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Maia
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking on 10/23/2012 16:31:39 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: 5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking on 10/23/2012 17:17:19 MDT Print View

Good read, thanks!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: 5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking on 10/23/2012 20:23:41 MDT Print View

Good info. I got to go plan a winter outing now

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: 5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking on 10/23/2012 20:32:03 MDT Print View

Neat little article with some good links. Still looking at Arizona and SoCal for soloing this winter, but, to add, may need to look at the snowy higher elevations too with some fresh ideas.

Edited by hknewman on 10/24/2012 11:00:08 MDT.

Gregory Allen
(Gallen1119) - M

Locale: Golden, CO
Nice on 10/23/2012 20:58:34 MDT Print View

Great article and thanks for all the links. I have a lot of reading and planning to do.

I promise my original post a couple of,days ago was not a plant to get discussion started or to bait the crowd!

Cheers

Charles P
(mediauras)

Locale: Terra
Re: 5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking on 10/23/2012 22:04:11 MDT Print View

Nice read, thanks. And a nice collection of links, most of which I haven't read yet. I'm looking to try my hand at winter/snow camping this year in the Sierras. I'm getting pumped!

PS. More little tricks please.

Edited by mediauras on 10/23/2012 22:05:06 MDT.

Michael Richey
(beaverboymike) - M

Locale: Southern Utah
goldmine on 10/23/2012 22:06:16 MDT Print View

Wow, what a goldmine of references to great articles. I know for years that I was a 3 season backpacker due to lack of gear and experience in winter hiking. The last three winters have been a joy, but I needed what this article taught to take me to the next level!

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking on 10/23/2012 22:33:57 MDT Print View

Excellent article! I especially appreciated the links to old articles. There's a lot of pure gold in the article archives waiting to be tapped! (Oops, mixed metaphor! Let's say "liquid gold" or "waiting to be mined.":)

For us Pacific Northwesterners, who even at higher altitudes are as liable to be in rain as in snow, some of the articles about hiking in cold rain are useful, too. This one is really good, IMHO:
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/lightweight_guide_to_backpacking_in_sustained_rain.html

Edited by hikinggranny on 10/24/2012 14:53:08 MDT.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: Winter backpacking on 10/24/2012 07:39:31 MDT Print View

Another great article, Dave. Your inclusion of the many links really turns this into a stand alone reference worthy of bookmarking. I had somehow missed a couple of the early articles the first time around and they gave me some things to think about.

As an aside, I've really been enjoying the new influx of technical articles in recent months. Thank you for your many contributions.

Brendan Swihart
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: 5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking on 10/24/2012 10:41:43 MDT Print View

Excellent, Dave. Thanks.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: 5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking on 10/24/2012 11:36:57 MDT Print View

Good consciousness raising article. I've done some x-country day tripping in the Washington Cascades and enjoyed the seasonal contrast. Camping is a whole other order, but just some extra weight and bulk as far as base weight goes.

I think winter navigation is a daunting aspect for less experienced hikers, with the trail covered and landmarks blurred. It's not a good time to get lost. Honing up map and compass skills on dry ground makes excellent winter travel preparation.

Knowing your limits is important on winter trips. Turning around and going home is NOT failure, just good common sense. I haven't done multi-day backcountry snow trips. I would be prepared for much more physical exertion and knowing what the weather report means for your location. I would want to know more about reading avalanche conditions, as many of my favorite summer trails have slide chutes that aren't an issue after the thaw.

It can be beautiful. The mud and leaves are covered over, bare trees have snow covered branches, the air seems so pure, and everything sounds different in the snow. If you can escape the snowmobilers on the weekends, the solitude is wonderful.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Re: 5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking on 10/24/2012 11:37:58 MDT Print View

Top Marks Dave, its nice to have all this information in one place.

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
re 5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking on 10/24/2012 11:59:59 MDT Print View

Good read. Appreciated the links to other like-minded articles for further reading.

Yes 1000
(mamamia)
Can't wait for winter adventure. on 10/24/2012 13:43:46 MDT Print View

Excellent article David. Thank you.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking on 10/24/2012 14:58:58 MDT Print View

One important thing for those of us in mountainous terrain--check the avalanche forecast before going out. It's important to learn to judge snow conditions and to judge the terrain so places where avalanches are likely can be avoided. If I'm going alone in the snow (I usually stay below the snow line in winter, but I'm considering taking up snowshoeing once more), I'll stay on flat ground, well away from any possible avalanche runouts (they can go a surprisingly long way).

Herman E
(hre814) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Good info on 10/24/2012 15:00:39 MDT Print View

Dave,

Thanks for the info. Unrelated to winter camping, but what pack are you sporting in that photo of you doing a ski toss? Good timing as winter is already here in Alaska.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: pack on 10/24/2012 17:46:34 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone.

