Snow or rain camp must-havesThis is the list of equipment YOU MUST HAVE(followed by the list of things YOU WILL WISH YOU HAD) to go on the Outdoor Club annual Yosemite Snow Camp trip, or even on our summer trips.
A lot of this applies to camping when you just didn't
expect really cold or wet weather but you got it anyway.
The happy campers above on the last day of the 1996 trip are smiling in part because they brought the right gear. They wore layers of warm clothes and kept them dry with a complete waterproof outer layer when needed. They had good boots and knew that wearing
a hat helps keep toes warm because you can lose a lot of heat from an uncovered head. They brought lots of spare (NOT COTTON) socks.
Lots of fluids and regular small meals, to keep your energy output up (cut back on the caffeine), also help keep your toes warm. But remember that when you eat, part of your blood supply will head for your stomach, so you need to get warm before you eat. You also need to get warm before you go to bed so you can more easily warm up your sleeping bag. For most people this just means walking around some instead of sitting still.
Her toes are probably warmer than his because she's sitting on the picnic table, not standing in the snow. Whenever possible, have a seat and put your feet up on a rock or part of a woodpile.
And they didn't smoke. Everybody on the trip will have cold toes sometime. Smokers usually have the coldest toes because their blood vessels constrict when they smoke and blood flow to their toes decreases. Smokers have complained of painfull toes.
Leave no trace If going into the wilderness, if you can, choose hiking, backpacking, and camping gear and clothing that are natural earth tone colors like green, brown, tan. (Some websites also recommend black, but it, along with flowery prints and bright colored clothing, attract insects that sting.) Bright colors like white, purple, blue, red and yellow do not blend in with the environment, can be seen from miles away and contribute to a crowded feeling. But do carry at least one item of very visible clothing and/or gear to help rescuers find you if needed.
YOU MUST HAVE
There is no such thing as bad weather, there are only bad clothes.
-Long underwear, also called long johns, (top and bottom) in polypropylene, capilene, polartec, drylitest, versatech, micro modal, wool, silk or polyester (or a blend, spun poly / lycra / rayon, for example). Cotton or ramie
won't work because it soaks up sweat and makes you cold. Wool and silk can get sweaty, or even soaked, and still be warm. The synthetics wick away moisture from your skin to the outer
layers. (Would you believe professional football teams actually wore pantyhose before the more modern stuff was invented?) On a budget? Think about things in your own wardrobe or things friends have before you spend a lot of money. Runner's compression tights, skin-tight stirrup pants, leggings and / or silk pajamas under fleece pants could work. A dressy silk turtleneck, tights or a leotard could work. Or a layer of pantyhose with any of the above. Bike rider's compression shorts could work under the polypro or silk layer. Men's jammers or that rash guard you wear swimming in the winter would be a great extra layer, but a wetsuit would be, well, a little too bulky.
below, lifeguard Samir and swimmers model warm swimwear including various coverages of rash guards and jammers they could also wear for a winter camping trip:
On a budget? Don't 'save money' by buying warm inner layers with any percentage of cotton! In pre-trip shopping survey one year Target had the lowest prices for synthetic long johns. Look in the men's clothing department, there weren't any in the women's. (Target has usually been out of hats/long johns a couple of weeks before our trip, so to take advantage of their good prices you have to plan ahead.) Sports Basement has a little of everything, although not always in every size/color. A local huge recreation equipment supply had their house brand base layer for $34.50 and name brands for much more.
People sometimes ask: "Isn't it a waste to buy this polypropylene for just one camping trip?"
The answer is that you will use this gear for years for camping and outdoors adventures all year long. Once you know how to deal with winter weather, you'll probably never camp again without proper rain/cold gear, an insulating sleeping pad, or a decent tent. Then when Mom Nature sneaks up on you with an unexpected spring or fall storm, you'll be able to not only survive, but even enjoy it.
-Waterproof boots with synthetic or wool socks (cotton won't work). Boots that have decorative patterns of non-waterproofable material in them won't work. Re-waterproof boots shortly before the trip, six months ago won't work. If you wear tennis shoes for the drive up, store your boots in the car, not in the trunk, so they won't be too cold to put on when you get there.
Your hiking boots/trail running shoes do still have tread left on them, right?
Many people wear at least two if not three pairs of (not cotton) socks with hiking or snow boots. A thin polypropolene or silk pair right next to your skin, an optional medium pair and a thick pair. Bring all these pairs and any arch supports, etc. when you go to buy/rent boots. If your boots are too tight with adequate layers of socks your toes are more likely to be cold. Mel Cotton's (1 408 287-5994) has had okay snow boots for sale as cheap as $25.
On a budget? Rent boots. The Ski Renter, at 10675 S De Anza Blvd #2, north of Bollinger on the west side of the road, has winter boots suitable for hiking and warm enough for hanging out in the snow. Early 2015 $9.49 (winter boots, not ski boots) for a weekend (pick up Friday, return Monday by 6 p.m.). Bring the two pairs of socks you will wear when you go to try them on. You can come in three days before our trip, try on the boots and reserve a pair. Please confirm hours, price and terms. (408) 255-9600. (See also snow parka/pants rentals in that section below.)
Pick out a pair of rental boots in good condition. Below, a pair of rental boots that needed a duct tape repair:
Please don't try to hike in tennis shoes.
from Yosemite Search and Rescue, lessons from the field:
"The subject" (who slipped/fell on very fine gravel on a trail and needed evacuation) "was wearing tennis shoes with slick bottom soles."
-At l e a s t two changes of clothes, including six to ten (or more if you have them) changes of (non-cotton) socks.
On a budget? In an previous pre-trip shopping survey Target had thin non-cotton pants socks that sure work like polypro sock liners and wear like the ones at a big recreation equipment store, at less than half the price of the recreation equipment store ($6.29 for two pairs of liners type at Target versus $6 for one house brand pair at the big recreation store or $12 for one pair of a major brand at the big recreation store.
