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Winter Camping Newbie
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Christopher Burden
(CjBurden) - F
Winter Camping Newbie on 02/07/2007 08:19:38 MST Print View

I'm going to be going on my first multi night winter camping trip. I have made a list of what I will be bringing along with me. It will be just me and 1 of my friends, and we'll be heading into the white mountains of New Hampshire.

This list is somewhat generic as I plan to give it to my friend so he can make sure he has everything he needs as well.

If there is anything I've missed, or if you have any tips please let me know.


Base layer
Wool/Fleece warmth layer
Wind/Rain resistant breathable outer layer
Poly Sock liner (2 pair)
Wool/Poly winter sock (2 pair)
Glove liner(poly/fleece)
Wind/rain resistant outer glove
Balaclava/face mask
Wool/Poly Hat
Winter Boots comfortable enough for hiking
Sunglasses/Ski goggles


Winter Tent w/footprint and stakes/anchors
Backpack stove w/cold weather fuel
Sleeping bag with cold weather rating (0° or colder)
Sleeping pad with R-value of 3 or higher (closed cell foam)
Candle Lantern w/Emergency Candles (1 candle per night)
2 Way Radios
ParaCord (50ft or more)
Backpack Shovel
Waterproof Matches
Contractor grade trashbag (2)(black)
Duct Tape (small roll)
Water Bottles
First Aid Kit
Stuff Sack
Extra Batteries (AA,AAA)
Emergency Blanket


Dry Goods (oatmeal, rice, pasta, dry soup)
High Calorie/Fatty foods (perishables ARE ok)
Complete Protiens
Energy Foods
Hot Chocolate Mix
Carnation Instant
Decaf Coffee
Alcohol (for hand/foot circulation only)
Enough water for drinking AND cooking

Optional Items (dependent on conditions or pack weight)

Walking Poles
Snowshoes/XC skis
Entertainment (book, ipod, w/e)
Digital Camera (w/ or w/o tripod)
Solar Battery Charger
VBL for sleeping bag/feet

General tips

Wool is warmer than poly, but dries much slower.
Trashbags can be multi use (vbl, storing wet items in sleeping bag overnight, snow collector, wet items in pack, hauling trash, etc etc)
Keep snow out of tent!!!!!! Snow in tent will condensate.
Store everything in vestibule except food. Store food away from camp.
If making a fire, keep tent safe distance away.
Stay Cool During the day hiking.

Mark Ferwerda
(mnferwerda) - MLife

Locale: Maryland
Re: Winter Camping Newbie on 02/07/2007 09:32:23 MST Print View

My first time camping in the snow I only bought 1 sleeping pad (Thermarest full length UL model) and shivered the whole night. The next night I swapped pads with a friend (a real cheap closed cell pad). It was worse (my friend was happy). The next time I bought 2 pads (my Thermarest and an evazote pad) and that was much better. You might want to consider bringing 2 pads.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Winter Camping Newbie on 02/07/2007 10:55:11 MST Print View

I would suggest looking at the icebox post trip wrap-up on this site, and look at the winter forum and winter gear lists. I notice several things missing off the top of my head.

That list doesn't look warm enough for winter in the whites. Caviet: my experience is dated, since it was something like 20 years ago... but I don't think global warming has had that much effect yet. Hmm weather at Mt Washington tells that global warming hasn't moved the mercury up too much... it -15F in the middle of the day, -57F windchill. Yes, I realize you will be lower in less harsh conditions that the peak, but it's going to be COLD.

Specific Issues:

I would be concerned about a 0F bag unless the person had very high loft clothing to be combined with the bag. When I was there I was using a -20F bag and struggled to stay warm enough through the night.

You want more than R3 for your mat. R4 is about right down to around 20F for me... in the whites I would want more than that. I would recommend at least two closed cell foam pads. Ideally I would take a DAM to sleep on, and a foam pad to use for camplife. Remmeber that besides sleeping on your mat, you will want to be able to stand / sit on a mat when in your snow kitchen. Some people bring a small square of foam to stand on during breaks.

