A few newbie winter camping questions
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Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/05/2010 19:02:29 MST Print View

Having never cold weather camped before, I'm going to test out the gear I have in either my back yard or open garage to see where it will get me. Expected temp is 0* F (-18C). NO snow, which is rather common here. :(

What do you do with your shoes/boots at night?

What do you do with your water at night?

If your typical morning routine differs from the summer months, how so? I assume putting back on all your insulation layers if you didn't wear them to bed would be one difference. If you don't wear them to bed, do you just "(wo)man up" when you get out of your bag to put on freezing clothes? :)

I don't have a true winter bag (REI Sub Kilo) so I expect I'll be wearing more than just my Cap 2 bottoms and Cap 3 (or 4) top. I have a NeoAir short and may use a cheap blue 1/2" CCF with it. I also have a POE X-lite Thermo pad I'll try if the Neo with CCF and all my clothes don't cut it.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
My PM on 01/06/2010 23:46:18 MST Print View

Mike,

See my PM to you on your questions. (See my bio. for my qualifications to make recommendations.)

Good idea testing everything at home first. Wish more folks would do that.

Eric

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 01:01:17 MST Print View

I typically push the tops of my NEOS down into my winter boot and leave them next to me. Basically, I let my boots freeze, but I protect them from blowing snow.

If there is snow, I bury most of my water in it. I also turn the bottles upside down so that the ice cap on top of the water is on the bottom of the water bottle. I usually also have a thermos full of hot water, which by the morning, is only warm, but it's crucial liquid. Sometimes I also have a hot water bottle in my sleeping bag, and that'll be liquid in the morning. I never go to bed with cold water in my sleeping bag (something that I see recommended a lot on the internet!) I've also learned to dump out my water when i go to bed if I'm sure that they're just going to freeze solid. It's easier to have an empty bottle and refill it with snow than to deal with ice in the bottle. I also often don't melt snow, but have large 5 gallon jugs of water dropped to me in the winter. It takes longer and colder temps to freeze such a container solid.

My morning routine differs a lot in the winter. On the matters that you asked. Yeah, I just suck it up and get dressed. But I also like to bring my clothes in to my sleeping bag and warm them up for a bit before i put them on. I also generally keep most of my clothes on and just have to put my waterproofs, down parka, outer gloves and boots on.

I'd be dang cold in a Sub Kilo and long underwear at 0F. And I'd be FREEZING on just a Neo Air.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 02:07:18 MST Print View

Testing at home is VERY SMART!

Boots - if these are fairly dry, which is often the case in the snow, I leave them insdie the inner tent but outside my SB. They may be covered by the foot of my SB, but only 'as it happens'.

Water - I keep at least one bottle of warmed-up water inside the bottom end of my SB - that's breakfast!

Getting out of my SB - sort of incremental dressing? Sit up, pull padded jacket on, have breakfast. Head cover will be ON. Then get out and put warm trousers on. May take thermals longs off inside SB before getting out, depending on prediction for day.

NeoAir mat - that is NOT a good mat for the snow! Even with 1/2" of CCF under it. A poor mat is really going to cost you in the snow.

Cheers

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 02:56:14 MST Print View

> What do you do with your shoes/boots at night?

Reasonable people differ. The answer also depends somewht on the kind of boots you are going to be wearing.

I personally ensure all visible moisture, snow, dirt, etc is removed and put them in my sleeping bag. Put them in their own stuff sack if you really must. Do not sleep wearing the boots, because your feet need to be dry overnight.

There are at least two reasons to put the boots in the your sleeping bag overnight:

a) Then the boots will not be cold-soaked in the AM, so when you put them on in the AM you have a reasonable chance of them not causing you to have some *very* cold feet.

b) I have seen someone tear the toes out of his socks trying to put on cold boots in the AM. Socks were slightly damp, because he had slept in them. Boots were cold-soaked, because they were left out. When he went to put the boot on, the sock instantly froze to the boot inner surface. He pushed harder and tore the toe out of his sock.

> What do you do with your water at night?

Ensure you have enough to drink overnight, plus enough to start snow-melting in the AM -- either bury in snow as Jack described, or else a water bottle **with a reliable lid** in the sleeping bag.

> If your typical morning routine differs from the summer months, how so?

I get dressed enough to stick out of my sleeping bag enough to cook and eat breakfast. After breakfast, finish dressing, get out of sleeping bag, break camp, and get moving. Note that I do not sit around in the cold, outside my sleeping bag, cooking breakfast.

> I have a NeoAir short and may use a cheap blue 1/2" CCF with it.

Especially because you are skimping on your sleeping bag, you need plenty of warmth under you. Most people I know use some combination of therm-a-rest type pad with closed cell foam. Not any kind of an air mattress -- all that loose air is not warm. CCF is cheap (if bulky) -- be sure you have enough.

