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Winter Layering
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Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Winter Layering on 04/29/2010 19:19:31 MDT Print View

Most of my hiking usually takes place in Florida. I'm inexperienced when it comes to cold weather backpacking. I've been slowly acquiring gear I need to start doing winter trips outside of Florida. I want some advice on how I should layer to prepare for day time temperatures in the teens (F) and night time temperatures at 0 F or below. I will be utilizing a VB suit which I already own.

So, what I had in mind for layering starting from skin out would be something like this:
Top:
-BPL Beartooth Merino Wool hoody
-VB hooded jacket
-Hooded Down insulating jacket (I will be getting a custom made one from Nunatak with 7 - 9 oz of fill).
-WP/B hooded jacket.
Bottom:
-BPL Merino Wool long johns
-VB pants
-Nylon or Polyester Pants
-down pants (This will also be a custom item from Nunatak, with 4 - 6 oz of fill)
-WP/B pants

Hands:
-Possumdown gloves
-BPL featherlite vapor mitts

Feet:
-VB Liner
-Thick Merino Wool socks for hiking
-UL Down socks for sleeping

Head:
-Merino Wool Buff
-Black Rock Down hat

Now, I don't know if I need a WP/B layer or if I should just get the down insulating garments with an epic shell instead of pertex. Do I need a waterproof layer for snow or just water resistant? Also, the reason I also wanted to get something breathable for my outermost shell is because I figured I will not always be using my VB suit so when I am not using it I would want something breathable to keep the down from wetting out.

Any advice will be appreciated.

-Sid

Edited by Red_Fox on 04/29/2010 19:21:04 MDT.

Jeff K
(jeff.k) - F

Locale: New York
Re: Winter Layering on 04/29/2010 19:38:12 MDT Print View

Sid-

It looks like you got things covered for sitting around camp. That Nunatak gear should keep you quite toasty.

What do you plan to wear while you are moving? When I was hiking in the low single digits with wind I was warm wearing a R1 hoody and a Houdini to block the wind. In fact when I was going uphill I needed to vent quite a bit. As soon as I stopped however I got cold unless I put on a down coat quickly.

Sorry I can't be more helpful, but my experience in that cold was just a couple nights, so I will defer to others with more experience. But I think you have a great list.

James Klein
(jnklein21) - M

Locale: Southeast
vapor barrier suit on 04/30/2010 06:45:57 MDT Print View

What is your vapor barrier suit made of? How loose is it?

James Klein
(jnklein21) - M

Locale: Southeast
location on 04/30/2010 07:01:27 MDT Print View

Also, what kind of place are you planning for ... Alpine? below treeline?

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Re: vapor barrier suit on 04/30/2010 17:49:54 MDT Print View

James,
I'm planning for an Alpine trip. My VB suit is made of Silnylon and is loose enough to fit a baselayer underneath.

-Sid

James Klein
(jnklein21) - M

Locale: Southeast
winter layering on 04/30/2010 20:14:22 MDT Print View

I have both alpine and subzero hiking below treeline experience but no real cold alpine experience so take my advice w/ a grain of salt...
I have been comfortable hiking single digit temps w/ a light baselayer, epic shell, nylon pants, beanie, fleece gloves, thick wool socks. Now the wind wasnt terrible and Ive only had light snow in these conditions.
For in camp I think you'd have plenty warmth with what you mention. I think a Pertex will surfice for those cold temps as you shouldnt see wet snow or rain. I would consider an outer shell if I expected rough, abrasive terrain or a lot of wind (in case you do need to hike with the down jacket on) but other wise would leave it home. I would also consider bringing a couple pairs of polar fleece gloves in place of the possom down, if you expect to have to use your hands at all, as ive heard they have durability issues. Something that can be pulled up over your mouth will be nice to have (like a buff, fleece balaclava or bandana) especially while your sleeping - this will help with condensation on your bag and around your parka hood.
Two sets of baselayers will probably be recommended but if you're not out too long you can probably get by w/ only one since you'll be using vb clothing.
A couple of general notes:
Winter days are much shorter so you will spend more time inactive in the colder part of the day.
Be prepared to sleep w/ everything you don't wan't to freeze (water, used socks,...). I put my boots in a plasic bag and put them under my feet at night.
Things that reguire a lot of dexterity (tying knots) can be tough on your hands, practice them with whatever gloves you are going to be wearing.
The tube on a platapus will freeze at the temps. I carry a gaterade bottle btwn my outer shell and baselayer while hiking (in an internal pocket of the shell).
While you are figuring out what works for you on these type of trips, a couple of chemical warmers can buy you a little margin.
Carry a pee bottle to use in your bag if you are brave and empty it as soon as possible (no fun carrying a liter of frozen p*ss around).
Adjust your pace and layers (as much as possible) so that you don't sweat. I try to stay just slightly chilled while moving - not shivering or uncomfortably so.

