Some basic rules for anytime:
- Always make certain that someone not with you knows exactly where you will be.
- Always check in with the ranger station and let them know where you plan on hiking, when you will start and time expected out.
- Never go out alone.
- Always have extra dry clothing and possibly snow equipment depending on the elevation you plan on hiking.
- And be prepared for the unexpected! You and your hiking companion may be the only folks you can count on for some time.
Camping can be enjoyable even in cold weather if you are prepared. Dress in layers and keep dry. By dressing in layers you can add or subtract clothing easily to fit the temperature to stay dry and warm. Do your best to avoid sweating and rotate your layers on and off to get wet clothing off and dry clothing on. Don’t feel bashful when hiking to hang wet clothing over your pack. Even in cold weather you will find your clothes will dry off this way with the sun hitting them as you hike.
Just because its cold don’t forget to hydrate and eat, and remember most of your heat loss is going to be through your top and extremities. Your head, hands and feet. Keep a hat on, gloves on and off course your shoes (ha). And keep these areas especially dry! One trick to try is when getting into your sleeping bag at night put tomorrows dry extra clothing, hat, socks, gloves, etc. into the bottom of your sleeping bag. They will help keep your feet warm at night and they will be warm when put on in the morning. Don’t forget to keep your neck warm with a scarf.
I did a lot of sleeping under the stars in the summer months in the Sierras but you will find a properly sized tent will give you protection from the cold and wind. Most times it will add an additional 10 degrees colder to your sleeping bag temperature range. In other words, if your sleeping bag is designed for +20 degrees and is comfortable to you at this temperature a proper tent can allow you to be comfortable down to +10. When I was young we just slept closer to a built up fire only to catch the bottom of my sleeping bag on fire once. I repeat, that happened once. I guess everyone can learn from mistakes, even me. And one last tip for now is to vent the top of your tent to keep the condensation from freezing on the tent’s ceiling.