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My Snow Camping 101 pictorial
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Michael Skwarczek
(uberkatzen) - F

Locale: Sudamerica
My Snow Camping 101 pictorial on 11/20/2009 11:56:57 MST Print View

Here's sort of a pictorial review of my first and latest snow camping trips. It started pre-UL with some seriously miserable fun out on Dewey Point in Yosemite where we had freezing rain the entire first day. But, there's no better way to learn, than through extremes. In fact, I began this passion with a borrowed floorless, dual-peak type tarp tent from Black Diamond. And, to this day, floorless remains my shelter of choice.

My point, here, is to show a small example of the variety of approaches and methods to help the first-timer appreciate their options, and to amuse the rest of us. It's by no means comprehensive (no snow caves), and is limited, too, by my own experience strictly in the Sierras and SoCal mountains, which I find to be an overall mild and generally predictable Winter adventure.

This review includes a range of floorless tarp tents and tarps with bivys, a Craftsmen crap-tent, free-standing 3-Season tents, UL 3-Season, and even a full 4-Season bombproof freestanding 2-man shelter (saved my ass once, thanks Josh).

It's Winter, but you can still be UL in strategy and gear choices, though, ultimately, it comes down to comfort, which is purely a personal blend of experience and individual physiology. Yer either warm, or yer cold.

Enjoy! (in case the embedded link dies)
snow tarpsnow floorless midsnow doomed

Edited by uberkatzen on 11/20/2009 12:02:52 MST.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
WHAT? NO BEARSKING SLEEPING ROBE? on 11/23/2009 23:10:17 MST Print View


Nice photos but... I'm a confirmed tenter in winter. I just like a tent's snugness in a storm or wind, not to mention the 10 F. warmer double wall tent will be.

I do like your "snow furniture" but just looking at your setup makes me feel cold and yearn for a TT Scarp 2 with a nice oil lantern inside and me reading "To Build a Fire" while tucked in my sleeping bag. ("Mark II" Scarp 2 model, the newer, longer fly version he'll eventually be selling.)

Edited by Danepacker on 12/03/2009 14:54:06 MST.

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
shelf on 12/14/2009 15:07:00 MST Print View

a quick thought about your pit for your sleeping bag. i was always taught when digging a snow type shelter to dig a lower shelf or pit for the coldest air to sink. it appears you've put your sleeping bag down in this pit :D just a thought

Chad Miller

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
My snow camping 101 pictorial on 12/15/2009 13:32:32 MST Print View

That he has, although I'm not certain that an open air pit will trap that much cold air and make that much difference in terms of cold. I believe the idea behind building a pit to help trap cold air is for use in snow shelters where the inside air temp generally hovers around 30 degrees but the pit by the entrance is at the outside air temperature.

Michael Skwarczek
(uberkatzen) - F

Locale: Sudamerica
cold air pit traps on 12/15/2009 22:38:50 MST Print View

That's interesting, Chad. I usually create a trap for all open air, snow sleeping. I hadn't quite considered how that principal would actually operate, and maybe it was moot considering the real circumstances. In that picture, I was with Josh Billings (BPL'er). We dug the shelf for seating, and realized one of us would have to sleep lower. He had a sub-Zero bag, so down he went.

I've only ever slept open-air or with a Pyramid style floor-less. Have nothing to compare the experience to, I've never considered being any colder than someone else. But I have decided not to sleep open-air, anymore. I find it feels more and more exposed against my face.

cheers guys,

Edited by uberkatzen on 12/15/2009 22:45:13 MST.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Your "Winter Camping 101" tent on 12/25/2009 15:34:39 MST Print View

That "tent" of yours (really a shaped tarp) will never do in a blowing, snowing night. In fact it is downright dangerous without some serious snow blocks made in a L shape to close off the front entrance.

Better to take a full coverage double wall tent or make a snow trench shelter W/ poles & skis to support a tarp covering, which in turn is covered by an insulating layer of snow you've shoveled on the tarp roof. (You DID bring a shovel, didn't you?) And, again, build an L-shaped entrance to keep out wind and blowing snow.

Edited by Danepacker on 12/25/2009 15:35:39 MST.

Michael Skwarczek
(uberkatzen) - F

Locale: Sudamerica
misguided on 12/26/2009 13:32:33 MST Print View

Hey Eric, I'm not sure which tent/tarp/whatever, you are referring to. But if it's the cat-tarp rigged over that TiGoat bivy, the weather was clear and we were comfortable knowing the tarp was more a layer of comfort. Some of those pics are just examples of misguided notions.

I'm into your suggestion about shoveling a layer of snow onto a fully supported tarp that's built over a deep trench with walls and an L-Shape entrance. Really, if I had more experience and intention with that collapsing cat-tarp/bivy picture, I would have followed exactly your plan, and weather that storm fine. But I knew I had an exit strategy, so it wasn't life and death, just harrowing.

Maybe this year I'll actually pick up the seminal guide to snow camping and play with that.

cheers, Happy Holidays

Edited by uberkatzen on 12/26/2009 13:35:14 MST.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Your "Winter Camping 101" tent on 12/26/2009 14:09:05 MST Print View


Virtually all wilderness therapy programs use flat, rectangular tarps year round. As you read, there are hundreds of novice hikers out, mid winter in the rockies and other western states. It's doable. No one has died from exposure.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Your "Winter Camping 101" tent on 12/26/2009 14:43:31 MST Print View

I think I first saw the rectangular tarp over a trench being used by Mike Clelland! (who, in my opinion, seems to have some pretty serious winter credentials).

I was on the trip that I believe Eric is referring to.
If the tarps seem too high with not enough of a wall around them, it was because we were in for perfectly clear weather for days and days... We could've slept in the open, but pitched the tarps to minimize some windchill. The cat tarp pictures were in Icehouse Canyon beneath Mt. Baldy...hardly a precarious place to be caught in a storm. If I were at higher elevations in a different range with harsher weather, yes, a different setup would be warranted.
You seem to imply that we're incompetent by using that setup...I say you'd be wise to understand context before making judgments about experience.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Your "Winter Camping 101" tent on 12/26/2009 14:45:25 MST Print View

"(You DID bring a shovel, didn't you?)"

...and please spare us the condescension, yeah?

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Er... on 12/28/2009 18:39:31 MST Print View

... guess the "You DID bring a shovel..." comment was a poor choice of words. Sorry. I said that because the photos seemed to be of a setup built by one who had not a lot of winter camping experience.

My concern is that people coming from a background of summer backpacking may think all winter backpacking consists of is the same equipment with warmer clothes and bag. It looked that way from the photos.

Howsomever, if that was a camp built by folks with a fair amount of winter camping experience and a solid forecast of good weather I take it all back, including recommendations of closing off the front of the tarp. If'n ya like breezy winter shelters then go for it.

Kevin Sullivan
(bustedchucks) - F
Re: misguided on 12/29/2009 16:39:50 MST Print View

"....Maybe this year I'll actually pick up the seminal guide to snow camping and play with that.

cheers, Happy Holidays

What would you consider the seminal guide to snow camping?

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
THE guide to snow camping (not seminal, tho) on 12/29/2009 21:57:53 MST Print View

Get "Allen and Mike's Really Cool Backcounry Ski Book"

It's a great paperback with informative cartoon-type illustrations. Probably 50% of the info is in the often funny illustrations by Mike Clelland. only about 20% of the info is about skiing. The rest is about winter camping.

That book, now in its 2nd edition, is the best one in my fairly extensive winter libary, which began decades ago with Calvin Rustrum's now out-of-print "Paradise Below Zero".