Make sure you bring plenty of fuel. You will not only want more hot food than a typical 3-season trip, but you will most likely want to make hot water bottles.

A pot to boil water in. Larger than normal because you will be melting snow.

Make sure at least one of your water bottles will make a good hot water bottle (e.g. boiling water doesn't met it).

Bring a pee bottle.

In the whites, make sure your Balaclava is windproof to protect your face from windburn. My memories of the whites were that it had brutal winds.

If your balaclava doesn't have an air warmer system over the mouth / nose.. bring one of those silly looking 3M air warming masks. This can make a significant different, especially when you sleep.

While active a wool/poly hat is likely to be enough, but there are times you will want something more. When facing strong winds you can layer your balaclava and your wool hat. When you stop you will want more insulation. If you jacket has an insulating hood, great. Otherwise, bring some sort of high insulation hat.

When active, I expect that base + moderate insulation + outer shell will be plenty (highly active might be too much), but once you stop... especially once the sun has gone down, I doubt that's warm enough. I would want some soft of high loft jacket that I could put over everything. I would make sure one of the jackets has a decent hood to cut down of drafts down the neck. BTW: Ounce for ounce, fleece is warmer than wool.

Make sure that at least one of your jackets has a good hood.

If I had them, I would def. bring vapor barrier socks. If you don't have some, bring sandwich bread plastic bags. Liners, bags, wool socks.

I would also bring a pair of extremely warm mittens.

I would want some nice, toasty, down or primaloft booties.

I would skip the alcohol. There are more effective methods to improve / keep circulation functioning properly in your limbs with a bit of prep.

I might bring extra batteries, but most likely I would just use a fresh set of lithium battery in a headlamp which won't be damaged by the higher voltage. Lithium perform WAY better than anything else in cold weather.

add sunscreen for exposed skin (e.g. your nose).

Add chap stick

I would lose the emergency blanket because you are carrying real insulation and a shelter.

More than gear though, it's really important to know how to manage in cold. I haven't written much about this, but I have links to several good books or web pages on my winter activities page.

Edited by verber on 02/07/2007 12:55:52 MST.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Winter Camping Newbie on 02/07/2007 12:29:44 MST Print View

Nice list. I second the comment about an extra sleeping pad; the Gossamer Gear ThinLight 1/8" weighs only 2.5 oz but adds quite a bit of warmth under another pad.

I would add an upper insulation layer for breaks and camp, such as a BMW Cocoon, Patagonia Micropuff, or equivalent. Base + mid + liner probably won't be enough.

You could leave off the emergency blanket since you have trashbags in addition to the tent footprint.

Solar battery charger is very heavy (e.g., Brunton Solarport 4.4 + BattJack charger: 21.2 oz). You can carry a lot of extra batteries for that weight and not be dependent on good weather. (Depends on length of trip.)

"Enough water for drinking AND cooking" is a lot of water. Will there be snow? The extra fuel for melting snow would weigh much less than the water, and if there is any water or snow then you don't need to carry water for cooking (boiling takes care of the bugs). You might want to take MicroPur MP-1 tablets, AquaMira or other water treatment in case you run out of water. (I only melt water for drinking, I don't boil it.)

A whistle might prove useful in case of emergency or radio failure.

[EDIT: I didn't see Mark's post when I wrote this, but I agree with his advice for cold weather. (I'm not familiar with the Whites, myself.) Esp. chapstick with sunscreen; I forgot that once and regretted it for a week. Use it on your nostrils, too.]

Edited by Otter on 02/07/2007 12:35:32 MST.

jim bailey
(florigen) - F - M

Locale: South East
Winter layers on 02/07/2007 15:30:02 MST Print View

Best of luck with your trip. Was just up there last weekend and agree with others about upper torso insulation. Would definately add a down or synthetic jacket for camp use, was wearing a down jacket in a zero degree bag last weekend and was really glad I did. Two pads will make a difference in staying warmer while sleeping. Your not going to find much water up there so pack plenty of fuel for melting snow you will want to have a good amount of water for your hike since the White's are usually cold and very dry. Would probably skip fire since it always seems to be a hassle in the snow, there are proper techniques for that but generally very time consuming and you will probably be warmer staying in your tent. Check out the website hike the whites and veiw current trip and trail conditions will give you a better idea of what others are using depending on where you are going.
Best of luck and be safe

Christopher Burden
(CjBurden) - F
Re: Re: Winter Camping Newbie on 02/07/2007 18:23:32 MST Print View

Mark, awesome post... a few things I'll comment on, and I have some additional questions also.

