Camping FAQs

Q. Should I use a sled or a backpack to transport my gear in winter?
A. It depends on your personal preference, the type of terrain where you are camping and the length of your camping trip. If you're planning a short trek, you may prefer a backpack that allows you to travel without the hindrance of a sled tugging behind you. If you are planning a longer trek and require more gear, a sled may be preferable. The weight that normally rides on your back is now sliding behind you. A fit winter trekker can pull his or her own weight in a sled. Snow and terrain also play a role. A sled will glide smoother if you are skiing on level terrain and on packed snow than if you are traveling through deep powder on mountainous terrain. If you carry your gear on a sled, be sure to include a day pack to use on day tours from base camp. The day pack can hold essential items, including map, compass, water, first-aid kit and extra clothes.

Q. What types of sleds are there for pulling my gear?

A. A plastic recreational toboggan is recommended for pulling a load over level terrain. Load your heavier items toward the rear of the toboggan so the front curl of the sled stays above snow. Make sure no items hang over the edges or they might catch on branches or rocks. A molded plastic sled known as a "pulk" is ideal for rolling terrain. It has rigid bars connecting to your waist or hips that prevent the sled from ramming your heels during a descent. The pulk's hull should have runners along the bottom so it tracks in a straight line behind you. The load on your toboggan or pulk should be wrapped in a tarp and lashed securely so it will not spill its contents.
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Q. When should I snowshoe and when should I ski in the backcountry?

A. Snow conditions, terrain and vegetation determine whether travel is better by ski or snowshoe. A good general rule is to ski as far as you can and snowshoe from there. But remember, climbing skins on your skis can help you navigate some pretty steep terrain before you're forced to switch to snowshoes. Many choose snowshoes when the snow is deep and vegetation is dense. Cross-country skis are usually the top choice because in packed snow conditions they cover more distance faster and with less effort than snowshoes.

Q. How do you balance on skis with a heavy backpack load?

A. When you're carrying a heavy pack and skiing, you're actually shuffling or walking more than you're gliding unless you have the luxury of traveling on packed snow. Skiing with a pack demands that you economize your skiing motion and concentrate on keeping your balance. Your center of gravity is higher with a heavy pack than when you ski unencumbered, so you need to ski without exaggerated movements. Aim for a well-balanced, upright posture and keep your knees bent for flexibility and stability. A pack that has a lower center of gravity nearer your waist is easier to ski or snowshoe with than one that rides high.
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Q. Can I drink water from a stream in winter?
A. All wilderness water should be treated through either filtration, purification or boiling, no matter how cold the weather is. For assistance in choosing the correct treatment method during the winter months, call the L.L.Bean Outdoor Hotline at 800-226-7552.

Q. How do I keep liquids from freezing?

A. Insulate them by wrapping your clothing around them and packing them close to your back, deep in your pack. Some water bottles come with insulating covers or you can wrap a sock around them. You can also tape small heating pad squares to your water bottle. At night, place your water bottle (filled with hot water and securely sealed) in your sleeping bag.
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Q. Which backpacks are best for winter camping?

A. Many winter campers prefer internal frame packs. An internal pack, with its soft frame, molds to your back and is narrower than traditional external frame packs. When packed correctly, the bulk of the pack's weight rides lower on your back than with an external frame pack, which has a higher center of gravity. Also, external frames are more likely to catch on branches. Because internal frames hold the load close to your body, you have a free range of motion when you are poling, skiing and climbing. You also have better balance as you navigate over slippery snow conditions.

Q. Which stoves are best for camping in cold temperatures?

A. You need a tough, reliable stove that will heat water quickly and work well in low temperatures. Many campers prefer white gas or unleaded fuel, which is additive-free gas. Check to be sure your fuel and your stove are compatible. While it is tempting to cook in your tent for warmth, especially during a snow storm, do not. Stoves produce carbon monoxide fumes and priming stoves can cause flame-ups, which can melt your tent. If you must cook near your tent, set it up outside and check for proper clearance from stove flare-ups. Tent material is flammable. Keep your tent doors open for ventilation. When you operate a stove, place a pot lid or pan underneath it to keep it from melting the snow beneath, causing it to shift or tip over. If there are high winds, shovel out a clearing around the stove and build a high wind-block wall of snow.
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