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Jason Shaffer
(pilgrim) - F
Re: winter backpacking in Shenandoah on 11/02/2004 00:18:38 MST Print View

Hi Meir,
I’ve enjoyed lots of winter backpacking in Pennsylvania when the snow is not deep enough to demand snowshoes, so *as a frame of reference*, here’s my two cents:

1. What sort of boots are recommended?
Most winter trips I find myself post-holing through similar amounts of snow, often more, and lightweight hybrid boots like the asolo fusions have served me well enough. I've found them to be a good balance between the stiffness needed for kicking steps into hard snow, and the flexiblity we all like about trail shoes. Synthetic/leather hybrids will lose a lot of structure (ie. ankle support) after days of snow-trudging, but with a light pack, I've found that to be a non-issue. all-leather models will fare much better on this score, preventing the boot-cicle effect somewhat. Either way, stow them inside your sleeping bag at night and you should be okay.

2. Is it necessary to use a dome tent or can I get by with a tarptent?
Tarptents can be great for moderate winter conditions -- I have a solo caternary-cut Oware tarp, with homemade beaks that make it near fully-enclosed (similar to the forthcoming GoLite Hut 1, see BPL first looks) which is my standard for winter trips when there's not much danger of heavy snowloads (collapse!).

A few tips are in order here. You should seriously consider a very breathable bivy sack (Pertex Quantum is my choice) for any non-breathable winter shelter. I’d hesitate to spend more than one night in the backcountry without mine, if that, and mostly I use a synthetic bag in winter. Also, a snowclaw mini-shovel or something similar is essential, even if only for digging a recessed platform into the snow. In cases of unexpectedly heavy snowstorms, use it to relieve your site of excess snow a few times throughout the night, or to build small windbreaks if things get especially nasty. Just gain experience gradually if your unfamiliar with tarping in winter. (I’m guessing you’ve already noted the technique article on tarping in inclement conditions.) That said, I’ve never been for want of a better shelter in winter conditions with moderate snowfall. And unlike a tent, you can dive under it with boots and snow-soaked gear, cook safely and warmly (esp. with anything short of a white gas stove), quickly pitch it during inclement lunch breaks and emergencies, and in general enjoy a lot of versatility / worry-free-ness that a tent just can’t match.

4. Will I be ok with the following layers: Thin wool base layer and R2 vest (or V-trail top without wool base layer), lightweight insulating layer (MEC Northernlight Pullover), and a soft-shell jacket?

This is the part that really perked my ears up! Clothing is often the most debatable issue, and in winter esp those stakes are high. I’d scrutinize this clothing system very carefully. For instance, I currently use a woolie base layer and montane litespeed for winter, but I am definitely keen on the V-Trail possibility for better breathability. Synthetic insulation is also a smart choice. However, the stretch-woven softshell jacket might be your biggest liability (based on my experience w/ jackets made with schoeller dynamic and cloudveil inertia). Others will disagree, but I'd agrue that the controling difference here is location. Even in PA -- and even in Jan and Feb -- I’ve frequently seen unexpected warm spells that bring freezing rain and sleet most of the day, when snow was forecasted, before temps plummet again at night (or at least freezing rain during the warmer parts of the day, when wet snow morphs into something even wetter). Stretch-woven softshells are problematic by the third to fifth day of a trip, unless you’re maintaining relentlessly high aerobic levels by day, and making no mistakes at night in regards to drying that wet stuff out. Note once your average stretchwoven is soaked, it can be very slow to dry, and will certainly lose much of its breathability.

