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What shelter to make for PNW Winter?
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Keith Bassett

Locale: Pacific NW
What shelter to make for PNW Winter? on 12/08/2011 10:00:36 MST Print View

Hey all,

We are headed out to do our first winter/snow camping in 20 years, and I am trying to figure out what type of shelter to sew.

I have a bomber old north face tent that is 3+ seasons, and a bivy. But we were debating whether I should put together a pyramid like the Jerry Adams article.

The shelter will inevitably get snowed on, as we are headed for hurricane ridge or paradise.

I am open to suggestion, opinion, etc. :)


jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: What shelter to make for PNW Winter? on 12/08/2011 11:02:30 MST Print View

Floorless tent may not be best in blowing snow.

I use it all winter in PNW but avoid blowing snow, occasionally have been snowed on, but it's the wet PNW snow.

Keith Bassett

Locale: Pacific NW
The voice of authority on 12/08/2011 11:28:39 MST Print View


Thanks! If you don't think this is a good plan, we need to seriously reconsider.

I have seen lots of pics of folks using a duomid in the snow and digging in, but they always seem to NOT be in the cascades. :)

Still open to MYOG shelter suggestions for this.

Also - anyone know of a good spot within 2 hours of Seattle for winter camping, that isn't super busy?

That is the only downside of Paradise and Hurricane Ridge. Both are extremely busy even in the winter.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
mids in snow on 12/08/2011 11:41:14 MST Print View

I have used mids in the cascades, north and Oregon, in winter and they work fine.

Crucial things are to make sure the corners are anchored really well, that you make a
berm of snow around the bottom to keep out spindrift, and that your pole is strong for
wet snow.

Tommy Franzen
(Tomlike) - F

Locale: Pacific Wonderland
'mid on 12/08/2011 12:03:50 MST Print View

Pyramids are my favorite type of shelter, especially for winter use in the PNW. I agree with David's comments, I use snow anchors and a Tigoat cf pole and pile snow up on the sides. Personally, if it's going to be blizzard like conditions, I won't go out camping in the winter. Sure, forecasts can change quickly, but if you head out with a good forecast, find a nice sheltered spot and make sure the 'mid is anchored down, you'll be fine, so long as you have lots of warm clothes and possibly a bivy for extra protection. The extra space of a pyramid is even more welcomed in the winter because you end up bringing so much more stuff. That being said, they aren't for everyone, but if I go camping in the snow, I embrace it and just bring lots of warm things

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: The voice of authority on 12/08/2011 12:04:03 MST Print View

"Thanks! If you don't think this is a good plan, we need to seriously reconsider."

I'm no authority, just one person with some opinions : )

I have never camped in blowing snow in any shelter so I don't have a good opinion about that, but that's not that common in PNW. I think you can pile up the snow around the edge which would keep out drifting snow.

In the PNW the problem is it can rain a lot, in which case pyramid is best because there's a lot of headroom so you can spend time under cover without feeling claustrophobic.

One of my (many) favorite places is the West beach of Olympic Peninsula in the winter. Ozette to Sand Point and Cape Alava, Rialto Beach, Toleak Point to name several. It rains more there than Seattle, so you have to watch weather reports and choose a time when weather is better. And look at the tide tables because you have to walk along the beach which is difficult at high tide. See

Keith Bassett

Locale: Pacific NW
Bamboo pole on 12/08/2011 12:56:16 MST Print View

I use a bamboo hiking staff about half of the time. Just a 1 3/4 to 2 inch diameter bamboo rod from a garden center. It is pretty light and very rigid.

Is that just overkill for a pyramid center pole? If it can hold my 250 lbs, it should be plenty strong.

I just have to forgo trekking poles, or finish making the pulk and strap it to that.

Have any of you used two trekking poles with an aluminum sleeve or something to turn them into a single pole for your mid?

Ben Wortman
(bwortman) - M

Locale: Nebraska
poles on 12/08/2011 15:05:17 MST Print View

I have used 2 trekking poles strapped together. They would not be my first choice if snow is expected. They start to bow if the shelter is pushing down on it alot. I think 1 pole and an aluminum sleeve would be better for the bowing factor. It might keep it more in a verticle position. I have heard of people using a aluminum shower curtain rod and cutting it to the size they needed.

Or you could buy a golite/tigoat/seekoutside pole and not have to worry at all.

Tyson Marshall
(sheepNgeese) - MLife

Locale: Ventura County (formerly PNW)
Quinzhee, or similar... on 12/11/2011 22:12:48 MST Print View

Have you ever considered building a quinzhee, or similar? Last year I snowshoed up Mt. Baker and built a quinzhee for my friend, my girlfriend, and I. Simple, quiet, and windproof.

If you don't want to go that route, you can get away with all sorts of shelters. I use an HMG Echo II (with beak, when needed) Like others have said, utilized the snow to build some walls and enjoy! Snow camping in Washington is the best!


Tyson Marshall
(sheepNgeese) - MLife

Locale: Ventura County (formerly PNW)
Places to camp... on 12/11/2011 22:22:53 MST Print View

Lots of variables here.

Do you want rain or do you want snow? If you want snow, are you prepared to snowshoe? I don't know how many times I've gone on trips hiking on bare trails to snowshoeing out in two feet of snow on the way out. It's much simpler to stick to one or the other :)

The peninsula is a beautiful choice if you want coastline, rainforest, or snow. Any of the routes east (Highway 20, Highway 2, or I-90) will lead to snow and an abundance of options.

It's hard to drive 2 hours in any direction in Seattle and not find somewhere to camp. I'd decide on the "type" of backpacking you want and head to that geographic location.

Keith Bassett

Locale: Pacific NW
Snow on 12/12/2011 14:31:36 MST Print View

We are gunning for snow. :)

I have considered a quinzhee, or a snow cave, or a trench with an arch roof.

But we backed up to a mid because they are not as dependent on conditions to work correctly. I would hate to see our snow turn to rain and swamp us. Or to find that the snow wasn't deep enough to properly dig in or pile up for a quinzhee.