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Posted: 1/25/2014 6:18:54 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/25/2014 6:28:47 AM EDT by WarHound55]
Myself and two friends have just returned home from camping three days and two nights in Clifty Wilderness Area / Red River Gorge Kentucky.  Temps were in the range of 1 below to a high of 15 on Friday.  Winds were shifting constantly at 5 - 20 mph.  This moved the mercury down another 10 degrees or so.  We were down at Creation falls so about 3/4 mile from the parking lot.  Slow moving on snow covered rock steps was needed.  The middle man slipped and fell on his butt completely ruining his steel pot lid and pot bottom.  Functional - yes, keeping out ash no.

Gear - 3 season tent, Cabelas 3D  -30 bag, Sierra designs 15 degree full goose down, and Welty 5 degree bag.  Each team member had a sleeping pad of unknown make and model.  I wore OTB - Bootistans and a single pair of gander mountain smart wool hiking socks.  Cabelas outfitter dry plus insulated pants, underarmor shirt, polar fleece second layer, Cabelas wool jacket with windstopper lining, Cabelas 3xl outlayer with dry plus and windstopper lining.  At periods of hiking, the wool jacket was removed and when stationary or around our little fire the wool went back on.  Mechanics wear winter armor gloves and a milsurp polar fleece watch cap.

I took mostly MRE's for food along with some dried fruit and sunflower seeds.  Temps were very cold Friday morning and the MRE meal did not heat up past cool.  I maybe should have added more water or put the carboard into a balaclava I was not wearing.  We also boiled the MRE's in a steel pot making sure not to get them too hot or melt them.  Food was not an issue at all.

Learning- I worked a lot with the fire making each from start with tinder and magnesium shavings.  Setting up a wind shield was necessary as the little shavings get tossed around like crazy.  I would suggest shaving the magn off in a tent if you have one.  Starting with pig tails from your scavenged wood is a good second layer of tinder.  Cedar bark is great at catching if you can get some off between the bark and the pulp wood.  Gather wood until you think you have enough and then triple the pile.  We built little fires and mostly boiled water and cooked our TWO POUNDS of bacon over it.  The quality of wood you can gather is everything.  Pine burns like crazy but our clothing took a toll from sap popping and sending embers out.

Sitting around equals cold feet.  The two who sat on their butts were continually warming their feet.  I think the circulation is slowed down to your lower legs especially when sitting on a log.  I have a foam stadium seat that lays down flat.  I cut a mound of pine boughs and laid down on the pad on the boughs.  Anything off the ground was the trick.  Living in northern Illinois and sitting in tree stands for all day hunts, I would have to say the sitting on your butt equals cold feet.  Loosen your laces and try to go with one pair of socks.  The guys loosened their laces and it seemed to help them out.  Two pairs of socks and no room for insulating air will equal cold feet.
I warmed my feet twice in three days and on the first day toasted the left foot real good.  Too close to the flames!  On Friday I took my boots off and my little toe was staring at me.  The burnt area had completely shredded without me knowing.  I removed the Gander mountain socks and put on an Alpaca pair of boot socks for the rest of the day.

Tent life was funny and MRE's equal gas.  We kicked snow around the edges of the tent to keep the wind from penetrating underneath the tent.  It worked well and the snow was melted into chunks the next morning.  We discussed layering pine boughs on the tent walls but we did not want to napalm the surrounding pines like that.  Before hitting the hay, we would boil water and pour it into our nalgene bottles.  We would put the bottle into a wool sock and into the bottom of the bags.  In the morning, the nalgene was still warm and the water made for a good thirst quencher and also warmed you up some.  I got on the edge of cold on one occasion but rolled over and that fixed the air pocket.  The second night, the team leader suggested to put extra clothing into the bag to hold in some heated air.  I did not notice a difference in temperature but my outside clothes were warm when I put them back on.  When we pulled out tent out the ratings of the bags were obvious as judged by how much snow was melted below the tent.  The 15 degree bag melted about twice as much snow as the -30 bag.  So truth check on the bags holds up.

