Today it’s raining in sub-freezing temperatures here at the Odin Mountain Compound in The Great North Woods. What this means is that when the rain lands upon a surface be it a tree or a truck, it instantly freezes. Makes a mess of things to be sure and is certainly one of the most dangerous types of weather.
Not only is everything covered with a slippery layer of ice, this is the kind of weather that soaks an outdoorsman to the bone and can lead to hypothermia.
Today I want to go over what I typically carry on a casual day hike for three seasons when I know roughly what temperatures I am likely to encounter during a twenty-four hour period.
We’re talking forty years of real-time experience in some of the most difficult outdoor conditions on earth. Here in the Great North Woods temperatures during the course of a year go from +100 degrees F to -40 degrees F and everything in between with every type of precipitation. There is also a wind factor, which can be brutal in winter, like the north pole.
With this system I have learned to survive pretty much anything nature throws at me, even the unexpected curve ball such as falling through the ice and having to ditch my pack or a sudden squall that forces me to hunker down for a day or two with just what I am carrying.
The reason I include the night time in my planning is that I always consider having to spend a night in the forest due to a number of unforeseen factors.
For example, I may become injured so that it takes longer to get back to my vehicle than originally planned – and that is if I remain physically mobile. A serious injury may mean I have to hunker down in place until help arrives.
A more likely scenario is that I become “turned around” or underestimate the time it takes to get back to my vehicle at the end of daylight. While I carry lighting gear, thrashing around in thick forest especially when traveling off trail can invite injury and it may be best to simply wait out the night and start fresh at daylight.
When temperatures tend toward the colder side – less than about 20-degrees F – I will add a base layer we call “long johns” of capilene both underneath my BDU pants and shirt. In addition I will carry a heavy parka and thick wool mittens with deerskin overmits.
It came to me that after all these years I have never included in my gear weight calculations the items I wear on my person such as clothing and “every day carry” items such as my knife.
First off I will introduce my footwear, which is the absolute foundation of any hike or Scout.
My Limmer Boots are custom made around my chosen sock combination: two Smart Wool socks and a thick Ragg Wool sock on each foot. The reason I wear such a thick sock configuration is two fold: cushioning and the ability to wear these boots in relative comfort from about April through November.
According to my scale, each boot weighs 1324 grams for a total of 2648 grams or 5.84 pounds. Bear in mind these are extremely rugged custom made boots for my size 8-1/2 x 8E wide Sasquatch-like feet.
I have some light weight “modern” goretex type hiking boots that weight just 2-1/2 pounds a pair. Great for hiking sanitized trails and roads that most people travel on foot. However when you get into the thick jungle forest with its tumble of blown down trees and thick brush it is an easy matter to sprain an ankle or submerge a foot into deep mud and totally wet ones socks and footwear – not so good in cold temperatures.
This leaves three or four months in the dead of winter when potential below zero weather is common, down about -35 degrees F in the valleys. Anything above about 10-degrees F is fine for the day as long as I am moving. Much lower than that and I resort to wearing pack boots with felt liners.
Weighing the socks I arrive at 280 grams total or 0.62 pounds.
This means my footwear comes to 6.46 pounds complete. These boots are as rugged as they get, with virtually no chance of a malfunction. Very heavy by cupcake trail walker standards. If they were searching for me in thick forest for several days then I take comfort in the likelihood of about a 2% foot injury rate in their numbers. There is more than one way to inflict casualties.
I have heard many stories of horribly broken ankles while bushwhacking in these mountains. A stout pair of Limmers is the best protection against that.
Next up is my basic clothing system. This is the stuff I wear starting in warm temperatures onto which I make additions as needed.
Top left is a pair of BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) pants. Depending upon the situation these are various shades of camo. Below that is a Dry-Fit runners shorts which I use as underwear. Light, quick drying, slow to wear out, they have great advantage if I choose to go for a swim or get soaking wet from rain.
In the middle is my BDU belt (onto which I attach every-day-carry gear) and Perry suspenders which greatly aid in keeping everything lifted up and in place.
On the right is a light capilene t-shirt and a boonie hat, both of which I vary in camo colors according to where I plan on being.
Total weight of this basic clothing system is 1350 grams or 2.77 pounds.
