CORONA ROUGH NOTES: SUB-ZERO ADVENTURES
Sub-zero conditions and trekking into the unknown to set up camp might not be everybody’s cup of tea. But for those willing to brave the elements, there’s a high chance it can offer the experience of a lifetime. You don’t have to have hiked Everest to know that high altitudes and large quantities of snow create a whole new level of potential danger. So, to make sure you’re properly prepared, we have compiled a Rough Notes Guide to Sub-Zero Adventures.
First up, let’s make sure you don’t freeze by covering off the basics.
1. DRESS WARM
A wise man once said that Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Everest in wool. So be like Hillary and leave your cotton socks at home. There’s no doubt at some point you’re going to need to seriously layer up, so think ahead and choose clothing that will do its job when you’re in dire need of some dryness and warmth.
Base layer – This is the layer that wick’s perspiration away from your skin while also drying quickly, so you spend minimal time in wet gear. Think wool fabrics (merino or possum especially) and avoid cotton at all costs. Insulating layer – The middle layer’s job is to retain that much-needed body heat. Consider good fleece pants and top, and a goose down jacket. Outer layer – This is your shell to keep the elements out. Both your outer jacket, pants and gloves must be both waterproof and windproof while remaining breathable. Quality tech such as Gore-Tex can offer solid protection when in need. Just make sure you’ve got something waterproof, snow is kind of wet.
From here grab a good set of hiking boots (insulating and waterproof) some more woollen bits (socks & scarf) and you’ll be set to take on some seriously cold conditions.
2. CHECK THE WEATHER. OFTEN
You may be used to checking the weather casually along your journeys, but never has it been so important to be on top of the charts when entering a winter wonderland. Conditions change at a rapid rate when you are up high and things can turn dicey, fast. There are two reasons to keep an eye on the weather.
You want it to be white, right? Talk to the locals and even ring around some local shops to try and decipher the code of weather patterns that you’ll need for ideal weather. What kind of freezing level are you looking for? Do you need to time the trip with the tail end of a storm to get that white coating? What do you want the wind to be doing?
Once all of the elements align and you’ve hit the road, it’s imperative to keep a hawk eye on the weather. Make sure you’re heading into conditions that are going to be favourable for camping. Low temperatures, light snow and light wind are great, but if it looks like there’s a high chance the weather could turn bad, it’s better to wait for the next window of opportunity than to be stuck worrying out in the elements. Also remember road closures can often happen when things get cold, so it pays to plan alternate routes.
3. MAKE SURE YOUR RIG IS UP TO THE TASK
The normal road trip preparation applies here, and you should be equipped for conquering some rugged terrain. Have a quick glance over the vehicle preparation guide in our Guide To Rugged Adventure. Once you’re confident your rig is up to the task, then there are only a few more things to make sure your vehicle is ready to tackle the cold:
Antifreeze – When the snow hits, make sure you have plenty of the green stuff in your radiator. Even though it may appear green, if you are the type who tends to ‘just add water’ when the radiator needs a top up, then your mixture may be out and not up to the task of withstanding freezing temps. A radiator flush, fresh coolant and water are always worth the effort if you’re unsure.
Tyres and Spares – Good condition tyres (including the spare) are more important than ever. In slippery conditions, they are the only thing stopping you from heading down the bank. For hard to reach spots it can be worth packing a set of chains, especially if you aren’t running all terrains with some good depth. These will help you cut through the snow and grip whatever surface is underneath. A tow rope and recovery tracks are worth throwing in the boot also.
Car Battery (Make sure it’s mint) – As you know, the winter temps can wreak havoc on worn batteries. Even more so when you’re heading up the mountain. Check your battery condition before you head off and during. Even though it may work perfectly for day to day stuff, when things get chilly it might not be up to the task of a cold weather challenge. Make sure your terminals are nice and clean too, a toothbrush and a homemade mixture of baking soda/water can get them looking as good as new. Always pack a jumper pack or jumper leads as you’ll find it hard to hitch a tow when you’re buried in snow.
4. TAKE A BUDDY, OR THREE
Friends are fun, and it’s useful on trips of this nature to have people who have each other’s backs along for the ride. There’s safety in numbers so make sure you head out with at least two vehicles that are up to the task of the trip. Sharing your travels with some mates who have expertise in different winter skills (off roading, camping, weather conditions, etc.) is highly recommended. It goes without saying to always let people know where you are going before you head out on your trip and if plans change along the way, flick them another message to keep them informed. Reception can be hard to find when you get deep into your adventure.
5. NAIL THE RIGHT SPOT
Try to arrive at your destination with plenty of light to spare; there’s nothing worse than setting up camp in the dark. Take some time to refuel, have a snack, warm up and put on extra clothing layers. Comfy? Right, now time to locate the perfect spot to pitch up for the night. But first! If fires are allowed, and there is a suitable spot, try and start your fire before setting up camp. Plan ahead and always pack fire lighters, matches, and anything else you might need to catch a flame.
With the sun blaring down in summer, you’d often opt for a secluded spot in the shade or even ditch comfort in preference of an incredible wake-up view. In subzero conditions however, the morning sun is your best friend. Make sure you take note of where the sun will first appear at sunrise, and angle your tent and vehicle to take advantage of the early rays (there are some great app’s for determining the sun’s path for your phone).
Some other questions to consider. Is there natural wind protection? Is it reasonably safe from falling trees, branches or snow? Are there landmarks to help you find the camp in the dark or a snowstorm?
6. KEEP WARM AS THE SUN FALLS AND TEMPS DROP
Be lazy, keep your warmest gear on before you get into bed. Yes, even that scarf and beanie can often be needed when temperatures drop below zero. Don’t even attempt a trip without having a good sleeping bag that’s up to the job and suitable in freezing conditions. A sleeping bag liner and some extra wool blankets is a plus, and you’ll be glad you have them.
7. EVERYTHING CAN FREEZE
Everything. Your water bottle, the zips on your tent, the door locks on the trucks. Everything! Not to worry, it’s all part of the experience, and below are some key tips to make sure you’re not stranded the next morning.
1. Flip and insulate your water – Just like you do with your body, you can wrap up some of your gear to keep the cold out. If you are carrying a large water container, turn it upside-down before hitting the hay. Ice forms from the top down.
2. Lubricate your door locks and seals – Waiting for the sun to hit the door of your truck in the morning can get tedious. Giving your door seals a light coating of silicone before the journey will save them freezing shut. Well greased locks help also.
3. Don’t leave wet gear out in the open – You’ll end up with rock solid shoelaces and cardboard clothes.
Feeling like it’s all a bit much? Well, don’t get disheartened. The time spent preparing and planning will ensure a more enjoyable trip once you’re out in the wild, and time is one thing you will have when you’re waiting for the weather to do its thing.
Next time the winter weather is looking grim, and most are cowering inside praying for summer, load your vehicle up and get out there amongst the elements. As we’ve said before, there’s one hell of an adventure out there to be had, and trust us; you’ll remember it for a lifetime afterwards.
Head over to www.corona.co.nz for more journeys and guides to keep your adventure fire well stoked.