-- Bob

Edited by blean on 01/07/2010 03:12:15 MST.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 06:37:02 MST Print View

I'm a pretty new winter camper myself(two trips last year under my belt), so I'm reading these responses with interest.

One thing you didn't ask, but I've been working out myself, as I'm going out in similar conditions in two weeks (sub-freezing temps, little to no snow expected) is; where are you getting your water? If there's no snow to melt, and presumably most seasonal sources will be dry or frozen over. Also, you can't really filter water even if you could find it, as your filter will freeze up. So you'd have to chemically treat or boil. Are you planning on packing in all the water you'll need? That's probably what I'm going to end up having to do. It's only and over-nighter, so it won't be killer, but I'm unfamiliar with the area I'll be going, so I'm not sure what to expect as far as water availability.

I think dealing with water is probably the trickiest thing about winter camping.

The NeoAir + .5" ccf will probably be a bit chilly, especially in combination with the Sub Kilo. 0F is pretty cold to try and extend 20 degree bag that's likely not quite true to its rating to begin with.

I'd be wearing all my base insulation layers to bed at the very least, and since I plan on using my insulated jacket and pants to extend the rating of my quilt, I'll be wearing all that to bed as well. Has the bonus as well of not having to put on cold clothes in the morning.

Edited by jrmacd on 01/07/2010 06:38:51 MST.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 08:10:55 MST Print View

Thank you all for the tips so far. I've added my comments to various quotes of your's below.

I had planned on getting "Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book" as Eric suggested in his PM. I think it would be good to teach Scouts with also.

I've also been following the "Will my feet stay warm?" thread with interest to learn more about proper VBL use, though a lot of the time I won't be moving much as a leader in this Scout camping situation. The boots I have are not lightweight hiking boots, but Ecco Track II Goretex. Quite comfortable and they did a decent job last year, but I wasn't there overnight. Temps were maybe 10* F when I got there and then warmed to 20* F later in the day. I just had on a normal pair of cotton (!!!) socks with thicker synthetics over them. Would not have been good if I got wet for sure, but that would rarely happen here unless we actually did have deep snow (or I fell in a stream LOL).

> I usually also have a thermos full of hot water

Really? Is it a special lightweight one? I didn't think anyone at BPL carried such a thing. :)

> I never go to bed with cold water in my sleeping bag (something that I see recommended a lot on the internet!)

Yeah, that doesn't seem too bright to me. I assume you're using 32 oz Powerade/Gatorade bottles?

> I've also learned to dump out my water when i go to bed if I'm sure that they're just going to freeze solid.

While I understand why you do that, it doesn't seem very economical having to melt a bunch of snow in the morning when you already had water to start. Do you simply not have room in your bag for more than one bottle?

> NeoAir mat - that is NOT a good mat for the snow! Even with 1/2" of CCF under it.

Is that because it relies on the reflective layer to reach R2.5 and the CCF will negate that effect (unless it's on the bottom)? I understand I should have R5 ideally. I'm a side sleeper and I know I need an inflatable to get any sleep at all. I know the POE X-lite Thermo has at least some insulation in it, but doubt it is above R2.5 either. It's also a full length, but it weighs a full pound more.

> I personally ensure all visible moisture, snow, dirt, etc is removed [from my boots] and put them in my sleeping bag. Put them in their own stuff sack if you really must.

That is how I was leaning for this time as I know I won't be all that active during the day. If I was going to break camp and hike, I could likely deal with putting on freezing boots. I've seen some suggest plastic grocery bags, veggie sacks or small trash bags to keep them from getting the bag wet/dirty.

This time I won't have the option of staying in my bag to cook since it's with Scouts so I'll need to sit around in the cold. It seems many people drape their bag around them in some fashion when just sitting around camp. Do they fashion some way to fasten it like a cape? Seems like it would be a challenge to hold onto it while doing cooking duty.

> where are you getting your water?

If it was just an overnight with no snow as you're doing, I'd pack it all. If it was a few days, I'd cache ice cubes to melt. See my previous thread .

> you can't really filter water even if you could find it, as your filter will freeze up. So you'd have to chemically treat or boil

I use a few drops of bleach in 3-season (and also filter if I need it soon), but in the winter I would only boil (unless it was snow). Drinking cold water doesn't seem like a bright idea.

> I'd be wearing all my base insulation layers to bed at the very least, and since I plan on using my insulated jacket and pants to extend the rating of my quilt, I'll be wearing all that to bed as well. Has the bonus as well of not having to put on cold clothes in the morning.