Basic backup clothing comes next. As temperatures fall during the night or simply colder weather during the day I always carry the following. In the summer time this may be my insurance against having to stay overnight (with the usual resulting temperature and activity drop). In the colder months this may be standard daytime wear depending on the wind, temperature, and level of exertion.
On the left top is a thin fleece hat. This hat fits well underneath my boonie hat to make a double layer. Below the hat are a pair of thin gloves that provide excellent warmth down to about twenty-degrees F or so yet allow full use of rifle, knife, tomahawk, etc.
I also make excellent use of a thin fleece vest, which when warn alone is often all that is needed to take the chill out. Over this I can wear my thin green fleece coat which adds an extra layer that also covers my arms.
Even when the temperature and wind chill is a bit below zero degrees F, if I am heavily exerting myself often this is all I need. I constantly monitor myself and mix and match as conditions warrant.
Always remember: the way to stay alive in cold weather is to keep your body cool and dry. Heat kills because when your body becomes hot it increasingly sweats. If your clothing layers become wet they loose insulation – eventually you will have to stop moving and then you can very well “freeze to death”.
COOL AND DRY STAYS ALIVE.
Total weight of this portion is 1182 grams or 2.60 pounds.
Next up is my basic “foul weather” gear. This goes on when it is particularly cold. The shell goes on against rain or wind or cold.
On the right is a lightweight hardshell raincoat that also breaks the wind. In the middle are a pair of heavier fleece mitts and a cotton sniper veil that doubles as a scarf and also as an excellent layer of clothing when sandwiched between jackets. On the right is a heavy fleece jacket to be layered over the lighter fleece as mentioned above, as well as a heavy wool hat.
The total weight of this gear comes to 1030 grams or 2.27 pounds.
Bear in mind this is geared toward the colder end of the spectrum, when temperatures can be expected to drop to about 10 degrees F with a windchill bringing the perceived cold a bit lower. In full winter I would add a heavy duty shell parka, heavy mittens, and thick wool pants as well as total body long-johns.
Without plenty of water the human body will not get very far, nor will it function optimally. Generally water is not a problem in the Great North Woods. Much of the time it is like a rain forest here. Just about between every small ridge is a water course of some sort. The main problems are making sure any water is treated against parasites and disease organisms and the time it takes to do so. Without an adequate water supply in the pack you are forced to always stay close by to good water sources which will hinder movement.
For these reason I like to carry two 1.25-liter stainless steel Clean Kanteens. When using the flat top cap version they fit very well into a cylindrical molle canteen pouch.
I know many people carry a hydration bladder which goes inside the pack next to your back. I have major issues with these. For one, the bladder can tear and the water leak out. This in and of itself can be catastrophic or at the very least cause some suffering and dehydration until an alternative water source is found.
In winter conditions having two or three quarts of water empty onto your clothing could be a death sentence. Imagine most of your clothing being soaking wet at -30 degrees F.
For this reason I choose to forgo plastic hydration bladders in favor of molle canteen holders placed to either side of the pack. If the canteens do leak, the water will tend to not wet my pack or clothing. And since the canteens are of metal they won’t break or tear.
In addition it is possible to boil water or cook in a metal canteen. A stainless steel cup fits nicely on top the the Cleen Canteen and can be used to cook up a pot of soup, coffee, or hot chocolate etc.
When I am home puttering around the property I drink about a gallon of water per day. When in the forest and mountains I will need more water that but the problem is water is very heavy and bulky.
This means the 2-1/2 quarts of water I carry in my pack is not enough for even just a 12-hour strenuous hike. I will have to find and make safe to drink additional water taken from the forest.
While I could boil water, this is time and energy consuming to do. Instead I carry a small water filter and a bag attachment so that I can re-fill my canteens, tank up my body with a long cold drink, and even carry an additional quart of water in the bag if need be.
Total weight for water and food related items is 3536 grams or 7.40 pounds.
Total weight for day pack, bags, and all weather space blanket: 2986 grams or 6.58 pounds.
Total weight for basic survival items on my belt plus a wrist watch: 1762 grams.
EDC ON BELT HERE
OPTICAL GEAR HERE
|Items||Weight in Pounds|
|1st Clothing Layer||2.77|
|2nd Clothing Layer||2.60|
|3rd Clothing Layer||2.27|
|Food and Water Related||7.40|
|Pack, bags, blanket||6.58|