Pitching a Tent in the Snow
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Gerald Magnes
(gmagnes)

Locale: Upstate NY
Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 08:40:40 MST Print View

Franco,
Can you clarify a bit on your description of how the Rainbow can be used in snow and winter conditions. Are you referring to the single or Double or either? When you say that Trekking poles can now be used to support the cross strut, do more recent models include some sort of grommet or loop to anchor the poles in that area? Not sure what you're referring to in regards to now being able to be set up with the 9mm pole? Is that a thicker ridge pole than the standard pole the tent comes with that's also available as an option??
thanks from a happy single and double Rainbow owner who occasionally winter camps in the Adirondacks,
Gerry

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: A few brief comments on 02/25/2009 11:38:06 MST Print View

>> 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.

Few people would call the snow the northeastern US generally gets "dry fluffy" :)

Perhaps I read the article wrong -- I got the impression that the article was advocating boot stomping as much as possible. Even in the conditions you describe, why wouldn't you boot pack as lightly as you could do to still get a flat area?

The more you stomp, the icier it gets; the icier it gets, the better a heat sink it becomes.

--MV

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re Pitching a tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 14:55:58 MST Print View

Steve wrote:

> up here the DR does very well in wooded winter areas.
I think that is a very good point: conditions are different in wooded areas where the wind is reliably low. Out on the high plains things can be bit more demanding.
Out on the plains
.
Making broad generalisations about what is right and wrong is just too dangerous: you have to adapt to the conditions. You have to have some idea of what they could be, too!
By the way, this was mid-autumn! Such are the mountains...

Cheers

Ralph B Alcorn
(backpack45scb) - M
Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 15:00:46 MST Print View

Snow camping is not something I seek out, though I've had the experience a few times, voluntarily and involuntarily. I learned a lot from your article. It did raise a side issue for me.

Cooking in the vestibule. To me, always seemed like a high hazard thing to do, but the article makes it clear that this is an accepted and necessary thing at times. Where can I go to find this covered more extensively? i.e. an article at the depth of this Pitching a Tent in the Snow article. Or maybe BackpackingLight.com could take this on for we novices?
Thanks.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: A few brief comments on 02/25/2009 15:04:09 MST Print View

Hi Bob

> I got the impression that the article was advocating boot stomping as much as possible. Even in the conditions
> you describe, why wouldn't you boot pack as lightly as you could do to still get a flat area?

I think we may have quite different snow conditions in mind, and maybe the article is not 100% clear on how hard we stomp. Our snow needs a fair bit of stomping most times just to get it into shape. However, that does not mean we go over it again and again to make it rock hard. We usually have not got the energy for that at the end of the day!

We stomp enough to get the tent platform level and strong enough to support us, and that is all. Where it is built up a bit needs to be strengthened a bit in most cases. We do build up one edge as shown because digging down far enough to avoid that would be too hard without a big shovel. I just have that UL scraper.

If you were to stomp hard anywhere straight after we finish you would certainly poke a hole in the snow, so we do stomp 'lightly' towards the end.

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 15:16:11 MST Print View

Hi Ralph

> this is an accepted and necessary thing at times
Too right! Fine calm still 'warm' sunny afternoons - anything goes. Way sub-freezing and a strong wind - where else would you be?

The hazard depends on several factors. If you are using a canister stove then lighting up is not dangerous. Priming a liquid fuel stove can be far more of a hazard. It is possible to do it 'safely' in a vestibule, but it takes practice, and should be done with a little ethanol rather than white gas too.

The CO issue has been extensively covered in our series of articles on that. ventilation is always necessary.

One or two stove manufacturers go hysterical at the mere suggestion of cooking in the vestibule - MSR are well-known for this (too many lawyers). They are ignoring both reality and safety: you don't sit outside at night in a howling storm in the snow! Hypothermia, here we come.

> Where can I go to find this covered more extensively?
Hum, yeah, we had already thought about that one! It's sort of in the planning stage right now. In the meantime, have a go, cautiously. I would recommend a remote canister stove as being a good safe choice.

Cheers

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 15:42:09 MST Print View

Ralph,

Necessary -- yup. Trying to cook outside when it is way sub-zero (F) and the winds are howling does not work very well, and you can also get very cold very fast.

All "knowledgeable" advisors and all stove manufacturers emphatically tell you not to run your stove in your tent -- and have done so for the last 50 years or more. A few of the possible problems:
* Flare up when lighting the stove can damage your tent.
* Spilled fuel getting ignited. You could wind up with a fire blocking your tent's only exit
* Spilling a pot of water and getting your sleeping bag or clothing soaked

Nevertheless, everyone I have ever winter camped in the mountains with does it -- very carefully.

