Pitching a Tent in the Snow
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/24/2009 19:57:21 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Pitching a Tent in the Snow

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Pitching in the Snow on 02/24/2009 21:02:14 MST Print View

Very clear, enjoyable article! Does your wife know that you share your red tunnel tent with that super-model? Or did she drop down from an alien space ship? For me, I use pretzels as deadmen anchors, then just leave them in the snow. They are bio-degradable, after all.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Pitching in the Snow on 02/24/2009 21:29:49 MST Print View

Great article Roger!

But crapping in the vestibule...?! I don't know why but I find that pretty funny! =-)

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/24/2009 21:57:55 MST Print View

Hey-

You never asked permission to use that photo of me in my blue "torsoclava". Shame on you. ;)

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Pitching a tent in the snow on 02/24/2009 21:59:35 MST Print View

Another great BPL article. Nice supermodel with a WM Flight Vest?? Nice!

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Pitching from a tent in the snow on 02/24/2009 22:06:31 MST Print View

Vestibule? How rustic. I have a nice big flap that opens up right next to the pole in my Pyramid. But it's only been used for cooking. Pee goes in a pee bottle, the other gets done outdoors when the wind drops off a bit.

The Tarptent backyard experiment isn't all that fair. He was indoors in a comfy bed while the tent got buried in the snow. If it was slept in the collapsing walls would have been noticed and dealt with.

Although California may not have the coldest, wettest weather we do get snow. One of my first snow camping trips we got 8 feet of the white stuff over five days. Even some pretty marginal tents worked fine as long as they were maintained.

I've always done fine packing the pitch down with skis or snowshoes then letting it set up for a while. Just don't crawl around on your knees where you plan to sleep or you'll have big holes.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/24/2009 22:31:01 MST Print View

Wow... lots of info there.
I am waiting for the BS Montana version Y (not) so in the meantime I can learn from the above.

"The Tarptent backyard experiment isn't all that fair. He was indoors in a comfy bed while the tent got buried in the snow. If it was slept in the collapsing walls would have been noticed and dealt with."

Not nice to see Tarptents being molested, however the Rainbow now can use trekking poles to support the cross apex strut and can also be guyed out at the ridge as well as set up with the 9mm pole, so not a 4 season shelter but can do better than in that picture .
The Quoddy experiment, to me, showed the potential of the Sublite Sil. With the newer beefed up apex connection and a well placed kick some time during the night, it looks pretty impressive for the 24 oz it weighs.

Snow Claw users. That looks multi tasking to me ( as a seat for example, maybe stove support, insulation under the feet) is this correct ?

Franco

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/24/2009 22:42:11 MST Print View

Snow Claw users. That looks multi tasking to me

I believe it's other intended use is for fighting off cougars.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
The Super-Model on 02/24/2009 22:43:20 MST Print View

Oh, she's just one of the perks which comes naturally to BPL Staff members...

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
re (mis)use of vestibule on 02/24/2009 22:49:28 MST Print View

Hi Ashley

> But crapping in the vestibule...?! I don't know why but I find that pretty funny!

That was on the When Things Go Wrong" trip. Going outside would probably have involved crawling around in the dark in a 100+ kph storm. Keeping hold of the TP would have been difficult. keeping the snow from going up my back and down my sleeves - equally difficult.

But I didn't invent the idea. It has been used in the Himalayas and the Antarctic for decades.

As for waiting until 'the wind drops off a bit', as James suggested - I think that may have happened about two days later. Or three.

Cheers

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Pitching from a tent in the snow on 02/24/2009 22:51:37 MST Print View

Nice articles... thanks. Two observations. First, while I agree good double walled winter shelter are very nice in a winter storm, I have found that a pyramid or tipi with plenty of extra room can also be a good introductory shelter. I have been on several trips where the pyramid tarp became the group meeting area in addition to be where a few of us slept. It works out really well when there is deep snow and we could dig out the floor for even more space. I would agree that using a small single walled tarptent-ism shelter is not ideal, but it's survivable. The key is not to sleep through the night, but wake up frequently enough to be able to tap the sidewalls to encourage the snow to slide down, and to get out of the your shelter and move the snow if tapping isn't working or the accumulation is so heavy that the edges of your shelter are being excessively collapsed.

