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Keeping Electronics Going in the Cold

To counter the effect that the cold has on electronics and more specifically batteries is simple in theory, you need to keep the battery warm. In reality this can be quite hard.


How Batteries Work

When a circuit between the two terminals of a battery is completed, the battery produces electricity through a series of electromagnetic reactions between the different components of the battery. The reaction in one part of the battery creates electrons, and the reaction in another part absorbs them. The result of these reactions is electricity. The battery will continue to produce electricity until components of the battery run out of the substance necessary for the reactions to occur. These reactions work in one direction.

Rechargeable batteries work in the same fashion but when plugged into an outside power source the flow is revered and electrons are added back to the source (recharging them)

When you take batteries out in the extreme cold like you get in Alaska this reaction is slowed down to the point that the reaction stops. This stops the flow of electrons and therefore the electricity stops powering the device.

This can be a minor inconvenience in cases of cameras, on up to a serious issue if its your GPS and you have no other navigational tools or skills.

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What Needs To Be Done

To counter this effect on the reaction is simple in theory you need to keep the battery warm. In reality this can be quite hard. If the device is not needed often, you can keep it deep in your layers close to your body heat and that usually does the trick.

If it’s a device you need to use often this may or may not work. You can always keep them in your layers or in a special pouch when they are not in use but when you take them out they wont last long.


What You Can Do

Depending on the device you have a few options,

Use devices that take conventional batteries (AA, AAA) and stick to none rechargeable. In our experience non rechargeable batteries seem to last longer in the cold. Carry replacements in your layers. In order to split the difference between burning through a lot of batteries and racking up the cost, We always have rechargeable batteries in our devices that take conventional batteries and carry non rechargeable spares if the device goes dead before we are done.

If the devices use battery packs like a phone or go pro for example, you can carry a lot of replacement batteries kept warm in your layers and swap them out as needed.

If the devices have non remove-able batteries you can plug them into a large battery pack re-charger to try and keep them charged up and keep the battery in your layers why the device is in use.

This last tip we do for all our devices regardless of what kind of battery it takes because it can help prolong the life of any battery and that is attach a heat source.

This is done with chemical hand warmers. We use either a rubber band or in the case of our phones an elastic tether that we can slip the hand warmer in behind and hold it next to the batteries. They hand warmers do require oxygen to work so if you bury them deep in your layers or gear they may not work for long so keep that in mind.

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Tails on the Trail: Colorado Creek

Colorado creek cabin ~ Mrs. MSK9

The dogs and us ate a nice breakfast before we packed our gear and loaded our sleds. Mr. MSK9 recently built a tow behind sled for additional gear that we decided to try out this trip in order to bring along a kennel, some straw for the dogs as well as some fire wood for the cabin stove.

Once everything was loaded, the dogs excitement was made obvious by their jumping, barking, and constant running back and forth to the door as we began harnessing each of them up to get ready to leave.

Once everyone was harnessed and hooked up it was time to head out.
Mr. MSK9 and his team of 8 left first with tow behind sled attached and then me and my team of 7 followed shortly behind them.

It was an overcast day and spitting snow and around 20 degrees above 0. It was a little over 15 mile trip to reach the cabin and Dogs were so excited to be on an adventure and had plenty of energy for the trip. Mr. MSK9s team was running a little slow however with the tow behind and straw was making it top heavy and causing it to flip over on turns. I was having a hard time keeping my team slowed enough behind him so we decided to have my team lead when we could find a suitable place for me to pass safely.

After I passed we stopped the teams and decided to take the straw off the tow behind and add it to my sled. This seemed to equal out our speeds a bit, spread the weight out a little better for both teams and kept the tow behind right side up.

Ham was running lead on my team followed by a new addition to our kennel Soliya and veteran Iron in swing. Charlie and Delta (2 of my 3 yearlings) were running in team and Blue and Echo(my third yearling) running in wheel. This was going to be Charlie, Delta and Echos first camping adventure, and first time sleeping on the picket line with the big dogs.

Chipper and Katy were running in lead for Mr. MSK9’s team of all experienced dogs, he decided to take no yearlings on his team this trip. Recon and Ditto were running in swing, Badger and Flash in team and Cooper and Foxy running in wheel.

As we headed down the trail we saw moose tracks in the snow and kept our eyes peeled, luckily we never did see any moose. Unfortunately others were not so lucky in the same area that weekend and were attacked.

The trail we were on crosses a major road shortly after leaving which after waiting for a few cars to go by, we accomplished with out issue despite the road being a skating rink which is the usual state of the road this time of year.

The trail was mostly flat until the last five miles which had rolling hills and tight turns. The scenery was beautiful as well as the raven who followed us on our journey who followed along our teams and would perch in a tree, watch us go by and then fly over heads again to find another branch to rest on.

Spruce and birch trees, mountain tops in the distance and going up and down through creek beds. Along the way we passed an old Roadhouse that used to be used in the 1900s as a stopping point for guests as they made their way to the the local hot springs, before the main road was built.