Thick boot socks: Target had two for $10.99, the big recreation equipment store charged $15.50 / $16.95 / $23.95 for one pair.
You can't always tell by looking at or feeling the texture of socks and insulating underlayers whether they have any cotton in them.
Read the label before you buy them.
If things get bad, there's usually a laundromat open where you can dry some damp clothes. (As of early 2015, open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Housekeeping Camp, across the road from free valley shuttle bus stop #12.)
-Waterproof and windproof outer layers. One person on a previous trip didn't seem to understand that a very light snowfall is water, even though it doesn't seem like much. She didn't cover the big, warm down jacket she had borrowed and it slowly got wetter and wetter until it was useless.
Some people on our first trips had to buy rain jackets and rain pants in Yosemite because they really needed them. They would have been cheaper at a Bay Area surplus store or hardware store. Most people who only brought rain 'ponchos' ended up wishing they had rain jackets and pants because
they work so much better. Ponchos drip water on your pant legs, a rain jacket and pants set gives you complete coverage. Ponchos blow around in the wind or even just as you move about doing things in camp and let in water.
One girl on the '98 trip really thought the jacket she brought was waterproof, but within seconds of stepping out of the car she found out otherwise. We made a cover for her out of plastic garbage bags to try to keep her dry until she got to the store.
Water repellent, water resistant, 'blocks light rain' or 'wind pants' are not good enough in the heavy rain or snow we could have. Because of all the unprepared people on previous trips, you must show us what you intend to wear for your outer layer and get it approved before you will be allowed to sign up for the trip.
We will not accept a rain poncho. We will not accept thin, easily torn temporary rain gear like they sell at airports for emergencies.
When heavy snow builds up in trees it falls without warning often in a big thuding plop or a cloud of snow dust that put out the flame on a camp stove on the 2008 trip twice one morning. A poncho will not protect you from this:
Waterproof material looks and feels plasticy or rubbery. If a jacket feels like cloth it is probably not waterproof, except possibly Gore-tex. It's advertised as being both waterproof and capable of
letting your sweat out. If you can afford it, at $300-690 for a parka, (and if all of the newer ones really work that well, the first ones didn't always function in heavy rain or when dirty) then go for it.
Your snowboarding jacket/pants/bib
are probably notwaterproof. BUT if they are and if we get early spring type weather with rain and warmish temperatures instead of winter temps, you might really wish you had a rain jacket besides the heavier gear.
Buy your waterproof outer layer a size larger than normal to have
room for warm things under it. On a budget? Get a set (pants and jacket with a hood) of ($20 to $26 in early 2015) construction worker raingear at Home Depot/Orchard Supply/Ace Hardware. Yes, it could be bright yellow, but you won't be the only one. If you can sew, you can Improve your inexpensive rain gear. Be sure you get a set with a hood, some jackets do not have one.
If you are not sure if your ski or snowboard pants / bib / jacket really are waterproof, wear them in the shower. After you dry them out, wear them to Home Depot/Orchard Supply/Ace Hardware to try on rain gear that fits over them.
-A warm jacket, or better yet, a longer parka with many different warm inner layers under it like sweaters, a wool workshirt, or a vest, (one heavy coat by itself won't work). These layers should
not be cotton. Maybe you'll be comfortable sleeping in sweats, but out in the weather you don't want cotton. On a budget? Goodwill usually has lots of wool and synthetic sweaters, (but they have more in at least part cotton and you don't want those).
They might be a little worn, but that's fine for camping.
At different times of the day you'll wear different amounts of layers and different degrees of waterproofness. During daylight it will be warmer than nighttime, and any precipitation might be falling as rain, so you'll wear the rain jacket and rain pants with fleece, polypro and sweaters underneath. As it gets colder, you might add a down or fleece vest. After nightfall, as it gets colder, rain could turn to snow falling. Then you could wear a thick ski jacket, and if it's waterproof, or if you're careful to keep snow brushed off, might not need the rain jacket over it.
Sometimes in the middle of a sunny day you'll be hiking in just a shirt/shorts or shirt/pants if you're warm from exercise and sunshine, but carry the warm and waterproof stuff with you, don't ever think you'll make it back to the car or campsite in time should the weather change.
This guy started out on the hike to Upper Yosemite Fall wearing a big jacket, but got warm as he hiked, so it's now around his waist.
If you don't carry your raingear on a hike and it starts to rain, your clothes can get soaked through. In the cold temperatures of the mountains, winter or not, you could die from exposure.
Wool or fleece pants are best. Blue jeans (or other cotton pants) would be potentially deadly in winter wilderness, and we don't recommend them, but you might get away with them on this trip if you are super careful about
keeping them dry, wear polypropylene next to your skin, a windproof and waterproof layer over them, and bring extra pairs in case they get wet.
On a budget? Rent the jacket and pants. The Ski Renter, at 10675 S De Anza Blvd #2, north of Bollinger on the west side of the road, (408) 255-9600, (see boots rentals above) has (early 2015) ski jackets or pants $11.49 for the weekend, parka and pants $16.49, snow boots (not ski boots) and parka and pants $21.49 for the weekend (pick up Friday, return Monday by 6 p.m.). Mel Cotton's (1 408 287-5994) had ski jackets and pants for rent (early 2015) for $12 each for 3 days with a $40 deposit on a credit card. They don't charge for the day you pick up, so you can get them on Thursday morning and return them on Monday by 8 p.m. Rentals at both places are snow proof, but not fully waterproof, so plan to bring a waterproof rain jacket/ pants set that will fit over them. Please confirm these prices/terms.
-A warm (synthetic or wool knit, microfleece or fleece) hat and gloves (but mittens are warmer because your fingers touch inside, you might want both). On a budget? Women should also shop in the men's department. The men's fleece gloves at Old Navy for example, were much better quality than the women's and at a lower cost during a sale than the women's. So if you can do with gray, navy or black instead of hot pink...
