Camping isn’t just about warm summer nights at the campsites. Terry Abraham talks to us about he keeps warm in the cold seasons, and the beauty of nature in winter.
Winter is my favourite time of year for exploring and camping on the fells of the Lake District. The low-lying sun and snow adds dramatic colour, contrast and light on to the Lakeland mountains affording them a sense of grandeur akin to the Alps or even Himalaya. That said, though safety, navigation and equipment is essential when heading out into such conditions, how does one keep warm whilst in their tent taking in the fine views?
Bar the need for a strong, stable tent to possibly handle the load of snowfall, people often make the mistake of taking too few layers of clothing or a sleeping bag which is overrated for the conditions. I often say that it's easy to get cold but hard to get warm. A good sleeping mattress is essential to prevent your body heat radiating out and into the frozen ground. You are in effect a hot water bottle and so one needs to mitigate heat loss as much as possible. A good sleeping mattress will help markedly and consequently mean you may not require as warm a sleeping bag as you think. The latter is only insulation and not a device that will "get you warm" but instead keep you warm.
I often relax at camp looking like the Michelin man! I'll be wrapped up snugger than a bug in a rug and will get into bed dressed like that too after which over 20-30 minutes I'll take off layers and then be down to just my base layers and a pair of nice clean socks in my sleeping bag. If you feel the cold when sleeping in general it's good to use a capable hydration bladder or bottle to hold hot water and wrap it with a spare piece of clothing. This will act as a hot water bottle and like all good things when wild camping affords you some warm water for a drink during the night or at dawn for breakfast. Needless to say this can prove handy as depending on how cold the conditions are, any water you may have sourced and brought to camp might be frozen!
If for some reason you've become cold retiring to bed for the night, it's a good idea to begin generating heat within your body. You could go for a fast walk up a slope, do some star jumps for a few minutes, eat some food or sup some hot drinks. These all help to get your body temperature back to the levels it should be at.
Mentioning hot drinks, it's also important to note that if you use gas for fuel with your stove, they're not the best in subzero temperatures. You can buy canisters with a specific mix which work reasonably well in winter but often it's wise to try and keep them warm before use. For example, I may slip a canister into one of my jacket pockets or under my armpit or even leave it in my sleeping bag.
Camping out in winter can be challenging and fun. It's a great adventure and you'll get to see sights most don't see at dawn or dusk. The pink hues of the setting sun glistening on snow or clouds breaking to reveal peaks soaring into a blue sky. Inevitably, it's all about the details and one should always be prepared and of course keeping warm is part of that.