Frostburn First Timers Logistics Guide
If you are reading this, you are working on the logistics on how to attend the best regional burn out there.. Here is some of the basic knowledge that has been picked up over the years. This just what has worked in the past and is not a comprehensive list, if any vets are reading this and have other thoughts or suggestions, feel free to reach out.
You need to plan how to succeed at partying at 0 degrees Fahrenheit with several inches of snow on the ground. Not every year is that cold, but all the good ones are, and you need to be ready for that. This means you are going to need to do more work to cover the essentials than you have at other events. It also makes the party better than at other events.
Radical self-reliance is an essential tenet to this frosty burn - although there are many people around to try to help you, it's up to you to come prepared to the event. Additionally if you leading or bringing your own camp, you will want to think about how your camp will have a warm-to-semi-warm space to hang out and cook/eat in - this is outside the scope of this document.
Two key things: You want to make sure your feet and your sleeping space are warm. If you lose either of those things, the whole experience takes a hit, and its hard to jury rig true solutions to those problems on site. The biggest bang per buck comes from two items that address these two aspects.
If you can keep your feet warm, you will be able to add layers and take care of the rest of your body, but other than bringing several sets of good warm socks, there is not much you can do to heat your toes, and you are going to be walking around in cold temps regularly. It's therefore suggested you find or buy a pair of insulated winter boots. For your sleeping space, catalytic propane heaters burn propane without a flame, so they burn much cleaner and are safe to run inside sealed tents. They let you heat your space when you wake up and when you go to bed, and generally make your experience more pleasant. Big Buddy heaters also have tip over and o2 detection for additional safety, the two-burner Big Buddy Mr Heaters are a tundra tried-and-true item.
If you made it this far, let me not dissuade you: there are many places to warm yourself at frostburn, it's motto is ‘share the warmth’ and that is a key part of what theme camps offer. You will be able to find plenty of warm places and people during your waking hours, and if you think that you shun cold, you will be able to go between this warm spaces nearly continuously throughout the event. This also means that you should dress in layers: an outside level, a level for semi warm spaces, and a “bass” layer for properly dancing, comfort and sex appeal. More on layering clothing below.
- existing 2 to 5 person tent, wrap with tarp or mylar insulation (hypothetically as cheap as the tarp).
- Small 2 person backpacking tents are not the best for getting all your layers on, but can be decently effective at creating a warm space
- Tentception: taking a large tent, putting a small tent inside it. Outside tent must not have wholes or mesh, can DIY tape/insulation foil/packing blanket over any such openings. This creates a total win break, and allows the inner tent to be far more insulated.
- build a yurt - highest effort, high cost, high reward. Best insulated and largest form of space, good for several people.
- buy a 4 season tent, consider combining with previous approaches for better insulation.
- buy a canvas tent, much better insulation that any sort of canvas, expensive but also fantastic tents at other festivals / birmingham.
- buy an ice fishing tent for $300 - wicked fast setup, extremely high insulation. Make sure you have a floor.
- Suggested to have a catalytic propane heater (Big Buddy is a playa tried-and-true favorite, Priority5 owns 4 of them)
- If this is out of budget, you can boil water and place in thermos(s) and take them into your sleeping bag with you
- If you have some extra change, hooking the Mr Heater up to a 20lb grill-type tank of propane with the dedicated hose is Highly recommended. 1lb tanks are more likely to freeze in extreme cold and are a pain to swap out when empty. Here is an example https://www.amazon.com/12ft-Big-Buddy-Hose-Regulator/dp/B000UC7966/ref=pd_sim_201_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=15S4MZNWXRA5HBVXVFJZ
- when using a propane heater, a CO monitor is a good idea. The BigBuddies have been used successfully without them in the past, but better safe than sorry.
- 0 degree rated sleeping bag is nearly essential and a worthy buy. Sleeping bags are rated for if you would survive a night inside one, not for if you would be warm and comfy inside one, at the given temperature.