On trips when I’m certain that temps will be low enough to prevent freezing rain, I have swapped the hardshell for a schoeller jacket. The breathability and comfort of these fabrics are impressive, but I think they earn their pricetags best in drier winter climes than here. For anyplace as far south as Shenandoah, I’d suggest the most breathable WP/B hardshell you can get. I just snagged an ID eVent jacket which so far has performed well in cold and wet conditions, though I’ve had little chance to test it in temps below the high twenties. Due to the higher risk of trapped condensation in cold temps, I wouldn’t layer it over a down pullover, but over a Polartec or R2 Vest while on the move, or in addition to a synthetic pullover at lower aerobic levels or colder temps, I’d trust it over a softshell *in this context* Incidentally, while the lightest stretch-softshell jackets weigh just under a pound, the combination of an eVent jacket and a cocoon pullover would weigh only a few ounces more, be as cheap or cheaper than the MEC+softshell combo, and would be more versatile for cold and wet conditions, IMO. The synthetic pullover can be used similarly to a softshell, while the WP/B provides the protection for wetter conditions. The compromise is a certain amount of breathability, on both counts, but throwing an R2 in the mix gives one more options for breathability. Don't get me wrong, I’ve used the general softshell approach with great success in fringe 3-season conditions, often wearing only a base layer and windshirt in conditions where others don the gore-tex. But I’d encourage you to experiment, and find your own limits before making that decision. a long dayhike in moderately chilly drizzle/rain with a v-trail, or base layer and windshirt, could help place your own requirements in relation to others.
-Jason

Edited by pilgrim on 11/05/2004 14:27:45 MST.

Michael Fogarty
(mfog1) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
tarp set up???/ Q. for Ryan J. on 11/05/2004 17:29:46 MST Print View

Ryan, I intend to purchase a oware 8x10 sil tarp for all around use. 1-3 person etc. What would be the single best way to pitch the tarp. I recently camped with a tarper and was impressed with his speed in set up as well as the amount of room. His set up was 1 trek pole on center edge of 10' width with rear staked down, with 2 upper rear pullouts as well. This seemed like a good day in, day out set up to me. I know weather has a big influence. What's your opinion on single best pitch.

Thanks,Mike

Edited by mfog1 on 11/05/2004 18:59:30 MST.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: tarp set up??? on 11/06/2004 09:20:42 MST Print View

Mike wrote:

>>> I intend to purchase a oware 8x10 sil tarp for all around use...what would be the single best way to pitch the tarp? I recently camped with a tarper...His set up was 1 trek pole on center edge of 10' width with rear staked down, with 2 upper rear pullouts as well.

Mike: this too is one of my favorite ways to pitch an 8x10, mainly because of the views it gives, and the ability to maintain lots of headroom when sitting up and cooking out of the rain, etc.

It's not the most weather worthy, however, in terms of wind resistance, because of the large back panel you create with the broadside pitch. In high winds, I prefer an A-frame pitch, with the long sides down right to the ground, with a trekking pole in the center of the front 8' edge raised to about 36-40 inches, and a trekking pole in the center of the rear 8' edge raised to 24 inches or so. In snow, I'll increase wall steepness by pitching both ends at a height of about 40-42 inches. I'm only 5'8" though - you may prefer more headroom than I.

Troy Baker
(tjbst47) - F
wet down bag on 11/08/2004 08:42:25 MST Print View

I bivied at Point Reyes, CA, but my down bag, North Face Hightail 900, got quite wet. At home I aired dried it for several days. On my next trip, I noticed the bag was significantly less warm. Is there anything I can do? I know down is not good when wet, but is it not good even after it dries?

Bernard Shaw
(be_here_now@earthlink.net) - F

Locale: Upstate New York
Good place to fix it or give advice on 11/08/2004 14:07:39 MST Print View

Hope it is OK to tout a place here in the forum. http://www.rainypass.com/default.htm is a great place that can help with down enhancement. "DOWN RELOFTING
With a room devoted to down, we can fluff and stuff your down items. We provide down fill, baffle repair, cleaning and water repellancy treatments for all down items."

Hope it helps!

EDITOR'S NOTE: WE DON'T MIND AT ALL, BUT WE'D LIKE TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES WITH THE VENDORS, RATHER THAN JUST SIMPLY LISTING THEM]

Edited by ryan on 11/17/2004 01:52:31 MST.

