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Grand Canyon in January
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robert van putten

Locale: Planet Bob
Grand Canyon in January on 11/15/2012 11:11:54 MST Print View

Hey folks,
I was wondering if I could pick the brains of anyone here who may be familar with the conditions one might expect to encounter down in the Grand Canyon in January.

The proposed trip is a decent of the South Kaibab trail, two nights at Bright Angle camp with plenty of day hikes, the third night at Indian Gardens camp then up and out on Bright Angle trail. So it's not a terribly ambitious trip.

The gear my wife and I were thinking of taking is this -

One old 20 degree synthetic sleeping bag for my wife and I -
This is used open like a quilt over us, and zips to a sheet that holds two therma-rest pads below. It's the old "thermanest" sleep system, and we got it perhaps 18 years ago?
It has long since been discontinued.

Sleeping pads - I have one mid-1980 vintage thermarest pad, full size, ( 72 x 20 ). I'm not sure of the weight or R value, it is heavy but it is very warm. On a canoe trip last month my wife slept on it and I on a Wal-Mart blue foam pad next to her and I could easily tell the old Thermarest was very much warmer.

- I need a new 72" x 20" pad to work properly with this system, as that is what the zippered bottom sheet is designed to hold. I don't expect a simple foam pad to be warm enough. Trouble is, the lightest pad thermarest makes like this seems to be the "base camp" at 2 lbs, 9 ounces!

We do have a Ray-Way 2P quilt kit laying around....Maybe I can con my wife into sewing that together for this trip...But we'd still need appropriate pads.

I haven't got that much coin so I'd rather not ( can not ) blow to much here.

Anyway, my clothing list looks like this -

REI synthetic long johns, I think my top is a "medium" weight and the bottoms "lightweight".

G.I. winter weight BDU trousers ( because it's what I have )

Some sort of shirt or the other - I have one old fleece shirt laying around and may wear that if it's particularly cold. Otherwise it's probably a cotton work shirt or flannel shirt because that's all I have.

Fleece pullover with hood. This is fairly lightweight but pretty warm. I can't give a name brand because it doesn't have one. I got it at a second hand store for a buck.

Frogg Toggs suit for wind / rain.

Uniqlo ( how the heck do you pronounce that??) ultralight down parka, for in camp and suchlike. (See? I do have some name brand gear!)

Gloves and warm hat of course.

Does the above sound OK or do I ned to pull out the really cold weather gear?

Other stuff maybe worth mentioning,
Golite Jam 70 liter pack
MSR wisperlight stove

Shelter -

I have a Timberline 2 tent. great tent, but it's like 7 pounds so I was thinking of blowing the coin on a Tarptent Squall 2.

Other folks I'm going on this trip with will be taking four season bomber tents or three season freestanding tents. Am I crazy thinking about a non-freestanding tarp tent in the gand Canyon in january??

Edited by Bawana on 11/15/2012 11:12:41 MST.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Grand Canyon in January on 11/15/2012 11:25:55 MST Print View

I'd say check the weather as it gets closer. There's a pretty huge range of weather you could have. We were down there in early february and it was 70+ at the bottom and very mild lows...a couple months later when a bunch of people did R2R2R they had crazy snow and cold.

Microspikes or equivalent are a good idea.

robert van putten

Locale: Planet Bob
Spikes! on 11/15/2012 12:28:48 MST Print View

Yes, goes without saying.

Our driveway gets snowed out every year, and we park our rigs 1/2 mile down the mountain on an old logging road which iis mostly-sorta kept open by logging companies. I never leave home without a set of spikes and often snowshoes, just essential gear for going to work every day!

Christopher Jenkins
(Jinkle) - F
Spikes on 11/17/2012 13:09:28 MST Print View

Definitely going to need them on the South Kaibab at least... ice was still pretty bad in mid March earlier this year

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: GC in January on 11/27/2012 12:12:18 MST Print View

Depending on the forecast you might be a bit cold at Indian Gardens. It doesn't get much sun in winter.

Freestanding tents are nice at those sites because the ground is rock solid from use. A tarp is doable, there will probably be well used rocks laying around. Thin, tough stakes are a good idea.

Jeff J
(j.j.81) - F

Locale: Oregon
Quilt? on 11/27/2012 12:41:09 MST Print View

I have a hard time telling from your description, but have you used that synthetic bag recently? If it's 18 years old, it's entirely possible that it won't be a 20 degree bag anymore. I would say you'd be lucky if it's a 40 degree quilt now. Unless the bag is newer and it's just the pads/bottom sheet that are 18 years old.


Edited by j.j.81 on 11/27/2012 12:41:57 MST.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Grand Canyon in January on 11/28/2012 07:15:55 MST Print View

Personally, I'd be wary about an older "20-degree" synthetic bag unless you've used it recently down into the 20's and are confident in its temperature rating.

For January, at the river, I'd expect average daytime highs in the 50's and night-time lows in the mid-30's. Indian Garden, however, is at 4K feet, which translates to about 10 degrees colder. I would be prepared for well-below freezing temps. If you take a 20-degree sleep system, be prepared to supplement with clothing. If there's a freak cold front, you can always hike out in one day and avoid a cold night at IG.

I'd probably never take a winter tent in the Canyon, at least not for the corridor campgrounds. In fact, I've actually never taken a tent -- usually camp cowboy style or a simple tarp if it's raining. I've had below-freezing nights on Horseshoe Mesa, Whites Butte and Surprise Valley (i.e. open exposed areas) and haven't needed an enclosed tent. YMMV.