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Snow What? Let’s Go Camping!

Just because summer is long over doesn’t mean camping season has to be. With the right gear and a little preparation, your winter camping excursions can be as much fun, if not more, than those summer nights under the stars.

Winter trips do have a few more challenges than summer camping and do require extra planning steps, but the payoff is amazing. Warm night skies have nothing on the quiet beauty that you can see now, where a whole different set of constellations are scattered like diamonds above us and the earth is soft and quiet under a blanket of snow.

 

 

 

 

One of the first things you’ll want to do while planning a winter escape is to make sure the area you want to camp at is open and accessible. I love the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but that access point closes on October 15 every year due to its normal 6 feet or more of snowfall. I also suggest that you go with someone who has experience winter camping, and share your travel plans with responsible friends who will call out the Search and Rescue team if you’re not back at a pre-designated time. If you stop for coffee and pie, just make to check in and tell them you’re OK, and so is the service.

Clothing wise, make sure to dress up in many layers, such as a base layer (also known as long underwear, preferably wool or synthetic — not cotton, or you’ll find yourself wet and miserable), followed by a mid-layer of fleece or down, and an outer layer of something that is waterproof, windproof and breathable. Don’t forget to pair with good gloves and a hat. Pro tip: Always pack an extra set of gloves because the one time you don’t, you’ll rip or lose one, or regrettably both.

 

 

 

 

When it comes to footwear, thick socks and reliable boots are a huge key to success — cold, wet feet make for dismal camping trips. GORE-TEX™ will be your best friend, and there are a variety of styles and brands available.

Moreover, you’re also going to need some specific gear. As a starting reference point, I have pulled together 10 essentials to help winterize you for cold-weather camping. These categories are: navigation, sun protection, insulation, illumination, first aid, fire, repair kit and tools, nutrition, hydration and emergency shelter.  

 

 

Atlas, black diamond, camping, kelty, marmot, MSR, osprey, outdoor, snow sports, snowshoeing, winter camping, winter sports, Zappos Outdoors

 

 

First things first — you’re going to need a good four-season tent. This tent, made by Marmot, has a removable vestibule and snow flaps, as well as adjustable guylines that can be tightened from the inside. A good sleeping bag is also a must, and this one by Kelty has 800 fill DriDown to keep you warm and dry. 

 

 

Atlas, black diamond, camping, kelty, marmot, MSR, osprey, outdoor, snow sports, snowshoeing, winter camping, winter sports, Zappos Outdoors

 

 

If you’re going where there’s snow, why not plan on enjoying it with some snowshoeing? Remember that sizing is based on your weight, including the weight of the gear you’re carrying, so plan accordingly.  You’ll also want a larger and more adaptable pack for transporting bulkier gear, and this Osprey pack not only has the hip-pack conversion, it has lashing points for ice picks or snowshoes. 

 

 

Atlas, black diamond, camping, kelty, marmot, MSR, osprey, outdoor, snow sports, snowshoeing, winter camping, winter sports, Zappos Outdoors

 

 

When you’ve made camp, a good chair and lighting can make it seem a little more like home as you hang out by a roaring campfire. Packability and durability pushes this gear to the head of the class. Black Diamond lights survive everything my Cub Scouts put them through; they won’t let you down, and a headlamp leaves both hands free when the sun goes down fast.  

 

 

Atlas, black diamond, camping, kelty, marmot, MSR, osprey, outdoor, snow sports, snowshoeing, winter camping, winter sports, Zappos Outdoors

 

 

Not feeling up to making a roaring fire, but still need coffee and hot food to survive? The MSR Superfly with Autostart is an easy-to-use and compact gas canister camp stove that will have your water boiling in three minutes. And the Quick 2 pot set can be used for everything from scrambled eggs to spaghetti while still being extremely packable. 

 

So this year, instead of spending New Year’s Eve in another bar or uninspiring house party, how about counting down to midnight with the stars in the sky, not those who appear on television? 

