jacket with removeable liner
2 pair gloves
Inflateable sleeping pad
TNF 0* bag
So, the weather was perfect-it was 30 during the day, with wind gusts that were 50-60 mph, and never quite the whole weekend. I had a thermometer on my pack, and it stayed about 25 that afternoon, until dark, when it dropped down to 10. With gusts averaging 40-50, the wind chill was below zero. We had discussed perhaps just setting up simple tarp shelters, but as this was his first time, I opted for the tent at the last minute. The hike from the parking lot to a spot we found that looked good was only about 1/2 mile. I honestly didnt want to push too far, as he has never slept in the cold before, and if there were any issues, we could easily bug out. So, we hiked around, and found a nice place next to the beaver pond. We tramped an area out to put the tent up. We assembled the tent, and, when putting stuff inside, we found we were making nice pockets with our knees. So, we moved the tent, and dug down to the frozen ground. THEN we were fine. We got set up, then discussed water options. We had the pond right there, and snow to melt. On other thing; we hiked in our firewood, making several trips. I opted for this due to I didnt want to denude the area we were camping, and wasnt sure how much ground stuff was available. It worked out well in the end.
So...we got the tent up, and did some exploring. We went around & gathered some cattail for tinder, and some small sticks for kindling. Most evrything is still buried, but we did OK scrounging stuff. Once we got everything together, we dug into the snow, to build a fire. We put some downed pine boughs as insulation against the frozen ground, and built the fire on that. As my nephew has never tried building a fire in either extreme cold, or with the wind howling as it was, I asked if he wanted to, or if he wanted me to. He opted to do it, so I had him prepare everything beforehand, so it was available for him to grab. We laid a couple pieces of the split wood down, and he used his flint & knife (I gave him a USAF knife for this trip, and told him it was his to keep), and a pj ball. He had a couple of issues trying to get the spark to go where he wanted. Once I showed him how to hold it nice & close, and move the rod, not the knife, he got it on the 2nd try. Then, it was just a matter of feeding the fire. From there, we started to get ready for dinner.
I went to the edge of the pond to break through the ice, to get to the water. Well, the water line was well before where I thought it was, and my right foot went through, to the knee. So, the fire was going to serve 2 purposes; keep my foot from getting frostbite AND to boil water. The upside was that I now had a nice hole to get water from
So, I filled the large pot from the swedish set, and brought it back. I have never used the set in this capacity before, so this was new to me. I have to say, that hanging hook is SO convenient! I keep this in my jeep all the time, and have only used the alcohol stove part of it. This kit is awesome, and I am glad I got the opportunity to try out this other part. So, I hung it over the fire, and let the water boil. I took my boot off, wrung the sock out, and warmed up my foot & tried drying out the boot. I got it dry by the end of the night, before we crashed. The water boiled in about 15 minutes or so. We had camping meals, so it was just a matter of adding the water. I showed him how to use his hat as a cozy. Dinner went fine, and we boiled more water for consumption later, as well as for cocoa.
The fire burned for about 4 hours, and kept us VERY comfortable while outside. Even with the bitter wind blowing. The snow served as a decent reflector for the heat too. Once we went through all of our wood, we called it a night, about 930 or so. We then got into the tent.
I had a candle lantern, which aided in keeping the internal temps at about freezing. We read for a little bit, I kept checking to make sure he wasnt cold or anything, and we finally settled down about 11. Then, he had to get up to piss. Now, I have used pee bottles before, and didnt even think of bringing one along. So, we had to endure the bitter winds. He went out to go, and said the fire was going again. Now, we had BURIED the fire before going to bed. Apparently, the wind found an ember under there, and started it up again. He went and buried it again, and stomped the whole fire down. I then had to go at about 1, and there was STILL a few embers burning! I was quite surprised! So, I did the same thing AGAIN. When we got up about 7, it was out for sure.
About 630 that morning, I unzipped the tent & started the alcohol stove up for coffee. The water never got to boiling, it was tepid enough to warm us though. The inside of the tent was frosted-between our breathing, and the frigid temps, everything had a nice coating of frost. He slept soundly-me, on the other hand, dont sleep well on the ground. I was sore. I blame that on age though
So, we got coffee in us, got up, and started packing. We cleaned up our site, then walked out. All in all, it was a great experience. He gets bragging rights among his friends, and I get a sore back!!!
Some things I learned:
The swedish stove kit is THE most versatile kit I have owned. I used it in both capacities, and will continue to do so, when weight doesnt matter. I keep this in my jeep all the time, and usually use the alcohol stove when I am out jeeping.
The combination of ragg wool mitts, with the cutoff fingers that fold over into mittens, and syntetic glove liners, worked great all night. They were windproof, and worked well as a pot grabber.
No matter how much you THINK a fire is out, if there are ANY embers, the wind will find it!!! Note; we purposely built the fire close to water, and not near anything that would catch fire. So, even if we left it unattended (which we didnt), nothing would have caught fire. I was actually quite surprised it blew back into flame not once, but twice, after we "thought" we had buried it.
Sleeping on the ground sucks. I am a hammocker, and this trip reminds me of why I am!!
Time spent with my nephew was awesome. We had a lot of good talk time. I am gonna miss that when he goes. He's a smart kid, and loves outdoors stuff. The world is a better place with him in it.
And now, links to some pics I took. They are all of my nephew, and my cell phone died due to the cold, so I didnt get any the next morning, sorry
In no order:
My nephew enjoying dinner:https://picasaweb.google.com/oldsoldier29/DropBox?authkey=Gv1sRgCMLc1o3cp_GGIA#5576153192869120578
My nephew proud of his fire:https://picasaweb.google.com/oldsoldier29/DropBox?authkey=Gv1sRgCMLc1o3cp_GGIA#5576153254068387378
the spark caught:https://picasaweb.google.com/oldsoldier29/DropBox?authkey=Gv1sRgCMLc1o3cp_GGIA#5576153383046498002
Before I showed him how to do it right:https://picasaweb.google.com/oldsoldier29/DropBox?authkey=Gv1sRgCMLc1o3cp_GGIA#5576153429622057106
Where we dug into the snow & laid pine boughs down:https://picasaweb.google.com/oldsoldier29/DropBox?authkey=Gv1sRgCMLc1o3cp_GGIA#5576153556407882610
My nephew stomping out a sleeping area:https://picasaweb.google.com/oldsoldier29/DropBox?authkey=Gv1sRgCMLc1o3cp_GGIA#5576153736142085890
My nephew assembling our tent:https://picasaweb.google.com/oldsoldier29/DropBox?authkey=Gv1sRgCMLc1o3cp_GGIA#5576153820706001586
the view from our tent:https://picasaweb.google.com/oldsoldier29/DropBox?authkey=Gv1sRgCMLc1o3cp_GGIA#5576154030429693074
Our home for the night, dug in:https://picasaweb.google.com/oldsoldier29/DropBox?authkey=Gv1sRgCMLc1o3cp_GGIA#5576153689912426706