Spring is just around the corner and, personally, I cannot freaking wait. This weather pattern of warm and sunny followed by snow is a buzz kill. Every time I think it is just about camping time, snow hits the valley and blankets the mountains. But I'll be camping any day now, and being the good Boy Scout that I am, I want to be prepared for my outdoor excisions--both equipment wise and mentally.
To prep for my springtime camping trip--during which I am going bear hunting--I called a good friend and Eagle Scout John "Mac" Christian. He's an experienced backpacker and is the type of guy who will pull a French press out of his 27-pound four-day pack. I asked him the best way to prepare for spring camping.
"One second, it is bright and sunny, then next, it is raining or snowing. Being prepared for those situations is critical. ... Water can be your best friend or worst nightmare," he said. "A person just needs to be able to stay as dry as possible. That is rule one."
Christian suggested that I invest in a rain poncho or even a big trash sack. Check. My poncho is packed and ready. So is a trash bag, just in case.
While keeping dry is important, it is not everything. Comfort in camp is critical to a successful trip, so I called Kirk Hall, a camping specialist at REI Boise, for some gear recommendations. After a little waxing about the unpredictability of spring weather, Hall recommended a few things.
"First is a good pad under your bag. ... Without insulation between you and the ground--even in a great bag--you can have a cold night." The dirt, or even snow, stays cold all night. To avoid the heat-sucking ground, using an insulation layer is very helpful.
Hall also recommended a liner, which can add 10-15 degrees of comfort for a lightweight sleeping bag.
"You're going to spend six to eight hours in a your bag--you might as well be comfortable," Hall said. (Liner prices run $40-$65.)
His last recommendation was simple: "No cotton. Wear wool or some other synthetic."
Cotton does not dry well, it attracts moisture and it's heavy, all of which is a bad combination for Christian's first rule of spring camping.
Finally, I called Connie Rule, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Outward Bound School, for some mental preparation for springtime camping. Rule had brilliant insights concerning spring camping and the outdoors in general.
"People spend the winter 'boxed in' at work, school and home. The outdoors, particularly in the spring, is about growth, renewal and revival. Nature is budding and ideas are blooming. Spring into the life you want to live," Rule said.
With some new gear and some mental preparation under my belt, I'm ready for spring camping. And bear hunting. Camp safe, my friends.