That was my thinking exactly. I suppose I could try it inside first to see if I'll still fit in the bag. :) I'll have Injini wool blend toesocks with some Bridgedale wool socks over them. I can use heavy synthetics instead if needed. For legs will be Cap 2, BPL Thorofare (seem so light I may just skip those), nylon pants and then BPL Cocoon. Torso will be lightweight Champion l/s, then Cap 3 l/s, then maybe a Cap 4 l/s (or just it instead of Cap 3), then a generic fleece/nylon jacket. Head I have a Power Stretch beanie and then a Power Stretch balaclava. If needed I have a synthetic stocking cap I can use. Black Diamond heavyweight Power Stretch gloves.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 08:16:52 MST Print View

"NeoAir mat - that is NOT a good mat for the snow! Even with 1/2" of CCF under it. A poor mat is really going to cost you in the snow."

I guess it depends on the temps. I used a NeoAir in a bivy on snow (and on a Ridgerest) and was quite comfortable (going by the R5 factor for frozen ground), but the temps only got down to 14 degrees, not 0. Interestingly (at least to me), whenever I roll over on my side and my butt would extend past the NeoAir, I'd feel the cold quickly. Simply moving back onto the NeoAir and I was quite comfortable again. FWIW

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Re: A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 08:23:01 MST Print View

Doug,
What bag or quilt were you using?

What were you actually wearing?

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
Re: Re: Re: A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 09:06:00 MST Print View

"So you'd have to chemically treat or boil [water]"
If you're chemically treating it, you need to heat it up a bit or the treatment time is forever.

A half liter thermos is about 12 oz empty or 28 oz (=800g) filled. In winter, it can be worth carrying filled with hot calorie laden stuff like hot chocolate as another layer of protection from hypothermia -- drink it if you're seriously chilled or when you're leaving the trail, whichever comes last.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 09:42:55 MST Print View

"> I usually also have a thermos full of hot water

Really? Is it a special lightweight one? I didn't think anyone at BPL carried such a thing. :)

> I never go to bed with cold water in my sleeping bag (something that I see recommended a lot on the internet!)

Yeah, that doesn't seem too bright to me. I assume you're using 32 oz Powerade/Gatorade bottles?"

The answer is no on both fronts. The vast majority of my winter camping is not ultralight by any means. I am/have been a winter camping guide and I'm out 8 days at a time. My pack can get egregiously heavy. We don't hike a lot in the winter, and since I live out there, my gear choices are different than on lightweight splitboard trips.

My experience with gatorade bottles in the winter is that the caps freeze more easily than Nalgenes because they're narrower. They're also harder to open when frozen, unless you dunk it in hot water. And they break pretty easily in cold weather. Heck, nalgenes break easily out there too. Other problems with Gatorade bottles crop up when you want to put boiling water in one and/or bring it in your sleeping bag at night.

Dumping water is indeed wasteful. It's far better to drink it or manage your bottles so that you don't get to that point. But after a while, it's really easy to end up with solidly frozen water bottles. Heck, most of my bottles are ~50% ice at any given moment. If I leave a bottle outside, even in a bottle cozy, and it's already icy during the day, I'll be carrying an ice cube on the hike the next day.

Edited by Found on 01/07/2010 09:46:34 MST.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 09:50:30 MST Print View

"drink it if you're seriously chilled or when you're leaving the trail, whichever comes last."

I vote from drinking it all the time and refilling! It's delicious. My thermos is 24 oz. and I aim to drink about three or four of them a day.

What are everyone's preferred hot drinks? I typically drink tea, and I love a concoction similar to what Crow drinks.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Re: Re: A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 10:08:32 MST Print View

"Doug,
What bag or quilt were you using? What were you actually wearing?"

I was in a DuoMid,with the aforementioned NeoAir inside my Raven XLW bivy, the ridgerest outside (I slid off it a couple of times, next time it's coming inside as well). Under that was a polycro groundsheet and a Tyvek groundsheet (yeah, overkill, but I'm testing out different things, and it still ain't heavy). I was covered with a cuben quilt.

I wore Chugach booties with socks on (and my feet were warmer than they needed to be), RAB vapor rise pants with Icebreaker boxers (no long johns), an Icebreaker 200, long sleeve zip T, and a standard Skaha with hood and pocket (had my phone in my pocket). Had the bivy opened all night, from min. of 6" to all across the top, didn't use the mesh. Had possum down gloves on and off throughout the night (I'm a restless sleeper, toss and turn a lot unless I'm in a hammock). Had an Icebreaker 200 beanie on, which I took off within an hour. Used the Skaha hood off and on throughout the night. Had wind gusts, perhaps up to 20 mph, irregularly during the night.

Hope that helps.

Edited to add quilt.

Edited by idester on 01/07/2010 11:03:04 MST.

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 11:07:19 MST Print View

On another tack: Anyone ever try the old mountain-man trick of burying heated rocks under your sleeping spot?