The other thing I was going to observe, is that sometimes rather than just stomping down the platform, it makes sense to dig out the platform. We will often stomp the platform and the dig a few feet of snow out of the platform. Doing this is more durable than making a snow wall.

--mark

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
A few brief comments on 02/24/2009 23:38:57 MST Print View

Good article -- I liked it, and it certainly brought back old memories.

Interesting to contrast a few of the article's points with my experience. They do not always agree. Different people? Different times? Different places? Different climate?

My best (most serious) winter experience was back East (White Mountains of NH and the Adirondaks) -- stormier and colder than in the Sierras. There were winds such as the article mentions, and temperatures down to -20F (common) and -40F (once, for me).

At the time, the state of the art for tents was not what it is today -- my main tent was a 2-person tent with an aluminum A-frame at the front, and a lower vertical pole at the rear. No vestibule. Inner tent with fly. Totaled 5 1/4 lbs as I recall. I was interested to see that this is the sort of tent that the article says has problems with snow loading and does not work. These tents worked for us -- all it took was pitching carefully, and knocking any snow accumulation off your tent during the night so it did not get overloaded. Not really a big deal. Just part of snow camping.

Anchors -- our main anchors were our snowshoes (skis, if that is what we had). No problem with immobilizing them -- we traveled until dark, pitched the tent, and then got inside for the rest of the night. Not being able to use our snowshoes at night was not a problem in our case. Then in the AM we cooked breakfast (before dawn), got up and packed, and then hit the trail as early as we could. Would have been different if doing a base camp, but that's not what we were doing.

Cooking -- it never would have occurred to us to cook any way other than stove in the front of the tent and us in the sleeping bags. When it was -10F heading for -20F it was just too cold to do it any other way. Besides, lying down and relaxing as the snow melted for dinner felt good after a hard day.

Shovel -- article says it is important; we never carried one unless going into avalanche terrain, which we usually did not. It would never have occurred to us to clear a tent site with a shovel -- we just packed out our tent platform while still wearing our snowshoes or skis, let it set up a bit, and then were careful not to put holes in the surface (e.g. knees or elbows). Snow done that way retains quite a bit of air, and is a comparatively warm surface to sleep on -- certainly better than ground, ice, or boot-packed snow.

If you are worried about the strength / support of snow packed that way, consider that is the same way you can create snow suitable for cutting into blocks to make an igloo. If it is strong enough for igloos (I have put on crampons and walked on igloos I have built that way), it is strong enough to sleep on.

Direction of sun -- I agree with the easterly exposure where possible -- it is already dark that night, so late-in-the-day sun is a moot point. It will be very nice to have what sun you can as you get going around dawn the following morning. Besides, it will probably be colder in the morning.

"The snow can pile up around the branches in a most deceptive manner. You walk close to the tree, and fall through into the space inside the branches. It can be quite difficult getting out of there." -- you bet. We had a term for that -- "spruce trap". Picture stepping into one with your snowshoes on -- not only do you get tangled up in the branches, but all of the snow you have disturbed falls in on top of your snowshoe (and then, of course, tends to set up). It can be hard to get out of, especially if you are wearing a pack of much consequence.

Creating a platform -- the article describes not just boot packing the snow, but stomping it -- getting it as compacted as you can. We taught people to try very hard to avoid doing that. The problem is that doing so makes the snow harder, icier and colder to sleep on than packing with your snowshoes or skis, as described above. We also found no need to do any digging -- we could shuffle enough snow around with our snowshoes / skis to make a level tent platform. Our platforms were probably more subject to such things as a careless knee poking a hole, that would then freeze up and could be uncomfortable. Best answer to that is "be careful, pay attention, don't do that".