hopefully youll get more advice,
James

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Re: winter layering on 05/01/2010 13:46:23 MDT Print View

James,
thank you for the helpful advice. I will be utilizing a merino wool buff to cover my face. Also, as far as the PossumDown gloves go, I already knew they had durability issues. However, from the reviews I read, it seems that most people that were wearing them out were using trekking poles. I do not use trekking poles so I figured I wouldn't be putting much wear and tear on the gloves. Although, perhaps the durability of fleece gloves will give me more peace of mind.

For my outer shell, I already own a Marmot Essence. Do you think this garment would be suited for the type of trip I want to take? Perhaps the always open pit vents could be a disadvantage in such cold temps?

-Sid

James Klein
(jnklein21) - M

Locale: Southeast
layering on 05/01/2010 21:16:18 MDT Print View

For some reason I didn't notice the buff in your list, its a pretty sweet peice of gear for these conditions.
About the gloves - depending on the terrain you may have to use your hands for balance with some regularity in alpine conditions, especially if there is ice and or snow around. Whatever you choose you should probably have 2-3 sets. I have been interested in the possum gloves for a while and will probably try some for my next cold weather trip.
Looking at the Essense, it appears the jacket just has openings where pit zips would be. If these vents don't flap too much in the wind I would be willing to try the shell out. You always have the sil jacket as a backup. I plan to make a sil jacket to use as a vb. I will probably try as a shell on my next cold weather trip as sweating is much easier to manage at these temps.

James

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Re: layering on 05/02/2010 13:15:57 MDT Print View

James,
I had George Andrews over at AGG make me a custom Silnylon VB suit. The hooded jacket weighs 3.7 oz and the pants weigh 2.6 oz, for a combined weight of 6.3 oz. They are very well made. I am contemplating whether or not I should seam seal them. I'm pretty sure I would need to seam seal them in order for them to function properly as a vapor barrier.

-Sid

James Klein
(jnklein21) - M

Locale: Southeast
seam seal on 05/03/2010 08:18:40 MDT Print View

They should function very well w/out being seam sealed (maybe 95+% as well as seal sealed, idk though). That said I will probably seam seal mine (assuming I do make some) so I can use them for rain protection also. Here is the method I would use is here see David Lutz's post on/at 05/01/2010 00:56:16 MDT and Ken Thompson's 3or4 more down:
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/xdpy/forum_thread/32155/index.html?skip_to_post=272921#272921

I have heard the AGG suits are pretty nice. You seem to have quite the gear closet. Just outta curiousity, what shelter will you be using? whattabout footwear? stove?
James

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Re: seam seal on 05/03/2010 20:20:50 MDT Print View

James,
I will be using an MLD Duomid for shelter. However, I am still searching for a Carbon Fiber pole to use with the shelter that is a good compromise between weight and strength. Unfortunately for me, none of the cottage gear manufacturers take hikers that don't use trekking poles into consideration.

As for footwear, I am still trying to decide between waterproof or non-waterproof. I would prefer a very breathable UL non-waterproof shoe like a racing flat. Here in Florida, I hike barefoot, so I'm trying to go as minimalist as possible for this trip. A shoe that doesn't provide any support would be ideal. I just need something to insulate my soles.

For the stove, I will need to get a light white gas stove. I am still trying to figure out what the lightest one on the market is. I do have a Trail Designs Ti-Tri which would allow me to use alcohol, esbit, or wood. I don't think any of those fuel choices would work at those temperatures. Since this will most likely be a trip above treeline, wood is also out. Is there a lighter alternative to white gas that would work at those temperatures?

-Sid

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: seam seal on 05/03/2010 20:40:03 MDT Print View

"However, I am still searching for a Carbon Fiber pole to use with the shelter that is a good compromise between weight and strength."

Fibraplex

--B.G.--

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: seam seal on 05/03/2010 20:44:32 MDT Print View

"For the stove, I will need to get a light white gas stove. I am still trying to figure out what the lightest one on the market is. I do have a Trail Designs Ti-Tri which would allow me to use alcohol, esbit, or wood. I don't think any of those fuel choices would work at those temperatures. Since this will most likely be a trip above treeline, wood is also out. Is there a lighter alternative to white gas that would work at those temperatures?"

