If you remember, a couple of weeks ago, I had written about our friend Ian’s backyard winter camping experience. One of Ian’s goals was to test out his camping equipment locally and in a safe environment so that he’d thrive in a more uncontrolled situation in the wilderness. Another one of his goals was and is to keep his camping gear and essentials as lightweight and efficient as possible for an easier hiking experience. After all, all of his gear is usually held on his back. Since his previous camping expedition, he has made a few upgrades. Ian recently purchased a one person tent and a mummy sleeping bag to replace his hammock-style sleeping bag.
Since I’ve camped in the past and since we happen to own all of this land out back, we decided it would be a good idea to do a bit of camping ourselves. We coordinated a weekend with Ian that would work for all of us. He wanted to test his new equipment and we wanted to camp on our land. The first weekend in March it was. We kept an eye out for the weather and discovered that the temperature was supposed to be somewhere in the 30 degrees Fahrenheit range. Well, 30 degrees wasn’t exactly the case. It was just a tad bit colder than that. Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you have camped outdoors in four degrees Fahrenheit during the winter.
After doing some research online, we decided to upgrade our own camping gear so it was more fitting for the snow and cold weather. Size and weight wouldn’t be too much of an issue as we would only be winter camping in the backyard, but we still had to carry our supplies through three feet of snow. We settled on a new and smaller tent than the one we have been previously using. Since there would be a lot of digging in the snow to achieve a flat surface area, we felt our existing tent would be far too large. It’s an eight-person tent. Clearing an area that measures over 17 feet wide would be exhausting. We also have been using a sleeping bag that is best suited for warmer temperatures. I have personally tested this sleeping bag during one of my camping classes back in college and that turned out to be a disaster. That’s totally a story for another time. Let me just say, it is a good thing that I am not a cold-sensitive person. I nearly froze to death during that class. We were forced to make a major upgrade in that department. Here are a few photographs and some information on the sleeping bags we purchased. I will show photographs of the tent later on in the post.
The TETON Sports Deer Hunter Sleeping Bag is survival rated for -35 degrees Fahrenheit or higher and comfort rated for zero degrees. These sleeping bags proved to be both comfortable and durable in cold weather.
Here is what the sleeping bags look like on the inside. The bags are lined with poly-flannel and are soft to the touch. The fill is called “SuperLoft Elite fiberfill” and the bags have a double-layer construction that virtually eliminates cold spots. No two seams are aligned. When it comes to sleeping bags, it’s the seams that create the cold areas. The best part is the cinch cords. There are two of them and they’re easy enough to pull tight so the bag pretty much turns into something that’s mummy style. Mummy bags are great for keeping in the warmth.
The Deer Hunter also comes with a convenient bag for carrying and storing. Around the sleeping bag itself are sewn-in compression straps that make getting the bag back into its sack a whole lot easier. With the carrying case, transporting to and from the campsite is quick and easy.
The day of, Ian arrived around 1 pm. A short time after that, my partner and Ian made their ways to the campsite out back. There was a lot of work to do. They had to clear areas in the snow for the tents and gather enough wood for the fire to last the night and into the morning. I had gone down a short time later and, of course, I had to take photographs along the way.
Here is what the front walk looked like.
Making my way through the back yard. Luckily, the guys had made a nice path through the snow. I have a feeling it would have been a lot more difficult to walk through otherwise.
Walking through the trail in the snow.
The sun shining through the trees.
Our winter camping location.
Getting the firewood ready.
Here is our new ALPS Mountaineering Taurus 4-Person Tent. It offers two entryways and is very easy to assemble. The tent uses a free-standing pole design that consists of fiberglass poles. The base is 7’6 x 8’6, the center height is 52″ and its total weight is 10 1bs. 11 oz. Like the sleeping bags, this tent comes with a bag for easy carrying and storage. Overall, we liked this one a lot. Compared to our other tent, putting this one up was a breeze.
This is what our setup looked like inside of the tent. As you can tell, there was a lot of snow that needed to be cleared for it to be set up properly. For better insulation and to stay dry, we placed a tarp underneath the floor. We also brought out our air mattress, which we placed some moving blankets on top of for underneath the sleeping bags. This definitely helped for keeping us warmer throughout the night. We also wanted to bring our Mr heater buddy heater for extra warmth, but there simply wasn’t any room left inside. We since discussed possibly purchasing camping sleeping pads for underneath the sleeping bags to use during warmer nights. This will allow for more room in the tent and help keep all of our camping gear organized and easily accessible.