('Magic gloves' that you can get at discount stores for 99 cents are too thin to work by themselves, but could make good glove liners with rubber gloves for snow sculpture designing.)
On a budget? In a previous pre-trip shopping survey Target had (check the men's section as well as the women's) various colors of knit watch caps for $4.99 to $7.99. A huge local recreation equipment store was charging $20 to $46 for knit hats of various styles.
You'll be warmer overnight if you wear the hat to bed:
- High-SPF sunscreen, 15 SPF is a joke. (Remember that the sun reflects up off the snow and you need sunscreen under your chin and on the underside of and just inside your nose).
- Chapstick (best with sunscreen), and dry skin lotion (not just one big bottle, but a few little ones you can carry in various pockets to use regularly especially if it's windy, but be certain to find them at bedtime and get them into the bear box).
- Not-cheap sunglasses that really reflect ultra-violet and infrared. The light can be really bright reflected off the snow. You might need these while driving, so don't pack them away.
A National Park Service photo of Yosemite Falls in mid-January, 2004
-A very good sleeping bag, (or two ordinary ones and extra blankets). NOT a rectangular cotton filled bag, not even for our summer trips. If you borrow a bag, check to make sure it has a tube of insulation running along the inside of the zipper.
If you own a spare bag, and can fit it in your car, please bring it, someone may get one wet and need to borrow it.
On a budget? You can rent a 3 season sleeping bag from Sports Basement (Campbell in the Pruneyard Shopping Center, 1875 S. Bascom at Campbell Ave. suite 240, same parking lot as Trader Joe's), (Sunnyvale 1177 Kern Avenue off Lawrence Expressway between 101 and Central Expressway), 2 to 5 days for $25. Reservable online a minimum of 5 days in advance, or take your chances for a same day walk-in rental. Please verify rates/terms.
-A sheet or blanket to cover your bag to collect condensation that might drip from the inside of the tent as you sleep. Picture in the winter how when you breathe, fog comes out of your mouth. Your tent will trap some of that moisture inside on the walls and ceiling. If you don't leave enough tent zippers open, and/or you have enough people in the tent, a lot of moisture will collect on inside surfaces and it can fall on all of you when someone bumps the tent walls at
night. Or it can soak into any part of a sleeping bag that ends up pressing next to a tent wall. Despite this warning it has happened to someone on every trip so far.
-An insulating sleeping pad, (two would be much better) which members can rent from the club. An air mattress (the kind you float on in a pool) won't work by itself, the air in it between you and the ground will make it softer for you, but what you need most is insulation from the cold ground. You can put an insulating pad on top of an air mattress or on top of a chaise lounge pad. You can bring a futon if there's room in the vehicle you are going up in. Your yoga mat isn't enough by itself but could be an additional layer. A soft egg-carton-shape type foam pad might not be thick enough to insulate properly by itself, unless you fold a huge one over a few times, or unless it is a 'closed-cell' pad made for winter.
Please no cots: A cot won't fit in most winter-rated tents, and bottom edges of the legs will make holes in the tent floor. If you decide to bring a tent of your own big enough for a cot, remember that a cot won't be enough protection from the cold without insulating pads even though it gets you up off the ground.
-A freestanding tent suitable for snow camping. Yes, the club has lots of these! It should be dome-shaped, not box-shaped, with a rain fly that goes all the way down the sides , not 1/3 or 2/3 of the way as some summer tents are designed. Cheap tents have only a partial, cap-sized rainfly. Rain soaks through all the tent roof not covered by the rainfly and drips into the tent. This can happen quickly.
A good tent will have full zippers around doors and windows, not flaps. It will have full zippers around window and door covers in the rain fly, not flaps. Pitch the tent and test the zippers to see if they open and close easily.
The tent and rain fly should pitch taut. There should be a small amount of space all around between the fly and the tent when it is pitched.
The club owns quite a few, and you can rent really fancy ones.
You can rent tents from Sports Basement (Campbell in the Pruneyard Shopping Center, 1875 S. Bascom at Campbell Ave. suite 240, same parking lot as Trader Joe's), (Sunnyvale 1177 Kern Avenue off Lawrence Expressway between 101 and Central Expressway) 2 to 5 days: 2 person for $25, 4 person (much more comfy for 2 people in bad weather than a 2 person tent) for $30, 6 person for $40. Reservable online a minimum of 5 days in advance, or take your chances for a same day walk-in rental. Weekend rentals can be picked up as early as Tuesday and be dropped off Monday evening for the 2-5 day rate. Please verify rates/terms.
If you bring a tent that requires guy lines and tent pegs you'll need special snow tent pegs, which might not work in fluffy snow. Even if it doesn't snow much on our trip, the ground can be too hard in winter for tent pegs to be pounded in. If the Rangers move us from the campground because of the Mono winds we could end up sleeping on an asphalt parking lot with no way to put in pegs.
Better to borrow or rent a freestanding dome tent.
below: three pictures of the same tent, one after being pitched Saturday of the 2008 trip, the next taken Sunday morning after two feet of snow fell overnight, and the same tent a little later Sunday morning when an occupant woke up and looked outside, knocking a little snow off the tent:
If your friend says he's bringing a tent for a bunch of you, pin him down on how good it is. On one trip a guy brought a big box shaped very old tent with acres of plastic sheeting to cover it. It
didn't work, but on that trip there was space in other tents for the people who were expecting to sleep in it.
If you borrow a tent, pitch it before the trip to be sure all the poles and parts are there, and so you know how to do it in a hurry if you arrive after dark and it's precipitating. If you can't quite figure out how to pitch it, we've got experienced people to help, so bring it to the mandatory pre-trip meeting. If you borrow a tent from the club we can teach you how to pitch at at the equipment rental / pre-trip meeting.
On a past trip, some people borrowed a club tent and didn't get help with pitching it. They put it up without the rain fly poles, and left the tent bag and poles out in the snow. Hey, it's not their tent, why should they care? The next morning it snowed, and then warmed up and the snow turned to slush. Their tent leaked badly and their sleeping bags were soaked.
