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Maia
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Camping in the Snow on 11/27/2012 19:53:27 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Camping in the Snow

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Lartnec Nagihcim
Re: Camping in the Snow on 11/27/2012 20:38:09 MST Print View

Great article Roger, just in time for winter :-)

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Love it on 11/27/2012 21:27:29 MST Print View

Great article. I have not done "hard core" snow camping but this would have been a very handy resource when I was spring camping in CO (and camping in the occasionaly Virginia blizzard).

David W.
(Davidpcvsamoa) - MLife

Locale: East Bay, CA
Thanks Roger on 11/27/2012 21:46:59 MST Print View

Well written as always! This article provided nuggets of wisdom and also reinforced some techniques I have learned through experience. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Marc Eldridge
(meld) - MLife

Locale: The here and now.
Re: Camping in the Snow on 11/27/2012 22:36:48 MST Print View

Great article Roger. By the way when can we expect to see your tents on the market.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Camping in the Snow on 11/28/2012 04:06:36 MST Print View

Thanks, Roger. Good article!

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Camping in the Snow on 11/28/2012 04:06:36 MST Print View

Dual Post

Edited by jamesdmarco on 11/28/2012 04:23:11 MST.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife
Re: Camping in the Snow on 11/28/2012 06:19:35 MST Print View

If you like books, don't forget Mike C!'s winter classic.

http://www.amazon.com/Allen-Really-Backcountry-Revised-Better/dp/0762745851/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1354108617&sr=8-6&keywords=mike+clelland

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Camping in the Snow on 11/28/2012 08:48:58 MST Print View

Great article, as I've only faced snow on the ground (never flurries). An ultralight, yet truly winter storm-worthy tent would be a good project for gear makers.

Edited by hknewman on 11/28/2012 08:49:41 MST.

Erik Basil
(EBasil) - M

Locale: Atzlan
Camping in the Snow on 11/28/2012 10:14:34 MST Print View

Ditto above: nice job on this article. It will be useful!

Aaron Divine
(aarondivine) - M
Shelter Anchors... Natural??? on 11/28/2012 10:59:37 MST Print View

I did not see much attention to Natural Anchors.
What about using a good old stick or rock?
I have gone for several month-long snow camping trips without any specifically designed man-made shelter anchors and been quite fine - so long as there is a sufficient rock or stick source available and an ample snowpack to bury them.

All that one needs is a small object to bury or "dead-man" in the snow...even a flat rock the size of a standard compass or a stick the diameter of your thumb can provide a very secure anchoring if well placed and utilized in a balanced method with several varied tie-downs surrounding the shelter.

I guess the "trick" is to not use them as pictured above in the article, but rather, dig a hole of sufficient depth (6 - 12 inches?), place the rock/stick horizontal to ground surface with the tie down cord running under the anchor object and back up out for creating a half hitch or trucker's hitch, then bury it back over with snow and stomp the snow down work hardening the medium and tightening the cords all around. (Ice Lenses uncovered from diggin your tent platform can work too if thick enough!).

The joy here in using this method is that in the morning when your anchors are frozen beneath the work-hardend snow, you simply release your half-hitch, pull the cord and leave behind the little rock/stick that you found on site. Very light weight, secure, and quick.

Try it!

Edited by aarondivine on 11/28/2012 11:12:12 MST.

Ralph B Alcorn
(backpack45scb) - M
Cooking in vestibule if it has a floor on 11/28/2012 12:14:45 MST Print View

I've got a Stephenson's Warmlite which is a good winter tent other than it has a floor in the vestibule. I've considered cooking with my canister stove during some dire circumstances but haven't done it. Is there a relatively safe way to do this? My concern is mainly catching the floor on fire or melting it.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Camping in the Snow on 11/28/2012 12:23:25 MST Print View

Roger, thanks for the great primer article. You might enjoy this photo of my friend Jon getting some air on 3-pin gear on a winter outing we took two weeks ago.

Raymond Estrella
(rayestrella) - MLife

Locale: Northern Minnesota
Camping in the Snow on 11/28/2012 12:52:32 MST Print View

I'm inspired and can't wait to try it out. ;-)

Great article, Roger.

peter vacco
(fluff@inreach.com) - M

Locale: no. california
fantastic article. on 11/28/2012 18:34:06 MST Print View

all i can add is that the smallest cord grips OWC sells are not glove compatible, you'll need the "next to smallest" ones for that.
great article.
let us not dismiss rogers spindrift concerns. i seen that stuff fill up 8 full inches level across the inside my tent once. it was not at all fun.