Roger's suggestions are good ones.

-- MV

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 16:27:21 MST Print View

Hi Bob and Ralph

> * Flare up when lighting the stove can damage your tent.
Too right. A good solution is to use a canister stove instead.

> * Spilled fuel getting ignited. You could wind up with a fire blocking your tent's only exit.
Too right. A good solution is to use a canister stove instead.
Mind you, if one end of the tent was alight, I am sure I could find another exit real quick! :-)

> * Spilling a pot of water and getting your sleeping bag or clothing soaked
Ah - this one is a function of the tent vestibule. If it is very small or non-existent, then yes, it is a problem. But a good winter tent will have a decent vestibule for cooking in (by definition). Spilt water out there does not matter.

Does that mean that tents like the Black Diamond Ahwahnee and I-tent are not 'good' winter tents? Without their optional vestibule, dead right imho. OK for an emergency bivouac maybe, but not for decent living.

Cheers

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: Re: Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 18:19:03 MST Print View

Roger,

At what temperatures is it important to have a winter canister stove (i.e. canister upside down, feeding liquid), instead of a normal stove (canister upright) -- assuming normal altitudes (say sea level to 10,000')?

Do the upside-down ones have added safety issues, such as the possibility of enough liquid coming out to flare?

-- Bob

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 18:50:49 MST Print View

Bob,
Roger has done articles on stoves (in cold temps). Extremely useful information in there. I routinely bug him about trying to melt snow (efficiently and in lightweight style of course) in the winter - he loves it...ask away! I think he invented the stove :)

If you look a few threads down, I have a winter stove question awaiting his answer (hint hint Roger) ;)

p.s. You'll know when it's time to go with the inverted canister when it takes 1 hour to boil a liter of water/melt snow...or you simply can't do it.

Edited by Steve_Evans on 02/25/2009 18:54:27 MST.

ANTHONY ZEPPETELLA
(zepppower) - F
Here's what I did with my Golite Hex ~ on 02/25/2009 19:03:00 MST Print View

No cold sump with sleeping platform but a very comfy night regardless.A beautiful day and restful, comfy night behind Pikes Peak. (I just love this tent)

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 20:02:57 MST Print View

Gerry
Sorry I did not spot this earlier.
Yes the 08 version of the Rainbow and DR have grommets at the end of the cross strut sleeve so that you can insert a trekking pole tip there and guy it out.
Easy enough to do with the earlier versions , but I haven't bothered.
Henry sells a 9mm pole as an option, I can't find it at the TT site but send them an E Mail request if you are interested. Apparently it's about 30% stronger than the standard version. From memory that is about right according to some charts I spotted some time ago (maybe from Easton)
Note that the Rainbow in Steven's shot can take the poles but are not in use.
BTW according to another TT user the symmetrical shape of the DR will take more wind than the single. ( I knew that..., note the difference in the set up on the Rainbow page between Henry's prototype( top right) and mine underneath)
Franco

Anthony
Nice "glow "

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 21:50:14 MST Print View

Franco, thanks for the heads up. I didn't know about the additional grommets and I'm sure my buddy (the owner of the DR) doesn't either. I'll pass it along.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 22:22:22 MST Print View

Hi Bob

As Steve said, we have a number of articles at BPL on Winter Stoves and remote canister stoves. The easiest way to find some of them is to search on my name. :-)
You could also search on Will Rietveld.

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/25/2009 22:32:38 MST Print View

Hi Steve

> If you look a few threads down, I have a winter stove question awaiting his answer (hint hint Roger) ;)

Can't find it. Help?

Cheers

Rod Lawlor
(Rod_Lawlor) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Re: Re: Re: Pitching from a tent in the snow on 02/26/2009 03:48:32 MST Print View

Roger said
"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!"

Actually these have no centre pole, which is pretty nice. The black sleeves are pole sleeves which form a full frame. I'm not sure about the canvas though. I thought it was nylon. I'll ask on Sunday if you like.

