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If you plan on hitting the trail this winter then you’re going to have to change your strategies a bit from summer.

Winter hiking and camping may seem like a poor time to get outside. However, between reduced traffic on the trails and increased serenity in the back country, it can be one of the best times of year to get outside.

Winter hiking means less bugs to deal with and a severely reduced footprint. Here are some tips that can make what may seem like a difficult outdoors experience into some of the best hiking and camping you may ever have.

Before you go

It is important to always plan out your hike or trail to the campsite ahead of time, but especially so in winter. This includes checking the weather. Unlike summer where you may get a nice surprise in the form of a rain shower on your way down and out, the winter storms with snow and strong winds are more dangerous to get caught in.

You should also consider getting a detailed trail map and marking way points, or doing so via satellite device. With a snow covering, the trail can easily disappear from under your feet and leave you stranded with nothing but the white for miles. Remember, it is going to take longer to cover the same distance in winter as it would in summer.

A good practice to get into, but especially crucial this time of year, is informing somebody that you are going on your trip and giving them your timeline. If you get lost, it is good to have someone who can contact emergency services when you don’t return when planned.

Photo via Mitch Barrie; Lance hiking in the winter snow

Gearing up

Start with a warm under layer (the layer closest to the skin) and avoid cotton as it does not breath and takes much longer to dry than light wool or synthetics which help pull moisture from the body and send it up and out.

For your second layer or middle layer wear a fleece or goose-down jacket. This should be your insulating layer, so adjust depending on how cold it’s going to be.

The outer layer depends again on the weather. This is where you toss on your windproof/waterproof coat. If you start sweating and your gear can’t get rid of it, you’ll end up with cold and wet cloth right against your skin, drastically reducing your body temperature so make sure it is the right weight for the weather.

Mountaineering or snow boots are necessary if you are going to be in the snow. Gaiters are a great investment to make if you plan on hitting deeper snow and crampons are a good option for trails that may have significant ice coverage.

Bring a good supply of general winter gear as well. Hats, gloves, goggles/sunglasses, etc. are all going to come into play. Also bring extra socks. I can’t stress extra socks enough. They will very likely get wet. Double up on socks while you’re hiking, but be careful to adjust your boots if they are too tight or they will cut off circulation to your feet and do more damage than help.

For your sleeping set-up, make sure your bag is temperature rated for the weather you plan on being in and bring a sleeping pad for extra insulation against the ground. Another good option is an extra tarp or drop cloth to put a little space between the ground and your tent. This will provide additional insulation as well as help prevent moisture seeping in from below.

A snow shovel is a must-bring item for winter camping as well.

Snow shoes, ski/trekking poles, and a snow sled are all items that very well may be a good idea, but you should only bring them if they are actually going to be useful. Again, plan ahead and know what you’re getting into.

Insulate your water bottles with socks or pack them upside down, this way they won’t freeze or if they do the top of the water (bottom of the bottle) will be frozen allowing you access to the remaining water. For treatment options, physical filters will most likely not work in winter conditions and chemical treatment will take much longer. Melting snow or boiling available water will probably be your best bet for drinkable water.

Photo via Thomas Depenbusch; Winter snow in Kyrgyzstan, Alpinism Ala Archa National Park

On the hike

Stay aware of your body. If any of your clothing feels too tight, loosen it. As mentioned with your boots, over tight clothing items can restrict blood flow causing poor circulation and loss of heat.

Continuously eat; hiking for extended periods of time can take a lot of energy, even more so in winter. Bring extra food for camp, but also bring and have extra food readily available on your hike. Drink extra water. Dry and cold conditions are as bad for dehydration as high sun/heat conditions.

Mountain camping in the winter

Setting up camp

Consider the typical things for your campsite as you would for summer, such as, is there water available and are there nearby campers? Also consider whether the sun will shine on your spot in the morning (providing extra heat), whether there is cover from the wind, the likelihood of branches falling from the weight of snow, and if it easy to find in the dark/inclement weather?

The tent you bring should be dependent on the conditions you face. A mountaineering or four-season tent will be comfortable year-round. Bring the smallest tent possible as this will be much easier to heat naturally via body temperature. Less space means less energy required to heat it.

Try building a snow-wall around your tent or digging into the snow a foot or two to protect from the wind. This will help support your tent through the night and help maintain a little extra heat. Also, pack the snow underneath the body of your tent. It will make sleeping on the snow more comfortable because you won’t melt it down as easy.

Photo via Rachel Kramer; Sun setting under a winter snow

For the actual cooking area, a windshield is a good item to bring. If you have deeper snow at camp, digging down two or three feet will offer some protection against the wind. For the food itself, dehydrated items that only require water save on space and weight. I’m also a big fan of canned soups. While heavier than most camp foods, they just require heat and the emptied can can be used as a cup, bowl, or small pack out trash bin for any wrappers/plastic/paper you may end up with.

Cold Weather Safety Concerns

The winter can be a marvelous time to get outdoors, but it’s not free from potential hazards. Hypothermia and frostbite enter the picture. If you’re planning your trip at a higher elevation, altitude sickness can also quickly come into play. Stop at the first sign of any of these symptoms and seriously consider heading back.