The dogs were getting a little tired and hot in the warmer weather before we arrived at the cabin so we stopped and gave them a break and some frozen fish as a snack to enjoy. Once everyone was barking and ready to go again off we went on the final stretch to the cabin.

Once we arrived we set our snow hooks and scoped out a place to set the picket line for the dogs. Mr. MSK9 set up the picket line while I stayed with the teams making sure they didn’t break loose and go anywhere or get in trouble. Once the line was up we took off the dog’s harnesses and clipped them to the line. Some of our older dogs and our leaders joined us in the cabin as the picket line was not big enough for everyone and once all the dog’s were settled in we pulled our sleds closer to the cabin and unpacked our gear. Mr. MSK9 started a fire while I laid out straw for all the dog’s on the picket line. The veterans fluffed their straw and made nice beds in it, while the rookies looked at it as to say what is this.

Eventually they got the hint after watching the veterans. Then the long process of melting snow began, once we had enough water and it was warm we soaked the meat and kibble for the dog’s and they enjoyed a well deserved hot meal which they all happily munched down. Mow with everyone taken care of I cracked open a seltzer and sipped on that while I enjoyed a piece of local pizza we had brought with us.

Always so peaceful out in nature with the dog’s the sun set and the dog’s rested we lit candles in the cabin in order to see. We melted more snow and then boiled the bater so that we would have clean water for us to make breakfast and fill out water bottles with for the trip out.

Once dark we enjoyed watching the northern lights make a short but great appearance as we started to grow tired.

We had to fight for our sleeping bags as the dogs had all claimed them for them selves.

Foxy was not budging an inch, giving up her spot was not an option for her so we “shared” which in reality meant I had only half my spot and she kicked my pillow on the floor.  Chipper slept on my feet until I forgot she was there, rolled over and she jumped down, sorry Chipper. Blue tried laying on top of me, several times and couldn’t decide if she was comfortable there or not as the wood stove had made the cabin boarder line hot.

In the middle of the night as the wood died out and the cabin grew colder Blue was a little chilly and decide to come back and crawl head first in my sleeping bag, once all the way in she realized that it was more restrictive than she prefers and came backing out at full speed resulting in lost skin on my body, thanks Blue.

I got as far over to the wall as I could, making room on the sleeping mat for blue to come and snuggle up. It was around 6am, my bladder was calling and out to the outhouse I went. Dog’s all jumped up excited to see me and I promised I would have breakfast for them shortly. We had soaked their food overnight so it would be ready for morning.

Once back to the cabin. I started feeding the dog’s their breakfast which they were eager to eat. Mr. MSK9 made us Irish coffee as is tradition while I was feeding the dog’s. This was followed by morning conversation over our coffee.

Once finished we had a small snack and slowly began to pack up. Pulling our layers back on as the temps were colder and began packing our sleds and dragging them back up to the launch spots were we could hook up the dog’s.

Once we had everything ready to go we swept out the cabin and raked up the straw. Had let the fire die out. It was time to harness up the dogs and head back home. Once the final dog was harnessed and ready we grabbed the picket line off we went. The dogs were pumped, the sleds were lighter, and we were flying away from the cabin. It was crystal clear blue skies and a slight breeze, as we whipped through the trees for the first 5 miles, unable to fully restrain the dogs excitement. Going so fast I accidentally flipped my sled trying to get a video of the flight out. I righted my sled and off we went again.

The wind has kicked up the night before as the cloud cover moved out resulting in a section of the trail that goes through a saddle in the hills being wind blown and drifted, completely hiding the trail and resulting in a stretch of deep snow the dogs had to over come. The dogs slowed to a crawl and Charlie got tangled so I set my hooks and attempted to reach him in the deep drifts but before I could get there he was untangled and off they were going. I hung on to the side of the sled till I could get my feet on the ground and right my self up to stop them. 7 happy dogs can be remarkably strong. I stopped, got things situated, caught my breath and we were off again.

In all the excitement Blue aspirated on snow or her saliva and was making a weird noise. I stopped the sled and unhooked her to make sure she was ok, out of an abundance of concern for her I cleared a spot in the sled for her to ride. For the first few minutes she was happy but after a while and she started feeling better she started barking and trying to jump out. I convinced her to calm down and just enjoy the ride, despite her visible and audible disappointment. She even tried to assist by popping her leg out and running her single leg next to the sled. I got her leg back in and she enjoyed barking along the way to make sure the team knew what they were doing.

Soliya and Ham were in lead, Charlie and Iron in swing, Delta in team and Echo in wheel. We made our way close to home and our Raven friend joined us again along the way. As we got closer to home it started to warm up the dog’s got a little tired so It was time for another fish snack and some swapping of dogs.

I noticed Echo was listening to the direction commands so I put her in lead with Ham, for her first time in lead, Charlie and Iron stayed in swing, Delta stayed in team and I put Soliya in wheel and Echo did great. She is such an amazing little dog!

We made it home making much better time than we thought we would. Then came the clean u, unpacking and putting all the gear away.

The downside of any good adventure.

~ Mrs. MSK9

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