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Winter gear list & Unishelter questions
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Jason Shaffer
(pilgrim) - F
Winter gear list & Unishelter questions on 09/26/2005 02:34:45 MDT Print View

I’ve read the very informative posts by Paul Johnson, Ryan Jordan, and others about ultrafoul w/ ID Unishelter. Could anyone help me pick apart this (partial) gearlist? It’s for non-technical and semi-technical snowshoeing in Northeast US, also upcoming trips in Yellowstone and W. Oregon details undecided. I have experience with most of these items, but not yet at the fringes of what they're capable of. Experimented up to 4 days below treeline, moderate winds, temps to -10F and utterly soggy – with no problems. That was w/ Vapr Bivy and Oware tarp.

Conditions to expect:
1. below treeline, overnight temps to -15F (less?), daytime temps not above freezing. Possibility of very wet conditions, w/ action layers and parka getting damp during day. Say occasional 3’ snow overnight. Trips ~6 days.
2. above treeline routes but not summit bids. Not so cold, but windier w/ heavy snow and also wet. I’m interested in the trip length threshold here, consecutive days above timber.

Adjusted kit (in ozs):
Smartwool top (7.7)
PossumDown Vest (5.3) or Patagonia R2 Jacket if really cold (12.5)
ID eVent Jacket (9.4)
Ibex Guide Lite Pants (18.9)
Patagonia DAS (26.3)
ID Belay Pants (17.6)
Stretch balaclava + possum beanie (3)
Possum Gloves w/ Featherlite Mitts (5.275) --haven’t snagged mitts yet
Primaloft 1 Booties (~4)
ID North Twin, sized to wear parka and pants INSIDE (57)
RidgeRest (8) + Nunatak LunaPad (7.5)
ID eVent Unishelter (33) -- still deliberating this one
SnowClaw Shovel (5.5) -- considered w/ shelter weight
Total insulative layers and shelter: 12.5 – 13 lbs.

Notes: I sleep slightly warm. I dislike vapor barriers. I like synthetic insulation because I can hang out in the drippy cold stuff when down would force me into shelter. So far I find that wet parka and pants dry nicely inside a synthetic bag (albeit a broad size P1 bag is pretty heavy). I also love to hop right into the bag without adjusting clothes, which minimizes heat loss fiddling with layers, enhances simplicity, etc. Also I appreciate all-synthetic’s wider margin of error since I frequently go solo. However, I’d like to fit everything in my Vapor Trail w/ cooking and all (might be tight at first w/ food for 5 days).

Not the lightest system, but does this all sound reasonable with a Unishelter? What could I expect from it on that 6th damp night below treeline, or that 3rd night of heavy snow and wind above? Any tips or criticisms generally?
All input appreciated!

Edited by pilgrim on 09/26/2005 03:16:22 MDT.

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
Winter gear list & Unishelter questions on 09/26/2005 06:42:35 MDT Print View


I certainly do not have enough experience in this area yet. But, if you are expecting a lot of snow, I would be concerned about using the ID Unishelter alone. I am wondering if it might be wiser under those conditions to use the ID eVENT MK1 Lite that you have posted and to remove it from eBay.

As to your choice of pads, I do not know if the two have enough R factor. You may be better off using one of those pads and something like the BMW Torsolite or something like a Thermarest as the 2nd pad. Another altenative would be the Stephenson's Warmlite Down Air Matress. I have one and still have to put it through it's paces (hasn't been cold in the east since purchased). In my size mine weighs 20.2 oz plus the 2.8 oz for the pump sack.

Also, I know that you indicated that you do not like Vapor Barriers, but, for such a long time out, you may find the loft of your sleeping bag lessen. I know that climbing into Vapor Barrier Clothing would be uncomfortable to put the clothing over and does not fit your desire for simplicity, but you may want to consider a Vapor Barrier Top and Pants along with socks and gloves (?) from someone like Stephenson's ( My Vapor Barrier Top and Bottom weigh 5.4 and 4.4 oz respectively with the top in L and the bottom in M.


Edited by naturephoto1 on 09/26/2005 11:39:24 MDT.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Winter gear list & Unishelter questions on 09/26/2005 09:14:24 MDT Print View

haven't had the Uni out in conditions as severe as yours. 3' of overnight snow is gonna bury the Uni. hopefully, you'll wake up periodically to knock/shake the snow off of the Uni, but it's still going to build up around it. not having any experience, in such extreme winter conditions, i'd have to agree with Richard and suggest you keep the eVENT tent. Dr. J would really be a much better one than i to comment on the appropirateness of the Uni for the conditions you expect to encounter. sorry i can't be more help here.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Re: Winter gear list & Unishelter--not! on 09/26/2005 10:43:10 MDT Print View

One more calling for you to keep your eVENT tent for this purpose. Speaking from much wintertime experience. So much more comfy and room to dry out things and even cook. You would not want to wait out a multi-day blizzard in a framed bivy.
If you were doing alpine mtneering bivouacs-- I could see using the unishelter for a summit push. Alternatively, a lighter bivy bag and a
shaped peaked tarp like a B.D. Megamid ( there's
many out there, including ID's SilShelter) would work well for the winter trips you describe.