Countryman _
(noshroud) - F
Arc Alpinist/Arc X Alternatives? on 11/10/2004 02:38:15 MST Print View

Anyone know of anything similar/different to these bags? I'm just looking for more options to help me keep my weight down around 5 lbs.

Maybe there's a better way to combine clothing and a sleep system? Such as as "elephant's foot," or something.

Lets get some ideas up here to toss around, using 20 degrees as a general temp guidline.

Edited by noshroud on 11/10/2004 02:47:31 MST.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Restoring Loft / Wet Down Bag / Point Reyes on 11/17/2004 02:03:02 MST Print View

One thing I'm seeing with SOME of the 900 fill down that's coming to the market is that it's not terribly resilient - the plumules are so small, and the clusters so fine, that it does a poor job of resisting compression, gets matted easily at the slightest whiff of moisture, and loses loft faster in response to contamination. So, while it may be lighter out of the gate, I'm wondering if it really is best for long term use. Any other thoughts?

OK, back to the post at hand: you got your bag wet, now it's not so lofty. A pretty common gig - water gets in there, carries with it some contaminants (dirt, or sweat, or oil from your skin, etc etc), the water evaporates, and leaves some of those contaminants behind. Result: some of the plumules matt together and you've lost some loft. This is the typical decay cycle of a down bag's loft.

Solution: use a high quality down cleaner. Generally, ReviveX Down Cleaner is considered to be the best, and is used by quite a few professional down washing shops. It's very important to thoroughly dry your down bag, AND restore its DWR (I use ReviveX Spray). On my Quantum Arc X, I do both the wash and dry on my home machines, which are oversized Maytags. The ReviveX Spray works best on medium (not low) heat, and the Quantum can handle "medium" in my dryer just fine.

Some say use a tennis ball or shoe in the dryer to break up the clumps. That's not necessary, and could damage your bag (shearing a baffle stitch is your biggest concern, not damaging the shell or insulation). Use something softer, but still substantial, like a pair of Smartwool Expedition Socks rolled up into a ball. You get the idea.

I just used ReviveX Down Cleaner on my Arc X after a hard four months of use since my last wash (about 35 bag nights), and it added about 3/4" of loft. I'm sold on ReviveX DWR - done as per the instructions, I think it probably works better than the stock Pertex Shield DWR that is now shipping on Quantum.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Arc Alpinist/Arc X Alternatives? on 11/17/2004 02:10:18 MST Print View

Your best source of info on the Arc design is going to be at Nunatak's website, as they have several designs, and from the Arc X user notes(PDF), which is found from a link off this page:

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/arc_x_variable_girth_down_sleeping_bag.html

There are so many clothing/sleep system layering options now that you can really tailor the system to your activity.

Here are some considerations:

Need the ability to stay warm while stopped for a period of time on the trail? Consider beefing up your insulating clothing, and combine it with your sleep system. Result: you can get away with a lighter bag.

Have zero need to stop or otherwise "hang out" outside the warmth of your sleeping bag? Put your down where it counts the most: in your bag. Still probably the best place to spend weight if you are looking for pure warmth.

Don't need to stop on the trail, but you like to hang out in camp? Try a hybrid parka-bag like the Nunatak Raku or the Feathered Friends Wren series.

Elephant's foot bag: great idea, but really only works for a system where your parka is pretty beefy, so, it's used most when you're hanging out a lot in your parka. I use an E-foot system primarily for early season (fall) ice climbing, when it's quite cold, and I'm already carrying a pretty stout belay jacket.

You can also consider combining these systems:

e-foot + parka + arc X = great winter system

etc.

