March 21, marked the first full day of spring. Everyone’s looking forward to a break from the frigid winter we’ve had, and are busy getting ready to hit the Great Outdoors again. However we need to keep in mind that just because the calendar says it is so, doesn’t mean Mother Nature totally agrees.
Many people are buying hiking packs, tents, and sleeping bags and are heading out this weekend in all directions for camping trips. But, this is the time one really needs to pay attention to the predicted and unpredicted weather changes. This week in Central Arkansas, alone, we have gone from 28 degrees and snow to 60+ degrees and sunshine in 5 days. It is extremely important to keep that in mind when preparing for an outing regardless of the number of days one plans to be outside.
Hypothermia is a serious issue at this time of year and can quickly become fatal if it occurs. Hypothermia can begin when the body core loses as few as 6 degrees and decreases rapidly if the situation isn’t dealt with immediately. To help prevent this from happening, particularly at night, some simple steps can be taken to keep one safe and comfortable.
Tents, Sleeping Bags, and Clothing are major factors in this issue. Many tents are now rated as 2, 3, or 4 seasons compatible. Be aware of the temperatures in the area you are going to, then check out the label on the tent package or go on line to the manufacturer, to see which season ratings are given on the tent you plan to take. Be sure the tent is water proofed and that it is sturdy enough to hold up to mixed weather conditions such as rain, snow or winds.
Sleeping Bags come in many varieties and types, weights, lengths, widths, and temperature tolerances. For example a sleeping bag rated suitable for 55+ degrees would not be suitable for colder regions at this time of year. If you prefer only camping out in the warmer summer months, a -0 or -20 degree bag would probably be uncomfortable. A s far as shapes of sleeping bags, the smaller interior Mummy bag is a good choice for the extreme cold areas. Some of us prefer to have more leg room and interior mobility in our sleeping bag and would rather have the Rectangular shaped bag. Rectangular sleeping bags also have temperature ratings that fit your needs. Another factor to consider on purchasing a sleeping bag is the person’s size. You will be more comfortable if the sleeping bag isn’t too tight across your chest or too short for your height. The bag should be able to be zipped up easily around you and allow for some “wiggle” room. Keep in mind that in the cold, heavier clothing will be worn in addition to your body size and you don’t need to be compressed too tightly in the bag.
When it comes to clothing, you should “layer what you wear”. A sleeveless undershirt is a great place to start. It should fit snuggly but not too tight. From there you can add a long john shirt or long sleeve Under Armour shirt then Flannel shirt or sweat shirt, and jacket or coat, or coveralls or whatever external clothing your prefer. By putting the sleeveless shirt on first, you will be able to change out the clothing without losing all your body heat and your modesty. A stocking cap for the nighttime is a necessity. 90% of your body heat can be lost through you head and face. Socks or foot coverings will also make your efforts to stay warm in the sleeping bag easier to do.
If you will be sleeping in your bag on the floor of the tent rather than on a cot, the bag should be placed on a mat or blow up type mattress. When choosing a mat to put under the sleeping bag, it is recommended to use a very tight, closed cell pad rather than the wider, looser foam mats such as an egg-crate type mattress, because the wide weave allows for the cold temperature of the ground to be absorbed by the sleeping bag. Keep these tips in mind when shopping for yourself, and for others that you are responsible for; especially small children. Be Safe, Be Smart, and Enjoy your trip.
Alicia Ray-Camping Dept.
Bass Pro Shop-Little Rock,Arkansas