Checking to make sure there would be enough firewood.
The fire pit in the snow.
After taking these photographs, I brought one of the shovels back to the house with me. I went inside and made sure I had what I needed to be as comfortable as possible overnight. We had made seafood chowder the night before to save time. The last thing we wanted to do was get ready for our night of camping and then have to cook dinner as well. The chowder hit the spot and we took some time to relax and digest our food after eating. About an hour or so before we headed down to the campsite, I worked out with Tracy Anderson’s Method: Mat Workout DVD for an hour. I have been working out with her for years. If you are interested in her workouts, she really hits every muscle in your body and you feel like a million bucks afterward. After working out, I made sure I changed all of my clothes and was completely dry. When camping in this type of weather, the body must be kept warm and dry to minimize the risk of hypothermia. You should never wear the same clothes you wore during the day while in your sleeping bag. I made sure to wear two fleece tops, a wool turtleneck sweater, a thermal top and a hooded sweatshirt. For the bottom, I wore fleece pants and fleece-lined running pants. Before leaving the house, I grabbed my bag of extra things along with my pillow.
Once we got back down to the campsite, the fire needed tending to. Once we got the fire really going, we sat and enjoyed its warmth. We then decided to hit the hay around 11pm. As soon as we left the warm area around the fire, the cold really set in. Our hands were especially affected. We removed our boots and coats and left everything outside the tent. We got into our sleeping bags and hoped our bodies would warm up once inside. This was the test for the sleeping bag’s reputations. I put on an extra pair of wool socks and a hat. At that point, the cold was really setting in. One problem was came up against was that we couldn’t locate our balaclavas anywhere. As the night progressed, these would have proven to be quite useful. Also, remember that bag of stuff I mentioned I had brought down with me? Inside of that bag was an extra pair of socks, water, my pillow and the book I have been reading. We usually read every night before we fall asleep. If you are interested in a good read, I am reading The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. Unfortunately, reading wasn’t in the cards that night. Getting and staying warm was our only priority. I would have to save this activity for a warmer night of camping.
The next morning, we woke up (and that was a good thing!). We had actually made it. One of the highlights from the night was hearing a rooster crowing around 1 o’clock in the morning. I think he was either getting an early start to his morning or pulling an all-nighter. Other than hearing branches crack ever so often, the night was quiet. It may have been actually too quite for me. I have become quite accustomed to sleeping with a white noise machine at night. Years ago, we lived next to extremely noisy neighbors and I was going to college and working two jobs at the time. I couldn’t get any studying done, so instead of making myself crazy, I took action and purchased a white noise machine. It turned out to be one of the best items I have ever purchased. I was able to study and get a good nights sleep. The only problem now is that if I don’t have it with me, I won’t sleep. This was also the case in the tent. Between the cold and the quiet, I didn’t get any sleep. On the plus side though, the sleeping bags were very comfortable and quite toasty. I believe if I had been wearing the balaclava, my face would have been warmer. My body was warm, but my face was cold. I think I would have been able to use the sleeping bag as if it were a mummy bag and cinched it around my whole body and head, leaving my balaclava-covered face exposed. I figured this whole experience was a good experiment and that it would help us get the kinks out of any future cold weather camping trip.
I brought some of the gear back to the house and got the coffee started. When we were all back inside, we made a hearty cast iron egg and hash brown skillet breakfast. While we enjoyed our coffee and ate, we swapped war stories about our night. Now, in Maine there is this thing that says if you were not born here, you can never truly be considered a real Mainer. I asked Ian, who was indeed born here, if this camping experience had got us any closer to being Mainers. He replied, “Yes, I do believe so.” I think we can all be proud of ourselves. I’m glad everything went so well and here is to another Maine adventure completed!
We are up for doing this again, but I think we are going to wait for the snow to disappear. I suppose that will be soon enough. We usually have a snowstorm or two during the month of April. This cold won’t last for much longer though, now that spring is here. Thank you for reading and Happy Spring to everyone. Who knows what the new season’s adventures will bring, but I hope to share them with all of you! By the way, there is also going to be a full moon tonight that just happens to be falling on the first day of spring. On top of that, the moon is going to be a Supermoon. That doesn’t happen very often!