Many people look at winter’s bare trees and brown hills and see nothing but a cause for depression. Others look at it and see a challenge.
“Have you ever heard of Type 2 Fun?” said Brett Hagerty, program manager for Adventure WV. “It’s the idea of doing something that’s harder or potentially a little bit riskier — certainly winter camping and backpacking is that way.”
Hagerty was glad to give tips for hiking and camping in Monongalia’s wilderness despite the cold weather.
“In general, anything you do in the winter is going to require more knowledge, skill and gear,” Hagerty said. “When you stop, and you aren’t exercising anymore, and you have to keep yourself warm, you basically are spending 100% of your time focusing on keeping yourself warm — whether that’s exercising, sleeping in a sleeping bag or layering with clothing.”
Conversely, Hagerty said warmer weather does not require the same preparation.
“That’s compared to, say, when it’s warmer out and you might spend some time sitting around and chatting or hammocking, you can’t do that very well in the winter,” Hagerty said. “You get cold really fast, so you’ve got to focus on keeping warm.”
Adding to the challenge, Hagerty said, is the shorter day length of the winter season. With the night constantly creeping in, campers have to go to extra lengths to stave off the freezing temperatures.
“I have, at times, gotten in my sleeping bag and been in there for 12 hours,” Hagerty said. “And it’s hard to sleep with that, so you’ve sort of got to deal with it emotionally and mentally.”
So, why spend your free time freezing in the woods when you could stay warm and dry in your nice dorm or apartment? Steven Selin, a professor in WVU’s division of Forestry and National Resources, is an avid defender of cold days.
“Winter is different, it’s cool. It’s a chance to experience nature in a much more wild way,” Selin said. “You get a lot more solitude. Chances are you won’t run into many people when you’re out there. It’s also a chance to challenge yourself. If you’re successful, you’ll feel a neat sense of accomplishment.”
Always keen on keeping students safe while on their winter adventures, Selin also had some tips for winter camping and hiking.
“You need to plan ahead,” Selin said. “You need to be a little more prepared than you do, you know, for summer camping. It’s a lot more serious; it’s not a splash and giggle thing. Usually, people who want to winter camp have already done some summer camping and want to take it to another level.
According to Selin, winter camping requires more precautions than summer camping.
“Planning ahead, going with a buddy and leaving word that you’re going somewhere are important,” Selin said. “I would encourage people to try [winter camping] first in their backyard, just to make sure their systems are working.”
Selin said the most important things to do when winter camping is to layer with warm clothing, insulate and use a proper sub-zero sleeping bag. Students can rent all the necessary equipment for their adventures at WVU’s Outdoor Recreation Center.