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
Arc Alpinist/Arc X Alternatives? on 11/20/2004 08:28:28 MST Print View

You may also wish to look at the Feathered Friends Vireo Sleeping Bag and the Feathered Friends Hyperion or Helios Jackets. I just recently received my Vireo and Hyperion Jacket in eVENT Fabric, but have yet to try them.

Rich Nelridge

Edited by naturephoto1 on 12/02/2004 11:39:42 MST.

Meir Gottlieb
(mcg11) - M
OP SAK does it work? on 11/20/2004 13:13:13 MST Print View

I noticed today that all three reviews on backpackgeartest.org for the OP SAK were negative. Reviewers claimed that the OP SAK was neither durable nor odor proof. Anyone have thoughts on this? http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/Stuff%20Sacks/Dry%20Bags/Watchful%20Eye%20Designs%20-%20O.P.%20Sak/.

David Neumann
(idahomtman) - M

Locale: Northern Idaho
Montbell U.L. Alpine Down Hugger #5 on 11/23/2004 10:54:13 MST Print View

How come I never see mention of the Montbell U.L. (Ultralight) Down Hugger #5 sleeping bag. I purchased one last summer and found it to be adequate for the Idaho high country in the summer. At 17 ounces, this compact but well made sleeping bag fits nicely into my ultra-light pack and only cost $200. It only uses 725 down so I suppose some of the other "one pound" sleeping bags with 800 or 900 fill down may have slightly higher loft, but how much more are you willing to pay for another 1/2 inch of loft? This bag is at least worth a look.

Edited by idahomtman on 12/08/2004 12:40:36 MST.

John Williams
(lamphead)

Locale: Southeastern US
OP Sak on 11/30/2004 22:28:40 MST Print View

We used several OP Sak's on a through hike of the John Muir Trail in September. They were a huge dissapointment. Not sure if we got a bad batch, but the ones we had cracked just below the ziploc causing leaks. To our dismay, the ziploc bags (supermarket ones) well outlasted the OP Saks. The cracking began on the sacks within a few days making me wonder whether we got a bad batch. Any other opinions?

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
Question for Ryan Jordan regarding Winter/Cold Weather Clothing on 12/02/2004 10:57:08 MST Print View

As a nature and landscape photographer, I always have weight problems. I have always been an advocate of Down Products, understanding their limitations and weaknesses (wetting from both inside and out). I ordered my first Feathered Friends Down Sleeping Bag (a Lark) in eVENT fabric back in 1999. I was so impressed with the product, construction, and the eVENT Fabric I recently ordered a clothing and sleeping system consisting of Feathered Friends Vireo Sleeping Bag(2 oz of 800+ Down overfill), Feathered Friends Hyperion Jacket (800+ Down Fill), and a Feathered Friends Volant Hood (800+ Down Fill) all in eVENT fabric.

Though you have expressed concerns about breathability of the outer shell of Down products, I have always been concerned about wetting the Down from the outside (as such eVENT outer fabric).

To avoid wetting all my clothing and sleeping system from perspiration for hiking and sleeping, I am having Stephenson's Warmlite prepare Vapor Barrier shirt, pants, gloves, and socks.

With the above in mind and with the introduction of the Integral Designs eVENT Rain Jacket, do you advocate the clothing system for Winter/Cold Weather conditions as listed in the article on the jacket:

Option #1: Alpine Winter Hiking and Climbing in Subfreezing Conditions

Base Layer: Lightweight synthetic zip-t (e.g., GoLite C-Thru Lightweight Zip-T), 5 oz

Wind Shirt: Thin wind shirt (e.g., Montane Aero Smock), 3 oz

Rain Jacket: eVENT shell jacket (e.g., Integral Designs eVENT Jacket), 9 oz

Insulating Jacket: High loft hooded synthetic insulating jacket (e.g., GoLite Belay Parka), 21 oz

or

Winter clothing sytem as suggested in your article on Winter Backpacking Comfort: Lightweight Gear and Techniques for Shelter, Clothing, and Sleep Systems which consists of:

Base layer such as Rab V-Trail Top made with microfibre lining and Pertex Equilibrium outer

Hooded Shell Jacket such as Soft Shelled Cloudveil Ice Floe Jacket

Hooded Insulation Jacket such as Rab Pertex Quantum Neutrino or Integral Designs Dolomitti?

