“The Great Beyond”
By Rebecca Lerner
January 16, 2008
Melissa Mueller used to think winter camping meant gritting her teeth and pushing through the unrelenting cold and discomfort. That was before she got the right gear, and before she started leading expeditions into the Alaskan wilderness. Now living in the Finger Lakes, Mueller sleeps in Cayuga dreamscapes worry-free in the snowy season.
“I consider a warm sleeping bag my most important piece of survival equipment,” said Mueller, a senior instructor for NOLS. “It’s what made me learn to love winter camping.”
The Ithaca Times spoke with Mueller and other local experts to find out how you, too, can stay warm and happy on your next outdoor adventure.
Here’s what you already know: You need to bring a first-aid kit and plenty of water; wear a hat; and opt for mittens over gloves to keep your fingers warm.
Here’s what might be new: A big puffy down jacket is not the best way to keep warm.
You’ll be a lot better off if you wear lots of layers instead – at least four – so your body can heat the air trapped between each one.
Your next consideration is material. Cotton is a dangerous choice in a cold climate, where moisture is the enemy. In the same way that sweating cools your body, wet cotton wicks heat away from you, leaving you cold and exposed to the elements.
“Cotton kills,” said Dave Hall, founder of Primitive Pursuits, a local outdoor education program that teaches youth and adults how to survive in the wilderness. Hall spends his days outside in frigid temperatures, and sometimes even sleeps inside snow caves without so much as a blanket.