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By Connor McGuigan
"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?" wrote John Steinbeck. Point taken, but there's also a certain sweetness to the cold of winter. Cold-weather camping is a great way to savor those tranquil moments and settings only winter can provide—untouched snow-covered landscapes, early nights and early mornings, a warm fire—yet even some experienced campers balk at the prospect.
It's easier than you may think to stay comfortable while winter camping. People prospered in frigid climates long before synthetic down and GoreTex, so you don't necessarily need to break the bank at REI to stay warm and happy in winter conditions. On the other hand, you'll be in serious trouble if you head out into the freeze underprepared. Check the weather forecasts and make sure your tent, sleeping bag and clothes can handle the conditions. It's best to keep it simple on your first trip—stick to routes commonly traveled in the winter, and save that weeklong excursion for when you have more experience.
Here are 10 other tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your first trip. Many of these were sourced from Kevin Callan's recently published Complete Guide to Winter Camping. Callan, a longtime outdoor enthusiast and author of 16 books, skillfully covers the basics of winter camping and showcases tips and tales from some of North America's most accomplished winter campers. Check it out if you're planning a trip and want to learn from the best.
1. Layer Up
The lynchpin to your winter camping getup is a close-fitting base layer to trap body heat. A pair of polypropylene long johns work great as a cheaper option. You'll also want an insulating layer that you can take on and off as you warm up and cool down throughout the day. A down jacket, lightweight fleece or even your favorite wool sweater will do the job. Your outermost layer should protect you from wind, snow and rain, so choose a shell with weather-proof lining like GoreTex.
Avoid cotton altogether when packing for your trip—it's no good at wicking moisture, and once it's wet it can cool you faster than standing naked in the cold.
2. Stay Dry
That brings us to a second winter camping maxim: Stay dry. Water conducts heat better than air does, so wet clothes will quickly lower your body temperature. Even working up a sweat can dangerously cool you down in the long run. Take it slow and peel off layers to limit perspiration.
Wet feet mean frozen feet, so leave the trail runners at home. Waterproof boots and gaiters (along with snowshoes) are a must when trudging through deeper snow. If you'll be hiking on top of packed snow, your normal hiking boots with some waterproofing treatment should be fine.
In general, it's better to overpack than to run out of dry clothes—you'll probably regret packing ultra-light when you slide on that pair of damp socks in the morning.
Don't Try This.Dave Marrone / Lure of the North
3. Sleep With Your Gear
If you have any wet clothes by day's end, keep them in your sleeping bag to dry them out overnight. You'll also want to cozy up to any gadgets you brought, as cold temperatures quickly drain battery life.
4. Cowboy Coffee
If fireside nights are the highlight of any winter camping trip, cold mornings are the hardest part. The promise of hot coffee will make getting out of your sleeping bag a whole lot easier. All you need for a batch of "cowboy coffee" are grounds and hot water. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, move it from the heat source, dump in one tablespoon of coffee grounds per cup of water, and let it steep for 10 minutes. The simplest way to settle the grounds is to tap the coffee pot with a knife a few times. If you're feeling up to it, try the classic but riskier method of swinging the coffee pot in a windmill motion a few times to settle the grounds with centripetal force. Once you're done, pour yourself the most well-deserved cup of coffee you've ever had.
5. Strategic Urination
Experienced winter campers seem to stress this one. Drink plenty of water, but don't idle when nature comes calling—your body will burn up valuable calories to heat any urine stored in your bladder. Keep an extra bottle in the tent (unmarked at your own peril) so you don't have to venture into the cold for a midnight pee. Backpacker magazine compiled a list of products that make this winter camping ritual easier for women.
6. Choose the Right Sleeping Bag
First see if you can make do with what you have. You can avoid shelling out for a brand-new cold weather bag by buying a sleeping-bag liner, which can extend the temperature rating of your sleeping bag by 10 to 15 degrees. If the forecasted lows are way out of your sleeping bag's range, you'll want to invest in a 0-degree or lower bag.
7. Don't Forget the Pad
Sleeping pads aren't just there for comfort—they keep you off the frozen ground, which saps away your body heat faster than the air outside. There are some expensive insulated inflatable sleeping pads out there, but the important part is staying off the ground, so choose something you can afford that does the job.
8. Choose Your Campsite Wisely
A lot goes into finding the right winter campsite. As usual, the guiding principle is shelter from the elements. Avoid the bottom of hills, where cold-air troughs form, and the tops of hills, which can be exposed to wind. Choose a flat site, and compress the snow where you plan to pitch your tent by walking around on it—packed snow insulates heat better than loose snow. Make sure the tent is well staked down, and pitch it with the door perpendicular to prevailing winds.
9. Bring a Book
Winter nights are long, so you'll be logging quite a few hours in your sleeping bag. Bring a book to pass the time. Check out Sierra magazine's list of last summer's best eco-conscious reads for some ideas.
10. Pitch a Tent Inside Your Car
This is a great way to stay warm through the night if you plan on car camping in the winter. Rigging a tent inside a car with clothespins may seem a little harebrained, but I've tried it in below-freezing weather and found that it does the trick. The car provides some added insulation, so it's worth a try if your camping gear can't quite handle the weather outside.
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.
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By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
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A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.