One of the necessities of elk hunting is winter camping. We experienced evening lows between zero and 20 degrees Fahrenheit. But snow and cold can be done in comfort:
* Use a sleeping bag rated for -20 or lower. Down bags are more expensive than those lined with synthetics, but they are more comfortable and will keep you warm if wet. Expect to pay $200 to $300 for a good winter bag.
* Sleep off the ground, as it will suck the heat from your body. We used simple cots, which can be found at outdoor stores for about $50. At the least, you'll need a camp mat (mats range from $20 to $80).
* Wall tents are ideal for winter camping, as most are set up to handle a small stove. A smaller four-season tent, which has a heavier-weight floor and sturdier poles to handle snow on the roof, will work also. Bear in mind that your heavy clothing and gear will take up lots of space-figure roughly 50 square feet per person.
* Before you set up your tent, pack down the snow, scatter a couple of bales of straw and lay a heavy plastic tarp under the tent. The straw helps keep the floor insulated from the snow, and the tarp keeps your floor dry.
* A heated tent makes the experience much easier to take! You can buy small tin tent stoves that don't hold heat all night. If you can haul the weight, a cast-iron stove is the ideal solution.
* Burning hardwood (typically oak or maple) will provide longer-lasting heat than burning pine.
* Have plenty of water on hand-estimate at least 32 ounces (approximately 1.0 liter) per person per day. Store your water bottle inside your jacket or in your sleeping bag to keep it from freezing.
* Plan on eating about 111/42 times your regular intake. Your body burns lots of calories just staying warm.
* Dress in layers: polypropylene close to your skin, wool or fleece as a mid-layer and a waterproof outer shell. Be sure to bring heavy pacs for your feet, warm gloves and a hat.
* A good source of winter camping information is Outdoor Action Guide to Winter Camping by Rick Curtis on www.princeton.edu/~oa/winter/wintcamp.shtml.