NOS Mission

Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.
This is the spot for us to share stories, fun ideas or general musings. When you aren't in here, we hope to see you out there!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Baby It's Cold Outside, Let's Eat!

How many of us are still digesting our Thanksgiving meal(s) and continue to clean out our refrigerators, eating the leftovers?  This time of year we tend to eat, and eat, and eat some more.  Data tells us that the average American will gain between 1 - 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year.  That is not a lot for one year, but over time, if those pounds are not lost, they can add up, so be aware.  This ‘natural weight gain’ is a great excuse to get outside for a brisk walk or family hike.  In nature, during winter, where there are not fireplaces and an abundance of food, how does the cold impact eating and survival?

Many animals that live in cold environments, where food is scarce, have something called “hibernation inducement trigger”, or HIT, in their blood during their hibernation season.  Research has discovered that when this substance is injected into animals during the spring, hibernation behaviors can be induced.  Interestingly, the exact chemical identity of HIT remains elusive, but it appears to be similar to an opiate, which may help to explain how it decreases heart rate, breathing rate, and general metabolic (energy) demands.  This helps animals conserve energy, which helps them to survive the winter with little or no food.

To prepare for such an event as hibernation, animals undergo a feeding frenzy called “hyperphagia” where the animals will eat a lot of calories to build up energy reserves in the form of fat.  For example, a black bear in Alaska will feed at a frenzied rate from midsummer thru the end of autumn, consuming 20,000 or more calories in a day.  We did the math, that is like eating 31 McDonalds Big Macs a day!   This allows the bear to add 4 - 5 inches of body fat, which nearly doubles the insulation capacity of their pelt.

The metabolic slowdown is significant.  Heart rates plummet.  For example, a hibernating woodchuck’s heart rate will decrease from 80 beats per minute, to as slow as 4 beats per minute.  This causes the ‘true hibernators’ to appear dead.  True hibernators include the jumping mouse, the little brown bat, the eastern chipmunk, and some ground squirrels.  There is even a bird that hibernates.  The Poorwill, which is Hopi for, “the sleeping one”, is a nocturnal (night) bird found throughout the southwest which enters into this slower state for days or weeks at a time. 

Hibernation is not the only way animals survive the harsh environmental conditions of winter.  Animals also migrate, moving themselves to a place where food can be found.  This is a common tactic for birds, bats, caribou, elk, and whales.  Fish also tend to migrate in their own right, heading into deeper water.  Insects, like butterflies and moths, also migrate.  Like fish, earthworms also seek deeper depths to avoid the frigid surface temperatures.

Adaptation is another way animals survive winter.  Much like us putting on an extra layer of clothes, one way animals adapt to the cold is by increasing their fur capacity. Another winter adaptation is changing their eating habits during winter.  For example, rabbits and deer may eat bark, moss and twigs instead of the grass that is available in the spring and summer.   

Preparation and survival for winter by non-human animals is a fascinating topic that science continues to investigate.  It is nothing short of miraculous how the animals know what to do for survival, and when to do it.  As a human, however, during these cold months when the couch is calling and pie is readily available, we do not need to store up our energy reserves, so get outside, it is good for humans everywhere.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Holiday Buying Guide for Your Outdoorsy People

As we move into the holiday season, Nevada Outdoor School is counting every blessing!  We deeply appreciate the support we have received from the community.  It’s truly a gift to get to serve and connect kids 0 - 99 with our natural world. 

Getting outside and exploring is a gift you can give yourself no matter the season!  However, the holiday season is an excellent opportunity to give the outdoorsy people in your life the gift of being prepared for any outdoor adventure they might take. 

The first principle of Leave No Trace is “Plan Ahead and Be Prepared”, making sure you are equipped with the right information and supplies to have a fun, safe and minimal impact outdoor adventure before you ever leave your house.  The 10 Essentials, formalized by the Mountaineers, outlines 10 essential systems needed for a successful and safe outdoor adventure whether you’re hiking 1 mile or 50. It also serves as an excellent holiday shopping guide for the outdoor enthusiasts in your life!

You can easily remember the The Mountaineers Ten Essentials list with this fun limerick by Steve McClune:

To navigate, head for the sun
With first aid and knife on the run
Bring fire and shelter
Extra food
is a helper
But water and clothes weigh a ton 

Still wondering what specific gifts might do the trick?  Here are some ideas:

1.    Navigation- Tech savvy electronic devices like GPS units and smart phones offer knowledge to the unskilled navigator, however, failure and non-connectivity rates are high.  For this reason, purchasing non-electronic tools like maps and compasses for your outdoor adventurer adds a level of safety. 

2.    Headlamp (Light) - Sometimes an adventure takes longer than planned.  A light source like a headlamp or a flashlight allows your loved one to find their way back to the trailhead even after sunset.  Reusable batteries and a battery charger to keep these light sources charged and working throughout the year is also a great gift idea.

3.    Sun protection- Even in winter the sun is harsh.  Sunscreen is a great stocking-stuffer.  Fun, cool, and functional hats, sunglasses and UV protective clothes are usually a hit with outdoor enthusiasts.  

4.    First Aid - Allergic reactions, bee stings, and minor scrapes and falls are common occurrences.  It’s important to be prepared to treat these ailments if you spend a lot of time in nature.  Foot care products to help prevent blisters like moleskin, insect repellent and small First Aid kits are great stocking stuffers.

5.    Knife (and Repair Kits) – A knife is a helpful for first aid, food preparation and repairs. Even the best equipment eventually fails.  Zippers break, chipmunks eat holes in your backpack, and pants rip.  A small multi-tool or roll of duct tape are perfect for this!

6.    Fire - Having a plan to start a fire in the case of an emergency is key.  A lighter or other fire starter is a great gift idea.  Looking for something a little bigger?  Consider a campstove or lightweight jetboil. 

7.    Shelter - The most common mistake people make is assuming they will be back as planned.  Being prepared to bivouac (stay) through a storm or even overnight by having an emergency blanket or large plastic contractor bag is a good idea and could save a life.    

8.    Extra Food (Nutrition) – Dense calorie rich foods like energy bars or even candy bars are good stocking stuffers for your outdoor enthusiast to stick in their pack during their next trip outdoors.  Does your love one venture into bear country?  Maybe consider a bear-proof food storage container.

9.    Extra Water (Hydration) - Adults need a half liter of water per hour of nonstrenuous activity in regular conditions.  A water bottle or bladder-system helps with this need.  Another alternative is a water filter, assuming there is water available in the area. 

10. Extra Clothes - Weather conditions can change over time, and sometimes quickly!  The proper clothing and the availability of waterproof, windproof and insulating layers in a backpack can help your loved one adapt and continue having fun in any condition.

Wondering where to purchase these supplies?  There are many reputable stores in our local area that stock these outdoor essentials.  If the supply you desire is not available locally or you choose to shop online instead, consider using an online shopping platform such as,, or to support non-profits.  When you sign-up for any of these online charity programs you can select your charity of choice.  If you do not have another local favorite, Nevada Outdoor School will happily accept your donation via shopping.  Gear up and get outside, it is good for humans everywhere.