the north face womens boots allows folks to test their mettle

Brain A. Silva, 15, said that anyone can camp in 70 degree weather. The fun is in the challenge, testing yourself against the natural world.

Photo by David Molnar / The RepublicanEagle Scout Patrick P. Brodeur and Star Scout Brian A. Silva, both of Ludlow show some of the cold weather camping gear they use, Smart Wool socks, polypropalene liners, 2000 gram insulated Gortex boots and cold weather sleeping bags.

Of course, as all Scouts know, challenging yourself without the proper gear and a little know how can make for a bad weekend. Bad as in a potentially fatal case of hypothermia.

Eagle Scout Patrick P. Brodeur, 17, said that anyone who follows a few simple rules dress in layers, keep dry, wear a hat, have a way to start a fire, keep active, eat a lot of starches for energy can be comfortable while spending the night in the great outdoors.

Look at it this way: You don’t have to worry about mosquitoes and all the snakes are hibernating.

John D. Gleason, an owner at Don Gleason’s Camping Supply in Northampton, said that for every person who comes in and wants to go camping from December to March, there are probably 1,000 summer campers.

“It’s the individual against the world of nature,” Gleason said. “Some people want to test their mettle,”

He said winter campers are into more than just surviving. Once they go to the trouble, they want some real adventure like a trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire,
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home of Mount Washington and the worst weather in the country.

Dennis G. Moore, the supervising ranger at Mohawk Trail State Forest in Charlemont, said the park hosts overnights year round. Mostly scout groups. Moore said the campground bathroom is open and heated to keep the pipes from freezing.

“Sometimes I find people in there in the morning,” he said. “They got too cold.”

The road is closed once the snow falls, he said. So anything people want to bring they have to carry in hiking, cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Unlike the busy summer season, there is no need for a reservation at the tent sites. Cabins do require reservations.

“There’s a lot of solitude,” Moore said. “It’s not crowded like it can be in the summer.”

Gleason started working in the family owned store in 1958 when he was 10. Back then, camping gear meant for winter use was based on equipment developed during World War II for the famed 10th Mountain Division that saw action in the Italian Alps. Cold weather gear at that time meant lots of down.

But down retains water, even the water your body gives off as you sleep.

“You don’t want to be out there in a flannel bag,” he said.

Modern cold weather bags, like those made by The North Face, are made of synthetic materials that retain heat but allow perspiration and water vapor to pass through.

But common sense still applies, he said. The thicker the sleeping bag, the better it will insulate, he said.

Gleason also warned that Fiberglas tent poles will shatter in the cold. People need to pick something with metal poles.

They also need to stuff their pockets with some basic survival gear. People should have a compass and know how to use it along with a topographical map to find their way.

“When it starts snowing, you can be totally lost because you don’t know where you are going and where you’ve been,” Gleason said.

Campers should also carry a means of starting a fire with them at all times in case they get lost. Magnesium fire starters, where the user shaves off magnesium with a knife then sparks it with flint, are very popular and work in all kinds of weather.

The scouts carry dryer lint and matches.

People also need water, Gleason said. So people should have a means of melting snow and ice.

White gas camp stoves work the best, he said. Anything that takes a propane or butane cylinder might freeze up overnight. With some skill, Boy Scouts achieve a level of camp life that couldn’t even be described as roughing it, said Lawrence A. Bystran,
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scout executive for the Western Massachusetts Council.