Herman, the pack is a Mountain Hardwear Thruway 50. A review is part of a larger project I'm currently writing up. In short, it's got a lot of good stuff but needs a suspension redesign and longer torso lengths for each size to merit the price.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Great links on 10/24/2012 19:44:23 MDT Print View

Thanks for a very interesitng article.

I agree with Michael R., this article is a "goldmine" of links to other winter camping articles.

And (IMHO) THE best book on the subject, especially for beginners, is "Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book".

Having taught winter survival to ARMY ROTC cadets for a few years I can say that it is almost a necessity for beginners to do their first winter trips with experienced winter campers. The crazy mistakes beginners make are usually laughable but could be very serious without a "guide".

On a personal note I am about two years away from becoming a National Ski Patrol Mountain Travel and Rescue instructor. Never stop learning.

Kathy A Handyside
(earlymusicus) - M

Locale: Southeastern Michigan
Re: "5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking" on 10/26/2012 23:32:28 MDT Print View

Great article and the photos are fantastic. I live in Michigan where we get wet snow conditions, so I would have to revamp my equipment to take that into consideration (a synthetic sleeping bag, for instance).

The photos make me long for snow! We hardly got any here last winter.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Re: "5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking" on 10/27/2012 14:47:23 MDT Print View

I was disappointed myself Kathy with the lack of snow in Michigan, fingers crossed we get far more this winter.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: "5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking" on 10/27/2012 16:00:32 MDT Print View

I was disappointed myself Kathy with the lack of snow in Michigan, fingers crossed we get far more this winter.

ditto for MN ... but I found more than enough snow in the Porkies late last winter.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Re: "5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking" on 10/27/2012 16:17:38 MDT Print View

I was up in Pictured Rocks in late March and there was no snow about at all.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: "5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking" on 10/27/2012 18:33:55 MDT Print View

We were in the Porkies Mar 2-4. Back country snow depths was about 40"

It warmed up quickly after that, high temps in the 50's be the end of that week and 50-70 every day for 2 weeks ... bye-bye snow!

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Re: "5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking" on 10/27/2012 19:40:09 MDT Print View

Most definitely yo-yo weather.

Kathy A Handyside
(earlymusicus) - M

Locale: Southeastern Michigan
Re: Re: Re: "5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking" on 10/28/2012 19:08:25 MDT Print View

Hi Stephen - Same here! Last winter I was going to get some new skis from L.L. Bean and then held off from buying them. Glad I didn't spend the money. Hopefully, this year...fingers and toes crossed for snow! LOL

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Darin would have died under a 10-foot snowfall on 10/30/2012 14:25:23 MDT Print View

FATAL ERROR 1: no real snow shovel. I have a snowclaw, which is basically useless in a massive snowfall. It is not unheard of for Pacific snowfalls to accumulate at 1 foot per hour (ever hear of the Donner party?). The forecasts for this trip were for heavy snow and heavy winds. No one could keep up with a 1-foot-per-hour snowfall with a snowclaw. Only a real shovel, with a long handle and a big blade, could make a dent.
FATAL ERROR 2: no tent. If someone woke up buried under 5 feet of heavy, wet snow (the most common on the West Coast), inside a bivy, he or she would have died. They couldn’t have moved a muscle, any more than being buried under wet concrete. A tent would have given a better chance to get out and start shoveling with a real shovel.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Darin would have died under a 10-foot snowfall on 10/30/2012 14:53:11 MDT Print View

Hi Robert,

You lost me on that one, who is Darin? Is someone in the article.

Cheers,

Jim Sweeney
(swimjay) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Snowfall on 10/30/2012 15:12:12 MDT Print View

In some situations, a tent might prove to be a drawback--if snow is falling at the rate of 1 foot per hour, then wouldn't the tent be buried, and eventually collapse, after 10 hours or so (at least most of the tents discussed on this site)? That rate of snowfall doesn't, I think, usually last for more than a day, and, at least on the West Coast, is usually accompanied by temperatures above 10 deg., or warmer, unless one is at altitude--in which case the rate of deposition would be substantially less.

So if one dressed warmly, and kept moving in a circumscribed area--around and in the lee of a tree, say--one could wait until the rate of deposition diminished, then set up ones tent. (This assumes one moves slowly, not perspiring, and has warm layers to wear).


More dangerous generally, I think, is a lower rate of snowfall accompanied by very high winds and low temps, where a shovel, or snow claw, would be useful for digging a trench.

The main thing, I think, is to stay calm, and the best way to stay calm is to be confident of ones knowledge/experience, which is one of the points of the article.

In high winds/great cold/heavy snowfall, a good snow cave, which can be built with a bear claw if one has time and/or skill, has many advantages over a tent.

The Donner party was immobilized by snow fall and their lack of knowledge, but died slowly, of starvation, not primarily by freezing. (48 of the original party of 87 survived, according to Wikipedia).

Edited by swimjay on 10/30/2012 15:30:09 MDT.

