Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sub- Zero Hiking and Photography on the Trail

There are two kinds of people in this world. When the mercury dives below zero there are the types wear footie pajamas, drink large amounts of hot chocolate bundle up on the couch under grandma’s afghan, and there’s the type who says, great day for a walk!

You know who you are! I have to admit, the older I get, the less spontaneous I am about launching out into the cold, but I still enjoy doing it when I get the chance.

They key to enjoying yourself in extreme cold is preparation. Things are amplified when the temps drop below zero. Equipment seems to be tested to the limit and this includes things such as your camera, cell phone, clothing, foot ware, and automobile.

Hit the jump to read on...

Cold weather gear always reminds me of the character Randy, the little brother in the “Christmas Story” movie. He’s the kid who was dressed so heavy with winter cloths that he could hardly move or get up when he fell down. When I was his age, we wore those galoshes over our tennis shoes and froze our toes to the point of real pain! It doesn’t have to be that way these days.

As far a bringing your camera goes, when it’s cold, there can be a lot of great photographic opportunities. Your camera is likely up to the task, but here are a few things to consider before you head out.

The amount of cold a camera can take is directly dependent on how much you can take…. For me personally, I give up after about an hour at -10 depending on the wind. (As an aside, I’m a non-believer in wind chill. Chill factor is just a PR agent to make crummy weather sound worse then it really is.) When the temp drops below in that -20 and below, your camera will only last so long. If your gear is in good shape - your battery will last about 30 minutes, depending on the model of camera you have.

Another big problem people have is bringing your camera into a warm place too quickly allowing condensation to form on the camera. But more important it forms inside the camera. Then when you go back out the moisture inside the camera freezes and you are out of luck if you think you will have a unit that will work in the cold.

One thing you can do to combat this problem is Carry a "Zip-lock" bag with you and before you go inside, put your camera into it, seal the bag and your camera will work much better the next time you head out.

The larger question often is not your gear, but you! This is why proper gear and clothing can be essential to a successful outing.

Here is a checklist of things to remember:

Dress in layers, wool and gore-tex coats work well.

Eye protection if it’s windy. I use polarized fishing glasses from the discount store.

Gloves that fit well. - I use a rubber covered glove called "Glacier Gloves". They allow me to grip equipment well and have a hole for me to remove my index finger for working with dials and smaller parts.

Boots – I like the Sorel brand with a good liner.

Socks – I’ve found Cabela’s Ultimax to be comfortable and very warm. They also fit my big feet!

Bib overalls – Carhart from the local farm store. Ski bibs will do the trick as well.

Wool hat or balaclava.

Chemical pocket warmers - These work well to keep you camera battery warm as well.

Bring a cell phone. Remember to keep inside your coat to help keep the battery warm. Also be sure it is fully charged.

Be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you will return.

Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water as well.

Rural roads can be difficult to navigate in the winter. Have a tow rope in your trunk and avoid unplowed roads. It may not hurt to have a map and a compass along as well.

High energy chocolate bar or granola in your pocket.

Stay well away from the icy river. It is unpredictable and can be very dangerous. With the recent flooding, it has made it hard to tell where the trail ends and the river starts. Remember, the same trail that is easy to navigate in the summer can be very treacherous. It is a lot more strenuous and takes a bit longer to cover the same amount of ground. This depends on the amount of snow cover.

It takes more energy for you, so be sure to take it easy and rest when needed. You can also use a sled if you need to pull a larger amount of gear such as tripods to a remote part of the field.

The wildlife you may see is well adapted to the weather, and it is very important for them to conserve energy during the extreme cold. You will also see evidence of birds and mammals through tracks and signs.

If you want, I’ll be headed out on the path tomorrow to shoot some sunsets around the river. Can’t wait!

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