"I would be concerned about a 0F bag unless the person had very high loft clothing to be combined with the bag. When I was there I was using a -20F bag and struggled to stay warm enough through the night."

My bag is actually rated at -20F. It's a heavy primaloft bag which isn't the greatest for backpacking. I was a little worried about sweating into down so thats why I got it. I'm probably going to also grab a bag liner for the trip 'just in case'.

As for the pad, maybe I'll just use my old foam pad with the new thermarest.

"Bring a pee bottle"


"If your balaclava doesn't have an air warmer system over the mouth / nose.. bring one of those silly looking 3M air warming masks. This can make a significant different, especially when you sleep."

I'm not familiar with what an air warmer system even looks like. My balaclava is a generic poly one. I also have a seirus neoprene mask/fleece neck warmer. I planned on using the clava and if the wind got to be too much slapping the mask on. Would this be suitable? I never seem to need more than that snowboarding when I'm up there.

"I would want some soft of high loft jacket that I could put over everything"

I have 2 outer jackets, one is just a shell, one is an insulated jacket. I wasn't sure which i should bring, I'll go with the insulated one for sure now. It has an exceptionally good hood which lets in 0 wind. Perhaps I'll bring a down vest additionally.

"More than gear though, it's really important to know how to manage in cold."

Which I'm still trying to learn. I'm trying to err on the side of caution with the gear to cover up for any errors I may make in managing my heat.

My concern with VB socks is getting my liners soaked through. I guess that I could just stick them in a trash bag and in my sleeping bag with me to keep them warm and deal with them wet in the morning, or try to dry them with an emergency candle lantern (though I think they'll just freeze).

I really appreciate the feedback from everyone so far.

Christopher Burden
(CjBurden) - F
re: on 02/07/2007 18:51:13 MST Print View

Also wanted to mention about the alcohol... I would probably just bring something a little larger than a nip and take maybe a small swig of it, but this would only be if my body was warm enough but my fingers/toes needed a little help. Not something I'd be drinking for recreational purposes at all.

As for water, I guess what I'll likely wind up doing is bringing a few liters and making sure there is enough snow to melt. Normally I wouldn't question it, but its been a weird year in the northeast snow wise. If there isn't enough water/snow we'll just have to head home early.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: Winter Camping Newbie on 02/07/2007 18:57:25 MST Print View

> Why pee bottle?

Cause it's a lot warmer taking a leak in your tent than going outside.

> Breath warmer

I don't have personal experience with the seirus face mask. Looks like it might be good enough. Basically you want some sort of material over your nose / mouth which traps the warm moisture air. This can function much like a pre-heating system when you breath in. Otherwise, your body will heat up and humidity the air. At 0F, something like 50% of your resting metabolism is used up by this activity.

> Jackets

The challenge is that you don't want to overheat when you act active, but you don't want to chill to much when you stop. You need something like 5x the insulation sitting around camp as you do actively snowshoeing or some other high aerobic activity. What most of use to is where some combination of a base layer, light insulation (say 100wt) and some sort of wind shell (or maybe just a softshell like the rab vapour trail). This is actual protection when highly active, and is breathable enough that you don't end up with lost of moisture accumulating inside it. When you stop you layer over something that has a lot of insulation. So I would say that while you are hiking wear your base layer + uninsulated shell (or if it's really cold base + light fleece + shell), and have a warmer jacket or vest which you use to stay warm once you stop.