So, the moral of this story is, get your tent, with the rain fly, pitched properly right away when you arrive, (if it's not taut, there's something wrong, get some help!).
Store your sleeping bag in a car during the day when you're away from the campsite so it can't get soaked or stolen.
Check out the tents near the bottom of Camping Blunders
One guy on the 2004 trip didn't follow this advice. He told us he had a good tent. He was lucky, before rain soaked through this tent with the tiny pretend rainfly we found room in a better tent for him.
There is no guarantee that future trip members with bad tents will find room for the night in a good tent with someone else on the trip who is better prepared. If you are not sure your tent is good enough, bring it for us to look at before the trip.
(On a budget? The club has some good tents to loan to members, including the eight person Cabela tent with a full rain fly shown below. We also have a large number of insulated sleeping pads. Club equipment is first-signed-up-for-a-trip, first-served. Equipment rentals are usually at the mandatory pre-trip
meeting and world's ugliest long-johns contest. Equipment rentals will go much more smoothly if you have read the Outdoor Club Sample Rental Agreement before that evening. A list of gear is at: Outdoor Club Equipment If you borrow one of the eight-person tents shown below from us you might want to look at How to pitch the Cabela eight-person tent
Ideally you would only have four people in one of the club six-person tents, but how horrible would it be to try to stuff more people in and sleep crowded with gossiping and giggling all night?
If you use a tent or dining canopy that needs tent pegs in the ground, please put some pieces of kindling or other small wood pieces in the ground or in the snow sticking up next to the tent/canopy pegs. In low light or no light the pegs and the (usually) white guy lines will be nearly invisible. Help prevent people tripping on your guylines. (The faculty advisor usually has bright pink tape to tie on guylines.)
Below: these people made a front porch for their tent from a tarp with poles that needed guylines. They put a piece of kindling where the guyline peg went into the snow. The kinding is quite visible, but the guyline isn't.
For info on the logistics of where to pitch your tent, dealing with iced car door locks, staying warm and comfy overnight and more, go to: First-timer's instructions
-A whistle in case you get a little or a lot lost. You can blow on a whistle a lot longer than you can yell for help. Three blasts on a whistle at a time is a 'help-needed' signal.
- Tire chains. Not all vehicles have space between the wheel well and the big wheels for chains! Chains are very expensive in the park and sometimes the Rangers won't let you drive with just four-wheel drive with snow tires (or they won't let you into the park).
Some of the time you won't have to put the chains on if you have snow tires (look for m+s or a similar designation for mud and snow on the side wall) but they must have tread at least 6/32 of an inch deep.
On a budget? Some places that sell chains will let you return them if you don't use them.
Read Snow chain rentals and Prepare for winter driving
There are tow trucks from the Yosemite valley garage, but if it's obvious that you slid off the road because you didn't have chains during chains required conditions, CSAA or other auto club
towing packages will not pay for the tow--you will.
-Keep at least a half-full gas tank (to prevent gas line freezeup). Why? Any space above the gas in the tank has moist air in it. In the cold, especially overnight, that can condense into water. The water will sink to the bottom of the tank and if enough builds up it can end up going to your fuel line and cause hard starting or even block the fuel line completely.
You'll also want to keep a closer to full tank should you need to change routes, idle, drive slowly or turn back. You can't buy gas in Yosemite Valley or anywhere near
where we will be camping.
-- cash or credit card for your share of gas, park entrance fee, bridge crossing fees, chain rentals, etc. as well as possible meals out at the restaurants
- Extra water in your diet (more than you might think)--by the time you feel thirsty you have already dehydrated too much, and are down a liter. Cold depresses your thirst mechanism. Drink at least two quarts of water, perhaps five daily under strenuous conditions. This will help keep your toes warm, as will avoiding caffeine and nicotine, which constrict your blood vessels.
If you have not trained as an athlete to drink extra water, you may have to drink more than you are used to. It's a good idea to start each morning with a liter. Another two or three glasses at bedtime will help rehydrate you and insure you wake up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and take a minute to clear excess snow off your tent.
On the '98 trip this would this would have saved one tent from collapsing in the middle of the night from the weight of snow (this was the first tent ever on a trip to have this happen, and no, nobody got close to being hurt, just annoyed).
-One or two large screw-top water bottles for hiking.
- No food or toiletries in your tent (they attract coyotes, raccoons, and the occasional bear who woke up during hibernation). Oh, of course you can brush your teeth at bedtime, but no tube of toothpaste in the tent!
- First aid kit -spend the money to get good quality water-resistant bandaids (the club will provide an extensive first aid kit, but you will want a personal one) and first aid knowledge, especially about frostbite and hypothermia.
- Good wood matches, preferably some waterproof, not paper "book" matches. Strike-anywhere-type matches can be started against a rock. The striking surface on boxes of other kinds of wood matches sometimes wears out or gets wet. Packing a small peice of sandpaper can give you a striking surface if everything else is wet or covered with snow.
- A real flashlight, not one of the types you squeeze to make it work, or a tiny key chain model. Keep it warm in a jacket pocket; batteries are weak when cold. Most models of wind-up dynamo flashlights don't produce enough light to get around the campsite in the dark. They do produce enough light to read in bed by, but are so loud when being rewound they would keep others awake.
- Stove and a repair kit for your stove that you know how to use and extra fuel (the club will probably provide a couple of stoves, fuel (probably propane), and repair knowledge). Please don't depend on cooking any meals over a fire.
If you spill liquid fuel on your hands when handling a stove in the cold, you can get instant
frostbite when it evaporates quickly. The fuel can damage or permanently wreck your fancy tent fabric, or your fancy clothing, so refuel carefully outside of the tent.
Accidental burns or carbon monoxide poisoning from cooking inside a poorly ventilated tent are
distinct possibilities, plus spilled food will attract animals, so no cooking in the tents.