Depending on the area, avalanches can also be a concern. With the proper planning you should be aware ahead of time, just make sure to do your research and load up on any extra items such as avalanche transceivers or personal locator beacons (and learn how to use them before heading out and needing to).

Often dismissed as the months to stay inside, don’t go without the great outdoors this winter. Use these tips to get out of the house this winter and onto a trail.

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You can always use some tips for wild camping.

Wild camping is one of life’s essential experiences and a great way to get ‘off grid’ whether with friends or as a soulful solo trip.

Campsites are great and incredibly convenient. You can take full advantage of the amenities such as hot showers, flushing toilets, maintained campsites and the company of other likeminded campers.

However, there’s only so much you can get out of them. Camping is supposed to be a time to enjoy the outdoors in remote locations surrounded by nature with no interruptions from the outside world as you get back to a simpler way of living.

Unfortunately, this is pretty difficult when the peace and quiet you were searching for with other campers has barking dogs, screaming kids, loud talking at night from the family across the field and snoring from your neighbors’ tent.

Get Away, For Real

For those who want to escape from these scenarios, but still enjoy camping in the outdoors, consider wild camping as the perfect alternative. The idea behind it is simple: pack your kit, choose a destination, hike to the spot you have in mind, pitch your tent and sleep in a remote location with no one else around for a night or two. What could be more perfect than sleeping under a canopy of stars, or listening to the deafening silence all around you or waking up to the forest sounds as the animals begin their day?

Find the Perfect Pitch

Ideally you should get off the beaten track, but find a spot that is close to the route you are taking. It should be sheltered and secluded, but still be able to provide good views with a ground that is nice and flat. If you can, try to locate a spot that is close to water as this will save time going back and forth; however, try not to remain too close, particularly in wet weather, as the water levels are likely to rise during the night.

Ride the Storm or Not?

flickr/Tom Allen

When it comes to camping you need to meet the weather halfway, but what if you experience wild camping during a full blown storm? While it would certainly be an exciting experience you might find yourself getting little sleep as you worry about snapping poles, the possibility of lightning and torrential rain. In all probability you will have to go outside of your tent every hour just to check the tent is securely attached to the ground and the guy lines are still where you left them. While some people will say you haven’t truly experienced proper wild camping unless you go through a storm you have to decide whether or not it’s worth it. There’s no harm in taking a rain check if the winds are too high and a storm is likely to strike.

Pack Small

If you have a selection of tents on hand to choose from it’s a good idea to go down to one of your smaller tents when you go wild camping. You won’t notice a small tent in weight when split between two people compared to carrying a larger tent, and certainly if you’re traveling over a long distance to get to your camping spot.

Of course, it’s important to choose a tent that is a mixture of livability and lightweight. If you’re spending a night somewhere then most people will be able to put up with their living conditions; however, if you plan on spending more than one night somewhere, you will appreciate more room space in a tent, so it’s a good idea to choose a tent that is right for you.

Clean Water Sources

flickr/Nikoloz Jorjikashvili

Chances are that at some point you will need water, especially for your morning cup of tea or coffee. Unfortunately, if you get this wrong the results could be particularly messy, which is certainly something you want to avoid.

In general, running water is safer than still, and it’s best to collect the water as close to the source as possible, say a bubbling stream. If you have to collect water from lakes and pools make sure you boil the water or purify it first and in areas that have a lot of foot traffic be weary of running water as people tend to use these locations are toilet areas.

Minimize Your Impact

Wild camping is a unique experience that lets people take full advantage of the beautiful surroundings, which is why so many people do it. No one wild camping wants to see garbage left behind by other wild campers, so make sure that anything that you bring in you take out when you leave as well.

Avoid lighting fires and use your stove instead for heat. Bury any toilet waste and carefully remove toilet paper from the site by either burning it or bagging it up and taking it away.

If you plan on being in one location for a while make sure that you shift your tent so that the grass beneath has time to recover.

A Few Things to Remember

flickr/Christian Payne

Even though camping might be a simple pastime, it’s not very minimalist, which is certainly what you want when wild camping.

It’s easy to get carried away with the immense amount of mountain equipment available and forget something small that should be a crucial part of any wild camping list, say, for example, toilet paper. Here’s a short list to consider for your next wild camping adventure:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • A warm jacket
  • Head torch with charged batteries
  • Spare torch with charged batteries
  • A small stove
  • A small pan to eat out of
  • Cup
  • Foldable cutlery
  • Lighter
  • Toilet roll
  • Toothbrush
  • First aid kit
  • Spare socks and warm clothes
  • Food and drink

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Winter can be a tough time when it comes to fishing.

One of my fishing buddies asked me recently if I was done for the year. If fishing has stopped being a hobby and has become your lifestyle, it’s never over. Conditions may not always be ideal, but you find a way. Maybe it’s a couple-day weather window. Maybe it’s a surprise bait aggregation. You have to be more opportunistic in the winter.

One of my favorite times is a couple days after a rain, when I like to try for halibut by beach runoffs. Something about the freshwater mixing with the salt gets the flatties in a biting mood.