I'm sure that Roger will suggest a butane canister stove. While I was on a high climbing expedition, every one of our tent teams was using white gasoline and got good results. In some countries, a different form of petrol might be called for, such as kerosene.
--B.G.--

James Klein
(jnklein21) - M

Locale: Southeast
'mid pole & stove on 05/04/2010 07:07:39 MDT Print View

I don't have a mid so I am only speaking from what I have read (mostly from this site)...
Users here have said the .292" OD (this is fibreblex's standard diameter) carbon fiber poles aren't stout enough to support their mid shelters. I have seen that they used to (maybe still do?) make a 5/8". They do have the "Pinnacle 62". It looks like that is: (3) .292" poles epoxied together along their length, they come in 15" sections w/out shockcord. Weight is listed at 4.6 oz, $46:
http://fibraplex.com/tentpoles2B.asp?bcsi-ac-DACA3E1DC235D185=1AF2927D00000004fVyliC+wtUEFvs4PTJJ5CZUQdMwcAAAABAAAAGtYBgAgHAAABAAAALw7AQA=
Also, black diamond sells spare poles for their "mega light" mid, about $60 for 18mm OD (~=.72"OD):
http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/shop/mountain/spare-parts
I have used a regular canister stove at ~0degF. It work fine after a little effort (sleeping w/ canister in jacket, making a lukewarm water bath for the canister). There are lighter or easier ways to boil water though. I would probably buy a canister stove that can be used "inverted" as Roger has described (like a windpro).

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
stoves on 05/04/2010 10:41:22 MDT Print View

White gas: probably the lightest white gas stove is the MSR Simmerlite - but a little bit of testing I did with my simmerlite and Whisperlite indicates that the Whisperlite uses slightly less fuel - although, since my testing consisted of a series of 1-qt boils from cold (and thus short run times), the difference may possibly be due to more fuel being required to prime the Simmerlite. That is something I did not measure, but it appears to me to take more fuel to prime the simmerlite. Anyway the difference I found was:.58 ounces by weight of fuel used to prime the whisperlite and bring 1 qt of water to a boil, and .63 ounces for the simmerlite. This is so close that it may be statistically insignificant, given that I was not able to measure the water temperature and thus my definition of "boiling" would not be precise. But food for thought anyway.

Canister - any canister stove that can operate with the canister inverted should work fine for you - whether it will be lighter, and how much lighter, depends on the length of trip (and thus size of canister/fuel bottles), and the way you cook. If you tend to restart the stove often, then you'll have to re-prime a white gas stove, cutting into its fuel efficiency. If you usually just do one burn at night and one in the morning without restarts, then it's closer. The butane/Propane mix in the canisters has more energy per unit of weight than white gas does, so in theory you're ahead, but the tricky part comes in with the canisters themselves. If the amount of fuel you need happens to be equal to one (or two or more) full canisters, then the weight of the fuel with canisters will probably be less than the required amount of white gas in its fuel bottle. but if you need a canister and a half , then the half canister means adding the weight of another whole canister (even if you take a partially full canister you still have the weight of the canister itself). With white gas, you can bring a few more ounces of fuel without that penalty - since you can carry it in a plastic bottle that's very light. In the end it becomes such a close call that I'd make the determination based on other factors - which type of stove seems more convenient to you, or safer, or which type of fuel is more available to you where you're going. The weight will be very close either way.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Re: stoves on 05/04/2010 14:52:57 MDT Print View

Paul,
thank you for a very informative post.

I usually cook only once for dinner, and I only eat freeze dried meals so I will only need to boil water. However, I've never hiked in such cold temperatures and I am guessing boiling a cup of water in the morning to make a hot drink will be beneficial to warm me up before I start hiking. So I may be boiling water twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

I do have a canister stove. It's a Snowpeak Lite Max. I've stopped using it a long time ago since I switched to Alcohol. I am not sure what you guys are referring to when you say an "inverted" canister. Also, if keeping your fuel in your pocket at all times will be sufficient to keep it from freezing, couldn't I just carry my alcohol fuel bottle in my pocket and use my Caldera Cone?

-Sid

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: stoves on 05/04/2010 15:21:18 MDT Print View

Sanad, you are asking about camping in temperatures down to 0 F.

Personally, when I am camping in that temperature or lower, I really need at least a couple of cups of hot liquids in the morning. Also, sometimes water bottles are half-frozen, so you might need to pour boiling water in there as well. My personal rule for winter is to get at least a quart of liquid consumed before I head out on the ski trail.

I think a small alcohol stove is great for solo water boiling in summer, but not in winter. I suspect that you will shift over to a much hotter stove like your Snowpeak.