Did you read Snow camp weather, hike safety and first aid considerations?
Don't expect any equipment owned by the club that you want to individually borrow to be at the campsite unless you specifically arrange for it. Yes, we have some insulating sleeping pads, but we won't have one for you unless you reserve it, pay a deposit and pick it up (probably at the
mandatory pre-trip meeting) and bring it on the trip yourself.
-- the usual cooking accouterments (can opener, cutlery, utensils) paper towels, pans, dish soap/scrubbie, potholder, etc. and ingredients
- Food that is precooked and only needs to be rewarmed or that is very simple to cook. Some food that requires no cooking, for lunch and snacks on a hike, or in case the weather prevents or hampers cooking, like the long list at GORP and hiking snacks. (Yes, it's true, one guy on the 2002 trip cooked lobster.)
The club does not provide food, but if you forgot catsup, oil, matches, dish soap, a can opener or something, ask around, somebody probably has something. Plus, there's a good-sized grocery
store just a couple of shuttle bus stops away.
Some people on this trip will cook by themselves, others will get together before the trip to plan some menus, and buy and even pre-cook food for the trip. A few might want to go mostly to the
cafeteria. Often meals end up as a friendly, impromptu pot-luck if people bring extra of something they'd like to share. BUT if you bring something to share you are still responsible for it. Don't leave it sitting where animals can get into it and walk away thinking someone else will watch it and/or put it away after people are done tasting.
The club does not provide ice chests (but we have one a member can borrow). If you bring food that needs refrigeration, bring a ice chest for it, don't expect to fit it in someone's chest.
DINNER MENU SUGGESTIONS
Alex says the next time he makes a snow table he will find something to put under the stove, as it got hot and started to melt into the table. He almost lost a hard-earned pan of by then tepid water.
You can bring extra money and just eat out at the evening pizza or morning coffee place at Curry Village (walking distance from our campsites or one bus stop from the campground on the free shuttle) or the deli, cafeteria or restaurant at other Yosemite valley locations, but why not try a least one winter outdoor dinner?
Plan to eat more than usual (your energy output is up). You can eat all unheated food, but warm stuff feels good.
In really bad weather it's easier to cook only things that have boiling water added to them, like cups of mashed potatoes, noodle entrees and soup. With them you could have salad and sandwiches, raw veggies and fruit, crackers and cookies. Some people only bring simple things like this, and spend less time cooking and cleaning up, having more time to play. One guy on the '98 trip seemed to always be eating only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and he may have
eaten better than others who planned extravagant menus.
If you barbecue, do small pieces of meat or fish at a time instead of a whole one that will get cold before you can finish eating it. No, there won't be room in the bearproof food storage box for your barbeque grill, but you might be able to fit a small rack to go over the campsite grill. Remember, frequently the weather won't let you cook over a fire, so have a stove or other backup method of cooking.
Food that comes with its own 'insulation' is good, hot dogs in a bun, sloppy joes, fajitas, or burritos. But only make up one at a time, and maybe split it with someone so you can finish eating it before it gets cold. It can get cold fast.
Pick things that are 'wet' enough they can simmer for awhile to stay warm. Cheese or seafood fondues (with maybe a little extra liquid) can stay warm while people dip french bread or broccoli pieces into them.
A double boiler (small pan of food sitting right over a pan of boiling water), can keep things warm with less risk of burning them. If you don't have a real double boiler you can put a saucepan of food in a slightly larger frying pan with water in the frying pan.
Eat a stew, chili, or spaghetti and sauce in small portions in an insulated mug. Why serve it all at once spread out on a plate where
it will get cold?
For safety's sake, don't bring raw chicken. Much chicken has salmonella which needs to be killed during cooking. It's easier to prepare it cleanly at home and just re-heat it at camp, plus you
reduce the risk of raw chicken juice spilling on other things in your ice chest and contaminating everything. We are talking about very sick from salmonella.
Make some food in advance and just reheat it, like spaghetti/sauce, baked potatoes, bacon, or that baked chicken. One very popular guy on the '96 trip brought lots of extra prebaked potatoes to share. To reheat, quarter them so it takes less time. Top them with sour cream, chives, yogurt, grated cheese, salsa, chili and/or ranch style dressing.
You could eat grilled chicken spinach caesar salad easily if you grill the chicken, rinse the spinach and grate the cheese at home. Any time you spend preparing food at home means more time to play, and can mean you're more likely to have an enjoyable meal, when you want it, instead of struggling with the weather.
Please note: Winter sunset will be around 5 p.m. You'll probably be cooking and cleaning up after dark.
Dispose of trash and garbage in the dumpster at the end of the campground loop. On the '98 trip one guy brought a package of bacon to cook. When he was asked what he was going to do with the grease, he said he would dig a hole in the ground and scrape the grease into it. This is against the rules anyplace you camp, including backpacking someplace remote. It's possibly dangerous to
attract animals to the smell and have them digging. It's rude to the future people who camp there. Can you imagine not knowing someone buried bacon grease in a campground, and pitching your tent over it, or near it, and having animals harass you all night?
This National Park Service photo shows a coyote going after a meal under the snow. There WILL BE coyotes and raccoons, if not bears, in the campground.
Most campsite food (and anything that smells much like food) storage lockers are 33" d x 45" w x 18" h. For many years in the winter the Rangers let us use food storage lockers in closed campsites in the rest of the campground when we had too much stuff. In 2004 the Ranger insisted we buy more campsites. If your food, toiletries and cooking gear won't fit in one sixth of the space available, you will have to buy another campsite or throw out your excess. One ice chest per person won't fit, but three people could share an ice chest and plan to fit their stuff in half a bear box.
Your trip will be much more pleasant if you read:
Using a campsite food storage locker and follow the tips for fitting gear.
