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Winter SUL?
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Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Winter SUL? on 02/13/2010 23:02:52 MST Print View

If three season, or at least summer, target base weights are 10# for ultralight and 5# for super-ultralight, what do people think the equivalent weights are for winter?

* I would think "base weight" excludes snowshoes or skis, but FSO weight would include them.

* To have a fixed target, let's say "winter" means being prepared for +10F to -10F days, with -20F nights with considerable wind.

-- MV

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
reply to Robert on 02/14/2010 00:31:52 MST Print View

Are those winter conditions with or without snow to dig into?

With snow, you only need a shovel to construct your entire shelter (and snow caves tend to be +32 F).

Without snow, and it can be cold as you suggest, plus wind.

For the Marines at Pickel Meadow, winter base weight is probably around 45 lbs. plus weapon. I knew there was a reason that I didn't join the Marines.


Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: reply to Robert on 02/14/2010 00:44:29 MST Print View

Bob G,

With snow -- enough for skiing or snowshoeing, at a minimum.

Snow shelters -- I agree that a snow cave can be up around 32*F. For that matter, an igloo can be less humid and considerably warmer -- especially when your stove is running inside one :) However, they take long enough to build that I think most people who are out there to actually travel (not just snow camp) will need to be using some sort of a tent.

Marines -- I guess we can take that 45# as an upper bound on base weight :) I would hope we can do considerably better than that.

-- MV

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Winter SUL on 02/14/2010 03:49:46 MST Print View

In terms of difficulty, winter camping under 10 lbs seems about as hard as summer camping under 5lbs. Both are do-able but only with considerable compromise. Perhaps 10lbs is a bit too easy though...perhaps Winter SUL should come at a 50-100% weight increase over 3 season 7.5-10lbs max.

At the very least, you gotta add a considerably warmer jacket, insulated pants and some warm footwear. That's an extra 1-3 lbs right there without even getting into shelter, shovels, stoves, mitts, sleeping bags, air mattresses etc. Geez, now that I type that out, 10 lbs seems tough unless you don't include some of that insulation in your base weight because it's worn.

Edited by dandydan on 02/14/2010 03:50:20 MST.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Winter SUL? on 02/14/2010 06:37:46 MST Print View

It's worth looking at Andrew Skurka's Ultralight in the Nation's Icebox gearlist ... 13.3lb base weight, 24.6lb FSO excluding consumables.

His design point was -25F night's and -5F days. Actual lowest temps encountered were 10-15 degrees warmer than that. Note that his gearlist relies heavily on vapor barriers and having proven skills in their use. Also note that he was on trial for 16 days with very few opportunities for indoor breaks so his skills with that gear needed to be pretty darn bombproof.

Edited by jcolten on 02/14/2010 06:41:41 MST.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Ryan Jordan's 2005 Winter SUL Challenge on 02/14/2010 06:59:53 MST Print View

Jim, thanks for that link. I've been trying to find winter gear lists lately, and it's probably hard to do better than Andrew Skurka's.

Also, look at this 4 year old thread on Ryan Jordan's Winter SUL Challenge. Lots of interesting ideas in there.

Ryan Linn

Locale: Maine!
Re: Winter SUL on 02/14/2010 07:28:19 MST Print View

Jeez, I've been starting to think about getting into some lightweight (not SUL yet) winter backpacking, so seeing Skurka's Icebox gear list just blew my mind. I'm going to have to start looking at all the gear I was thinking of getting in the next few years, and see just how much it adds up to. I'm guessing well over 15 pounds.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Winter SUL? on 02/14/2010 11:57:32 MST Print View

I think getting under 10 lbs for full winter conditions would be really tough. My typical winter base weight is about 15 lbs and I can hit roughly -25*C or so. I've changed quite a bit of my gear over the last year, but here's a list from last winter to give you an idea.

Suluk 46 - Winter Gearlist

You can definitely go lighter but the problem with pushing the limits in winter is that if you have an "oopsie", you can put your life at risk. So there has to be a little cushion there.

I'm actually heading out next weekend to climb silver peak and still have to put my gear list together. Maybe I'll see how low I can go.

Edited by Steve_Evans on 02/14/2010 11:59:22 MST.

Re: Re: Winter SUL? on 02/14/2010 12:55:35 MST Print View

When I first read Skurka trip report (Ultralight in the Nation’s Icebox) I had some questions about his gear list and how he used it. It worked for him but….
Andrew Skurka sprinted 380 miles in 16 days. Quite an achievement but he missed the really cold weather by about two weeks. On Monday morning, Feb. 5th Embarrass, Minnesota registered forty-two degrees below zero. Which was quite a bit warmer than their all time record of sixty below zero that they proudly share with the nearby town of Virginia. That is a bit nippy. No bugs.
He said he had to “cowboy camp” because he did not know how to stake his tent in hard frozen ground. This could have been a disaster. And one of the heaviest items in his pack was his stove fuel. Here are some of my notes.