Edited by kdesign on 09/26/2005 10:46:56 MDT.

Jason Shaffer
(pilgrim) - F
clarifications on Unishelter on 09/26/2005 18:52:35 MDT Print View

Wow guys,
My poor neglected tent thanks you all! But seriously, its too much tent for me. My above post is exploring the fringe of where a system would fail, worst case, not at all the normal conditions. I was unclear:

As to snow fall: I wouldn't hope to wait out a 3-day blizzard in the Unishelter. That's an important clarification Paul and Kevin, thanks. 3' snow is the worst case, isolated scenario, and I would expect to wake up multiple times to shovel. Unrealistic?

That kind of snowfall pertained more to forested, sub-treeline areas (scenario #1), where the most snowfall I've ever seen in 10 hours was around 3 foot. Anytime I venture ABOVE treeline, alone, in winter, it is for shorter routes with an eye on the weather.

Loss of loft & condensation: I've definitely noticed this so far, but... Last winter in PA (not exactly Wyoming, I know), I went 4 nights below treeline with the above system, but using a vapr bivy and tarp. Daytime temps were as high as 35F, bringing sleet / wet snow, but nighttime temps were -5F to -10 every night. Ice on everything, sloshy snow, and I've never seen so much fog. My clothes were soaked, but even on night 4 I was too warm, bag half-unzipped, and clothes were drier by morning. Should I not expect anything like that kind of vapor transport from a Uni?

These are 'experiments', conducted within a few hours of home. With the Mk1, this setup would barely fit in a 5500in3 pack, and w/ consumables would push 50lbs. I'd prefer to wait on the weather. I just want to experience system failure close to safety before deciding when and in what conditions to draw that line.

Ground pads: With synthetics, which compress less than down, I think one can get away with ~slightly~ thinner pads. Maybe I'm skimping at the expense of overall efficiency, tho. I'll look into the pads.

Rich: Do you know of any good info sources about using vapor barrier clothing? Usable under softshell action-layers, sleep only, etc?

Kevin: Megamids. With synthetics, would you still suggest a vapr bivy? (I also considered a GoLite Hut + vapr bivy for sub-treeline, but thought a Uni might give me more above-treeline options. Maybe I should rethink that.) Is ID's silshelter really comparable to a BD megamid stability-wise?

Anyway, sorry for wordiness. Thanks for your time everyone!

Edited by pilgrim on 09/26/2005 19:42:44 MDT.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
re.clarifications on Unishelter on 09/26/2005 19:38:14 MDT Print View

I'm very down-centric when it comes to bags so I automatically included a vapor bivy type bivy to go along with the megamid (read closer Mr. D).
With a synthetic bag, it might still be a good idea for another 10 degrees of warmth or so.Even synthetic bags absorb moisture in time-- a drier bag is a warmer bag.
As for the Unishelter-- I almost asphyxiated in a semi-framed bivy sack,once upon a winter's climb, during a big drop of snow. So, I'm more than a little bit negative on the use of even a Unishelter as a primary winter shelter.

Tent wise,I've used both a Black Diamond Firstlight and a Lighthouse as a lightweight solo winter shelter. If you are 6' or under, the Firstlight can even serve for 2 and of the 2 tents is more suited to winter conditions due to it's entry and venting design. These are Epic fabric shelters that are considerably lighter than the ID eVENT tent and their Tegral-tex offerings. The Firstlight is under 3 lbs. You might consider this as an alternative.

I don't have personal experience with the Sil-shelter
but I think BPL reviewed it ,once. Check archives.
Hope this helps.

Edited by kdesign on 09/26/2005 19:41:42 MDT.

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
Vapor Barrier Clothing on 09/26/2005 20:36:26 MDT Print View


You can check some of the description and comments/suggestions for Vapor Barrier clothing on the Stephenson's Warmlite site at:

Read between the lines and use the clothing instead of a Vapor Barrier Sleeping Bag Liner.

Ryan Jordan also makes some comments regarding Vapor Barrier Clothing in this BPL article:

I would still be somewhat concerned about sufficient insulation from the ground with the pads that you have suggested (be your insulation down or synthetic). Do some more research and even check the Stephenson's site for their down air matress at:

Also, regarding just the bivy, take Kevin's comments to heart regarding space for any period of time, space to lay out gear, stretch out, dry out gear and possibly to cook. Even if you decide not to keep the ID eVENT MK1 Lite tent(and by the way by replacing the poles with Carbon Fiber- when not as windy or expecting as much snow and the stakes, the tent weight can be brought down to about or just below 3 lbs), as Kevin says there are other alternatives.


Edited by naturephoto1 on 09/26/2005 20:40:38 MDT.

Jason Shaffer
(pilgrim) - F
Winter gear possibilities on 09/26/2005 23:09:54 MDT Print View

"I almost asphyxiated in a semi-framed bivy sack,once upon a winter's climb" Whoa, point taken. I’m definitely grateful for all this advice. I’ll look in to these alternatives to the bivy, as well as the vapor barrier info. Thanks much Rich and Kevin.