From my perspective, with either system, I would probably carry at least one layer of a zip-t 100 weight micro fleece or a lightweight wool sweater to be worn when not using the high loft insulating layer (which I would normally wear when I have stopped high levels of activity such as when taking photos, taking a break, around camp, sleeping, or when it was extraordinarily cold).

Also, I am wondering why I have not seen any comments about or reviews of the Gore Windstopper N2S clothing such as the Mountain Hardwear Featherweight Transition clothing on Backpackinglight.com?

Rich Nelridge
www.nelridge.com

Edited by naturephoto1 on 12/02/2004 12:42:40 MST.

Dondo .
(Dondo) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
OP Sak on 12/03/2004 19:17:42 MST Print View

Richard, I had pretty much the same experience with my OP Saks. By the end of my third 3-4 day trip, the OP Sak used for my small items such as sunscreen was held together by more duct tape than plastic. On the other hand, I've found the regular Aloksaks to be very durable. The one for my compact digital camera has seen several months of hard use and is still in good shape.

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Patagonia laminated seams on 12/09/2004 14:13:47 MST Print View

> hear the whole jacket or most of the jacket is laminated together (correct me if I am wrong) but only time will tell how it holds up. If you only need a jacket for just a few days a year it should be a good choice although there are cheaper jackets out there.

Actually the opposite! Patagonia had to wait for this laminated technology before going to the light fabric for the Specter. The laminated seam is strong enough and lighter and less bulky than a stitched seam. To make a stitched seam this strong you'd need to use a lot of tape = bulk & weight.

Look for more lightweight fabrics to be bonded using this technology.

-A

Edited by alandixon on 12/09/2004 17:46:29 MST.

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Gear selection: winter backpacking in Shenandoah on 12/10/2004 12:18:30 MST Print View

Meir,
Winter is my favorite time to head to the Shenandoah. Skip the muggy weather, skip the crowds. The leaves are off the trees. Great views are everywhere. I did a quick overnight from Front Royal to Thornton Gap and back last month. It was spectacular and I saw only one person in 52 miles!

>1. What sort of boots are recommended?

I’d say you could almost go without boots if weather is going to be around freezing during the day. A pair of Gore-Tex trail runners might work just fine if you have room for a pair of warm wool socks. I’ve used GTX versions of both Merrills and Solomon XA Pro’s. Use a pair of spring gaiters (with cord not a strap on the bottom) and you should be fine. If you want to go heavier, try a pair of lightweight nylon “sneaker” boots, also in GTX (I have a nice pair of Merrills that I’m planning on testing this winter). You might also want to investigate a pair of vapor barrier socks like RBH Designs Vapor Barrier Socks and/or Liners:
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00064.html

I can usually get by with just the trail runners or light boots without the fancy socks, although I do carry down booties for camp. Ahhh!

>2. Is it necessary to use a dome tent or can I get by with a tarptent?

Depends on your winter shelter skills. But, no, a dome tent is certainly not necessary. You can usually find a sheltered hollow to camp in that is out of the full force of the wind and get by with a much lighter shelter. In fact, if you go to AT huts, you may not need to setup whatever shelter you bring. You could even bring something like an bivy sack but will probably be happier in some sort of shelter that sheds wind and gives you bit of room for gear inside if you don’t take refuge in a hut. You will get spindrift in most any shelter that is not sealed around the perimeter. I.e. the spindrift will come through the front door and the netting on a tarp tent.

>3. At these temperatures, can I use an alcohol stove?

