Top tips for bad-weather camping
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“The mountains are calling,” said John Muir, “and I must go.”
Muir definitely understood the draw of going out in the untrammeled wilderness. But I think it’s safe to say that he wasn’t looking at a big, nasty rain cloud over Yosemite when he said that.
Here in Colorado, we feel the same way about the mountains. But sometimes bad weather tries its best to keep us from enjoying our huge, beautiful backyard. And even if the forecast looks good at first, you need to know when a storm will roll through the mountains. Those sudden downpours can make camping uncomfortable, cold and even dangerous. Luckily there are a few things you can do to salvage your trip.
1. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t set up your next to a stream that might overflow or a muddy hillside that could submerge your site in muck.
2. Bring a few waterproof bags, or plastic Ziploc bags, to keep your clothes, sleeping bag and maps dry. If the rain stops in the morning, you’ll be absolutely stoked to put on a pair of dry socks.
3. That being said, it’s really important to have the right gear. Make sure you bring the essentials: a waterproof fly so rain can’t get into your tent, a tent footprint so water can’t get under the tent and a powerful, compact gas stove that won’t fizzle in a drizzle.
To dress, bring a high-quality waterproof jacket and pants. For your base layers, choose synthetic or wool fabrics over cotton, which stays cold and waterlogged for a long time.
4. Recognize the signs of hypothermia. The sudden lowering of your body’s core temperature isn’t just a danger of icy conditions. Just being chilled in the rain for a while can bring it on.
If your body’s temperature drops below 95 degrees, you’ll have slurred speech, shivers, pale skin and/or impaired judgement. If you can’t get to a hospital right away, make sure you or the person affected gets into dry clothes and is moved immediately to a warm sleeping bag.
5. After the rain, try your best to air out your wet stuff. If possible, let it dry fully to keep mold and mildew from growing on your fancy technical gear.
6. Have a good attitude. Sometimes a sunny disposition is better than actual sunshine.
Get out there and make the most of it. After all, in bad weather you’ll have the trails all to yourself.
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Born in New Castle, Alice McKennis Duran learned to ski at 2 at Sunlight Mountain with her father and older sister, Kendra. She also had a brief stint training with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club prior to joining the national team.