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Help a Florida boy winter camp in Minnesota
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Kenny R.
(k1t0r5) - F

Locale: Florida
Help a Florida boy winter camp in Minnesota on 12/06/2011 18:33:33 MST Print View

Hi everyone, I'm fairly new but loved this site so much that I got a membership. This will be an extremely long post so bear with me. If you have a short attention span you can probably skip straight to the gear part.

I've just recently moved to Minnesota and want to get into some winter camping. As the title says, I'm from FL, so this is all foreign territory for me. I did spent 2 years in northern Illinois while in grad school, so I'm somewhat acquainted with cold, but definitely not to this extent.

I don't know many people here in MN yet, so will probably be going solo. Before I try any overnighters, I'll be doing plenty of day hikes to figure out how much clothing I need in different temps and will most likely camp not far from my vehicle the first few times. I'd like to eventually be confident enough by the end of this winter to venture out several miles without worrying about hypothermia.

I basically want some advice for my sleep and clothing systems to make sure I stay warm enough. I've done a TON of reading and think I have the right idea, I just sort of want a double check so I don't go kill myself. My approach to backpacking is lightweight, though more for the simplicity of having fewer items than the actual weight savings. Of course I'll save weight when I can, but I'm typically not willing to fork out $$$ for higher end stuff just to save a few ounces.

Any feedback is welcome, though I would like to work with what I already have as much as possible, so I don't plan on buying anything new unless I absolutely need to. A lot of what I already have was purchased for ski trips in the past, so it won't be the lightest stuff in the world, but I'm just playing the cards I've got.


Bag - Kelty Cosmic Down 20*
Overbag - Kelty Cellestial 55*
CCF pad - Thermarest Z-lite (2.2 R-value)
Self-inflating pad - REI lite core 1.5 (3.2 R-value)

I know the sleeping bags aren't that light, but I've had the Kelty Cellestial 55* from camping in FL, and figured it would make a good overbag paired with the down since it's synthetic. My hope is that if I wear a few insulating layers and use both bags I can get down to about 0* or slightly lower.

***Clothing*** (I'm just listing everything I have that might be useful first, then I'll describe how I plan to use it.)

Base layers
SmartWool microweight t
SmartWool microweight crew
SmartWool lightweight mock (mock neck with no zipper)

Mid layers
REI Woodland vest (Polartec classic 200, sized a little small to fit under most jackets)
REI Airflyte hoody (Similar to a lightweight fleece. Probably no R1, but it should do the trick)

Puffy layers
Montbell Thermawrap (50g synthetic insulation, no hood)
Columbia liner (from a 3-in-1 parka, 100g synthetic insulation, no hood)
Sierra Designs Flex Down (just purchased on gear swap here, so not sure of the fill weight and haven't tried it on yet)

Patagonia Houdini
Patagonia Torrentshell
Columbia shell (from a 3-in-1 parka)

SmartWool microweight bottoms
SmartWool midweight bottoms
REI Endeavor hiking pants (quick drying, wind and water resistant, no insulation)
Columbia fleece pants (basic fleece pants, probably about 200 weight)
Columbia hail tech pants (basic waterproof pants)

SmartWool balaclava
SmartWool cuffed beanie
OR Wind Pro hat
Gore Windstopper balaclava (I actually bought this a few years ago for riding my motorcycle, but it might come in handy)

Ibex merino liners (pretty thin and tight fitting)
REI Oslo liners (poly/wool blend, pretty warm for liners and loose enough to go over the Ibex liners for extra warmth)
Manzella WindStopper gloves (no insulation, can fit both liners under them)
WindStopper glomitts (Cabela's brand I think)
Fox River Double Ragg mittens (bombproof heavy wool)
REI taped mittens (waterproof shell, no insulation)

Here's how I plan on using all that:

***Down to about 20...

Top (when moving)
SW lightweight mock (if it's a little warmer I'll go with one of the microweight tops)
Airflyte hoody

Bottom (when moving)
SW microweight bottoms
REI Endeavor pants

Top (when stopped)
Add SD Flex Down on top of everything
Add Torrentshell if I'm still cold
- is it advisable to put down on top of the stuff I've been sweating in?

