Heading outdoors? Be prepared for the winter cold


Heading outdoors? Be prepared for the winter cold

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

Last weekend I was camping near Lost Pond. This marked the beginning of the winter season for me.

The temperature was 11 degrees. I know this winter will see even colder days. I thought this would be a good time for me to review winter gear requirements for the season.

For really cold weather, one of the most important pieces of equipment on a winter trip is a down or synthetic parka with a good insulated hood. Below this, wear an insulated vest followed by a fleece sweater. Finally, put on a layer of heavy polypropylene and a layer of light polypropylene shirt and pants. A good set of wool pants with wind pants or insulated pants over the top will complete the bottoms. A set of underwear closest to the skin rounds out the outfit. On your feet, plan on a set of felt insulated pack boots and wool socks. Let’s not forget a fleece or wool cap for your head. This outfit will see you through some of the coldest days or nights in the winter.

The advantage of this system is that it can be layered. Removing the coat, vest or outer garment will make for comfortable hiking in most cases. I always carry a rain jacket that can be put on as a wind stop as part of the over all package. If this winter results in a lot of ice that may hinder travel, then the answer to this is to always carry a pair of grippers or crampons for climbing. Snowshoes or skis are a must for snow travel and required by the DEC when the snow season is in full swing.

Finally, if you are camping out, taking an extra stove as a back up in the winter is a prudent move. You will also require more water in the winter. A tip to keep water bottles from freezing is to turn them upside down. The water will freeze from the top down or wrap them in a wool sock or store-bought insulator to stave off freezing. At night fill them with boiled water and you have a hot water bottle to take into your sleeping bag and aid in keeping you warm.


This part added 6/17/05

In the morning start with hot water in your bottle. This will keep the water from freezing most of the day. Wrap it in insulation and turn up side down.

Always bring a rope. You can double it around a tree or shrub to lower yourself down an ice slide. Afterward you just retrieve the doubled rope by pulling one side.

Lets not forget a fleece or wool hat, neck gaiter and fleece balaclava to make an outfit. You can always put the extra gear in your pack if you don’t use it.

Sun glasses or goggles are a must for winter travel. If in a group bring at least one sleeping bag and each person should carry an insolite pad. If alone you still need the sleeping bag and pad.

Seems like a lot of gear. But in the winter a mistake or accident shows you the need for all these things.

A group or person should also carry a Satellite phone, cell phone or 2 meter radio. It depends on what works in your area. Some will argue against this.

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Outdoor pancakes rely on good starter


Outdoor pancakes rely on good starter

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

There is nothing in the morning quite like sourdough pancakes, an Alaskan tradition that will work equally well in the Adirondacks. Their taste can’t be beat!

To begin, all sourdough starts with “starter.” Here is a great recipe to make sourdough starter.


Combine 1¾ Cups flour, one Tablespoon sugar, 2½ cups warm water, and one package of yeast. Let the starter sit in a warm place for 12 hours.

After this, put it in the refrigerator or use it. If a liquid forms on the top, just stir it in to the starter because it is caused by the fermentation process and is just alcohol.

When using starter, always leave about a cup and add ¾ cup of flour and 1½ cups of warm water to it for every cup of starter you take. This will keep it going forever. Never add eggs or anything else to your starter. You can add a little sugar once in a while to help feed it.

Starter is alive because of the yeast, so it needs to be fed once in a while. It can be frozen for up to a year.

A great recipe for pancakes comes from Richard Pronneke. It is found in his book, “One Man’s Wilderness.” This is a book based on his journals when he lived in Alaska. The recipe makes about five pancakes and requires no eggs.


Combine one cup starter, 5 tablespoons flour, (about ¾ cup), ½ cup powdered milk, 3 tablespoons sugar, ½ teaspoon baking soda and a pinch of salt. Drizzle in enough warm water to make a thin batter, then add one tablespoon of bacon grease.

Some people will tell you that you are supposed to let the starter, flour, sugar and water work overnight to inoculate the batter. This does make for a stronger taste of sourdough. I just make the batter and use it at the same time and find it lacking nothing.

Sourdough pancakes are a tradition that you should not miss. Don’t forget real maple syrup to top them off.