- Combine with a comforter or additional blankets above for additional insulation
- You _must_ think about how you insulate below you, your sleeping bag insulation is compressed below you and will not be as effective. Insulated camp pads work very well but can be expensive. Here is a foam one that is not too pricey and provides excellent insulation. https://tinyurl.com/z3tq6ar
- Another very cost effective method is using cardboard. You can probably get this for free in your basement and it is a superb insulator. Lining your entire tent floor with it is not a bad idea. If you have a Tentception set-up, then putting the cardboard on the floor of your outer tent and setting your inner tent on top of it is an excellent idea.
- Any air mattress that raises you more than a half inch off of the floor is not a good idea for Frostburn. If you insulate your floor (which you should, reference cardboard and foam pad notes above) you should think of it like a blanket beneath you, raising yourself off the floor (with an air mattress or cot) puts an air gap between you and the blanket beneath. The air inside your tent is going to be cold, the thing plastic air mattress side walls are not a good insulator. The air inside your air mattress will become cold, nobody wants cold between them and their blanket. Stay away from air mattresses.
Clothing And Layering
Layering is an essential element to staying dry and warm at Frostburn. Layers allow you to regulate your body temperature by adding or subtracting clothing as the situation dictates. Sweating is bad. You will be involved in activities that require energy output and can bring a rise in your body temperature. That will keep you warm, but if your body temperature rises too much you will begin to sweat. Sweat is mostly water, water on your body and damp clothes in cold weather is bad. Water increases the ability for heat to transfer, and in this case, the ability for heat to transfer away from your body. Eventually you will stop the physical activity, or go outside and your slightly damp clothes will no longer keep you as warm as they did when they were dry. This is why regulating your body temperature by removing layers as you warm up is just as important as adding layers as you cool down. If you feel yourself starting to warm up/sweat, stop immediately and take off a layer. During the coldest moments there are 3 types of layers which you should have on just about every part of your body: base layer, insulation layer, and shell.
- Base layer - The base layer is your bottom layer which is in contact with your skin. The primary function of this layer is to wick moisture away from your body to keep you dry (see sweating note above). It also provides some insulation. Materials include, synthetics (cheapest and fastest drying), merino wool (most expensive), or silk. Do note that base layers come in different thicknesses for different seasons so make sure you are buying the heavyweight base layers such as http://tinyurl.com/z2m53nu . Base layers do not only apply to pants and shirts, but gloves and socks as well. Glove liners and merino wool sock liners are recommended.
- Insulation layer - This is the layer that traps heat close to your body and can be made out of natural fibers such as wool and goose down or synthetic like fleece. Fleece and wool perform better than goose down when damp. If you wear snowpants your insulation and shell layers are combined into one garment, this is true for gloves and mittens as well. Thermal/Wool socks over your sock liners is the way to go.
- Shell layer - This is the layer that protects you from the elements and also provides a little insulation. You want to stay dry, from sweat and rain/snow, so water resistant and breathable shells are recommended for Frostburn. Shell layers include coats, snowpants or hiking pants, your mittens or gloves, and boots!
- A note on boots; your boots will be in contact with snow often (hopefully). Snow is cold, it sticks to your boots a little and then warms up because your boots are above freezing. Now you have water on your boots, see points above about water being bad. This is why having rubber coming up over your toes and up the side of your foot is recommended to keep your feet dry. Having all rubber boots or rubber that goes all the way to your ankle are not recommended because the breathability is these styles are typically poor. Poor breathability leads to sweating and moisture collection which by now we all know is bad. Because this part of you gear is constantly in physical contact with the elements and you don't have the same ability to layer as you do with your legs and torso, it is your most important piece of clothing. Buying the cheapest set of boots or grabbing an old worn down pair of your parents may not be the best idea, if you don’t have another pair or two of boots to wear, you will be stuck with cold wet boots all weekend. Here is a fine example of good boots. http://tinyurl.com/jxuua2c . If that is out of your budget, here is a more cost effective, though less recommended example. https://tinyurl.com/zo8qgwr
- Alcohol blanket - Alcohol actually lowers the core temperature of your body. It may make you feel warmer but you are actually colder. Alcohol causes the blood vessel’s right beneath your skin to dilate which brings the blood to your skin’s surface. This makes you flushed, feel warm and sweat (BAD). Having blood closer to your skin is also bad for you because it is more easily cooled by the cold air. Your body usually constricts the blood vessels to restrict blood flow to your skin to keep your core temperature up, but the alcohol overrides this. Alcohol also reduces your tendency to shiver, a mechanism that helps keep you warm. This is why you need to be very careful when imbibing on the Tundra, know your limits, understand what your body is doing, and make sure you have a warm place to retire to when you go to sleep. Passing out in the snow can potentially lead to death. That being said, you should certainly come to the Bourbon Tasting Priority5 holds each year.
