Written By: Jalapeño Gal
One of the common goals among preppers seems to be having a bug out bag (BOB) /system in place. We see a lot of articles on what you should or shouldn’t have in your BOB. Some go into great detail about specific gear while others are pretty basic. This article is going to focus on what supplies would be good to keep in your bag to help get through the winter. The clothes you pack and the shelter you choose could mean the difference between a happy ending or a tragic one.
Your gear should be based on your individual needs and your surroundings. For example: if you live in Michigan, your needs for winter would be much different from someone who lived in Texas. It is also wise to keep in mind your planned Bug Out destination. If you live in Oklahoma, but plan to travel to Utah, the climate would change drastically, therefore your winter gear would be different.
The list’s we are going to discuss may or may not fit your area or location. It is meant to give an idea about some items that may help you in cold weather. One very important factor is being protected from the elements, so that is what we are going to focus on that first.
- Tarp/Paracord: I suggest Eagles Nest Pro Fly tarp. After further research I have found zero complaints about it. Here is a video that will give you a good idea of how it works and looks. It is worth taking a look at and explains the tarp very well. Ultimately the choice for a tarp is yours.
- Hammock: Being up off the ground is very important if it is cold outside and a hammock is *one* way to go. The ground will drain the heat from your body if you don’t have some sort of barrier. The Hammock is NOT recommended for extreme cold. Be careful when using this method.
- Sleeping pad: If you do not have a hammock you can buy a sleeping pad. There are several different styles you can choose from. Air pads: They require you to blow them up with minimal air and have much cushion. Self Inflating Foam Pads: A compressible, foam mattress that is housed in a waterproof, air tight shell. Foam Pads: Made from a durable foam called closed-cell foam. Great for sleeping on snow-covered ground or rough ground that could puncture and inflatable mattress.
- Sleeping system: By this I mean some sort of sleeping bag or wool/fleece blankets that will hold in your body’s warmth and keep the cold out. What you choose would depend on your climate. Here is an outdoor gear test review video on cold weather down sleeping bags. They are rather pricy, but seem to be worth it if you’re in extreme cold. (After clicking the link, scroll down for a full review and specs on each bag) You should also consider including an emergency heat sheet blanket. It can come in handy for extra warmth as it reflects 90% of your body heat. It also has first aid instructions printed on the blanket and can use for emergency signaling.
- Stove: If you have a much bigger tent for something like a camping trip versus a BOB, then you can always go with a scout stove or cylinder stove inside the tent.
Cold weather tents, bags, etc are often very pricy, but I cannot stress enough that there is some gear you do not want to skimp on. Cold weather gear is one of those. You should never be cheap when it comes to increasing your chances of survival. Do your homework and get your necessary supplies. Research the weather conditions of your planned destination and what the typical temperatures are.
Clothing: For this section, please keep in mind that this list needs to be adjusted for your location/destination.
- Snow Shoes/Boots: This can mean literal snow shoes or boots that can be worn in cold weather. For very cold areas, high altitudes or long trips, choose what is known as double boots. They have weather proof plastic or synthetic fabric outer shell which goes over an inner insulated boot. Choose lighter flexible soles if you’re camping or hiking and a more rigid sole if you’re climbing up steep slopes in higher altitudes. Id your not going to bein extreme cold or snow then a good three season boot should work fine. Remember that the goal is to keep the feet dry.
- Tops: In winter, your clothing can mean the difference between life or death. Cotton can be a very dangerous choice. Avoid getting wet at all costs, either from sweat or the elements. If you’re sweating from walking fast, then slow down. Moisture will chill you when you stop moving and lead to hypothermia. This is why we recommend a base layer, a middle layer and an outer layer. Your base layer should be made of thin wool or a synthetic fiber, and is meant to regulate your body temperature by moving any moisture away from your skin. Your middle layer is your insulating layer (Wool or fleece works) which helps trap heat close to your body and should be made of a wicking fiber as well. Your outer layer, also known as a shell, is used to protect your other two layers from wind, snow, water, etc… This layer should fit a little looser than the first two layers, but not restrict your movements. I always keep my layers towards the top of my bag so I can add them or shed them as I need to.