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Death in the snow on 10/30/2012 17:21:29 MDT Print View

Stephen, find this link in this article: "Darin Banner’s video essay on a snowshoe circumnavigation of Crater Lake shows how what is a zoo in the summer becomes wilderness in winter" and click it.

James: "So if one dressed warmly, and kept moving in a circumscribed area--around and in the lee of a tree, say--one could wait" Yes, I like that idea. Survivors in Canadian cold snaps have walked around frozen lakes to keep warm.

"Wouldn't the tent be buried?" Yes, unless one spent hours digging the snow away with a real shovel, which would also keep one warm. Less buried than a bivy sack.

"where a shovel, or snow claw, would be useful for digging a trench." Yes, but a snowclaw is almost useless for that, I think; have you tried it?

"In high winds/great cold/heavy snowfall, a good snow cave, which can be built with a bear claw if one has time and/or skill, has many advantages over a tent." A snow cave is a wonderful life saver, which is the main reason to always bring a real big shovel if snowfall is possisble.

"The Donner party was immobilized by snow fall and their lack of knowledge" Yes, they could have packed a trail up and out of the Donner Lake area with all the time they had available between storms, to go to Reno and gamble, for instance.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Death in the snow on 10/30/2012 17:48:51 MDT Print View

Thanks Robert

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Snowfall on 10/30/2012 21:26:41 MDT Print View

WHAT!??? You guy's not interested in replicating Erin's and Hig's experience?

IIRC, that was a late spring storm on the Alaskan Peninsula.

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Re: re: snowfall on 10/31/2012 10:38:31 MDT Print View

Imagine a bivy sack under that pile of snow.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Snowclaw on 10/31/2012 11:22:55 MDT Print View

Unless there are thick ice layers in the snowpack, a Snowclaw is great for digging a trench. It's a bit more awkward when digging a full on cave. In any case, I do not accept the argument that for digging a tent out from heavy snow a metal shovel is magically better.

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Re: re: Snowclaw on 10/31/2012 11:59:21 MDT Print View

In my limited experience, when I've tried moving snow with my snowclaw, or even a tiny plastic shovel, you have to get down on your knees, use just your arms, and get just a spoonful of snow per cycle. You'd have to be faster and stronger than John Henry, the steel-drivin man to keep up with a snowfall rate of 1 foot per hour, the premise of my original post. With a shovel with a long (extendable) shaft and a big blade, you can use your leg muscles, your butt muscles, your lower back muscles, and a lot more muscles not available when you are on your knees. I'll race you: you take your little sandbox toy and I'll take a real shovel.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Darin would have died under a 10-foot snowfall on 10/31/2012 15:59:58 MDT Print View

> FATAL ERROR 1: no real snow shovel. I have a snowclaw, which is basically useless in
> a massive snowfall. It is not unheard of for Pacific snowfalls to accumulate at 1
> foot per hour (ever hear of the Donner party?). The forecasts for this trip were for
> heavy snow and heavy winds.

FATAL ERROR 0: ignoring the forecast of heavy wind and heavy snowfall AND not being adequately equipped for the conditions.

Cheers

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Darin would have died under a 10-foot snowfall on 10/31/2012 17:33:52 MDT Print View

"FATAL ERROR 0: ignoring the forecast of heavy wind and heavy snowfall AND not being adequately equipped for the conditions."

+1

David Adair
(DavidAdair) - M

Locale: West Dakota
Re: re: Snowclaw on 10/31/2012 20:50:25 MDT Print View

Great article! Nice writing and good content. Yes, it is good to keep in mind the idea is to have fun. The suffer fests probably make for better stories though.

A metal shovel loses some utility when solo. Unless it is one of the those magical ones that will dig you out. My Snowclaw is 6.5 oz and a shovel weighs quite a bit more. A 5 quart tin plated steel Leaktite pail weighs 11 oz and makes a decent digging tool. Nice for making water over a wood fire too. At 8 inches in diameter by 6.5 inches tall it's a trick to pack though.

leaktite pail

Maybe a smaller pot would work. Anybody?

Edited by DavidAdair on 10/31/2012 22:37:17 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Re: re: Snowclaw on 11/01/2012 08:14:17 MDT Print View

A snow claw makes a nice serving plate/ seat/stove board.

If in a team of 2 or 3 carry one snow claw and one normal shovel, and maybe a snow probe.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Re: Re: Re: re: Snowclaw on 11/01/2012 08:50:23 MDT Print View

I've messed around w/ a Snowclaw and wasn't overly impressed as far as building shelters (works fine for clearing small amounts of snow). I have a small BCA shovel that weighs right at 16 oz that really works well for shelter building; pretty beefy, all aluminum construction to boot

Jim Sweeney
(swimjay) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Winter weight on 11/01/2012 11:26:44 MDT Print View

A shovel is a great engineering tool to have. Notice that I don't care quite as much about weight in winter--travel many fewer miles, am more interested in camp set-up, rarely gain as much altitude.