I realize that I’m describing scenarios which, ~if consistently faced~, would be perfect for the ID MK1. However, my situation is essentially this: I love winter backpacking, but living in PA now and taking 1 or maybe 2 separate weeks off during winter months, I get ~above treeline~ in winter maybe once/yr, and those trips are shorter. And I can choose where/when to hike according to conditions. Other times I’m just as happy to spend one of those weeks snowshoeing in PA, NY, VT, NH (in forested areas, not Mt. Washington or anything). My upcoming chances to go to WY and Oregon can pretty much be timed according to desired weather, once I more fully understand my gear's limits concering 'desired weather'. But the MK1, with my bulky synthetics and 4-7 days of consumables requires a 5500in3, 4lb pack – it all adds up and pretty soon I'm wondering why I'm not spending my January tracking PA elk w/ my vapor trail. Investing in an entirely new down / vapor barrier setup would be a long-term thing, and I’m still not sure it’s the most versatile option for me, though I’m genuinely interested and will re-think my bias against it.

Maybe the question I should be posing: where, when, and on what kinds of outings would a system like the above (which is ample for me in conditions as per my story in 'clarifications') take me in the N. Rockies, Pacific NW, etc? Where might its weaknesses lie, alternately w/ Unishelter, or enclosed tarp + bivy, or other ~2 lb shelter? What insul. / shelter items would you add or subtract for certain conditions? So far this input is great, I just don’t want to misrepresent my focus. I'm most interested in tweaking the whole synthetic-fill / breathable-system philosophy found in “Winter Backpacking Comfort” to the limits of what its capable of, preferably sans 1000in3 tents, and choosing trips accordingly.

I hope I haven't exhausted all opinions! This is all quite stimulating.

Edited by pilgrim on 09/27/2005 00:49:03 MDT.

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
Winter gear possibilities on 09/27/2005 01:21:41 MDT Print View


Not to beat this to death but a few things to consider. When I had Dan McHale make up my 5000+ cu in main compartment Panel loading pack (plus 2 outer compartments (so over 5500 cu in total), I told Dan that I hoped that everthing would fit because of my included camera bag. Dan indicated that my tarptent would be light enough to strap to the outside of the pack. Though the ID eVENT MK1 Lite tent is not as light as my Tarptent Cloudburst, it can weigh between 2 lb 14 oz and about 3 lbs 4? oz (should be able to strap to the backpack).

As to the vapor barrier clothing, it works with either synthetics or down. Ryan mentions this as I recall in his winter backpacking article that I listed above.

Pennsylvania is a big eastern state. I live in Allentown. Where is home?


Edited by naturephoto1 on 09/27/2005 01:23:07 MDT.

Jason Shaffer
(pilgrim) - F
Re: Winter gear possibilities on 09/27/2005 13:44:16 MDT Print View

Allentown! Well I grew up in a little town in Elk Co. called Brockport (a nice spot, NW region, right between Allegheny Nat Forest, Elk State Forest, and the Quehanna Wild Area) Now I live and work in State College... Right up the road. I've admired your photography, Rich, but now I'll have to take a second look. It didn't occur to me that any of it could be THAT local! My familiar stomping grounds are still the Quehanna.

The warmlite site is indeed informative. Funny they're not mentioned more here. I'm sure a new pack would handle the MK. If and when I am in a position to get more attached to ~frequent~ mountaineering, I'll see what the industry has for me. Would need much new equipment to do anything fitting of the MK. Until then, I'd like much new equipment which I'll use much more. Should also try to ease out of a recent gear addiction! and basically squeeze the most out of what I have (hence above). I'll try adding vb w/ my synthetics and see how that goes. More Q's will follow this winter, I'm sure. Still curious about the enclosed tarp + vapr bivy thing below treeline, which is affordable, versatile, and could be sub-2lb. Though if a Uni would get me above treeline for the occasional winter weekend, minus asphyxiation, I'm all ears. Cheers.

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
Winter gear possibilities on 09/27/2005 14:02:50 MDT Print View


Relatively new to Allentown area (lived in NJ for a long time). Don't know the area that well yet. Also been buying backpacking gear to get out to take photos and not getting out. Doing too many Art Shows to try to pay the bills (tough year due to the economy however). Hope to get out shortly; and preparing for the cold weather with all this new gear. None of the photos on my website are from PA. Some including some of the birds are from NJ, 3 are from the Adirondacks in NY, and a series are from CT near where my parents used to live.

Kevin will be much more helpful with much of the cold weather gear than I.

Some feel the Stephenson's way of thinking on many products are right on others think that they have missed the mark. They are probably somewhere in between. But they are probably right about the use of Vapor Barrier clothing particulary for sleeping. Many other people on the BPL community have commented their thoughts and experience along with Ryan Jordan, but not a high percent of people appear to use it here at BPL.

By the way, Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) used to carry the ID bivy's. When someone died some years back because the person had not vented the bivy (suffocated), EMS stopped carrying the ID line of products. So if you use a bivy remember to vent the bivy with the zippers. ID also recommends the same for any of their single wall tents by unzipping at least about 6".


Edited by naturephoto1 on 09/27/2005 14:18:39 MDT.