Most recent update 12/20/06: I realized that it was a disservice to Henry Shires and Tarptent to post pictures of his amazing and beautiful Rainshadow 2 pitched in such a shoddy manner. When I pitched the tent in the below photos it was the first time I seriously tried to pitch a tent in the snow in some many years and I pitched it loose so that I could purposely put snow on the sides. So here is one of his designs at Panther Meadows, Mt. Shasta, pitched properly or better than in the below photos, which took about 2 minutes.
Earlier Update/Intro: I realized I should disclaim anything more than the lowest level beginner and novice at camping in the snow. Did it a long time ago when a kid, but have done next to none in years. So if you have any pointers, advice, helpful hints, etc. please let me know. Thanks.
Second update: Here is an article from BPL teaching me a lot about how to do snow camping, emphasizing tarp shelter use. Trumps my little experiment here. Again just novice, BPL is a great site to learn from:
I have been dieing to get done with a work project so I could fool around with my new Rainshadow 2 from Henry Shires. I want to use it as my main winter tent in non-serious wind or heavy snow conditions, or even in those conditions if I can figure out how to set it under tree cover, against rock walls or in a nook or cranny somewhere.
Finally got to do it just now and I am thrilled ... I would have never even really thought of doing this if I hadn't been hanging out here at BPL for a bit, listening to the sage wise and great advice, info, and stories, reading everything in sight ... and chatting with the members ... great site and group ....
Here is the first experimental setup, Henry Shires Tarptent Rainshadow 2 in snow:
The tent (I think I'll call it SnowShadow) is big enough for three people sleeping all in the same direction in good weather(unlike the Big Agnes Seedhouse 3) ... weighs around 32 oz. - 40 oz., based on Henry's web site, depending on how many stakes, poles, kind of ground cloth etc.
So it is a three season tent. I want to use it as a 4th season tent pushing the idea of multi-use through technique of setup and lighter carrying weight for snow shoe/mukluk camping treks.
It is big enough, I figured, to use in the snow as a two person tent, with snow piled up at the rear, around the sides (thus reducing the width down to a good size two person tent) and half the front (it has a great height of around 48"), leaving one side for an entrance and the other protected (I'm gonna fashion a black plastic bag that can be used to melt snow water & as a closure for the front right entrance half; or some such closure system -- but that is for later).
My theory is, and the initial test today confirmed, it will ventilate well and ventilation can be controlled by how much snow is piled at the rear (even closing it off) and in the front, reducing the open area.
I figure this "3 season" tent should get me through a 4th season winter camping trip, in non-hazardous (like not really bad) inclement weather and thus becomes an all year 4-season tent for me and my partner.
I figure it will easily be habitable with the right gear down to 0 F, easy, and keep us out of any lower winds, lighter snows or rain/sleet, serve as overall protection in other words (staying dry when we need to) ... and because of the space to start with it will provide protection for all our gear that doesn't stay outside -- including our packs -- at around 2.5 lbs once I get it all configured.
I'm not ready to cook in it but in the below pictures I have set up the front so that I can stay inside the tent and cook in the alcove area.
Below are pictures of the first experimental setup ... not too taught, but I didn't want it taught because the sides and rear are buried in snow. (The rear ventilates in this configuration because the snow only goes up to within 1" of the rear overhang and was kept away from the rear mesh tentside when I built the snow enclosure.)
This was set up using standard stakes to hold it in place until the snow is put on, the rear was done first using a length of dead limb to hold the rear stake in place. The front was roughed in. Then the rear was secured with a first pile of snow, then the sides going about 1' towards the front. Then I roughed in the front corners and kind of straightened it out. Then covered the sides until they would pretty much stay in place. Then adjusted the front center line taughter, put in both front poles and set the corners in their final position. Then buried the sides in about 6" or so, the snow does it automatically.
Once the tent setup was double checked and positions of everything tweaked, I just buried everything without compromising the interior space or the sidewalls angles.
I cleared out and shaped a front entrance area. Put the Tyvek groundsheet in over the floor - not under the tent - figuring that was the best way to save heat and protect the floor, since it won't get hurt by the snow surface. Put a 32 F Phantom MH bag in over a Thermo-Lite Emergency Bivvy Sack, on closeout from the Gear Shop, and a Thinlite 1/8" long closed cell GG pad w/ a torso pad from GG over that. If the 32 F bag is not warm enough, which I think it will be, to go down to 10 F with hot socks, thermawrap pants over expedition weight capilene long johns and a mid weight capilene long sleeve top under Insport polartec high loft pullover, with synth balaclava, MH Micro hat and down balaclava from the Down Works in Santa Cruz -- then I can always slip the bag into the emergency, reflective bivie bag for an extra bunch of degrees -- or that is my theory anyway. (Using that bag which is a three season bag in this set up also means I am not only multi-tasking my three season sleeping system, I am saving the extra weight it would take to bring a 0 F bag along.)
It worked so far, now for the overnight tests.
Left front, facing the tent (with Gear Shop Snowclaw Guide Backcountry snow shovel):
Right front and entrance (I was testing the front line to see if will hold Drop Stoppers, Ether windshirt, and hanging hat, snow googles, and polypro stetch gloveliners on the top, light weight snow shoes where they can be reached from inside, pack under overhang and protected by snow enclosure -- it can be brought in at night or in weather):
Inside (with MH Phantom 32 F bag w/inflatable pillow in modified pillow sack and stuffing and Marmot Never Summer 0 F bag, sleeping gear (Hot Socks, Thermawrap pants, dry upper thin capilene pullover, Down Works down balaclava), Giga cannister & stove, MSR Titan Kettle, foil windscreen, emergency stove - Ti Esbit UL, fuel tabs, (can't wait to get my Ultra Bushbuddy), 1/2 liter Platypus (gonna have to get a black plastic bag to fill with snow and let melt in sun for more water), food smell proof ziplok with mainly Mountain House stuff, stuff sacks for gear and misc. stuff, including outter layer waterproof hooded coat, dry pair of socks, capilene T shirt, underwear if I get wet, ... and that is about it inside.
Rear of the tent (if I were really concerned about the cold or weather I would raise the enclosure and seal off the rear):