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Questions: Setting up tent, sleeping in snow...
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Chris Miller
(chrisdm) - F
Questions: Setting up tent, sleeping in snow... on 12/31/2006 07:54:06 MST Print View

Hi all,

I just started backpacking last spring, so I don't have any winter experience yet. I am plannning to do some winter backpacking in my local San Jacinto mountains near Palm Springs, CA, where there is often snow on the ground during the winter. So, I have a couple questions:

When setting up my tent (BD Lighthouse), should I clear snow until I get a dirt floor, if possible? And if there is too much snow to make a clearing, should I pack the snow or something before setting up the tent? I am planning on ordering the footprint for protection as well...

And, my sleeping pad is the InsulMat Max-Thermo-Lite (This one:
It is called a "3 season" and is 1 inch thick inflatable. Should I upgrade to the Therma-Rest 4 (1.5 inch "4 season")? Will it make that much difference? My sleeping bag is a 25 deg. Montbell #2 UL Down...

Thanks so much for your help,

Chris M

Chris Miller
(chrisdm) - F
Re: Questions: Setting up tent, sleeping in snow... on 01/03/2007 06:33:32 MST Print View

I found some articles regarding winter camping, in which I learned to pack down he snow. Also, it seems that a thick pad really makes a difference, so I ordered a large Thermarest Prolite 4 for winter camping.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
Re: Re: Questions: Setting up tent, sleeping in snow... on 01/03/2007 08:38:57 MST Print View

I'ld guess you are going to use the aerial tramwat to access the San Jacinto area. This is a good choice because in the winter you don't have to travel very far to get a decent experience and the tram gives you a nice safety net until your winter skills get up to speed.
Pack down your sleeping area with whatever you are using to travel, snowshoes, crosscountry skiis, big snorting boots. Your body heat will still cause you to form depressions under you but it helps. Keep your boots from freezing by putting them in a bag and putting them under your knees or sometimes in your sleeping bag with you. Micromanage all the snow that you drag into your tent with you. Moisture control is a big problem in winter, try to vent your tent just enough to affect build up inside. Critical areas of concern are keeping hydrated with enough fuel to melt snow if you are not going to be near streams, extra calories, extra batteries/candles. There are threads here about tent anchors in the snow plus a lot of other winter camping techniques. Heck, they even have relationship counseling for those tense times with the significant others.
The first thing I would do before buying much else is search this forum for winter camping, gear lists, and technique advice. Good Luck and kick up a clump of snow for me there, I spent a lot of time up on that hill.

James Pitts
(jjpitts) - F

Locale: Midwest US
Re: Re: Re: Questions: Setting up tent, sleeping in snow... on 01/03/2007 09:45:51 MST Print View

If you have never backpacked or camped in snowy conditions before just do some research and ease yourself into it. It's better to err on the side of safety/comfort your first few trips.

One of my favorite winter trips is actually broken into two or three trips. I'll take a weekend trip up to Wisconsin and hike to some remote area off trail and build a snow shelter, marking it's position with my GPS so it will be easy to find later. Then on a return weekend I don't have to build my shelter (you tend to get really wet when you do this) and can focus on relaxing and exploring the area. With luck I can use the basecamp many times in a season.

I live in the Midwest US and the snow situation here has been awful, especially this year. It's the start of the new year and I am walking around outside in a short sleeved shirt. Of course there is snow up in the Northwoods, but I keep looking at my snowshoes and skis dreaming of more convenient access.

Don't forget to drink lots of water! :) Always good advise!

Chris Miller
(chrisdm) - F
Re: Re: Re: Questions: Setting up tent, sleeping in snow... on 01/06/2007 22:53:21 MST Print View

Thanks for the help, guys. Yes Larry, I was planning on taking the tram up to the San Jacintos. I just started backpacking this last summer, and that's usually where I go because I live in Palm Springs.

So, I called the ranger station before I went, and they highly recommended crampons due to the amount of ice up there right now. I didn't have any, so I went to Joshua Tree for the night instead. I stopped by Nomad Ventures on the way home and got a pair of crampons also (and a bunch of stuff I didn't need...) So, I'll retry my maiden snow voyage this Friday, conditions permitting.

Thanks again for the help, I appreciate it.

James Pitts
(jjpitts) - F

Locale: Midwest US
Re: Re: Re: Re: Questions: Setting up tent, sleeping in snow... on 01/06/2007 23:26:57 MST Print View

Hey man, any execuse to buy new gear, right? ;)