Ventilation -- we cooked inside the front of the tent (we had no vestibule). We always had plenty of ventilation while cooking -- needed it to let the steam out if you did not want it to condense and freeze on the tent interior. Presume that also took care of CO. We'd close up quite a bit (but not airtight) after the cooking was done.

Yes, we cooked in the tents -- at those temperatures, everyone cooked and ate from their sleeping bag. Never had any problems other than needing to be careful to not spill anything (especially water). I could see the non-sleeping bag cooking as shown in the article under two conditions: (1) probably earlier in the day than we did (I see a sunset in the outdoor kitchen picture) and (2) warmer than our weather (Sierras may well be OK for that). But under our conditions, being snugly in your sleeping bag was most welcome.

Midnight maintenance -- yup. As I mentioned above, it comes with the territory. As long as you do it, you should not find your tent looking like the snow load disaster photos in the article. (Wind is a whole different subject.)

--MV

Edited by blean on 02/24/2009 23:42:45 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/24/2009 23:46:07 MST Print View

Hi Franco

> Snow Claw users. That looks multi tasking to me
Add mini-toboggan and glissade seat.

Cheers

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/24/2009 23:55:12 MST Print View

Hi Roger
That should have been the first one to pop into my brain...
The comment I refrained from posting ( because I am a little shy) , was that with so many winter tents with crappy vestibules , it's nice to be able to crap in one.
Try that inside the Warmlite "vestibule"
Franco

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 00:41:04 MST Print View

Hi Franco

> The comment I refrained from posting
Only an Australian would dare ... :-)

Cheers

Diplomatic Mike
(MikefaeDundee)

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re Pitching a tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 02:06:52 MST Print View

Excellent article Roger. Lots of good info.
Crapping in the tent is easier if you use the 'buddy system' as practised by Special Forces. It needs to be a very tolerant friend to hold the plastic bag though! :)

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Pitching from a tent in the snow on 02/25/2009 02:10:24 MST Print View

Hi Mark

> a pyramid or tipi with plenty of extra room can also be a good introductory shelter.

Oh, no question! I may have posted this photo before, but it illustrates your point very well:
OP Pyramid

This is a Australian-made Antarctic tent, in use in the Antarctic. A pyramid. Very robust.
But please note: the fabric is canvas, and I think the pole is 2" diameter or something like that!

> it makes sense to dig out the platform
True, but with a full shovel. Much harder with my little UL shovel. And often, our snow won't stomp down very far: it tends to be a bit solid already. No powder snow here!

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: A few brief comments on 02/25/2009 02:16:50 MST Print View

Hi Bob

> Snow done that way retains quite a bit of air, and is a comparatively warm surface
> to sleep on -- certainly better than ground, ice, or boot-packed snow.

As you said at the start - different conditions. We don't get soft dry fluffy snow - at least not for more than 12 hours after a storm. It tends to be rather solid before we start stomping. We have to stomp to get it flat - skis would not have a hope.

> But under our conditions, being snugly in your sleeping bag was most welcome.
Especially at the end of a long day in poor weather. So Sue gets changed, into her quilt, and then starts demanding to be fed! "Soup, soup!" The cook hastens ...

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re Pitching a tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 02:18:04 MST Print View

Hi Mike

> It needs to be a very tolerant friend to hold the plastic bag though! :)
Hadn't though of carrying the extra plastic bags .... Ah well.

Cheers

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re Pitching a tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 06:53:56 MST Print View

It needs to be a very tolerant friend to hold the plastic bag though! :)

We just put the bag in our pot and take a seat...just hope you brought more the the 550 SUL :o

Franco, if it makes you feel better, up here the DR does very well in wooded winter areas. I've passed mine on but my buddy still uses his all year.
dr wnter

We also just stomp out the snow and let it settle for about an hour or so before putting up our tents. I guess it depends on the type of snow you get...

Edited by Steve_Evans on 02/25/2009 06:56:46 MST.