We're recommending that people plan on a simple in-camp breakfast such as juice, hot chocolate, fruit, granola bars, oatmeal or cream of wheat that will power you for hours. Yes you can sneak
in a sweetroll as well, but it won't keep you going by itself. Trying to cook a full breakfast with eggs and toast will probably take more time than you have and could make you late to the skiers/snowshoe walk bus or give you a too late start on the all day hike.
taste treat dining sensation: Spam lite???
YOU WILL WISH YOU HAD
If you want to downhill or snowboard you might want to rent your gear at the Yosemite resort. If you rent gear at home before the trip it could be a waste of money if a storm closes the resort or you decide that a big hike that day would be more fun.
- High-carbohydrate/high-fat snacks for just before bedtime to help keep you warm while you sleep (cashews or peanuts, for example).
- marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers (If you've never eaten them together we'll give you the recipe on the trip.)
- Polypropylene glove and sock liners (these synthetic 'plastic' materials can melt, so don't substitute polypropylene glove liners for potholders). These could almost be on the must have
list, and you could wish you had more than one pair. Thin Magic gloves can suffice as liners.
- A headband to keep your ears warm when a hat is too much.
- More firewood (especially little pieces; firewood collecting in Yosemite Valley is illegal, and buying it isn't cheap). The club will try to arrange for lots of firewood, but not enough for a fire
in each campsite each evening and morning. Do you know where to get pallets? Do you have a truck to bring a bunch?
Note that you want a small fire, not a big bonfire, because you want people to be able to get close to it to warm up. Plus, you don't want to melt all the huge clumps of snow off of the tree branches above and near the fire, which will fall in big thudding plops onto either people standing around the fire or onto the fire itself, possibly putting it out.
As long as Sudden Oak Death is still a problem, we must follow quarantines
of host material, including local (Santa Clara County and other infected coastal counties) firewood. We can bring cut up scrap lumber or pallets. 'Presto' type logs (compressed sawdust and wax) are also okay if you want to bring some, but they cost more.
How to build a campfire that doesn't smoke too much is at:
The Outdoor Club does not recommend this method of drying boots:
-duct tape for repairs (such as those rental boots that fell apart).
- More towels; they may not dry between showers. (Yosemite Valley has hot showers at Curry Village all year. In the winter they are often free as they don't have anyone to collect money from you.) Hint: the last skier's buses leave Badger Pass at (as of early 2015) 4:30 p.m. for about an hour trip. Expect long lines and lukewarm water after that. The shower house has blow dryers mounted on the walls, but you might want your own hair dryer.
Bring a couple of big plastic bags to keep shower spray off your clothes and towels.
Most women camping don't wear as much makeup as they might at work or school, if any at all. See also: Camping solutions for women
Your fingernails may have more wear, so a real, sturdy 'sapphire' type nail file will be better than a paper emory board. Real nail clippers work for nails; scissors don't.
Your college photo ID if the ski resort has a deal that year
- Cat litter (simple, non-clumping, unscented cat litter) or sand. One year one of the most popular people was a woman who brought what must have been a 20-pound bag of cat litter to get cars' tires unstuck. Yes, the men tried to muscle the car unstuck first. Yes, she said "I told you so." In an emergency you could put your floor mats under the drive wheels. You do know if your vehicle is rear or front wheel drive, don't you?
- A dining canopy (especially one of the more rigid 'easy-up' kinds) to put above a picnic table if it is only snowing lightly or raining (heavy snow could collapse it), and a lantern, not just a
flashlight. Don't rush out and buy a canopy or lantern, the club will probably provide some, but if you own one already or can borrow one, you might want to bring it.
-The recipe for baked potato in a ski hat. Outdoor Club faculty advisor Mary Donahue (the one who teaches non-swimmers and lifeguards) invented this and will share the recipe at the pre-trip
-A car with a better battery (in cold weather, batteries are 50 per cent less efficient) Read Prepare for winter driving
- A pair of shorts in case we get a brief spell of early spring weather
- red cellophane for over your flashlight on a night hike to protect your night vision
- Batteries for your flashlight that are NOT the cheap rechargeable kind, and lots of extras. Possibly a spare bulb. A second flashlight can be really convenient. A 'snake light' can be carried on your shoulder or you could use a headlamp to keep your hands free, but try not to blind others with it. A headlamp worn around your neck will not blind others as easily as one on your forehead.
In thick fog or blowing snow you will see better to hike/walk if you put a flashlight headlamp on a belt at your waist instead of on your head.
- More warm clothes, and more dry ( non-cotton ) socks, but not so many socks on your feet at once that it cuts down circulation
-An insulated drinking mug and a second one for the main course (but if you leave the mug in your pack or the bear box all day and it's cold, pre-warm it in your jacket before you put hot soup in it or it may
- Even more water in your diet than you thought you'd need when you read the 'must have' section of this trip handout.
- A backpack (which you can rent from the club) rather than a tiny daypack for hikes so you can really have room to bring all the water you'll need to drink and gear you need to be warm, safe and dry. See the list of day hike gear at our summer: Camping equipment checklist
If you don't carry your raingear on a hike and it starts to rain, your clothes can get soaked through. In the cold temperatures of the mountains, winter or not, you could die from exposure.
- Headphone cassette player so you can play music as loud as you want without the neighbors complaining to the rangers. Some neighbors seem to anticipate and expect problems from a college-aged group, especially noise.
- Hand or toe or foot warmers ...small packets of chemicals, which when activated, will produce heat for hours. Some kinds can be boiled to be reused. They are more expensive in the short run but can be reused for years and are much more earth-friendly. Mel Cottons (287-5994) had the best local price just before our, for example, 2007 trip and another place had sold out of them. Those for sale in the park have in recent years cost twice as much as those at home.
- A mini-alarm clock to set so you can make it to the bus for the Ranger snow-shoe walk, skiing, or a long hike. It's hard to get moving in the morning, and cooking outside in the winter can take
a lot of time, so set it for enough time. Almost every year so far someone has missed the skiers' / snowshoe walk bus.
