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Winter Gear List (Smokies, 8-10 day trip)
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John Wozniak
(woz9683) - F

Locale: Southeast
Winter Gear List (Smokies, 8-10 day trip) on 10/02/2010 10:57:45 MDT Print View

Ok, got my gear list added to my profile. I'm sure it needs some work, so help me out!

Let me give some background so you guys know where I'm coming from. I grew up backpacking, albeit fairly traditional (mainly through scouting). I've got a lot of experience backpacking in the southeast from those days, including some extended trips. Also, quite a few winter trips under my belt through the areas I'm considering now, but shorter trips.

I've been out of the game for a little while, except for some sporadic trips through college. Most of my kit got bequeathed to younger brothers following the same road.

My family never had a great deal of money so my gear was never top of the line growing up. It was always sufficient (barely for the winter stuff), but generally heavier.

I'm on my own now, and I've been rebuilding a kit, with more of an emphasis on lightweight, higher quality stuff. I won't take an extended trip with anything untested, but a lot of stuff won't be extensively tested. I really hope I can get some input from people here.

The trip I specifically have in mind here is a BMT-AT loop (158miles) through the Smokies in late December.

General weight loss ideas would be great, but I've got some specific questions too. All of course within the context of the specific trip mentioned above. So, here goes:

1. Sleep system - VBL for the sleeping bag? yea or nay?

2. Tent/Bivy - If the trip happens in the proposed 8 days (7 nights on trail) 4 will be in shelters and 3 at campsites. I was thinking about just the Hexamid (w/ doors) and leaving the bivy at home. Between the fairly heavy down bag, layering clothes in the bag if necessary, and/or a VBL I think I'll be fine. Agree? Or take the bivy for some added wind protection/warmth?

3. Layering - sufficient? Also, the jacket (FF hyperion) is not purchased yet, so any alternate suggestions? Would I be better off going down vest and full synthetic mid-layer (I've got several soft shells and fleece jackets that could work)? Any of these would of course carry a weight penalty compared to just the down jacket.

4. My prior winter trips to the Smokies have been deeper into winter Jan/Feb. What kind of snow am I likely to run into a little earlier in the season? The shell pants have heavy powder cuffs, but I've got a pair of heavier gaiters I could take along too. Any other equipment for dealing with snowy/icy trails suggested?

Thanks for any suggestions!

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Winter Gear List (Smokies, 8-10 day trip) on 10/02/2010 13:18:43 MDT Print View

First off, a few notes about your gear list. Listing everything in ounces is probably easier to list your individual items in ounces rather than pounds since most everything is just a fraction of a pound. Secondly, what does the yellow highlights mean?


I can see why you chose a MSR XGK for a winter trek in the Smokeys, but I think it is way overkill. I have effectively used canister stoves and alcohol stoves in the winter in the Smokeys, though they do require more effort in extremely cold temps. A remote canister stove might be a lighter option for similar cold weather performance. Personally, I see the XGK as a stove best suited for Denali or Everest.

Also you could cut some weight by going with a smaller cookpot if this is for solo use.


I would recommend using Aquamira Drops or Tablets instead of the filter. Not only is the filter really heavy, it also has the problem in the winter or having to keep it from freezing, as the ceramic element can crack when frozen.

I prefer bottles over bladders but that can be a personal thing. You could ligten you bladders a bit by using Platypus bladders.


You might look at replacing your pack cover with a trash compactor bag. If it is going to be really rainy and wet, you might take both. Pack covers by themselves are virtually useless.

You don’t need a GPS in the Smokeys. All the trails are well maintained and easy to follow.

I know some others might not like this, but in a situation like this, you might not even take the compass. I wouldn’t say this about a lot of places, but on the AT or in the Smokeys they just aren’t needed.


I would drop the needle and thread

I wouldn’t take duct tape and leukotape, I would pick one or the other (for me leukotape)

What are you taking pepper spray for?

3ounces of batteries is a LOT. What are you carrying them for, your camera?

That is some very nice Camera gear. If your primary focus of going to the backcountry is to photograph, then, you probably need it all, if you want to snap some pictures while you are backpacking, then you could save a lot of weight here. I am not a photography guru, but there are many people on the fourm that are and they might be able to give you some advice there.


4oz of Alcohol is too much for your uses, now if you are using it for a little extra warmth at night, then you are probably spot on.