Since there are a reasonable number of springs and running water sources in the Shenandoah you shouldn’t have to boil snow for water. Either an alcohol or canister stove should work into the 20’s F or a bit lower. Will depend on your experience with them in cold weather, what type of windscreen you use, and how you intend to keep a canister warm or pre-warm the alcohol if it gets really cold. I have used canister stoves into the single digits but have not used alcohol this low. For both types of fuel you will need to pre-warm it if it’s really cold. Warm-up the fuel in your sleeping bag or in your pocket before cooking. Also a tight’ish windscreen (not too tight!) that reflects some heat back will help the performance of both stove types. For a longer trip, or if you are melting snow, a canister stove is probably a better choice.

> 4. Will I be ok with the following layers: Thin wool base layer and R2
vest (or V-trail top without wool base layer), lightweight insulating
layer (MEC Northernlight Pullover), and a soft-shell jacket?

You should be fine with this as long as it doesn’t warm up above freezing and rain during the day. Usually one can get a good enough forecast to rule out this possibility. If it’s really cold you may not have enough warm clothing to hang around camp at night outside of your bag. But that’s the way it’s supposed to be :)

Enjoy your trip,

-Alan

Zack Karas
(iwillchopyou@hotmail.com) - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Applying DWR to a washed bag on 12/12/2004 18:49:58 MST Print View

I realize that this is in response to a 11/17 post, but...
At what point in the process of washing a down bag would you spray the bag with the DWR? I've washed my bag in the past, and it was pretty soaked (even with the spin cycle) before I put it into the dryer. If you were to spray it at this stage, as the Revivex DWR Spray instructions say to do so, couldn't some of the DWR get onto the down feathers?
Thanks

Edited by iwillchopyou@hotmail.com on 12/12/2004 18:52:29 MST.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
washing a down bag/DWR application on 12/12/2004 23:58:19 MST Print View

Zane - yes, you're right. Don't add the DWR until the first dry cycle is done. Then, spray the DWR (if you are using Revivex, haven't done this with other types) on the shell until the shell is wetted. Then, using your hand, just kind of rub the Revivex all over the shell until you know that the Revivex is worked into the shell fabric. Then toss the bag into the dryer and dry as per manufacturer recommendations and you'll be in great shape with very little, if any, contamination of the down.

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
Question for Ryan Jordan regarding Winter/Cold Weather Clothing on 12/26/2004 05:25:08 MST Print View

For someone using a clothing/sleep system that includes an eVENT outer fabric light down jacket, sleeping bag, and hood along with vapor barrier clothing (shirt, pants, gloves, and socks) do you recommend a Winter/Cold Weather Clothing system consisting of:

a)

Base Layer: Lightweight synthetic zip-t (e.g., GoLite C-Thru Lightweight Zip-T), 5 oz

Wind Shirt: Thin wind shirt (e.g., Montane Aero Smock), 3 oz

Rain Jacket: eVENT shell jacket (e.g., Integral Designs eVENT Jacket), 9 oz

Insulating Jacket: High loft hooded synthetic insulating jacket (e.g., GoLite Belay Parka), 21 oz

or

b)

Base layer such as Rab V-Trail Top made with microfibre lining and Pertex Equilibrium outer

Hooded Shell Jacket such as Soft Shelled Cloudveil Ice Floe Jacket

Hooded Insulation Jacket such as Rab Pertex Quantum Neutrino or Integral Designs Dolomitti?

Also, I am wondering why I have not seen any comments about or reviews of the Gore Windstopper N2S clothing such as the Mountain Hardwear Featherweight Transition clothing on Backpackinglight.com?

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Legacy Posts @ G Spot Closed on 12/27/2004 11:51:30 MST Print View

This thread (legacy posts) is now closed. Please post new gear-related questions as New Threads in the G Spot Forum.

I have moved the last post (Richard Nelridge) to a new thread in the G-Spot Forums called Winter Clothing Systems Question.

Edited by ryan on 12/27/2004 11:54:15 MST.