Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Windchill galore and upchuck reflex

It was a windy one this weekend. The campsite my scouts selected is only protected on one side - the east. And giving the local weather pattern, if weather is coming from the east you're looking at some serious precipitation comeing from the sky anyways. The site is on a peninsula and is exposed from the north, west and south. And there was wind out of the northwest this weekend.

Life got real for a few scouts as a result. Scouts were getting cold while they were eating dinner as a result as the temps dropped as radiant heat loss left the earth. The lack of clouds did not help this scenario. The temps bottomed out at -2(F) sometime in the early morning. This was the second coldest weekend of the season for the camp; the season low is a balmy -12(F) a few weeks ago that I was absent for.

Speaking of getting warm, here is a getting warm dance I learned at a scout camp in 2000. It is a little complicated and most folks can't hack it. But this scout was great at it, and his entire crew was, too.

I also joined a selective group of camp staffers who have been woken up by scouts in the middle of the night, a group that now consists of two persons. Sometime around 2:14 a.m., there was a light shining on the long side of my tent. "Wake up," the light said. "I threw up in the parachute." Great. I got up, opened the door and two scouts approached the small entrance. I sat up and shuffled my torso out of my sleeping bag.

The scout promptly relayed the pertinent information: he had woken up, vomited and managed to dispense the contents onto the snow instead of his bag, boot or other thing that would need to be cleaned. He woke up his buddy, drank some water, ate some gorp, got dressed and started moving to get warm. And that wasn't working. So I was called in, and rightfully so.

Camp policy on this situation is pretty simple: we are not a survival camp and no scout has to sleep outside he or she does not want to. Vomiting generally puts a scout into the category of not wanting to stay outside - it removes all the liquid and food from your stomach. Because digestion generates heat and provides energy to movement (which also generates heat), vomiting is especially troublesome because it is like taking a fuel bottle and dumping it all over the snow. This is not the first time a scout has vomited while outside in the course of the weekend. In 2008 or 2007, a scout vomited almost immediately after supper. He got cold and did not want to stay outside with his sick stomach and went in almost immediately.

So while I got dressed to the light of my headlamp, the scout woke up his father and we walked back to base camp, a series of two buildings about 1.5 miles away through a swamp and over a hill or two. I got to base camp around 3 a.m., and was back at my site about 20 minutes later. I stripped down to my base layers once again and crawled back into my sleeping bag. (The scout was fine - him and his father walked back out to our site the following morning to eat breakfast and pack up their gear.)

I never did figure out what prompted his upchuck reflex. My best guess is dehydration, although he said his urine was clear throughout the day. The dehydration was likely caused by eating supper without drinking water and not drinking water later in the evening before bed. The issue then is why did this occur at 2 a.m. and not earlier? I guess I'll never know.

As for gear, I changed up my gloves system this weekend, opting for the PowerStretch gloves as liners underneath the packable SD mitts. In previous weeks, I have used a pair of generic polypro liner gloves. As a further push of the mittens, I tried to do as many tasks as possible with the mittens on - pulling zippers, buttoning pants, pumping and lighting stoves, etc.

The results were mixed - I could pull zippers, pump and prime stoves and set up my tent with no minimal dexterity issues. Much to my surprise, I could even unclasp the Velcro closures that held the poles in place in my tent. I had issues closing the fly on my pants and fine tasks such as removing a match from a matchbox. Lighting the match, however, was no issue.

Although winter is not over yet, there is only one weekend left of scouts. I have a trip tentatively planned over spring break in late March, but my winter camping for this season is almost at an end. There issue with this is that so far I have not been able to effectively test the precipitation resistance qualities of the Sierra Designs insulating parka and softshell jacket that I have been testing throughout the season. Final and summary comments on these two garments, along with the Packable mitts is coming next week. I have already compiled my notes from the previous weekends and will be putting together a final product soon.

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