-A real sled or tube if you want to slide snowbanks (insulating sleeping pads get destroyed when used as sleds, and cardboard pieces won't protect you from rocks hiding in the snow) Hey, don't dig your feet in to the snow to brake!
- One set of decent clothes so you can eat out at one of the restaurants if the mood hits, or for Sunday brunch
- Loops of cord on your jacket, sleeping bag, and pack zipper pulls so you can use them without taking your mittens off (glow-in-the dark kids' shoelaces are great on sleeping bag zipper pulls)
- More gloves. Keep your best pair dry and bring alternates for wet activities like igloo, snowman, snow fort and sculpture building.
(On a budget? Instead of buying $35 to $100 insulated overmitts, try polypropylene glove liners
($4 to $9), or non-cotton 'magic' gloves under home-made overmitts. Possibilities: start with liners, over them put plastic bags and then socks (maybe with a loose rubber band at your wrist). Or liners with oven-mitt potholders, or liners with garden gloves, plastic bags and socks, or liners with rubber
dishwashing gloves or large first aid gloves.
An inner layer next to your skin of vinyl or nitrile first aid gloves can work as a vapor barrier layer with other glove layers over it.
-A knit scarf to wrap around your face so you can pre-warm cold air by breathing through it, especially at night. You might even consider this a part of first-aid for hypothermia.
-Booties or fleece socks or... Some tent mates decide in advance that no one can walk inside the tent with boots on, to keep snow (and melted snow, dirt) from accumulating inside. In this case you might want booties or slippers of some kind for hanging out in the tent playing cards, etc.
-A foam/ensolite pad to sit on --you can use your sleeping size pad to line a folding chair. Possibly (probably) a second sleeping pad if you sleep cold. A second pad will put you and your sleeping bag up just a little higher off the tent floor, so if you have a puddle or two in the tent from tracked-in snow, (or any precipitation blown in by the wind), you'll stay drier. The club has dozens of these in various styles to rent to members. If you decide to bring a full sized air mattress, try it out in the tent before the trip. If it is too big and fills the entire floor and bulges out the tent sides you will be wet.
-A hot water bottle for bedtime, yeah that old yellow one like Grandma used (but wrap it if it's really warm so you don't get burned, don't inflate it a lot like a balloon, and don't sleep on top of it in case it leaks)
- long handled cooking utensils and a pot gripper
- a windscreen for the stove, which you can make by piling up snow
- Gaiters to keep snow out of your boots, if you intend to hike through deep snow
-A real snow shovel, with a wide flat blade (the club will probably bring one, but more are useful). When you borrow the club's, return it right after you get done using it, so the next person who wants to use it doesn't have to track you down. Use it only to shovel snow, when used as a hammer or ice axe snow shovels tend to break into a multitude of pieces.
- More small pans. It's much more efficient to heat water for cocoa, cream of wheat, doing dishes or whatever in small pans. One big pan of water sometimes loses heat to the outside air in winter as fast as it gains it from the stove, plus...trying to balance a huge pan on a small camping stove is dangerous
-Wash'n Dri or other antibacterial towelettes to clean hands when it's just not convenient to trudge through the snow to the restroom before preparing a meal. (The whole plastic tub will take up too much space in the bear box, bring a few in a zip-lock bag).
-A thermos that has never had anything but hot water in it (and therefore didn't pick up any food odors). You could fill it with warm water for overnight drinking in your tent.
- Extra empty, clean, gallon bleach, milk or juice bottles to bring water to the campsite from the faucets.
- A can (maybe a few cans) of spray de-icer for your car windshield, windshield washer nozzles and door locks. Invest in enough de-icer. The Centers for Disease Control website warns:
"Never pour water on your windshield to remove ice or snow; shattering may occur."
- Solvent in your windshield washer reservoir. On a budget? The Yosemite Daily report said: "Top off your wiper fluid reservoir with freeze-proof fluid, a few tablespoons of rubbing alcohol added to standard fluid works as well."
- A real windshield ice scraper.
- Something to kneel on
while you put on the tire chains. Read Prepare for winter driving
-get a spare door and/or ignition key made for the car and keep it in your pocket so you can't lock yourself out. People have been known to do so when putting on chains.
Before you rent a car, check about chains. Most rental companies won't let you use chains on their vehicles.
- If it snows while we are on this trip you will be able to get the snow off the vehicle much more easily if you cover it with a big tarp. You did read Prepare for winter driving, didn't you? If you tow a utility trailer, (a big van full of passengers with their gear in a trailer is a great combo for this trip), you will really want at least a small cover for the trailer hitch area so you don't have to clean snow off it before you hitch it the last morning.
- Mend things before the trip, that tiny tear in the rain pants will be easier to fix at home than it will be in the campsite when it's a big rip. Are your boot laces about worn out? You really ought
to see the dentist about that toothache.
-Something to wrap the stove propane canister in before you store it at night to keep it from freezing
- a journal, pen, maybe a laptop for homework?
-A swimsuit (bizarre for winter camping, huh?). No, really. Always bring your swimsuit on all trips, so when your car dies and you have to spend the night in Buttonwillow or Lodi, and the "Y" or your motel has a heated pool, you could be having fun! Your suit (and a cap in case they enforce the rule) doesn't take up much space.
- Rollerblades??!! (and pads, helmet) There are more than 12 miles of surfaced bike paths on the valley floor and the weather is sometimes good enough to ride or rollerblade
addresses of people to send postcards to
-Your camera will need special care, but we've read conflicting things about it so we choose not to give advice, except to bring lots of film. Batteries lose power in the cold, so lots of As or AAs for your digital camera is smart, or you can miss taking that special picture. On a wolf watching trip in 10 degree weather in Yellowstone in January, Lynn Ellwein solved the weak camera batteries problem by using a toe warmer chemical packet to rewarm hers, thus repowering them.
-An umbrella can keep the drizzle away from your face, let you pull down your rain jacket hood and better look at or photograph the scenery. You know it won't work in the wind. A compact umbrella will take up less space in the car and get other things less wet.
