What to Pack for Winter Camping in Northern Maine
Guest Blogger: Jane Torres, Houlton Chamber of Commerce
Oh joy! The date for my twenty first winter expedition into the wilds of Northern Maine is a week away and the gear geek in me immediately kicks into high gear. I enter the heaven that is the spare bedroom closet because this is where I hoard all of my essential backpacking items. Summer, winter, doesn’t matter because I have now entered the land of hikes past.
This I know - judging the weather is essential for packing the correct gear and as memory recalls there were trips where there was barely any snow and trips where there was seven feet of snow pack and more forecast.
Will it be icy on the 9 mile ski into the first overnight stop? Put the ski skins on while you are home. It’s hard to second guess yourself while on the trail.
Will you need those snowshoes? Trust me, you will. If for nothing less than the fangs that keep you from sliding back when you are actually climbing that mountain on the second day.
Should I pack the crampons, helmet, and ice ax? Yes, if there is a chance you may luck out on the weather and take that climb to the top of the mountain, you will need them. Plus, they are really cool.
So that’s the big stuff. Now for the stuff to pack inside the bag that you’ll put on top of your shoes and ice ax.
You’ll need food with lots of calories and a stove to cook it on. Plus, someone else on your team should also pack one because stoves fail and it’s always good to have a second option. One pot meals are the best and most appreciated by the team but remember to coordinate with your partners or you will end up with 7 lbs. of cheese and 1 box of crackers.
This year, on my search through the tubs, I realized I had 5 sleeping pads but couldn’t remember the one that had the pin hole. Throw those suckers out! You’ll never find the hole to fix. While I am at it by all means check your pulk sled (that’s what we use to haul our 50+ lbs. of gear) for broken welds, cracked plastic or lost parts. We always bring spares but you can bet, if needed, it will be the wrong part. Headlamps with fresh batteries, appropriate clothing with layer options to minimize sweat, hand warmers, some adult refreshment purely for medicinal purposes and some ibuprofen.
But most of all, know your team. They will be the ones to help if disaster should happen and you break a leg on the way down an icy hill. They will stop and grab some of your gear if you’re struggling and will not remind you later that you had a moment of weakness.
Oh, and don’t forget the cribbage board and please do count the cards. Nothing ruins a trip faster than 51 of a 52 card deck.