- Gloves/Socks: Covering your hands and feet with wool or synthetic fiber will help keep the warmth in. Many people who live in extreme cold will layer these areas with a thin breathable layer under thick wool gloves or socks. It is good to have multiple pairs in case one pair gets wet.
- Bottoms: Pants have the same principle as tops. You want a base layer and an outer layer. A thin base layer such as synthetic fiber or silk. (Silk seems to be a favorite among campers and hikers.) Then a rougher/thicker outer layer such as wool. You can also pack a light cover pair to protect against wind and rain etc… that easily slip over your other two layers.
- Head Gear: There are many types of beanies, hats and scarfs to keep the heat from escaping your head. I prefer the Columbia Ridge II. It has ear flaps and Omni- Heat Thermal Reflective technology which retains warmth while allowing moisture to wick away from your head. It might not be beautiful, but it gets the job done 🙂
- Eyes: Many people leave their shades indoors for the winter because the sun doesn’t seem as bright. However, those UV rays are just as bright and will affect your eyes as they do in summer. Summer sunglasses are different from winter sun glasses. In winter use a pair with a lighter lens tint and a shape that fits closer to your face. The lighter lens will allow you to wear your shades more comfortably in quicker changing light and the closer fit will protect your eyes from the rays bouncing of the snow.
- Wet fire tinder
- Water proof matches
- Magnesium stick
- Tinder Quick
- Dryer Lint
- Blast Match fire Starter
- Hot chocolate packs
- Instant coffee (decaf) Caffeine is a diuretic which increases dehydration by water loss.
- Powdered soups
- Hand, foot, body warmers
Adding hot coffee to your canteen will still be getting hydration and will do wonders for you psychologically.
Tricks and Tips for staying warm while you sleep:
- Sleeping bag liner: A sleeping bag liner is an insert into your sleeping bag that is meant to keep a layer between you and any clothing or water bottles you stuff into your sleeping bag. It also prevents your body oils/sweat/dirt from touching your sleeping bag. You could use blankets for this but they tend to get tangled up, so look for liners designed to fit your mummy bag. Cocoon Silk Mummy liners have proven to work well for us. They are great in warm and cool weather and the best thing about them is they dry very quickly.
- Leak Proof Water Bottle: Fill it with hot water and wrap one of your fleece/wool clothing layers or socks around it. Place it in your bag to warm it up before you climb in.
- Heated rocks: Place inside your tent close you your body. Be careful, very hot rocks can melt plastic! Also, do research on the rocks in your area, some can explode when heated.
- Body Heat: If your camping with someone, and feel comfortable enough, cuddle up for heat rather than freeze 🙂
- Body, Hand and Foot Warmers: Layer them between socks and gloves. Never allow them to rest on your skin.
- Pick a Spot: Pick your camp site carefully. Find a location out of the wind and off the ground where cold might settle in dips in the earth. Look for boulders or trees that will block the wind. Wind blows up the mountain during the day and down at night. Don’t setup your tent or fire pit under trees that have snow on them.
- Next Day Clothing: Put the clothes you are going to wear the next day between your sleeping bag and sleeping pad. This will ensure they are warm when you wake up and change. The added layer between you and the ground will also help keep you cozy.
- Bathroom: Go to the bathroom before climbing in your bag so you won’t have to get up in the middle of the night. However, if you do need to pee, then go!! Holding it in causes your body to use energy to heat up the water in your bladder. If you’re a man you are lucky enough to be able to pee in a bottle. 🙂 For women, there is an invention called a “Shewee” which helps urination (usually while standing). Search for ‘female urinal’ for other brands.
- Food: Eat a hot meal before bed. You will sleep better on a full belly. If you do not feel like cooking a meal before bed then, at least eat a high calorie/protein, high fat snack. Proteins will help release more energy and keep you warm, than a sugary snack.
- Overheating: Avoid overheating. If you are sweating, your body is trying to lower your body temperature. In winter, this is very dangerous, because the cold will drop your temperature to fast, causing hypothermia. If you begin to sweat, start removing layers until you are comfortable again. Remember to put layers back on when you get slightly chilled.
This guide should help you get started on packing winter gear for camping or your bug out bag. Please feel free to add advice in our comments section below. We learn from one another, and I value your opinions!!
Keeping It Spicy,
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