- Ice axes and crampons (which need instruction in their proper use) are not necessary on most of Yosemite's maintained trails. Just be sure to check with the Rangers about conditions before you start out.
-Many people sleep better with their favorite pillow from home than with a jacket wadded up under their head.
-lots of people bring a favorite stuffed animal
-Candles, preferably in a candle lantern (last longer than flashlight batteries for evenings and feel warmer)--but bring a flashlight also. If you risk using a candle lantern in your tent, remember that it is very hot on top, leave some air space between it and the tent ceiling, and don't risk falling asleep with it still lit. Better yet, use it at a table, but not in a tent.
--More things could fit it the campite bear-proof storage lockers if everyone brought their gear in small, deep plastic trash cans or other plastic boxes close to, but no more than, 17 inches tall. A typical bedroom waste receptacle could be 9" by 12" by 17" deep and hold quite a few cans of food, cooking items and toiletry bags. If this makes no sense to you, read
Using a campsite food storage locker
packing a wet sleeping bag to go home.
-Extra large plastic bags (the 30-gallon yard clippings size and maybe
a few tougher 3 mil trash compactor bags) for emergencies and to
store wet stuff on the drive home. Guess what: the average tent won't fit back in its stuff bag with even a thin layer of snow or sleet on it. Bags to put your boots in to store them under your sleeping bag or in the end of your sleeping bag at night. A small hiking plastic litter bag to bring all food wrappers, etc. back to camp, including stuff other people dropped. More large plastic bags to enclose your gear if you go up in a pickup truck. Large plastic bags to keep gear dry in the rain as you move it from the car to your tent. A couple of big plastic bags to keep spray off your clothes and towels when you take a shower and clean up for the Sunday morning brunch.
Gallon sized bags to wrap around your inner socks as you put your feet into boots that turned out to not be waterproof.
Or... if your feet are wet and very cold and you have no spare dry socks, slide a plastic bag over your inner liner sock and put your thicker outer sock over the plastic bag. This becomes a semi-Vapor Barrier Liner. Your inner sock and feet will be wet, but warmer. These VBLs will wear out.
-more socks (not cotton!! ---not any percentage of cotton!!!)
- A credit card to pay for a cabin/hotel room (walking distance or a free bus ride from our campground) if all of the above does not work for you.
- chargers for your cell phone, camera (someone might have an inverter in their car or on some trips, like the fall Grand Teton trip, some or all people stay in cabins)
When you first fill an ice chest with food and ice everything is fine. As you drive along to your destination, and as days of getting things in and out go by, things get jiggled around. Containers' lids can loosen. The ice melts and water fills up the bottom of the ice chest, but you don't have the time to drain it as often as you should. The ice chest may have been 'clean' to start with, but if it had any even unseen mold or... the water is not so clean. The smaller containers near the bottom of the ice chest end up partially submerged in the melted ice water and some of the water leaks in, possibly contaminating the food. That plastic bag of fruit somehow gets down into the melted water and is potentially contaminated.
A solution to this problem is to create an extra upper shelf in your ice chest that can hold the smallest containers or plastic bags of items like loose fruit on it. Below, we used an old dish drainer and a cupboard organizer.
then finally, put a "layer" of ice on top in zip lock bags that can be easily removed to get at food:
Plastic ice blocks that are advertised to work a whole weekend don't last that long. Ice cubes melt relatively fast. Buy ice in blocks and split it with a hatchet to make it fit around in the ice chest better, or plan a little in advance to make your own mini-ice blocks in pans in your freezer. A loaf pan is a very good size. You'll still need ice cubes, but they will last longer.
See also: bear resistant kayakers ice chest
Do not bring:
boomboxes, drums, tubas, generators, noisy equipment to fill air mattresses, etc. (noise is the first thing other campers complain about to the rangers)
axe (Split wood up in advance at home and have more time for fun. If you have access to a bandsaw you can quickly split up scrap lumber.)
alcoholic beverages on college sponsored events
clothes that have been rinsed or dried with mosquito-attracting scented softeners (dryer sheets also can make a greasy stain on clothes if they get stuck to them, and the softeners can decrease the lofting and wicking of garments)
salt tablets--but do bring salty soups and snacks and maybe a tiny salt shaker
a snake bite kit with razor blades or a suture kit--take a real first aid class and learn how to handle emergencies properly
styrofoam ice chests that chip and break into little ugly bits you never can get cleaned up
No baseball, frisbee, kite flying, soccer, biking or other trampling of meadows! .
Many parks ban volleyball/badminton, etc. in campsites or on beaches, but you might find a place you can play as long as you don't destroy plants.
For a list of gear you'll want on a long day hike see the list of day hike gear at our summer: Camping equipment checklist
For info on the logistics of where to pitch your tent, dealing with iced car door locks, staying warm and comfy overnight and more, go to: First-timer's instructions
Will it actually snow during our trip? Maybe, maybe not. Snow camp weather, hike safety and first aid considerations
There's easy camping info at: Have more fun camping
For a checklist of all of the above (but without all the reasons and descriptions)go to Snow camp equipment checklist.
If you are not certain about any gear, bring it to a club meeting so we can look at it.
For the answer to the question: How do I convince my parent(s)/guardian that I can go on this trip? or How do I convince them to pay for some gear for the trip? Go to: Snow camp FAQs
This list by itself is not enough info to be able to safely go camping in the winter so check out the links at Snow Camp and don't miss the pre-trip meeting!
YOU MUST HAVE
YOU WILL WISH YOU HAD
Interesting weather does not cancel club events. No refunds unless we cancel.
Cell phones in the wilderness has advice on how/when to use a cell phone to contact 911 in the wilderness and a warning about interference between cell phones, iPods and avalanche beacons.
see also: GPS is not infallible
Hiking Advice has advice, hiking logistics and the answer to the question: When is the best time of day to cross a mountain stream?
for fun: an eight person tent holds this many campers