1. Some people love vapor barriers, others hate them. They can be useful in the right situations, just make sure they are for you. You can’t layer up in a bag with a vapor barrier liner. I think vapor barrier clothing would be better so you can layer on top of it, but it is harder to find.
2. I think you layering is sufficient. I have never seen the FF Hyperion but it is supposed to be a great jacket. Other Alternatives would be the WM Flight, Mont-Bell Alpine Light, and Alpine, and Nunatak Skaha (probably the best, but also probably not worth the price).
3. You will most likely not run into any major snow, but that isn’t always the case. I know they had 24” of snow up there this past December. I have been up there in December in single digits and then I have been up there with temps in the 50’s so it is just a crap shoot. I would check the weather right before you go. The AT and northern third of the BMT are the highest so they would be the most likely point to see heavy snow. You do know that there are two pretty major creek crossings on the BMT right. I would hate to do those in December!

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Winter Gear List (Smokies, 8-10 day trip) on 10/02/2010 13:49:17 MDT Print View

The MSR XGK can be a good choice if:
(1) You have very large pots of food to cook, or
(2) You have very large pots of water to boil, or
(3) You have large amounts of snow to melt, or
(4) You are trying to reduce the fuel cost over a 10-day trip.


Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: Re: Winter Gear List (Smokies, 8-10 day trip) on 10/02/2010 15:17:09 MDT Print View

I agree with everything Bradford says. Definitely think about another stove, it is way overkill.

The hexamid is fine, leave the net at home.

Your layering is just fine at least it would be for me. I have the Hyperion vest and it is a really warm piece. The jacket should be like a thermos bottle.

For me I would replace the NeoAir for something with better insulation/R-Value.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
pepper spray on 10/02/2010 16:22:49 MDT Print View

pepper spray is for bears, i would keep it. Make sure its bear spray and not regular pepper spray. I dont see 4 oz of fuel as too much if you use your stove everyday, assuming your using an alcohol stove. I cook twice a day, tea in the morning, dinner at night.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: pepper spray on 10/02/2010 16:36:07 MDT Print View

This isn't Grizzly country, pepper spray isnt needed for black bears, 99% of the time they run before you can even get a picture of them.

He is also using a white gas stove, not an alcohol stove.

John Wozniak
(woz9683) - F

Locale: Southeast
Smokies on 10/02/2010 18:48:20 MDT Print View

Bradford, thanks very much! I'll try and hit everything in order.

- I'll redo the list to get everything in ounces. The yellow was simply heavier objects, anything over a pound got highlighted so I didn't lose focus on them.

- I don't have experience with alcohol or canister stoves, and my concern was in winter, without experience, could I trust them. I've got enough time to get one of these and play with it on a couple of shorter trips before this longer one pops up. My cooking requirements would just be rhydrating one meal a day for one person. What would be the recommendation for amount of alcohol per day? Do you have a recommendation for a remote canister and appropriate canister size? (I'll of course be doing my own research too). Also, I did have the xgk already, I was thinking long-term for mountaineering, but if the concensus is overkill for this trip I'll definitely consider the other options.

- The cookpot was chosen for the xgk, everything fits inside it nicely, if I change the cook system I can change the pot too

- How long does the aquamira take to work in cold weather? Is the 4 hours really necessary? Only for crypto? Isn't the weight savings in removing the pump negated by the weight of the extra water I have to carry while waiting for the aquamira to work?

- I'll look at the platypus bladders, I do like the bladders. I tend to drink more when they are easily accessible

- I'll do the trash compactor bag for sure

- I've never been on the BMT, my understanding was it is not as well marked, is this not the case through the Smokies? I know through there it's mostly just adjoining trails. Also, I just enjoy the tech aspect of the GPS, I consider it a luxury, I'm not carrying it as a necessity

- drop needle and thread, done

- only leukotape, done

- pepper spray, silly instinct I suppose, for bears, pulled

- 1 battery for the camera, 1 set for the headlamp, 1 set for the GPS (the AA and AAAs are lithium, the camera is rechargeable lithium) I double checked the weight, it is right? Too much? To finish in 8 days it's ~20miles/day, I was thinking pre-dawn and evening use of the GPS and headlamp could make the extras necessary?

- the camera gear I enjoy, again, definitely a luxury, I'm also working on the minimalist tripod submitted on here by Dondo. The weight for mine should drop, I think I'll only need one leg and my trekking poles. I'll update that weight once I construct it.

- I think you're right here too, I'll probably cut the alcohol in half if I stay with the current stove setup. So, this could very easily be moot.

1. I sleep hot, and I tend to sweat, I think the full VBL might be necessary to maintain any loft over the longish trip. If I needed to the layers and was using the VBL, I'd throw them inside the bag but outside the VBL, quilt-style, but I doubt they'll be necessary

2. Ok, I thought this would be sufficient. I have looked at those jackets and was leaning towards the FF

3. Will definitely do a weather check before heading out, although it's usefulness taken out to a week or more will be minimal. I'll take the heavy gaiters as a trailhead decision I guess. Again, I haven't been on the BMT yet, it looks like a couple major creek crossings around camp #62, are there others? I was thinking I might try to navigate around these if needed. There's a ridgeline just south of that area of the trail that might be navigable and would avoid the creek crossings. Also, maybe a slight justification for the GPS :)

Thanks again, for all the input, I'll convert the gear list soon and start updating quantities. Keep them coming!

