Sunday, February 5, 2012

Cold Weather Living: Self-Care

Self-care is everything!  (This applies to warm-weather camping as well.)  Just because it’s cold is no reason not to stay clean, properly treat and dress cuts and scrapes, patch up that blister, and put some hydrocortisone cream on that weird, inexplicable rash.  Take time at least once a day to give yourself a quick once-over and address problem areas.

Change your socks and gloves.  Wetness on your extremities will go a long way to keeping your fingers and toes cold and numb.  Avoid getting your hands and feet wet.  When they do get wet, change your socks and gloves.  Dry your wet pair either against your body inside your jacket during the day, or in the foot of your sleeping bag at night. 

Wear your sunglasses.  When you’re out in cold conditions, there’s frequently snow around, which acts as a giant reflective surface for sunshine.  Wear sunglasses or goggles when hanging out on snow-covered ground above treeline or in open spaces.  Snow blindness sucks.

Cover up your skin.  In mild conditions or during high exertion, you may find yourself with exposed skin, especially on your face and arms.  Take the time to cover up with sun screen.  That same reflective snow that causes snow blindness can also easily cause second-degree sunburn in no time.  In particularly windy conditions, keep as much skin covered as possible to prevent windburn and mild frostbite.  Pay particular attention to your partners’ ears, noses, and cheeks as these areas tend to get frostbite readily in windy conditions.  If the skin looks pale, dull, white, or gray, take a second to cover the affected area with your gloved hand.  When it returns to the familiar bright red or pink of cold, but not frozen, skin, cover up with a hat, face mask, balaclava, or other protective layer.

Lotion is your friend.  Use a good lotion on dry hands, chapped lips, sun and wind-burned faces, and liberally on hot spots on your feet to help mitigate the risk of blisters. 

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