We love touching base with customers who really put our gear to the test. We sat down with Brandon Aquino and Gary Mead, two customers who are avid campers, and asked them for tips for the uninitiated and to share some of the experiences they’ve had along the way. Luckily for us, they’re both professional photographers so they could document the fun.
What is the single most important Front Runner gear item you need for winter camping? I would have to say my roof top tent is the most important item for winter camping. Being up off the cold ground is half the battle. I use the area at the end of the tent to store my wet boots and hang my jacket, gloves, etc from the crossbars. How do you stay warm, aren’t you still cold? I have a small portable heater for times when it is really cold. I make a safe area at the at the end of my mattress before cranking it until all my stuff is warm and then shut it off once I am under the covers for the night. I do the same in the morning so I'm nice and warm before leaving the tent for the day. During the day is the same as heading up to ski or snowboard for the weekend so just dress accordingly. Best advice for beginners who’d like to camp in freezing temperatures? Do it! Be prepared in all areas related to the trip and you will love it. If you love to cook a full meal when camping I suggest to pre-cut everything at home to minimize dirty dishes and expedite the time without gloves. My winter camp hack for cold weather cooking is prepping stuff to sauté, brown rice, a main (veggie sausage or meat) and a can of veggie soup. Add a bunch of spices and your set in a short period of time. Wash your dishes right away before they freeze dirty, toss some snow in the pans and boil for an easy clean. Why camp when it’s so cold? I enjoy cold weather camping because it usually means fewer people around so you get spots all to yourself. It's also pretty rad when you wake up to fresh snow covering everything, feels like you are the first person to enjoy those views. What’s been your greatest experience camping in winter and why? Greatest experience camping in the winter would have to be last year coming down from Crater Lake in Oregon with my friend Sheryl, who was visiting from Hawaii. We had no set plans besides finding the snow and camping in Oregon, but every campground we passed was snowed in from the plows and closed for the season. The roads were pitch dark, all you could see was snow and then my gas light came on right when we lost cell service. Luckily we found a gas station that had an old phone with directions to call someone that would drive up to pump our gas. The guy looked at us like we were crazy when we asked for a place to camp for the night but offered us firewood from a barn and told us the road to take "Once you see the snowline you will make a right, camp there," he said. We took his directions and could hear rushing waters but it was pitch dark and freezing so we had a beer and got some sleep. The next morning we unzipped the tent to find everything covered in bright green moss, a little snow and 10 steps from the most beautiful blue river. What was your worst winter camping experience that you learned from? I wouldn't say I have a worst winter camping experience but I definitely learn more and more each time I decide to spend a night outside in single digit weather. I've learned to keep my water bottle in my sleeping bag so it doesn't freeze overnight and clean up/organize everything possible before heading to bed in case a new snowfall comes and hides/freezes anything left out. So you’re camping in the winter- how do you actually spend your days? Are there favorite activities? This last 10 days I spent on the road my friend brought the board game SORRY and it was played more than expected haha. I feel board games need a comeback. Sometimes I like to hike around, build stuff and stay moving but I could also be fireside, with some warm whiskey, good music and do nothing for the better half of the day just taking it all in. How about driving tips to get there and back? Drive slow, there's no rush. The drive is my favorite part. Be prepared with the tools you need if the snow gets the best of you. I used my MaxTrax our first day in the snow and my shovel a few times. Having an emergency box in the car gives you some comfort as well which I highly recommend.
What is the single most important Front Runner gear item you need for winter camping? I’d have to say the roof top tent makes it cozy for winter camping and having a warm cozy tent makes for a restful night. How do you stay warm, aren’t you still cold? It's all about properly layering your clothing. If you layer properly, you can stay out there longer. I like to start with a base layer, followed by a down jacket, and an outer shell to repel the wind. Best advice for beginners who’d like to camp in freezing temperatures? Avoid cotton and leave that at home. There’s a phrase, “cotton kills”, and it’s true. Any cotton clothing touching your skin will absorb your sweat like a sponge and it won’t evaporate quick enough. Stick with wool or synthetics. I love Merino Wool and synthetic down material. I’d visit a local outdoor retailer to get started on what kind of clothing and material is best for the conditions you’ll be in. Why camp when it’s so cold? It's beautiful and uniquely different than camping during the summer. Deserts are beautiful but unbearable to camp in when the weather is super hot. The best time to experience the desert is when it’s cold. It’s far easier to keep and maintain warmth than to stay cool. What’s been your greatest experience camping in winter and why? My greatest winter camping experience would be my recent trip to Seattle, WA which would be my craziest camping experience yet. We packed our kayaks with our gear, floated down the icy Cle Elum River, and hammock camped in the snow. With overnight temps around 15-17 degrees Fahrenheit—the conditions and scenery were surreal. The snowy landscape was illuminated by the moon and the sounds of the nearby river put us to sleep. What was your worst winter camping experience that you learned from? Ironically enough, my worst winter camping experience was also my recent trip to Seattle. Always have backup clothing and boots, sealed in waterproof bags aka "dry bags". While kayaking down the icy river, one of us took an unfortunate dip along with his backup clothing that wasn't in a sealed dry bag. That cut the trip short, turning a three-day trip into an overnight trip. So you’re camping in the winter- how do you actually spend your days? Are there favorite activities? Cooking gourmet meals, hiking around, fishing, and climbing would be my favorite activities. If I’m laying around camp, a good book and drink are the perfect way to relax. How about driving tips to get there and back? A few things: 1) Just like with any outing, I always let someone know where I’m going and when I should be coming home; 2) Make sure your vehicle is up to the task. Comb the vehicle and address any mechanical issues beforehand; 3) Research the area you’ll be traveling in and know what to expect—that will determine what you’ll need to make it there and back safely.