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Tracking: a pastime with varied purposes


Tracking: a pastime with varied purposes

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

While I was walking through the woods with my 5-year-old son Jared recently, we were checking out animal tracks. The day before, he had asked me when we were going back into the woods.

Jared and I have been tracking since he was 3. Tracking is an activity for both young and old, but especially for kids because they are so curious. That leads to the question: What is the goal of tracking?

Tracking can have nothing to do with hunting or trapping, as it is so often thought. However, that skill is useful for both. The first goal of a tracker should be to identify the animal and then try to figure out what the animal is doing. Consider how it walks, where the tracks lead to, then maybe even track the animal for a while. Winter is an excellent time to do this because there is snow on the ground.

Tracking is useful for identifying animals in your area. The first step is to make a list of all the animal tracks you find in one outing. A good book on tracking, such as Peterson’s field guides are great places to start. These books illustrate the tracks and help you identify them. Next, get a book on good techniques of tracking, like one by well-known survival writer Tom Brown Jr.

The most important thing is just get out there and learn the easy tracks like rabbits and deer, then identify as many more as you can. The rest will follow.

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Domestic beer key to bannock doughnuts


Domestic beer key to bannock doughnuts

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

Why not try something different with that morning cup of coffee? How about bannock doughnuts with a spin?

The basic ingredients for bannock are simple:


1 cup flour


1 teaspoon baking powder


¼ teaspoon of salt


Usually, you would add water to make a stiff doughnut, but, for bannock doughnuts, you forget the water and use a beer instead.

That’s right, I said beer.

Pour in enough beer to make a stiff dough. Next add

½ teaspoon nutmeg


½ teaspoon of cinnamon


3 tablespoons of sugar


Make sure you use a domestic beer. The first time I made these doughnuts I used a foreign beer and it resulted in a skunky after-taste to the doughnuts. It should take less than half a can or bottle to make the dough. The domestic beer adds a nice yeast flavor to the doughnuts.

Now pinch off a golf-ball size amount of dough. Roll this into a ball and then flatten it. Poke a hole in the middle of the dough. A cup of bannock will make about six to eight doughnuts. If you add too much liquid, just add some more flour to make a stiff dough.

Next, heat up enough oil in a pot to cover the doughnuts. Better yet, use a deep fryer. In camp, I just use a pot with about four inches of oil in the bottom. Heat the oil to about 350 degrees. Don’t let the oil smoke.

Drop the doughnut into the oil and cook for about two minutes. Turn the doughnuts with a fork and cook on the other side for another two minutes. Pull the doughnuts out with the fork and drop them on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. There is nothing better then a good bannock doughnut with a hot cup of coffee to begin your morning.

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Serve up some snow — but effectively


Serve up some snow — but effectively

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

Most people don’t stop to consider how essential water is in a survival situation. Water is the second-most-important need.

The first is shelter for warmth or shelter for protection from heat. You can die within hours without shelter. Without water, it may take three days or longer to die.

In the winter, you are usually surrounded by snow. Snow is between 50- and 70-percent water. The remainder is air.

The problem with snow is being able to melt it into water. If you eat snow, the calories burned will be greater than the hydrating benefit you attempt to gain from eating the snow. Eating snow may alleviate thirst over the short term but will put you in a dehydration deficit in the long term. This deficit is caused by the water needed to burn calories to melt the snow in your mouth.

Snow does contain a small amount of pollution but is usually insignificant with short-term use. Snow is otherwise sterile, and water from snow is considered reasonably safe to drink in a survival situation. It requires no other treatment.

The human body puts out about 500 BTUs of heat on a regular basis. This wasted body heat can be used to make an efficient water melting device. Carry a small plastic oven bag (oven bags are durable) and about 2 feet of parachute cord. I am partial to the reusable plastic squeeze tubes with a closure on the bottom.

Duct tape it to a string, place about a cup of snow in the bag, and tie the top with the parachute cord in a loop that will fit around your neck. Allow the bag to hang from around your neck to about the middle of your chest or a little lower and place the bag inside your coat.

If you wear long underwear place the bag on top of the underwear, not next to your skin.

In about an hour, you will have approximately ¤ to ½ cup of water from the snow melted by your body heat.

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