I can imagine this would be fraught with all kinds of Murphy's law type potential; and no one ever makes a campfire anymore........ Still there are situations where this might be a useful technique. Anyone ever tried it?

Edited by obxcola on 01/07/2010 11:14:21 MST.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 11:24:57 MST Print View

Doug,
Doesn't appear that you had a whole bunch of clothes on so you must either be a pretty warm sleeper or the cuben quilt is pretty warm. What would you guess it's rating to be?

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: A few newbie winter camping questions on 01/07/2010 11:34:39 MST Print View

Hi Michael,

I am a warm sleeper, but that quilt is one warm quilt. I'd rate it to be easily 25-30 degrees on its own (without layers), and I could probably take it to 10 degrees with the layers I had on. And it weighs like 12 oz!. The Skaha is a pretty warm piece of gear as well, though.

Juston Taul
(Junction)

Locale: Atlanta, GA
Routine on 01/07/2010 12:37:56 MST Print View

A lot of good advice thus far. I agree with everyone here that a Neoair is probably not a substantial enough pad to keep you going at 0F... snow or no snow. There are inflatable pad options that will work for... being the side sleeper that you are. Check out the Exped Down 7 or 9 pads. Also check into Stephenson's DAM. I'm a slide sleeper myself. I use the Exped 9 for serious winter camping. I sleep like a baby inside my bivy.

As far as water is concerned, you seem to think using a filter is out of the question. That's not the case. I have used my Katadyn Hiker Pro at 0F and below on several occasions. Several factors come into play. Number one being... can you get to a source of water. Often times its frozen and unobtainable in the areas I hike. Melting snow might be the only option. I always find a way no matter the condition. You will as well. Number two... remember to get all of the water out of your filter after using it. It's when people leave water in their filters that the break during cold weather. Water is a funny thing... being a liquid that actually expands when frozen. Don't be afraid to use your filter.

At night, i keep a liter of water in my sleeping bag with me. I just throw it in my sleeping bag and forget about it. I use this water for coffee. I have to have my coffee in the mornings. :D

I would give you advice on shoes, however, i'm in a transitional period with shoes for my winter operations. I used to wear boots with removable liners. The liners would be worn, and the boots just under my tarp to keep any precipitation out. In the morning, a quick shake for unwanted crawlies and slip my liners right back inside. Good to go. Since you are following my other thread, you can see what i'm leaning towards now. I'm just not a fan of boots. I'll keep you posted on my progress and eventual strategy.

My morning routine is pretty simple. I use a bivy / tarp combination. I sleep with my base layers on, so I just crawl out and remove my clothes from the inside of my backpack. I toss them on and either do some jumping jacks or pushups to get my blood moving. It helps me wake up as well. I'll setup my stove and get the water boiling. While the water is boiling, I break camp and start to get things packed up. By the time i've finished, the water is usually ready and I can enjoy a nice hot cup of joe. I don't cook for breakfast ever. I usually have a probar. After a cup or two of coffee, I use the excess water to clean my mug. I then either filter or melt snow so that I have water for the day.

If you haven't figured it out by now, I try to keep moving. I don't pack a lot of clothing because it's too heavy. If I stay moving i'm warm. If I stop, I have my sleeping bag to keep me warm. I'm no expert, but I do most of my hiking during the winter. If you have any questions let me know. I'm happy to help where I can. Cheers mate.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Routine on 01/07/2010 13:16:30 MST Print View

> If I stop, I have my sleeping bag to keep me warm.

I wondered how people do this (or cook, etc. in camp). My bag is normally packed in the bottom of my pack since it's the last thing I get out. Do you pack it in the top so you can get to it quick?

Juston Taul
(Junction)

Locale: Atlanta, GA
Re: Re: Routine on 01/07/2010 14:05:14 MST Print View

Not usually. This is really only an issue during lunch. At dinner everything is already out... so yes I will use my sleeping bag or quilt to keep me warm. I'm just careful not to damage it. During lunch I don't even bother. Not unless i'm taking a nap or resting after I eat. I'm not the type to rush when outdoors. I take my time and enjoy. Moving fast has never been a priority for me. This goes out the door if I have time constraints. If i'm not planning to rest after lunch, I don't stick around long enough to get that cold. The clothing I do carry is sufficient.

john flanagan
(jackfl) - F

Locale: New England
Re: A few newbie winter camping questions - Thermos on 01/07/2010 14:21:37 MST Print View

Lighter option is to wrap a bottle in 2 layers of reflectex bubble wrap (with a fitted 'hood' of the same material, stick that into one of the pockets of your puffy jacket (make sure that lid is on tight) bundle it so the bottle is well swathed in jacket, and tuck the whole thing in the top of your pack. Total added weight less than 3 oz.