Tent staking in frozen ground? The good people at Kifaru have been using 40-penney nails to stake out their tipis on lake ice for years. Then they go inside the tipi and light their wood stoves. It must work, as there is a great amount of winter camping feedback on their huge web site from folks doing just that in Alaska, Russian Siberia and other equally balmy places.
Kifaru tarp/tipi and stove backpacking combos start at about three pounds and probably would come in at between 5.5 and 7.5 pounds for an completely enclosed tent set up for deep winter solo work. Subtract out the weight of all that fuel and the other stove that you would have carried for snow melting and cooking and just use some the gazillions of tons of BTUs that Minnesota provides for free in any of their forests. Minnesota is not above tree line. Total pack weight should remain about the same or close to it. Think about it-hot coffee and warm boots in the morning as you dry out your sleeping bag. And packing nothing wet and heavy.

There is less feedback information on their web site, but Titanium Goat backpacking tipi/stove setups come in even lighter by a pound or two than Kifaru. Their Vortex cylinder stove at less than two pounds is very interesting. So would be one of their tipis made with thermal/solar reflective Reflect-Tex fabric.

I could never hope to keep up with Skurka, but I grew up in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. Done a fair share of winter camping. If I were sponsored like Skurka I would hope to go the Kifaru route. Without the cash, I would pack my old Whelan lean-to and take an axe. An ultralight axe of course.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Re: Winter SUL? on 02/14/2010 13:24:12 MST Print View

I have the Ti Goat Cylinder stove. I love it. Awesome piece of equipment. I bring it on low mileage days or at a basecamp. The problem is that it isn't realistic to use at a lunch break to melt snow or in the morning when you are going to pack up soon afterwards. Same goes with a snow shelter - saves you tons of weight but again, when you are hiking from sun up to sundown (winter has short days) it can get tough to build a snowshelter and start a fire every night - especially on the longer trips.

But yes, you are correct, wood fires save LOADS of fuel weight in winter.

Andrew Skurka
(askurka) - F
Fuel weight. Stakes. Temps. Winter UL base. Being sponsored. on 02/15/2010 09:24:27 MST Print View

I don't think I carried as much fuel as you think I might have. I carried an 11-oz bottle that can only be filled up to 9 oz I think. And I think I only had to refill it once. There may have been a night or two (out of the 16) when I was able to get running water, but otherwise I was melting snow.

The reason I had problems getting stakes into the ground was because the ground was frozen AND there was not enough snow on the ground to hold snow stakes. Just very different conditions than I expected, and I hadn't quite thought those repercussions through. (That winter Duluth had the third "brown Christmas" in its history, i.e. no snow by late-Dec.)

I definitely missed the really cold temps that winter, but you can't fault me for that -- I had no control over it obviously, and I had purchased my flights up there a month or two earlier.

Calculating a base weight for winter is really tough -- you end up wearing/carrying WAY more stuff in the winter that doesn't get calculated in base. And then there's a huge difference in travel mode too: the weight of a ski setup (skis, boots, bindings, overboots, skins, waxes, ski straps) is substantially heavier than snowshoes (snowshoes, shoes, overboots), and that difference right there would probably knock any ski setup out the arbitrary SUL number you identified.

Finally, what does the comment, "If I were sponsored like Skurka"...I could get all the most expensive gear... mean? I can almost promise you that about 95 percent of the people on BPL make more income than I do (I'm figuring that 4 percent of the users are Boy Scouts and than 1 percent is unemployed but unfortunately isn't getting unemployment), and being sponsored hardly has the perks you think it might. In today's marketing climate "being sponsored" means getting a few hundred dollars worth of gear from a select number of companies; and in very few cases (e.g. Conrad, Viesturs) does it mean getting a paycheck that allows you to buy whatever you want.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Fuel weight. Stakes. Temps. Winter UL base. Being sponsored. on 02/15/2010 09:32:28 MST Print View

Andrew, any books in the works? You should write. Seems to me it would sell.

Chad Miller

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Winter SUL on 02/15/2010 09:32:52 MST Print View


I wouldn't worry about Donald too much. He's known for talking out his posterior and no one here gives what he says much credence.

Thank you for giving us a bit more information on your winter through hike though.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Winter SUL on 02/15/2010 10:39:04 MST Print View

Andrew, no need to justify anything. That trip was simply awesome.

I think when Donald actually uses one of these wood stoves, he will understand that it would be an unrealistic option for Andrews' trip. I actually had the same assumptions as Donald when I purchased it. I thought I could set it up and use it instead of bringing fuel, but the long time required is not ideal "when you are doing high mileage days".

Edited by Steve_Evans on 02/15/2010 10:39:36 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Winter SUL? on 02/15/2010 23:20:07 MST Print View

Two points to make:

1. It might be worth noting that although it wasn't cold the entirety of Andrew's hike, it did get to -12 deg F when he was up North at Grand Marais.

2. Winter base weight will vary greatly by region. In the mountains avalanche safety gear is a necessity. Also, such items as helmets, ice axes, crampons, et al may be necessary for ski/splitboard touring ascents/descents.

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Winter SUL? on 02/16/2010 03:20:12 MST Print View

The original posting was assuming a non-technical ski tour or snowshoe trip.