> VB socks

Using vapor barriers is an art which I have not 100% mastered. I just don't spend enough time in brutal cold. So I will tell you what I do, but others will had more wisdom. Some vapor barriers as comfortable against the skin like warmlite's fuzzy stuff or RBH. I would use these without liner. With others, I found the vapor barrier uncomfortable against the skin, so I used the lightest base I could find. At the end of the day, they were damp. When I got to camp I would take footwear off, put on a dry pair of liners, and put my feet into some primaloft booties to make sure they feet dried out. Before bed I would put the vapor barrier back on to minimize moisture accumulation in the bag. While I was sleeping, I would have what were the damp socks resting against my stomach. In the morning they would be dry and I would put them back on and store my sleeping socks away.

BTW: If you can get a copy, The Secret of Warmth is an excellent book.

> Alcohol

Experts in environmental medical universally agree that alcohol does significantly more harm than good. If you want the details start by googling for the terms: "Murray Hamlet" warm alcohol

> Snow in whites

or lack there of?! I can't imagine the whites without a super abundance of snow during the winter.

Edited by verber on 02/07/2007 19:23:04 MST.

Christopher Burden
(CjBurden) - F
re: on 02/07/2007 19:46:47 MST Print View

Meh, I'm just a couple hours from the whites and its been a crazy winter here. We've had record high tempartures and little to no snow all year.

As a matter of fact the last 2 winters have been very mild with very light snowfall. I'm sure theres plenty ofsnow, just not as much as you'd normally be accustomed to finding this time of year.

I guess if its going to cause more harm than good I'll leave the alcahol at home and just stick to wiggling my toes and fingers a lot :)

James Watts
(james481) - F

Locale: Sandia Mountains
Gaiters Optional? on 02/08/2007 11:27:57 MST Print View

If it were me, the gaiters would be part of the required clothing, not optional. I hike with gaiters four season, but if there is any chance of snow, rain, or mud, you're really going to want those to keep the bottom of your pants and feet dry and warm.

ETA: In fact, anytime I'm winter camping or snowshoeing in cold temperatures, I wear gaiters and Brooks Ranger low overboots. Long periods in winter require redundant systems of protection, particularly for your hands and feet.

Edited by james481 on 02/08/2007 11:31:13 MST.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Gaiters Optional? on 02/08/2007 11:40:05 MST Print View

I agree. Gaiter or overboots would be required assuming reasonable snow levels. My first response was off the top of the head, not looking through my winter list and asking the question "what's missing".


James Watts
(james481) - F

Locale: Sandia Mountains
Just For Comparison's Sake on 02/08/2007 12:08:39 MST Print View

Just to give the OP (or anyone else) ideas about winter clothing, here's the list that works well for me for camping or winter SAR, from hiking or snowshoeing at 40F to standing around camp at -10F or below, from skin out:

Serius Balaclava
TNF Beanie
Oakley Wisdom Goggles

Capalene 2 BL (while hiking)
MontBell UL Thermawrap Vest (while hiking if very cold)
Marmot Ion Windshirt (while hiking if no precipitation)
MontBell Alpine Down Jacket (while at rest / camp)
Marmot Precip shell

Capalene 2 BL (while hiking)
REI Expedition Weight LJ (camp insulation)
Marmot ATV softshell pants (while hiking)
REI UL rain pants (if things get really windy / sloppy)

Polypro glove liners
OR Prophet GTX gloves
RBH VaprThrm Mitts (for in camp or if things really get nasty)

Smartwool Liners
Smartwool Mountaineering Socks
La Sportiva Makalu Boots
OR Brooks Ranger Low Overboots
OR Crocs Gaiters
Either Atlas 1230 Snowshoes or Grivel Air Tech crampons

Edited by james481 on 02/08/2007 12:10:30 MST.

James Watts
(james481) - F

Locale: Sandia Mountains
Just One More... on 02/08/2007 12:30:05 MST Print View

Also, I would strongly recommend at least one of you bring a good GPS unit. They can be a real life saver (literally) when it's too dark / snowed in to get a good sighting with a compass.

Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Re: Re: Winter Camping Newbie on 02/08/2007 14:17:28 MST Print View

If your balaclava doesn't have an air warmer system over the mouth / nose.. bring one of those silly looking 3M air warming masks.

Mark V, what does a 3M Air Warming Mask look like? Do you have a picture?