John Wozniak
(woz9683) - F

Locale: Southeast
Smokies Gear on 10/02/2010 18:53:01 MDT Print View

alex, the net is integrated in the hexamid (the tent version), the doors are removeable? Or did you mean leave the bivy?

Cool, +1 for the hyperion then

That's a neoair plus a z-lite, would you still go different? If so, suggestion?


John Wozniak
(woz9683) - F

Locale: Southeast
smokies on 10/02/2010 18:59:48 MDT Print View

Ike, yeah, I was thinking bears for the pepper spray.

The alcohol was just for hygiene and priming the white gas, and was probably too much. If I go to an alcohol stove, how much fuel per day for 1 person? Probably will just rehydrate 1x per day, but if the fuel volume isn't that much I might do a hot drink or oatmeal in the morning.


Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Smokies Gear on 10/02/2010 19:15:05 MDT Print View

I have the Snow Peak Gigapower canister stove (not remote) but use the Caldera Cone Alcohol Stove on most of my trips now. I can boil 12oz of water with 15ml of fuel in normal weather; I might use 20ml in cold temps. With a canister stove, keeping the canister warm makes all of the difference. Jim Bailey, from these forums made a blue foam cozy for his canister for use in the winter. For just one meal a day, I would think you would be fine with one small 4oz canister for the trip. For Alcohol you might figure on an ounce a day, but I don’t think you would need that much. If you used Everclear you could also use it for wound cleansing and the occasional nip. This might be something to experiment with before the trip.

I generally only wait 15 minutes. I am not saying that I guarantee that you won’t get sick, but so far it has worked for me. Most of the sources that you will see on this trip will be good anyways, probably fine without any treatment, though I always treat just in case.

I am still working on the BMT, but all of the sections that I have done are well blazed except in the park. There are however signs at all trail junctions and the trail is well maintained and pretty obvious.

It depends on how much you plan on using your headlamp, but so long as you have fresh batteries before you start, I would think you would be fine. (I only need to change mine about once a year)

The crossings at #62 are the only major crossings on the BMT in the park. There was a big one at Beech Gap, but it had a nice new bridge when I went through there last year (a welcome sight in February). There is another decent crossing just past Eagle Creek when you are heading up to the AT. I have done a few crossings in the winter and they aren’t as bad as you think they are going to be, but you have to be careful as a full dunking would really ruin your day.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: Winter Gear List (Smokies, 8-10 day trip) on 10/02/2010 19:55:50 MDT Print View

Re: camera gear. You'll be hiking 20 miles a day during the shortest days of the year. On the upside the angle of light will be nice and you'll be up and walking during the magic hour at dawn and dusk. On the downside you'll be walking, not so much shooting. Something to consider. Also, the cold will suck the batteries down -- I'd bring more than one spare, and try to keep them warm. (Sometimes just sticking the battery inside my jacket is enough to bring it back to life.) I'd bring another memory card, too.

Re: needle and thread. My hiking partner borrowed mine on our last trip to repair a nasty tear in his down sleeping bag. So it can come in handy, and my kit weighs a few grams at most.

Re: weather. Not sure you need to worry about a lot of snow, though of course you could get a major storm dump on you. Check the long term forecast just before the hike. I'd expect some icy trails, though. I know that many hikers dislike Yaktrax, but they've worked pretty well for me. Stabilicers look pretty good, too, and probably more durable.

John Wozniak
(woz9683) - F

Locale: Southeast
Smokies Gear on 10/02/2010 21:06:24 MDT Print View

- Bradford, wow, hadn't seen that Caldera Cone yet. I have to say that's the first design I've seen for an alcohol stove that actually makes me excited to try it out, and I think I will. What pot do you use with the Caldera system? I was thinking 91% iso alcohol, but the everclear might be nice for a quick sip on occasion.

- Alright, that makes me feel better about using the aquamira too. I don't see any of this stuff as carrying a guarantee; every system has its issues, so no worries there.

- Good to know the BMT shouldn't be that bad. I'll be starting from Big Creek, heading southwest on the BMT and then coming back on the AT. Being less familiar with the BMT, I figured I'd hit it first and be able to gauge my timing better for the latter part of the hike.