A freshwater analogy is fishing runoffs for largemouth bass. This Wired2Fish article describes how finding these opportunities can be a bright spot in your winter fishing.

runoff_lureIt can be difficult to get motivated for bass fishing this time of the year. The bass are slowly but surely becoming exceedingly conscious of the upcoming winter weather and their metabolic rates are screeching to a halt. Compound this ever-increasing inactivity with bone-chilling conditions and it’s pretty darn tempting to stay home and catch up on our honey do lists.

’Tis the season. Welcome to wintertime fishing.

According to Elite Series pro Timmy Horton, however, there’s a ray of hope—an elixir, of sorts—for our winter bass fishing blues. If your timing is just right, you can experience some of the most incredible action of the year by targeting warm runoffs.

To unleash this special pattern’s true potential, he believes it’s important to understand several key elements that will drastically shorten your learning curve:

Know what makes it special
Two very different types of runoffs
Small windows
Lure selection

Photos: Wired2Fish

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I think for many recreational anglers, the dream is to someday find a lifestyle that allows them to fish everyday. For me, that dream involves me living in a beach town somewhere in Central or South America, where I have a beachside cafe that serves the catch of the day.

I have a fishing buddy who’s now living his dream. He had an industrial accident that left him on disability. He finds joy everyday from his time on the water. The point is, there are lots of ways to get there.

Flyfishing company Orvis has been doing a regular blog highlighting a Trout Bum of the Week. The series is enlightening. Each bum found a different path to reach their status. Bum Alan Peak got there as a guide in Colorado. Read his story in this installment of the Orvis blog.

bum_peaknkidWelcome to our series called “Trout Bum of the Week,” in which we highlight some of the guys living the good life… of a sort. Most of the subjects are guides who have turned their passion into a vocation, spending their time in an outdoor “office” that may include a drift boat, gorgeous mountain scenery, and crystal clear water. Others do have day jobs but manage to spend every other available minute on the water with a fly rod in hand. Whether you aspire to one lifestyle or the other, it’s illuminating to explore the different paths these men and women have taken on their way to achieving “trout bum” status.

Alan Peak is a fly-fishing guide at South Platte Fly Shop in Woodland Park, Colorado. Alan works all around Colorado, but you’ll find him on the water mostly in the South Platte Drainage. He also maintains a cool blog, (719) Fly and hangs out with former TBotW Jon Hill.

1. When did you start fly fishing?

I started fly fishing when I was in 5th grade, when my parents bought me my first fly rod.  Soon after, I got a fly-tying kit, which I spent many evenings playing around with.

2. What’s your favorite water?

It has to be the South Platte. From top to bottom it has such diversity. On any given day, I can wake up and think to myself “What sort of fly fishing do I want to do?” and pick a part of the South  Platte and fish it. We have great dry fly fishing up in Tomahawk for browns and rainbows; big fish can be found in the Dream Stream portion, as well as Cheeseman Canyon area; Eleven Mile Canyon has a beautiful setting and big numbers of willing fish; and I can even stroll up to Denver and try my luck at carp on the fly.

Photos: Alan Peak

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This is one of those wild encounters in which you might need to check your pants afterward.

Watch this big boar charge the hunter and knock him on his butt, then come right back at him for more.

You can hear the dogs barking, and it looks like the hunter didn’t shoot during the first charge because his dog was right behind the boar. Instead, he takes the charge head-on and winds up on his butt.

What happens next is the scary part. If you are lying on the ground when a big boar charges you, things could get very bloody. Luckily, it looks like this hunter escaped without too much damage. He ends up picking up his rifle and getting a shot off.

Talk about a close encounter!

If you’re a deer hunter or lover, make it a New Year’s resolution to learn more about Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD).

For decades, when such species-specific conservation organizations as Ducks Unlimited, The Mule Deer Foundation, and other groups did their best to help the wellbeing of a species, whitetail deer hunters took the constant expansion of whitetail herds as a given. Not any more.

Whitetails as a species are by no means threatened, yet EHD can drop a local population by 75% seemingly overnight. As the photo above shows, carcasas are often found near water, and for good reason.

Patrick Durkin does a great job of covering the basics of this disastrous disease for Whitetail Journal.

ehd_news_2[1]As Scott Moran headed home after guiding elk bowhunters in Colorado in mid-September 2012, his thoughts shifted to bowhunting early-season whitetails in southeastern Wisconsin. He had good reason to be eager about his whitetail hunts. He and several neighbors east of Madison control a 1,200-acre square, much of it woodlots and wooded marsh surrounded by agricultural fields. Further, as a member of the Quality Deer Management Association for more than a decade, Moran works with his neighbors to maximize the deer herd’s potential by controlling the doe population and passing up younger bucks.

Soon after reaching home, however, Moran got bad news from a neighbor — he had found dead deer in and around a nearby pond.

Could the deer have died from a hemorrhagic disease? They knew dead deer near water in late summer and early fall often means bluetongue or epizootic hemorrhagic disease. They had also heard forecasts that 2012 could be a record-setting year for these diseases, which are so closely related that experts simply lump them as hemorrhagic diseases, or “HD” for short.