Other Clothing Notes
- Gloves are good, but in certain situations, like setup and tear down, you may want the dexterity of bare fingers. Buying slightly oversized mittens and having Hot Hand hand warmers in them allows you to keep your hands toasty (much warmer than gloves). When you need to do things like, tie your boots up, you pop the mittens off, have full access to your fingers, and then can put them back in the warm and cozy mittens upon completion of the task. This is where having a way to tie your mittens to your coat or having a string that connects them running through your sleeves becomes very handy.
- In general, function and warmth first, fabulous and sexy form second for outside clothing, but opposite attitude for bottom layers.
- Bring 2-3 pairs of gloves in case one gets temporarily or permanently lost
- The Hot Hands hand heaters are very helpful, the foot heaters can come in handy as well. These do go bad so try to buy new ones before the event.
- Union suites, onesies, and full body coveralls / carharts are all professional touches
- If wearing a belt is an option, do so, and generally make sure you have a tucked in layer on the bottom - you lose more heat than you likely release from your waist, even if wearing a heavy coat.
- Some way to insulate and protect your face is strongly suggested.
- Slippers come in handy for heated spaces that require you to take off your boots
Food and Water
Many years it gets well below freezing on the Tundra. These low temperatures can have ill effects on your food and water. Frozen gallon water jugs are undrinkable and much harder to unfreeze than you might imagine. Food can also freeze rendering it undesirable or difficult to prepare. Frozen ham sandwiches on frozen bagels with frozen cheese when it’s 15 degrees out is not the most appetizing of dishes. A solution to this needs to be well thought out as these problems can even give veterans difficulty. You need to have warm place to store water and food. A simple solution is a large cooler, kept out of the wind and snow, with a couple hand warmers inside of it. Alternatively, a more organic approach is that you can boil some water, put it in a nalgene and place the nalgene inside the cooler with the food and water. This should provide just enough heat to keep your water and food above freezing. Add more hot water and hand warmers as necessary.
Another overlooked item is personal storage. If you are reading this you are most likely putting in the right amount of effort into preparations. Being prepared means that you are going to be bringing a lot of stuff. If you don't have a huge tent, all of your stuff needs a place to go. These items cannot just be left in piles next to your tent. Wind can blow things away, MOOP (matter out of place). Snow can bury things so you can’t find them all weekend and when you leave they are left behind, MOOP. It creates an eye sore for everyone and can become tripping hazards, MOOP!!! The previously mentioned Tentception can be a solution, where you have a small tent inside a large tent. This allows room between your inner and outer tent for storage of bins, food, water, and other items. Another solution is a secondary tent solely for the purpose of housing stuff.
- Bathrooms: like every other burn, we use portopoties. The bacteria that make the shit smell do not survive at low tempertures, and since we all use them they are normally better than at any other burn I have attended.
- Art: Bring it! We do what we can, but want more. An ideal event for large propane fire toys.
- Events: There are many events on the tundra, though there are several particularly famous ones you should be aware of:
- Miss Frostburn: elaborate pageant that carries on a tradition dating back 10 years. AFAIK the best attended event on the tundra.
- Bourbon Tasting: an elaborate liquor tasting event
- Polar plunge: Sunday AM, this legendary though poorly-attendened event is where folks jump into the nearby stream to prove their transcendence or that they have lost their minds or something, I don’t know, I haven’t done it.