Rod

Rod Lawlor
(Rod_Lawlor) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Re: Re: Re: Re: Pitching a Tent in the Snow on 02/26/2009 04:01:05 MST Print View

Roger wrote"Mind you, if one end of the tent was alight, I am sure I could find another exit real quick! :-)"

I wouldn't worry about it to much Roger. I'm not sure if you've ever seen a tent go up or not, but it's pretty impressive. One disappeared in the campsite next to me in Holland a few years ago. I had my head in my tent grabbing a book and heard a 'Whomp' By the time I pulled my head out, there where two very dazed looking Dutch guys sitting in their ex-vestibule with a Primus pierceable between them. The poles where just slowly toppling over as I watched, but the fly had just disintegrated/dissolved. Not much thermal mass there.

Rod

Nicolas Costes
(ncostes) - F
grivel pelle rescue on 02/26/2009 10:28:44 MST Print View

You may want to check the new shovel by grivel.

Heavier than the snowclaw, but much more useful.

[url]http://www.grivel.com/Products/tabella_rescue.asp[/url]

[url]http://www.tvmountain.com/index.php?option=com_hwdvideoshare&task=viewvideo&Itemid=136&video_id=1130[/url]

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Solo pitch of Hillebergs on 02/26/2009 12:59:55 MST Print View

Enjoyable article, Roger - and fun to see so many of my photos were of use.

I'll take small exception to one point, and that's on the ease of pitching dome tents in adverse conditions. Many, if not most, can be staked down in advance, just like the tunnel tents. Start at the windward end (I often use my ice axe to create a strong first anchor point), and go from there. You can also pre-stake slacked guylines to get a start on that as well.

The Hilleberg dome tents (and others with external poles and clips) are particularly suited to this. Stake down the body, then put the poles in place; they offer little wind resistance at this point. You then clip up the body of the tent, working around its perimeter in stages. It's actually quite easy, even in a gale. Tighten up all guylines and you're set. It's no more difficult to do solo than to set up a tunnel tent - though it does indeed take a bit longer.

The larger Biblers are more problematic because they present a fair amount of surface area to the wind as you try to get the poles in place from the inside; the first couple of poles get a lot of pressure on them, and full stability is only reached when all are in place and the hook and loop fasteners or ties locking them together have been fully set. In the extreme conditions preceding my photo of the Tempest, those initial loads on the two main crossing poles caused them to bend.

In contrast, the Hilleberg poles go up with no fabric to catch the wind, and in the example of the Saivo, all seven crossing points are in place, and the pole ends are in very secure sleeves, before you start clipping up the fabric. This gives it excellent strength right from the start.

By the way, my photos of the Saivo don't make it clear that it has vestibules at both ends; so, for the photo of the Saivo partly buried in the snow near Lassen Peak, the other vestibule was more sheltered (although I'll note a quibble with the design of the Saivo and Jannu: the vestibules have a rather shallow slope and do collapse down some under snow loading).

One of the nice things about the Saivo's double-ended design and the way its vestibules are set up in an asymmetric design with four-way zippers is that regardless of shifts in the wind, there is always a way to enter and exit downwind. And, at the cost of additional weight, the dome design handles wind loading from any direction with aplomb, and can survive much greater static snow loading than a tunnel tent. This is really only important if you're leaving it out as a base - as you note, if you're inside or near the tent as the snow builds up, the best policy is to occasionally shake or shovel it off, regardless of the tent's design.

Thanks for helping spread the joy of winter camping - definitely my favorite time to be out there, and one that is accessible to all with just a bit of extra knowledge and suitable gear.

Cheers,
Steve

Edited by slnsf on 02/26/2009 13:04:32 MST.

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Spindrift and mesh tents on 02/26/2009 13:12:43 MST Print View

One other point that must be made about tarptents and 3-season tents is that, while they certainly can be used in winter (the pictures of the Cloudburst at Yosemite and the Brawny Tarptent at Lassen and Yosemite in the article are mine), not only is snow and wind loading an issue, as Roger points out, but they will rapidly fill with spindrift in windy conditions. That means wet gear at the very least.

I used a Big Sky Evolution 2P at the same site as the Bibler Tempest in my pictures (different trip, but a spot that often gets extreme conditions), and, it was flattened by a blizzard, with spindrift infiltrating the tent interior long before that. No storm was forecast, and the tent was not built for such conditions, but you never know what you're going to get in winter...

The message isn't to not use open tents in winter - if you're careful about conditions, they can be a joy - but definitely be aware of how quickly spindrift can make life miserable in them. The previous suggestion of using a bivy sack is a good one and what I do, plus keeping other gear packed away in my pack, pulk, or sealed stuff sacks. However, unless I'm certain no storm is on its way, I'll generally bring a real winter tent that can be fully sealed up.

Edited by slnsf on 02/26/2009 13:13:46 MST.