Baby, It's Cold Out There!
Here we are just starting the holiday season and the weather in Utah has finally taken its turn towards winter. This gets me excited. James and I, as different as we are in most things, both agree on this. RVing is the best in colder weather.
Now, most of you won't agree with this, that's pretty obvious, since campgrounds we visit in cold weather tend to be deserted. We love finding abandoned campsites in national or state forest lands, and staking our claim, at least for a night or two. It's our own little oasis, whole campgrounds all to ourselves.
While that's a huge part of the appeal of winter camping for us, there's more to it than that. There's a special joy in being the only ones around as the snowflakes start falling outside the RV, and to being the first ones to make fresh footsteps in the snow. Everything's so quiet and peaceful and still, at least until James' neurotic gene shows itself, "STEF! You're tracking snow all over the RV!" or, "STEF! You light a campfire with exactly 5 little sticks, not 6!" Ah, the serenity of RVing with the one you love...
Yet still, we love winter camping together. But don't think we're sitting inside the RV all day twiddling our thumbs when the weather gets cold, far from it. We'd go nuts (actually James would drive me nuts). Instead, our winter camping trips tend to revolve around outdoor activities like skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, bickering (wait, I meant biking), etc.
And since we're doing all these things while the weather's cold, there are a lot of safety considerations and smart cold weather practices that come into play. Here are a few tips we've learned along the way.
Pay Extra Attention to Your Extremities:
Don't skimp when it comes to keeping your extremities warm. Mittens are warmer than gloves, though not always convenient. Since cold and wet feet lose warmth quicker than cold and dry feet, make sure you do everything possible to keep your feet dry.
Water conducts heat away from the body. Make sure to pack waterproof footwear and socks that wick sweat for your outdoor adventures. The same principles apply for your headwear. You want it warm, sweat-wicking, and with good coverage. We travel with face masks, and I especially find them useful on windy days.
Choosing Your Layers:
A good rule to remember for outdoor physical activity is to layer your clothes as if it's 15 to 20 degrees warmer than it is, so that you'll be slightly cool when you start. If you're going to be physically active, you want to be careful about overdressing. If you have too many layers on, you might start sweating. This is bad!
Sweat leaves your clothes wet, which will pull your body heat away, leaving you shivering once the activity level declines. Shivering is one of the first signs of hypothermia, and you should always avoid getting to that point.
I can handle being physically active in the cold. It's the WIND that's the real Murderer-of-Outdoor-Fun. Try to plan your cold weather activities so that you're starting into the wind. That way, you won't get caught out miles from your campsite with a fierce headwind piercing through all your well-intentioned layers. Also, you know that burny feeling you get in your face after being out in the wind for a long time? Coconut oil is your best friend. If it's a windy day, I always slather copious amounts of the stuff all over my face, and then sunscreen over that. The oil helps protect your exposed skin from the wind and helps with the chapped burning dryness that's an inevitable annoyance and price we pay for our outdoor fun.
Right When You're Back Inside:
I love this part! After a day playing in the cold, you finally come in. You're exhilarated from the hours of fun, you're the good kind of exhausted, and you're looking forward to a little downtime. It's important to change clothes right away. You might not even realize how sweaty you are under your millions of layers, and it's important to get yourself dry as soon as you can. A hot drink also helps your body begin the process of temperature regulation, so get the tea kettle boiling.
Once James and I are back inside, we tend to last a good 30 minutes. We change, we drink hot drinks, and we bask in whatever fun outdoorsy things we did that day. And then, it never fails. We twiddle our thumbs, we start getting antsy, and we look out the RV windows. It usually goes something like this:
"Hey! Let's go light a campfire!"
"OK, but I'm doing it this time, you use way too many sticks."
"Oh really. Because it won't light with a few extra sticks?"
"Why do you always have to thwart my perfectly-tuned firestarting system?"
As I dart for the lighter and bolt out the door: "Because I'm your anti-system!" And laugh evilly.
And so the evening's beautiful blissful bickering begins...
So yeah, that's winter camping with my crazy best friend.