Bottom (when stopped)
Add Columbia fleece pants on top of everything
Add Columbia Hail Tech pants if I'm still cold

***Frigid temps (to me that means high temps below about 20*)...

Top (when moving)
REI lightweight mock
Airflyte hoody
REI fleece vest


REI lightweight mock
Airflyte hoody

Bottom (when moving)
SW microweight bottoms
SW midweight bottoms
REI Endeavor pants
- my thinking here is that the microweight will still be my base layer and the midweight bottoms and wind/water resistant pants together will act like a lightly insulated softshell... is that a good assumption?

Top (when stopped)
Add SD Flex Down
Add Columbia liner jacket (100g synthetic - synthetic over down is best, correct?)
Add Torrentshell if still cold

Bottom (when stopped)
Add Columbia fleece pants
Add Columbia Hail Tech pants

As for the head, I plan to bring the SW balaclava and OR Wind Pro cap and then adjust as necessary to thermoregulate. If the weather's really nasty I might trade the Wind Pro cap for the WindStopper balaclava and take the SW cuffed beanie for extra warmth.

For the hands, I plan on wearing some combination of the two liner gloves under the Manzella gloves when moving, and then just dumping all of that straight into the ragg mittens and/or taped mittens when I stop.

So, to summarize my questions with the clothing system...
- Is it ok to put the down jacket on top of stuff I've been hiking in during stops?
- Will the SW midweight bottoms paired with the wind/water resistant hiking pants (over microweight bottoms) be warm enough to hike in frigid temps?
- Will the SD Flex Down and Columbia liner jackets together be enough when the temps really dip? Everything I've read about the Flex Down tells me it's pretty dang warm, but I haven't had the chance to try it yet.
- Is the Patagonia Torrentshell good for winter use? It's pretty lightweight, but it's big enough on me that I can pretty much fit most jackets under it (though I'm not sure the combination of the Flex Down and Columbia liner jackets would fit). I could go with the shell from my Columbia 3-in-1 parka though it's prohibitively heavy.

Thanks a lot in advance for any help!

Edited by k1t0r5 on 12/06/2011 18:42:35 MST.

Chad Miller

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Re: Help a Florida boy winter camp in Minnesota on 12/07/2011 15:30:39 MST Print View

There are a few things that need to be addressed before I can answer some of your questions.

First off 'frigid temps' can mean a lot of different things to different people. For Minnesota it's not uncommon to have -20 F night temps with highs of 15 with a good wind chill. You'll want some shell clothing that is breathable yet can block the wind.

Sleeping System:
Layering your sleeping bags can work but you're going to be a lot more comfortable and carry less weigh if you where to get a designated winter bag. For exsample here is my winter sleep system: 0 Degree Montbell UL SS Down Hugger and a
Downmatt 7 sleeping pad. Combined with a puffy down parka, down pants and down booties I've slept in temps around -25 F comfortably.

For multi-night trips you'll want to look into vapor barrier clothing to keep your sleeping bag dry from your inperseptable (sp?) sweat that will occur while your sleeping.

You're going to need a pair of gaiters to keep the snow out of your boots, keep your lower legs dry, and snowshoes to keep you somewhat on top of the snow. You'll still sink in up to your knees in deep powder but without snowshoes you'll be post holing up to your waist in some areas of deep snow. All this being said don't expect to move much faster than 2mph when your breaking trail

Answers to your questions:
1.Is it ok to put the down jacket on top of stuff I've been hiking in during stops?

If your dry then yes, if not I'd throw on a silnyon rain jacket first then put your down jacket on.

