Trip planning during the cold season is critical, and if the mercury drops low enough, your safety and health can be at risk. Plan early and plan down to the fine details to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
- Detailed trip planning will help set your mind at ease and build a wise, calm confidence to help with clear thinking
- The distance you travel in a hour or day will be much less then summer months. Based upon current temperature, wind, snow depth and condition, the distance you can safely travel needs to be seriously considered. Your skills, equipment, and experience will all Affect this.
- Be aware that the sun sets much earlier during the winter months and in the thick of the woods, it will get dark very fast as the sun dips in the sky. Allow two or more hours to make camp and be prepared for the dark and cold to set in quickly.
- The Gear Guys start to monitor the weather forecast for our intended destinations 10 days in advance. We also monitor the weather for how it will be several days after we leave. This is done in case the future weather system hits early, we will have the proper gear in case conditions worsen. Always pack for worse weather conditions than forecasted.
- Research the area you are going to travel in. Check out the area on YouTube- odds are, someone has been there in winter and filmed it. Get detailed maps, even Google Earth, to explore the area and surrounding area. Speak with the local sheriff or forest ranger; they know the areas as well as where they had to rescue people. Local law is always an amazing resource.
Side Note: The area where our base camp is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the sheriff has been amazing. We must call up there three or four times a year asking about conditions / locations and he never tires from our calls. When we travel up there for testing, he is more than happy to tell us where the extreme spots are to go with our activities. Our advice to all adventures would be to form a relationship with the locals if you can, as they will help you get the most out of your trips, especially if they know you will leave the area better than you found it.
- Research where to park your rig. Make sure you are not going to come back to a vehicle that has been plowed in and it is frozen packed snow. Make sure you park where it is legal as sometimes there are seasonal parking restrictions.
- Plan out where you will acquire water. Staying hydrated is not just for the hot summer months; you will need as much, if not more, liquids during the deep freeze of winter.
- Firewood…a good hot fire after a day outside makes for an amazing end to the day. Think and research how and where you will find wood if a fire is critical to your plans. A trick the Gear Guys do is we will make a fall trip to the area we plan our deep freeze camping trip for. We will go to the spots we plan on camping and we will hide/stash fire wood in advance. During fall, we will gather downed wood and spend a day cutting and preparing a wood pile that is on our site for the evening when we arrive in winter. A couple of key notes to this system: the Gear Guys travel with a stove, so if the wood pile is buried under frozen snow or somebody found and used our wood, no safety is risked. This system works for us as it is legal to gather wood from the forest floor in the areas we travel and we do not relay on the fire for cooking or warmth, etc.
- When traveling outside of cell service be sure to take a satellite phone or emergency beacon so help can be summoned. The Gear Guys have woken up one morning with the temperatures at -5 Fahrenheit, and it made us realize that if a group is not properly prepared a situation could get dangerous fast. With that said be sure to research what is needed to summon help fast in the area you will be traveling.
- Leave a outline of your trip with dates and expected times of return with friends back home, and local authorities along with contact information.
- Get Home Bag. We have learned the hard way (we spent two hours combing the woods looking for our campsite). Pack a small backpack or fanny pack that you always take with you when you leave your camp to explore. Put your GPS and other critical gear in it. If the sun sets and the woods go dark while you are exploring nature….make sure you have a bag that has the critical gear to get you back to your camp should you become turned around in the woods.
- The Gear Guys always recommend packing the appropriate gear for the worse case situation.
Winter camping is an amazing experience if you can stay dry and comfortable. Start building your skills slowly and take classes and learn all you can. Practice your skills at home in your yard or a nearby park. Never push extreme temperatures until you are fully prepared and have the skill set.
Below you will find a very short video clip with a taste of one of our cold adventures!