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Snow shelter question
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Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Snow shelter question on 11/11/2012 09:35:18 MST Print View

Hi folks,

A friend of mine asked me would I post this question.
I will point him to this thread to read the replies.



For winter camping where snow is used in the construction of a shelter (snow trenches, snow holes, dog houses, quinzees, etc.), which sleeping bag would be best suited to this purpose?

In other words, which combination of sleeping bag properties (down vs synthetic fill, Pertex vs. Gore Wind Stopper shell, etc.) would present the optimal sleeping bag for snow camping without a tent?

Also, what sleeping bag temperature rating would you shoot for? As some snow shelters can warm up to just above freezing temperatures, would a bag rated for 32F/0C be ideal? Or taking into account other factors (bag taking on moisture over time--impacting thermal efficiency, the possibility of having to use a less than ideal snow shelter, where you are more exposed--such as a trench, etc.), would you shoot for a much lower temperature range (if so, what?)?

Finally, which items, if necessary, would you use to augment your sleeping bag/snow shelter combo (bivy, vbl liner, tarp, etc.--sleeping pads are a given) to efficiently perserve and maintain warmth?

Suggestions for specific product makes/models would be appreciated.


Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Snow Shelter Question on 11/11/2012 11:10:47 MST Print View

I think the right answer is, "it all depends" on expected weather, snow conditions, length of trip, elevation, itinerary, your expertise at building a snow shelter.

I go out for relatively short trips of one to three nights in the Sierra Nevada. You often do not know if there will be enough snow to build a snow cave, and a snow trench is of course cooler than a cave.

In the Sierra Nevada most of the time below tree line the night time temperatures do not drop much below 5 or 10 degrees F. I have never been cold sleeping in my zero degree C down bag from MH. I take an old BPL bivvy sack for use inside a snow cave but most of the time end up sleeping on top of it.

I have rented various brand zero degree C synthetic bags and found 1) they took up too much room in my backpack and 2) the temperature ratings were very optimistic.

Edited by btolley on 11/11/2012 11:11:40 MST.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Snow Shelter Question on 11/11/2012 15:28:07 MST Print View

Thanks Bruce,

Dan Lee
(scoutbuff) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
SOME ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS... on 11/24/2012 16:11:55 MST Print View

Because conditions can vary so much and depending on the length of your trip, I would recommend some kind of bivy to augment a down or synthetic bag. If there's no snow or not enough to build a cave, you have something of a shelter and wind break. I'm a cold sleeper so will use a bivy with my 15 degree down bag if snow caving. We have very dry conditions in Colorado so down is usually a safe bet. If you're going to the NW or NE, I would probably tend to a synthetic bag. Just my two cents...