We walked down to the stream to get fresh water and made sure to have plenty on hand at all times.  We almost always had water warm for instant coffee... what a moral booster that was.  We spent most the time in food prep or eating.  Some time exploring around the woods but the icy and snowy rocks were very hazardous at spots.

If anybody wants bathroom advice please ask but I'll save those tricks and details unless you want them.

Overall, a great time was had.  People thought we were crazy for going but conquering tough jobs.... that's what men do.  We should celebrate the fact men were willing to test themselves and see if they have what it takes.  I came home to the quote of.."you are welcome for holding down the fort."  I replied, "  They are your kids."  We laughed and life returned to east again.  Please add any tips and tricks for me as this is just the beginning of wanting to test some "limits" of what can be done.

Link Posted: 1/25/2014 7:08:29 AM EDT
Sounds like a awesome time! I have wanted to do a winter trip for some time now
Link Posted: 1/25/2014 7:42:04 AM EDT
In fact I would be interested in your latrine setup - winter can be a pain with that.

Agreed on sitting around making your feet cold.  I've spent countless hours/days in ground and tree blinds, and standing/moving helps tremendously.
Link Posted: 1/25/2014 8:01:39 AM EDT
Great report and thanks for sharing.

I to am interested in the latrine tricks you mentioned. No pics though please.
Link Posted: 1/25/2014 8:10:52 AM EDT
You're nuts

The gorge is a wonderful place to go, though I've never camped there in the winter.  I can imagine it's dangerous if you're not careful.

Didn't you have a pad under your bag?
Link Posted: 1/25/2014 9:06:57 AM EDT
Sounds like fun OP.

Have you ever experimented with the long log fire? Sounds like you could have used it, basically get two big ass logs back to camp and lay them down with a space between them and get a fire going in the gap, feed the fire as needed, but the logs once they catch will burn for a very long time and you can feed one end with extra fuel for more heat, while cooking on the other end.
Link Posted: 1/25/2014 11:01:49 AM EDT
Ahhh latrine tips...  we were able to roll over a really big log (off trail of course) that had a few seasons on the ground.  We thought it wouldnt move but it was easier than thought.  The cavity left behind was used for the waste.

 I sat on my gloves one for each cheek.  In all honesty, when your testicles land on the log you will stop breathing for a second or two.  I take wet toilet paper in a zip lock bag inside another zip lock bag.  I place the zip lock bag in my leg pocket so it stays warm and doesnt freeze.  It is also with me all the time and easy to access while sitting down.  If you are a sissy or can get enough privacy, put your jacket over your bent knees.  Do not get wet paper from your pack.  It will be frozen into one chunk and your butt will hate the rest of the trip.  Chewy butt will ruin any fun!!!  When ready to leave for home, roll the log back over your waste.

As far as a long log fire goes, we should have tried that.  I have seen that before and that would have been great.  The snow had everything covered but luckily it was cold enough to where the snow was complete powder and left no moisture on any elevated firewood.  I did get to put a Bushmonkey  238 to some work on batoning and also making pig tails.  D2 steel is pretty impressive.
Link Posted: 1/25/2014 11:02:48 AM EDT
We all had pads.  The air valves either froze shut or froze open.  We chose open so we could pack them out in their comp sacks.
Link Posted: 1/25/2014 11:27:04 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/25/2014 11:37:37 AM EDT by AR45fan]
I just did a three-day backpacking trip last weekend.  It wasn't as cold as you experienced but still below freezing.  LOTS of stuff stops working at those temps.  Food and water freezes solid, cigarette lighters stop working, batteries don't last for shit, and plastic containers become brittle and either won't close properly or shatter.

ETA: I always take flushable wipes camping for "bathing" and "hygene" - those froze solid also and had to be thawed before using the latrine.
Link Posted: 1/25/2014 1:50:01 PM EDT
The frozen valves on sleeping pads could have been a bad situation by yourself.  we had to two man pack every one because by yourself they would stay inflated beyond what you could fit in the comp sack opening.  We lost one steel pot, two pairs of gloves, one sock and a blastmatch shattered.

Next time I am taking a notebook with a pencil to log thoughts of do and dont's.

Glad you had fun.
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