Cold Weather Camping In Texas

Camping or hiking in the fall & winter months in Texas is one of my favorite times to go.  The absence of mosquitoes, the cool crisp air and sitting around an open fire without burning up gets me really energized.  Camping during this time does require some different type of preparation.  We can have 15-65 degree weather during this season and some years it takes a little bit of luck to get good weather for camping.  Remember you’ll come up against more severe weather (i.e. cold sleeting rain) and shorter daylight hours. Hiking Looking at FeetThere are some obvious and not so obvious challenges that I have had to content with.  One of my biggest problems during this time is keeping my feet warm. Here are some tips I have used and found when trying to combat this problem:

  1. Start with warm gear, sounds simple but how many times have you left your gear get cold during the night.  Again make sure you put your liners and insoles in your sleeping back at night.
  2. Don’t wear your hiking boots while driving to your location – you are mostly likely keeping your vehicle at a comfortable temperature.  Those extra thick socks and liners you would be wearing in your boots will cause your feet to sweat.  Starting off with wet feet is never a good idea while hiking through the cold.
  3. Make sure your core is nice and toasty.  Your body will reduce the blood flow to the extremities to keep those vital organs of your warm.
  4. Dress Your Feet – Bigger socks trap more warm air next to your body and provide better insulation. Much like the layering system you use for your body, layer up on your feet, too!
  5. Upgrade your Insole – add a thicker or additional insole to your boots
  6. Use a vapor barrier liner to prevent sweat from getting into your outer socks and boots and keep warm air next to your skin
  7. Dry your boots while you sleep, moisture from your feet build up, and wet boots don’t insulate well
  8. Do a quick activity to create body heat and increase your blood flow to those feet.

Here some other good tips that never hurt when planning a trip during colder weather conditions

  • Remember C O L D: C Clean – dirty clothes lose their loft and get you cold. O Overheat – never get sweaty, strip off layers to stay warm but no too hot. L Layers – Dress in synthetic layers for easy temperature control. D Dry – wet clothes (and sleeping bags) also lose their insulation.
  • Remember the 3 W’s of layering – Wicking inside layer, Warmth middle layer(s) and Wind/Water outer layer. Wicking should be a polypropylene material as long underwear and also sock liner. Warmth layer(s) should be fleece or wool. The Wind/Water layer should be Gore-Tex or at least 60/40 nylon.
  • COTTON KILLS! Do not bring cotton. Staying dry is the key to staying warm. Air is an excellent insulator and by wearing several layers of clothes you will keep warm.
  • Dress right while sleeping. Change into clean, dry clothes before bed. Your body makes moisture and your clothes hold it in – by changing into dry clothes you will stay warmer and it will help keep the inside of your sleeping bag dry. Wearing wool socks and long underwear (tops and bottoms) in the sleeping bag is OK.
  • Don’t sleep directly on the ground. Get a closed cell foam pad to provide insulation between your sleeping bag and the ground. A foam pad cushions and insulates. The air pockets are excellent in providing good insulation properties. Use more than one insulating layer below you – it’s easy to slide off the first one.
  • Keep out of the wind if you can. A rain fly for a tent can be pitched to serve as a wind break.
  • Shelter the cooking area from wind (walls of tarps, etc.)
  • Stay hydrated. It’s easy to get dehydrated in the winter. Eat and drink plenty of carbs.
  • Always bring a bit more than what you think you’ll need – water, food, clothes.
  • Fill coffee/cook pots with water before bed. It’s hard to pour frozen water, but easy to thaw it if it’s already in the pot.
  • Drain your bladder before you go to bed. Having to go in the middle of the night when it is 5 degrees out chills your entire body. Drink all day, but stop one hour before bed.
  • Make sure that you have a good knowledge of the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. You should be able to recognize it in others and in yourself.

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