We are excited to host an intern this late winter and spring! Erik Rasmussen is completing his bachelor of science degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism at the University of Utah and is the author of this post.
Being warm and dry while camping are two of the most essential things to remain happy and keep a positive mental attitude (PMA) in the back country. If you or your participants get wet or cold, their enthusiasm will drop and the fun factor of the trip can potentially drop. The best way to not let that happen is to prepare to be warm and dry which means looking at a weather forecast and bringing appropriate clothing. It will also help to know your area so you can foresee what kind of changes may occur while you are out there. For instance, coastal regions tend to be windier and foggier while deserts are hotter and drier.
Clothing is your first form of shelter so make sure it is appropriate for your trip. Wool is a natural material that will keep you warm even when you are wet. Down or synthetic polyester “puffy coats” do a great job of insulating your body heat unless you get them wet. Gore Tex is a great water resistant fabric that will keep you dry but may not insulate you. Look at the tag and do your research; clothing is a very important tool and some jackets may have a combination of technologies in them.
There are also a variety of shelters we sleep in: campers, tents, tarps or debris huts. Setting up whatever kind of shelter you prefer is the first thing you should do when you get to your camping area. Take the time to make sure it is set up well so that you only have to adjust it slightly if it starts to rain. It should be strong enough to withstand high winds, heavy rain and possibly snow. Having a dry warm place to go is a must, both for safety and for comfort reasons. Even if you do get wet and cold, having a safe place to go to warm or dry out can save the trip.
Fire is a friend that will help to keep you warm and dry throughout. Use lighters, matches, flint and steel or fire drills to get the fire going. Spend time gathering dry firewood of all sizes. Do not get wet or green wood because it will not keep you as warm or dry. Set up your fire in such a way that it can warm both you and your shelter. A good way to do this is to build a reflector on the opposite side of you/your shelter in order to save heat. And pay attention to your body. If you notice your extremities losing heat, spend time warming up around the fire. While you are at it, you may as well dry out your clothing around it, too.
Remember: to stay warm and dry, we need good preparation, good shelter, and a good fire.