In normal operation, the butane vapor is in the top of the canister, and when you open the valve, it gets to the burner. But when it gets very cold, the butane does not vaporize, so liquid butane just sits in the bottom of the canister. For normal cold operation, that is not good. However, if you invert the canister, the liquid butane can flow out of the inverted bottom (the top) to the burner. For some stoves, this inversion is very difficult. For other stoves, there is a special stand to help it out. Some people just manage to invert the canister without stands. But in each case, I think these are remote canisters where there is a foot of flexible fuel line running over to the burner.

Now, you ought to be able to use your Caldera Cone with alcohol, and keeping the alcohol bottle in your pocket for warmth will help it along, but that may or may not get great results. You'll have to test.
--B.G.--

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Pad on 05/04/2010 15:21:45 MDT Print View

While we are discussing different elements of winter hiking, I would also like to ask what the recommended total R value my pad system should be for the conditions I mentioned (assuming I will be sleeping on snow). I sleep like a rock and comfort is of no concern to me since I can sleep on pretty much anything as long as I'm properly insulated underneath. Would Closed Cell Foam be my lightest option? I was thinking an R value of 5 or 6 should be sufficient. In this case, I can use two GG Nightlight pads (one trimmed to 40" and one to trimmed 35"), in addition to a full length GG Thinlight 1/8" pad. This would give me a total weight of 12.7 and a total R value of 4.99.

Would this be enough?

I could also go with a full length GG Thinglight 3/8" pad instead of the 1/8" to boost the R value of the setup to 5.9. This would increase the total weight to 16.2 oz.

Could I get a warmer pad for the same weight if I use an inflatable down insulated pad instead? I was thinking about a torso length Kookabay pad combined with a thin closed cell foam pad. I'm not sure which setup would be lighter.

-Sid

Edited by Red_Fox on 05/04/2010 15:26:41 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Pad on 05/04/2010 15:34:34 MDT Print View

Personally, I've never bothered with the R factors. I know what a normal summer sleeping pad is for me (CCF 3/8" or 1/2"), so for winter I simply double that.

Some of us have used Therm-a-rest mattresses for years, and they are OK except that if you get a leak in one, you are doomed for winter camping. As a result, if I do carry a Therm-a-rest in winter, I always augment that with a CCF mattress just to avoid total catastrophe.

Some of us are less than 6 feet tall, and if we have two mattress pads that long, there is some waste. I normally carry two pads of 3/4 length, and then I overlap them in the middle where most of my body weight is.

You can beat some of the problems of winter camping if you can "dig in." If you have plenty of snow, you can dig a snow cave, and it is generally a lot warmer in a snow cave than sleeping out on the surface. But, I don't know whether snow is in your future plans.
--B.G.--

James Klein
(jnklein21) - M

Locale: Southeast
stoves on 05/04/2010 19:28:49 MDT Print View

Sweet, you are getting some nice advice from others.
When in the upright position, the fuel in a canister boils off and exits the the canister as fuel vapor. This works whenever the fuel's boiling pt is below the temperature of the canister. Typically the fuel in a canister is a mixture of the following: butane(bp~ +32F), isobutane(bp~ +11F) & propane(bp~ -43F) and fuel will boil at a temperature somewhere in between these individual bp's (based on the composition). So 100% propane (doesn't exist for canister stoves) will work down to -43F while 100% butane will only be good to about freezing. Canister mixtures geared towards cold weather (20-30%propane, the rest isobutane) might get you to around +15F when used upright.

When used "inverted" or "liquid feed" the fuel exits the canister as a liquid and is vaporized by the stoves flame (the preheater). This means you must start the stove w/ the canister upright (vapor feed) to get a flame going then invert it once it gets going (beware of a slight flare). When doing this in cold weather you will have to ensure the canister is warm enough at the start which is commonly done by keeping it near your skin. There are only a few canister stoves that are capable of being used inverted (without moding), the windpro is one of them, I think coleman still makes a few. Roger has quite a few posts, an article or two and plenty of info on his personal website on this topic.

If you did this (canister in jacket) using only the upright method & the temperature was near the fuel's bp, preformance would begin to decline as the canister would cool (b/c of the air temp and evaporation w/in the canister) and finally the flame would probably go out. Another thing you can do to help the canister out is put it in a water bath (like a pan of water at say 40-50F -NOT HOT) this will help keep the canister above it bp. If trying this be prepared to add some water back to the bath as it will cool. There are a few other methods to keep the caniste warm. Your snowpeak would work like this but I wouldn't rely on it w/out prior practive or a backup.

I have no experience w/ alky stoves, esp. at low temps but suspect preformance will be poor in very cold weather. White gas will work in such cold weather but I doubt if any white gas setup would be lighter than a proper canister setup. Hopefully you can get Roger's take on this.
sorry for the long posts,
james