I'm looking for something light but the best I could come up with is a dust mask which doesn't have a very good fit.

Maybe this is what you are talking about...

3M Respiratory Products

Edited by pappekak on 02/08/2007 14:22:10 MST.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: Winter Camping Newbie on 02/08/2007 15:18:51 MST Print View

They look at look a lot like the dust mask you sent a link to. The box said "warming mask". Something like 20 in a box which was several dollars (less than $10). I purchased them a couple of years ago.

No, the fit isn't great, it's a bit of a fight to make it behave. But I have found it to be more effective than a scarf or polypro bacalava. As I said, doing something is better than nothing. The polarwrap looks to be the fully engineering solution, but I wouldn't recommend it until someone was really serious about cold weather and was on their second iteration to improve their system.


Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Winter Camping Newbie on 02/08/2007 22:21:19 MST Print View

There was someone who sold another heat exchanger balaclava; I forget the name. It looked like there was crepe paper or a little white radiator where the mouthpiece should be.

It seems to me that it was more-or-less dismissed as a gimmick, but then again consumers are a fickle bunch.

Anyone remember this thing or is it just me?

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: Winter Camping Newbie on 02/09/2007 15:33:07 MST Print View

>There was someone who sold another heat exchanger balaclava

It's not a gimmick. I was skiing at +5F two weeks ago and was freezing on the lift. I had just started to warm up by the time I reached the bottom. The second time up I added the Psolar.HX (2.4 oz) and found that I was warming rapidly. By the time I got to the bottom I was sweating. I took it off and was back to being cold. It also doesn't inhibit breathing when you're going full-out. Google "psolar" for other comments.

In the past I've worn one of those 3M dust masks (0.1 oz) mentioned above while sleeping and found that it did make a difference in sleeping warmth. I was back/side sleeping in my hammock so it didn't bother me. The fact that it didn't fit closely didn't seem to matter. An advantage over the Psolar is that you can breath through your nose. At this weight I'll probably continue to bring it along for that use.

Edited by Otter on 02/09/2007 15:39:46 MST.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Just One More... on 02/09/2007 15:35:10 MST Print View

>Also, I would strongly recommend at least one of you bring a good GPS unit. They can be a real life saver (literally) when it's too dark / snowed in to get a good sighting with a compass.

Or when your maps blow away in a blizzard...

Christopher Burden
(CjBurden) - F
I leave tommorrow! on 02/15/2007 12:04:04 MST Print View

I wanted to give some specifics as to the gear I'll be bringing. As I had said, most of that was just a generic list so that my camp buddy could adapt it for his gear.

Tent: Eureka K2-XT
Sleeping Bag: -20° Slumberjack bag
Sleeping pad: Exped Downmat 9
Stove: Jetboil pcs

extra sweater and a down vest for additional warmth along with some backup layers.... just in case.

Definately over packing but I would rather be safe than sorry, and our hike will be relatively short (less than 3 miles)

I'm bringing a cannister of fuel per day (jetboil) and I'm going to only bring a days worth of water instead of lugging a couple gallons. I'm going to try to actually melt the snow without the jetboil first (using trashbag method... we'll see) but I'm bringing enough fuel just in case.

The whites just got hit with 2 feet of snow so I'm going to have the chance to build a snow shelter (and hopefully sleep in it if all goes well). The weather looks to be pretty moderate Fri-Sat with an arctic front rolling in late Sunday, so that is promising.

All in all feeling pretty confident that I'm going in well prepared and that we are in for a good time. I'll post back afterwards! =)

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: I leave tommorrow! on 02/15/2007 14:09:44 MST Print View

Make sure you keep your canister warm enough (above 32F) which is the boiling point for the butane. It's possible to start the stove below this temp, but you will quick burn off propane, leaving the majority of fuel unused. Keep in mind that the temp of the canister typical drops as you use it due to the pressure of releasing the gases. Make sure you at least:

1) Warm up the canister before using. I typically but the canister between my base layer and insulation until it's not cold to the touch.

2) Put the canister onto of some sort of insulation so the cold ground / snow doesn't cool the canister.