- I'll do some testing on the headlamp, and see if I can get a little more confident with its lifespan

- Yeah, I've taken a "swim" before, in the smokies, in January, it was not much fun for sure. One good thing for me, since I tend to run hot, my clothing is pretty minimal while hiking, so a dunk doesn't soak too much (not that I want to do it again). I hadn't noticed the Eagle Creek crossing yet, thanks for pointing it out.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Smokies Gear on 10/02/2010 21:17:04 MDT Print View

I use the BPL Firelite 550 with the Caldera Cone. I had tried a few alcohol stoves before and they used too much fuel for me to see them as weight saving options, the Caldera Cone solves that. It is pot specific though and takes a little more care to pack.

The AT through the park will feel like a walk in the park after the BMT.

John Wozniak
(woz9683) - F

Locale: Southeast
Smokies Gear on 10/02/2010 21:20:55 MDT Print View

Ken, I've got 2 of the high capacity LP E5 batteries for the camera (1800mAH instead of the standard 1080mAH). What do you think? Still need a 3rd?

I probably will carry a second memory card, just in case.

My "sewing kit" weighs 2.1 grams. It may find it's way into the pack, especially since the duct tape is going away.

Yeah, I think I'm going to look into something like that to give me a little more traction if necessary. Will probably be another trailhead decision based on the forecast.

John Wozniak
(woz9683) - F

Locale: Southeast
Smokies Gear on 10/02/2010 21:29:14 MDT Print View

Bradford, yeah that's one thing I was worried about with the alcohol option. Do you roll the cone up like they suggest on their site?

That's what I was thinking. If the BMT takes more time than I expect, then so be it. If it doesn't, I'll be able to slow down a little bit once I get up to the AT and spend some more time playing with the camera.

John Wozniak
(woz9683) - F

Locale: Southeast
Smokies Gear on 10/02/2010 21:44:48 MDT Print View

Changed the gear list, so the weights are in ounces now. I pulled out some stuff already. I'll continue to make changes as I get accurate weights for some of the other changes I'm planning based on suggestions here. Keep them coming everybody, this is going to help me out a lot. And thanks!!

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Smokies Gear on 10/02/2010 23:22:20 MDT Print View

A few quick suggestions:

- nix pack cover
- Add an on-person whistle
- Keep lighter in pocket
- I'd want at least a spare pair of liner gloves

I think filters are worth the weight as far as not having to carry more water, and due to avoiding chemical taste. But, I think boiling is best in the winter. The filter could be carried in a pocket, but it still might freeze or be broken during a fall. Use a wood stove to save fuel weight.

Edited by AndyF on 10/02/2010 23:23:11 MDT.

John Wozniak
(woz9683) - F

Locale: Southeast
Smokies Gear on 10/03/2010 00:37:05 MDT Print View

- why no pack cover? I can understand adding a liner to protect the gear better, but even if the cover doesn't protect the gear 100% it will keep the pack from getting soaked through in a hard rain or sleet

- the shell gloves have a soft liner, so if the separate liners get wet I can wear the shells alone and they will still provide a good bit of warmth

- I don't think chlorine dioxide has a chemical taste? And I am worried about the filter cracking in the cold weather. I would of course pump it dry after each use, but I wonder if the ceramic cartridge can really be purged, and if not, would the small amount of water that stays inside it be enough to crack the element

- Can I build fires in a National Park

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: Smokies Gear on 10/03/2010 05:36:31 MDT Print View

"the net is integrated in the hexamid (the tent version), the doors are removeable? Or did you mean leave the bivy?

That's a neoair plus a z-lite, would you still go different? If so, suggestion?"

sorry John, didn't realize the net was integrated. For sure take the bivy.

Most folks here using a neoair in cool weather use the neoair on the bottom and insulate the top with a thin CCF mat to keep the convective heat loss down. In really cold weather, any air mattress is going to be a cold choice. I would substitute an inflatable like a Thermarest Prolite or another CCF like a ridgerest.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Smokies Gear on 10/03/2010 09:21:34 MDT Print View

With the pack cover, it's an issue of always carrying extra weight versus preventing the possibility of extra weight in certain conditions--just a personal preference I guess.

I'd still want an extra pair of glove liners myself. Military surplus polypro or wool liners are around $5 or less a pair.

Aquamira does have a taste to me, but test it at home yourself. Crypto and Giardia are the most likely contaminants, and Aquamira drops require a 4 hour treatment time at triple dosage to rid the water of those. Except at night, this would mean carrying 1-2 extra liters of water.

I don't trust purging the water from a cartridge. It's not going to be completely dry, and it only takes a small amount of freezing water to create a small crack.

A wood stove is a stove, not an open fire. You might check with a ranger on this. Be sure you're confident in your ability to light and sustain a fire with the damp, snow-covered wood.

I agree with Alex on the bivy and the pad. Find the R-values of your pads, and use a combined value of R 5 or greater. I think an Exped Downmat 7 is the best choice for winter.

Edited by AndyF on 10/03/2010 09:27:26 MDT.