2. Will the SW midweight bottoms paired with the wind/water resistant hiking pants (over microweight bottoms) be warm enough to hike in frigid temps?

Maybe. I'd find a nice pair of softshell pants and wear some heavy weight long undies.

3. Will the SD Flex Down and Columbia liner jackets together be enough when the temps really dip?

I have no experience with this article of clothing, sorry.

4. Is the Patagonia Torrentshell good for winter use?

Again I have no experience with this article of clothing, sorry. I will say this however, whatever shell you go with make sure it is very breathable and not insulated. If you do go with a softshell jacket get one as thin as you can and wear only light layer(s) underneath it. Otherwise you'll overhead when moving and sweat out.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Help a Florida boy winter camp in Minnesota on 12/07/2011 22:17:55 MST Print View

Hi Kenny,

1) listen to Chad, he gets out a LOT in winter
2) +1 on his suggestion of a very breathable NOT INSULATED shell ... with a hood too ... it should zip up to mouth level ... large enough for wearing all your insulated clothing at once inside it (will be too large to look even remotely stylish in town).
3) similar for uninsulated shell mitts ... very versatile with different amounts of insulation inside.
4) acknowledging your desire to get by with what you have as much as possible, go ahead and try the two sleeping bag thing ... test in VERY cold weather in a location where you can easily bail when you discover it's limits.
5) you asked about putting down over wet sweaty layers ... avoid sweating that much ... requires getting used to hiking somewhat chilled ... that also means bringing more fuel (food calories) ... also means frequently evaluating how warm you feel and making changes if needed.
6) let yourself get cold (not just chilled) on short walks (30 minutes) ... by the end of winter temps that are painfully cold now will feel almost comfortable.
7) wind chill is REAL. A sunny calm day at 0F can be very comfortable if you are active. 0F and a 20mph wind is a completely different story.

If you are located in the Twin Cities I'm frequently looking for folks to day hike with.


* forgot to add .... 20F? we call that springtime!
* one caveat about the shell and hiking chilled. If it is actively snowing then a DWR shell tends to wet out because the outer surface will be relatively warm. Avoid that by using a bit more insulation and slow down to avoid overheating and sweating ... or use a WPB shell and slow down to avoid overwhelming it's vapor transfer abilities.

Edited by jcolten on 12/08/2011 05:52:04 MST.

Kenny R.
(k1t0r5) - F

Locale: Florida
Thanks for the replies on 12/08/2011 11:03:17 MST Print View

As for the Torrentshell, it's just a lightweight WP/B rain jacket. I don't think I would ever wear this while moving unless, as Jim says, my DWR stuff starts wetting out. I guess then I would slow down to avoid sweating in that case.

So while I'm moving, do you guys think the Houdini (super thin wind shirt with DWR) would be enough to fend off most wind and light snow? Or should I go with a more substantial softshell that's sized to fit over everything if necessary?

Also, when the temps are low enough that the snow is dry, is a WP or WP/B shell necessary? or would a breathable softshell (see above) be sufficient at that point? I'm picking up a Montbell Ex Light down jacket off the gear swap here to use as a booster layer. I think that, combined with fleece layers and the SD Flex Down jacket should be sufficient insulation for most weather. I just don't have too much experience with down jackets, so I'm worried I'll do something wrong and get too much moisture in them.

Thanks again!

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Thanks for the replies on 12/08/2011 12:30:17 MST Print View

The Houdini would be good, but a stretch-woven, non-membrane softshell (example: Patagonia Guide) would be better. Take both in case you need more wind protection than the softshell offers.

In dry cold (20F or less), WPB shells are undesirable, but work for when not moving. If there's not much wind, just adding another layer of insulation (fleece or wool) works well because that's the most breathable solution.

I'm experimenting with a cotton canvas anorak as my dry cold shell. Now if I could only get more dry cold down my way...

I'm not familiar with the specs on that down jacket, but you don't want to wear down while moving if that's the plan?