Not Freezing To Death by Dumb Luck

Looking back on the weekends camping trip, I think I got super lucky. Although I never felt in danger at any time, it was by dumb luck that I was prepared for the cold of the overnight camping trip. If I took anything away from that weekend it was that I should have enough kit to be prepared for any situation. Honestly, it was by luck that I had the proper kit with me.

My trip to Letchworth State Park was sort of a last minute trip. Although I had been planning it, I hadn’t really prepared and I was waiting for the right weather report to decide when to go. When I seen that it was going to be mostly sunny albeit a bit cold, I decided this was the weekend to take my trip. My tail bag is always packed, it’s like a bugout bag in my closet. When the urge to travel arises, I grab my bag, strap it to the back of the motorcycle and I’m off! It’s always packed with a change of clothes, my sleep system, food system, and toiletries.

As I prepared for the trip early Friday morning I tossed my leather riding jacket next to my tail bag. I hadn’t pulled my tail bag out in close to two years. I went through the tail bag real quick.

Change of clothes ✔
Sleeping bag and air mattress ✔
Alcohol stove and food ✔
Travel bag with soap, toothpaste and toiletries ✔

I had everything I needed! I took one last look at the phone to check the weather. It looked like sunny with high 40s to low 50s. I stared at my black leather riding jacket and asked myself if I wanted to look cool or be warm. Luckily I decided on warm and hung up the leather riding jacket and selected my winter riding jacket. SO MUCH WARMER! I then looked inside my tail bag and realized there was plenty of room left so I stuffed a fleece comforter that rests over the arm ​of my couch into the bag. It was a tight fit, and I almost changed my mind and pulled it out.

Had I not brought these two additional items, it could have made for a really bad time when I pulled into my camping spot.

Here’s the scenario… I got to the park and found out there’s no camping after October. I’ve got a couple hours of sunlight left if I’m lucky and have to decide whether I want to find a camping spot close by or head back home. I’m tired, and starting to get a little cold. I decide to search and find a campground 20 minutes away. Much closer than riding home. I decide on camping. It took about twice as long to get to the campground. By the time I set up camp, there wasn’t much light left. The sun literally sets behind the hills about 20 minutes after I get my tent all set up.

As soon as the sun set, I felt exactly how cold it was! It must have dropped another 10 to 15 degrees. I typed out a blogpost in my tent and by the time I finished my hands were freezing cold. I was already in my sleeping bag and I immediately realized it wasn’t going to be warm enough. The bag has a temperature rating 40 degrees. That night the temperature dropped down to 26 degrees. This was not the bag for this trip!

Ozark Trail Sleeping bag.
Great sleeping bag and perfect for the summer months. This was not at all adequate for winter camping.

After finishing up my blog post, I took a few minutes and contemplated leaving. I would still have to ride in the cold but I could always stop at restaurants for coffee and to warm up. It was dark now and I hate breaking down camp in the dark. On top of that I was tired and hungry. There was plenty of wood around my campsite and I finally decided, worst case scenario I camp out, if I get to cold I’ll start a fire and just stay up all night or sleep by the fire. Luckily it never came to that.

Once I realized I’d probably be safe and there was plenty of wood for a warm fire I began to modify my sleep system. I opened up the sleeping bag and lined it with the fleece comforter. Once the fleece comforter was inside the sleeping bag it was much warmer. I also had a blowup mattress that acted as a thin layer between me and the cold ground. This was actually a new piece of kit and the first time I had used it. Thank the gods! Before this, I just slept on the ground in my sleeping bag. Chalk another one up to dumb luck and perfect timing!

I was just warm enough to make do. I still couldn’t get my feet warm though. I then took my winter jacket and used it as another blanket over the top of the sleeping bag and pushed my feet into the hoodie! Worked like a charm and I was finally decently warm… Warm enough and no longer concerned about hypothermia.

I fell asleep and woke up several hours later fairly warm. I wasn’t shivering or anything and my concern about hypothermia was gone. Had I not brought that extra fleece comforter and my winter jacket, this could have gotten pretty scary. I probably would have ended up huddled around a fire the entire night and unable to sleep.

I read a lot about backpacking, hiking, survivalist and moto-camping. I’ve read several posts about people getting themselves into these types of situations and you never think it will happen to you. A few degrees can be the difference between life and death or frostbite. If you’re not prepared, a relatively safe situation can turn dangerous real quick. I honestly think I may have been in that type of situation. Things could have grown out of control quickly.

By the end of it all, when I woke up in the morning, I felt like a boy scout who just earned his merit badge. I was pretty proud of myself that I made it through the night. As the sun came up over the hills it began melting away all the frost and I made tea in the doorway of my tent as I warmed up and watched the sun rise.

A pot of water for tea as the sun rises.
Made tea as I warmed up and watched the sun rise.

I’ve never been so happy to see the sun rise. The motorcycle was also covered in frost and the cold temperature had caused issues with my phone and camera batteries. I decided to let the sun warm up the bike a little and melt the frost off the motorcycle as I took my time and broke down my campsite.

A frost covered DR650 moto camping
Woke up to a frost covered motorcycle. It was REALLY cold.

I’m glad I decided to wait too. When everything was packed I prayed to the powers that be that the battery wasn’t dead. I pulled out the choke (the exact reason I replaced it), gave the throttle a few twists to get some gas in the carb and pressed the start button. It struggled for a second and I almost thought my battery paranoia was becoming a self fulfilled prophecy. It made a weird sound then caught as the engine roared to life!

Every trip I tend to take away something new. I think the lesson learned on this trip was to be over prepared. No mater how decent the weather outlook is, prepare for the worst case scenario. Whether that’s rain, snow, heat or cold, as long as you’re prepared these are just minor inconveniences. If however, you’re caught off-guard, these minor inconveniences can turn into major disasters or become outright dangerous.

I’ll chalk this adventure up to dumb luck. It was nice knowing that if a similar situation should ever arise though, I’ll probably know what to do and how to overcome it!

Safe travels my friends!

This is post 8 of 30 for this months #HiveBloPoMo

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