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Winter Camping - No Tent
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Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Winter Camping - No Tent on 01/30/2008 20:40:10 MST Print View

With all this chat about tents and suitable envirmoents for them, I have been thinking about going on my next winter adventure without one! Just using a bivy and digging a simple shelter/walls for when I hit the hay. Just wondering how many people do this, or rely solely on snow shelters. Of course, you can also tell me how much of a mistake this will be. Isn't this common for alpine guys?

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Winter Camping - No Tent on 01/31/2008 11:18:41 MST Print View

One of the nice things about camping in freezing weather is that it can't rain. In the past my winter camping shelter was just a bivy sack.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Winter Camping - No Tent on 01/31/2008 11:26:45 MST Print View

I have used just a bivy... and it is certainly a fast and easy way to go in the snow. I have also done trips where we did snow structures which isn't fast and easy (cause you have to built your shelter) but it light and warm.

A downside of the bivy, unless you do a full blown snow cave / igloo / etc is managing wind. Some places digging a pit and using the contents to build a snow wall provides adequate protection... but some places this is not enough. The other downside of the bivy is if you are with someone else and way to "hang out" and play cards or other social activity.


Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
winter camping no tent on 01/31/2008 12:00:48 MST Print View

Go for it. Dig yourself a dog house. Work harden a platform by stomping an area longer than you are tall and wider than your width, you'll figure out exact dimensions after making a few. Then, cut blocks with a snow saw (you are carrying one for your avy assessment right?) or shovel, which isn't as effctive. Place the blocks either flat across a long pit just wider than your shoulders, or tilted like so: /\
When you get to the head area, the tilted method will provide sitting space and you won't feel like you are in a coffin. You can get real fast with this style of shelter, depending on the snow structure. Even faster is finding a wind drift and burrowing in. Or how 'bout a nice big pine/spruce/fir tree to hunker down under. I have spent plenty of nights on just a stomped out platform in my bag and bivy too. Hope this is helpful, have fun out there and let us know how it goes.

Chad Miller

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Re: winter camping no tent on 01/31/2008 12:10:50 MST Print View

Keep in mind I've only spent one night out in the white but. . .

If you don't build a doghouse or shelter be shure and carve out a depression in the snow about the size of your bag/ bivy/ pad combo. This way you have a nice depression to hold everything together and you'll have less of a chance of rolling off your pad and ground sheet (if you're using one). Also it feels nice and cozy!

No I can't take credit for discovering this myself; it's from 'Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book'.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: winter camping no tent on 01/31/2008 13:32:12 MST Print View

Excellent info! The tent stays at home next weekend.

I had some concerns regarding the durability of a silnylon/nylon bivy in a case where I was unable to create a shelter of some sort. But really, what's the difference between using it in the summer or winter? Nothing :).

I'll just find a little nook/cranny to crawl into if I have to.

I just cut 2 lbs from my winter pack weight!

Thanks guys.

Rod Lawlor
(Rod_Lawlor) - MLife

Locale: Australia
How did it go? on 02/22/2008 16:12:19 MST Print View


How did the tentless weekend go?


Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: How did it go? on 02/23/2008 09:31:21 MST Print View

*sigh*...Rod, you will be disappointed...

I ended up using the tent. The weather forecast was just too nasty for me to use just the bivy. With wet snow for literally the entire first day, and then temps dropping to -20C the next day, I swapped out my bivy for my tent at the last minute.
I've written up a trip report with a few pics, just haven't had a chance to post it yet.
I'm still going to try out just the bivy - next time, I promise.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
compromise on 03/02/2008 23:56:20 MST Print View

A "half and half" compromise is to use a winter tarp with a bivy.

The tarp serves to keep the wind and snow off your bivy, and makes a nice communal sitting/eating area to pass the long winter nights. But since you're in a proper bivy, the tarp can fail due to snow load or weather and you'll be pretty safe.

Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Winter "No Tent" on 05/12/2008 12:10:55 MDT Print View

I've spent many nights in a single person snow pit covered with a 5'x10' sylnylon tarp. It takes about 20 minutes to dig a 3' deep pit and pitch the tarp above it. There are many options including burying the sides under snow to fully prevent wind vs keeping it somewhat open to help with condensation. If you use your poles to support the tarp (and choose a flat site or a slightly rougher nylon tarp--snow really slides off of silnylon) you can cover your tarp with snow for insulation much like a snow cave but without the 2 hour time needed and guaranteed wet-through gloves.