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Using a tarp with a small "dugout" in snow?
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Cody Croslow
(Graelb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Using a tarp with a small "dugout" in snow? on 02/25/2012 03:08:22 MST Print View

So, we're going on a backpacking trip next weekend, and I expect at least a couple feet of snow on the ground when we get there. I'm thinking of testing out a cattarp 2.5 from oware, pitched pretty low over the ground, but under it, I think I'm going to try to dig out a little sleeping area, maybe 7' by 4' or 5'. So basically, i'll have the front open, and the back closed almost (if not directly to) the ground, and the sides pretty close to the ground. Inside i'll be in a MYOG bivy, and probably use a sheet of visqueen as a groundsheet just in case. I'll throw down a walmart blue foam pad under my insulated air core, and will be on top of those two in a 0degree down bag. I don't expect the temperatures to drop below 6 degrees(F) at night... Do you guys think this shelter system will be sufficient? Or will I probably end up bailing to a friend's 3 season tent? I don't expect ANY rain, and it's in a pretty wooded area, so I don't really expect too much wind either...


Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Using a tarp with a small "dugout" in snow? on 02/28/2012 14:54:57 MST Print View

Sounds good to me. I just read an article in one of the cross country ski magazines about survival camping (I can't remember which one). I know that isn't what you are doing, but many of the same principals apply. Basically, he dug a trench and covered the opening with branches (boughs) and filled it in with snow. He managed to stay at basically 32 degrees all night, despite the temperatures getting much colder than that. I don't remember the entire article, but one of the key concepts is having shelves for the cold air to escape. So, you have your sleeping shelf, but below that, you have your entrance shelf. That way, the coldest snow escapes. Otherwise, if you just build a ditch that is the lowest thing around, all of the cold air will collect in your ditch. I'll try and remember to look up the magazine article when I get home.

Cody Croslow
(Graelb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Using a tarp with a small "dugout" in snow? on 02/28/2012 18:15:42 MST Print View

Hey Thanks Ross!

That makes sense, And I'll try to use that type of thinking... looking at the weather report for the next 5 days, we should get about 2 feet of new snow out there between now and saturday, but then Sat/Sun will be pretty clear and warm. Might have to dig out an area of snow to the ground so that I won't have to deal with water on saturday...

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: Re: Using a tarp with a small "dugout" in snow? on 03/02/2012 08:39:44 MST Print View

OK, so I found the magazine. It is the latest issue (Jan/Feb 2012, Volume 31.3) of Cross Country Skier. The article is titled "Down in the trenches... snow trenches, that is!" by Ron Watters. Unfortunately, I can't find it online.

You are right about the weather. It sounds more like Spring camping than Winter camping.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: snow trenches on 03/02/2012 10:59:59 MST Print View

Cody, that's just about my favorite way to snow camp (when there's enough snow). It's fast (if you have a shovel) and very secure in high winds. Less than ideal if you'll be getting a lot of snow.

Your sleep system sounds fine. Personally, I'd leave the bivy and groundsheet at home. Cold snow is dry snow. If your trench and tarp are sealed against the wind all the bivy will do is exacerbate condensation issues.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
torso trench/leg cave on 03/02/2012 13:33:39 MST Print View

I dig a "torso trench" and a "leg cave". Saves digging time and gives better protection. Plus teh tarp coverage is limited and can be made stronger with skis, poles an/or branches spaced closely to support the tarp.

Cody Croslow
(Graelb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Done! on 03/04/2012 19:01:40 MST Print View

Well Folks, We made it home.

The hike was 6 miles, and 2 of that was on unbroken snow, we were packing it down about 10" to 1.5' along the way. My hip flexor on the right side is killing me each time I raise that leg, or walk uphill.

We got up to the lake (Completely frozen over... there goes the fishing pole and tackle weight...) and found a nice shelter there with a woodstove and a fresh supply of dried wood... Tired as we were, we stayed in the shelter that first night. Note: It got to about 36F when I checked in the middle of the night inside that shelter.

The next day we took our time and built a sweet snow cave... pictures at the bottom here. Spent about 4-5 hours digging it out under a good 13 foot bank of snow on the side of a hill, with easy access to the shelter in case it was too cold, but the lowest it got was 27 where my watch was hanging (opposite the entry door). We slept in it, and the only three problems I had were a very VERY light breeze across my face, and keeping on my mummyshaped big agnes pad... and the third problem was my big agnes pad. I have an insulated air core, supposed to be good to 0 degrees... well it wasn't. I had a blue pad underneath it, and everytime i shifted or moved, the air mattress got freezing! I mean, it WORKED, but was awfully uncomfortable whenever i shifted around. I probably could've done without the bivy, as i just kind of got tangled in it, and there was really no need for it.

we DID however break an aluminum shovel... whoops!

anyway, pictures here. enjoy!
(note, I'm the dude with the overly large beany... the other guy did most of the digging!)

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Done! on 03/04/2012 20:37:19 MST Print View

Blue pad on top of air pad!!

FWIW- BAIACs are cold. I got cold on mine a lot.