 

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New Brand Spotlight: CAPiTA

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CAPiTA Snowboarding is based on the fishing docks of Seattle, Washington and is recognized throughout the industry for unique graphics, progressive product, and world-class athletes. Founded in 2000, this is the 12th collection using the finest materials, meticulous construction and award winning design.

CAPiTA has not only teamed up with the most respected factory in snowboarding but has refined their technical designs while implementing innovative new shaping theories and materials. This has stepped up the freestyle specific snowboard construction for everyone out there.

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Survival of the Fittest: Preventing and Treating Snow Blindness

It's winter again in the Northern Hemisphere, and if your adventure travel is taking you to high altitudes, whether you're rock climbing, skiing, mountain climbing, or just headed up to snow, you need to be aware of the dangers of snow blindness.

Snow blindness, or photokeratitis, is caused by UVB rays burning your cornea. Prolonged exposure to sunlight, heightened by the glare off the snow, can lead to this disorder. The problem for many at high altitudes is that the symptoms of snow blindness may not show up until 6 to 12 hours after exposure. Those symptoms include pain, redness, tearing, swelling of the eyelids, a feeling of grit in the eyes, headache, the appearance of halos around light sources, hazy vision and temporary loss of vision.

Prevention is simple: A good pair of sunglasses or goggles with both UVA and UVB protection and side shields, as prolonged side exposure to the sun can be as dangerous as direct exposure. The difficulty is that removing those goggles, even for a relatively short period of time, to do something as simple as taking photographs, can lead to snow blindness. The primary treatments is to keep your eyes covered with patches for at least 18 to 24 hours. You should also use antibiotic eyedrops, and if you're planning on a multi-day climbing trip, be sure to bring along these prescription drops and an ophthalmic ointment in your backpack, along with patches and a cleanser. Put drops in your eyes and the ointment on the lids hourly.

Prolonged exposure to snow and sun at high altitudes can lead to solar retinopathy, a burn that damages the eye's retina. Solar retinopathy usually results from prolonged staring at the sun or looking directly at a solar eclipse, but it can also result from prolonged exposure to sun and snowglare while hiking or climbing. In mild cases of solar retinopathy, the eye can return to normal, but in a severe case the damage is permanent.

So whether you're hiking, climbing, or even piloting a small plane, keep those goggles on, and be prepared to treat any damage.

Snow Sport Stay-Dry Tips

The right gear can keep you warm and dry on the slopes or during any wintertime outdoor activity. Staying dry can make the difference between a day you will remember fondly and one that will just leave you chilled and miserable. Warm layers, good boots, snow pants and a warm coat are all critical. The right gear and smart planning can help you stay dry during any number of snow sport activities.

Undergarments
The right undergarments are key to staying warm and dry on the slopes. Choose modern wicking undergarments, rather than classic cotton. Wicking garments pull sweat and moisture away from your body to keep you warmer. If you prefer natural fibers, wool offers the same qualities against the skin. A thin, long sleeved undershirt and leggings or long underwear will provide you with a good base layer to stay dry in the snow.

Layers
The layers you wear under your shell or snowboarding jacket to stay dry in the snow should be breathable and warm. Fleece offers both insulating warmth and water resistance, making it ideal for snow sports of all sorts. Wool is a classic option to stay dry in the snow, but it remains a good one. Avoid synthetic or goose down as both will loose their warmth if they become wet. Choose lighter or heavier fleece depending upon the weather and your own preferences for the stay-dry qualities you need.

Outer Layer
Choose Gore-tex or another waterproof and breathable fabric for your outer layers. Wear both waterproof pants and a jacket over your under layers to stay dry and warm in the snow. Look for waterproof and breathable garments with taped or sealed seams. Snow shields can keep moisture out of your jacket front and sleeves and a good waterproof hood with a drawstring will provide an additional stay-dry layer over your hat.