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Cooking in vestibule if it has a floor on 11/28/2012 18:34:41 MST Print View

@Ralph: I also use a Warmlite tent a lot in the winter. I have cooked successfully inside the tent with a canister stove, but it's very tricky. Yes, you must be careful not to melt or ignite surroundings. But, the biggest challenge I found was creating a stable, non-slip platform for the stove. I suppose you could bring a piece of...something...for the task, but I've made do with prepping the snow under the tent floor near the stove to be compacted, uniform, and perfectly level. Any imperfections under the snow send it sliding around on the slick floor, or tipping over.

You just have to be hyper-meticulous during cooking -- move slowly, avoid spills, etc. (Sometimes easier said, than done.)

It also helps greatly to cook alone in the tent. I have a "2C" Warmlite, and there just isn't enough space for two persons, their gear, and a cook setup at the same time. YMMV.

-Mike

Scott Chassey
(schassey) - F

Locale: Bay Area
Source for hard aluminum sheet? on 11/28/2012 19:02:41 MST Print View

Great article, thanks very much. I'm especially intrigued by the 70 gram scrapers. Where did you source the aluminum stock? You've got me thinking about some IKEA book ends I have laying about, but I think they're a bit too small. Definitely going to try my hand at making some.

Mark Schultz
(mgschultz)
Igloo Camping on 11/28/2012 23:59:07 MST Print View

Been building and camping in an igloo with my son for several winters. We pull MYOG pulk sleds and use an igloo maker by Grand Shelters. Very comfy shelter, but as you mention, it's a lot of work and takes way too long - not practical after a day of backpacking in short winter days. We build the igloo within a couple miles and then snowboard the next day. The upside is that it can last all winter so you can go back. This year we're going farther with the old sturdy 3-4 season Mountain Hardware Glacier tent - I think it was the first tent MH ever made. It's held up well in moderate snow storms and wind. Some tips we've learned: cut an old mouse pad to fit under your upright canister stove to keep it insulated and prevent it from sinking in the snow. A closed-cell foam pad under a thermarest is just right. Before you spend hundreds on that -20deg down bag, try your 3-season bag with a quilt on top or an opened-up rectangular bag on top. Bring a pee bottle (wide-mouth lid WELL labeled) so you stay in your tent for a long long great night of rest.

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Pictures, comments on 11/29/2012 17:20:51 MST Print View

Hi Roger - a fine article, as always.

Several of the photos are mine (perhaps ones I sent to you for a previous tent article I edited or for other past work). It would be nice to get the credits added in case the article is shared, but more usefully to the discussion, I thought I'd identify what they show and expand on a couple of your points.

The 2nd picture, the large one of the blue Brawny Tacoma tarptent with the snowshoes, is in late winter/early spring at Lassen Volcanic National Park. In the series of four tents in good weather, the top left is my Hilleberg Saivo at Lassen National Forest in February, bottom left my Tarptent Cloudburst at Yosemite National Park at New Year's, and bottom right an Equinox poncho tarp with a Backpackinglight Vapr Bivy, in the Tahoe National Forest in Spring.

All of those were in mostly mild conditions, as stated, with the tarptents in particular being realistic only for good conditions like that (more on that in a moment).

In the stormy series of photos, that's the Saivo again, after a snowstorm in Lassen Volcanic NP. At top right is a Bibler Tempest in a strong gale near Carson Pass in the Eldorado National Forest. I did want to note that it's a single-walled tent, and to make that point that there are conditions where those work well, especially when the fabric is somewhat breathable like that used for the main body of the Tempest, and when conditions are on the dry side. As a side note, on that particular trip I set the Bibler up in the midst of a blizzard the night before that picture, and it was quite a struggle to get the poles (internal, with pockets and twist ties inside to hold them in place) situated; one of them ended up bent, though the tent held up! That area routinely gets winds over 60 mph, with gusts of 100+ mph on ridgelines. I'd only use the Hilleberg, Bibler or similar tents in that area if there were even a remote chance of a winter storm.

The bottom right picture in that series is the Tacoma tarptent again, in February near Dewey Point at Yosemite NP. I was seeing just how light I could go, and certainly exceeded the limits of the gear (a tarptent with only open mesh on one side, though I did use a bivy sack inside; an alcohol stove; lightweight but sufficient clothing). I did that knowing my skills, having friends just down the trail camping in more appropriate shelters, and being within a couple hours snowshoe of the trailhead and car. Circling back to the use of tarptents or light bivies with tarps, and noting that I've occasionally been caught in unforecast storms, I would not make those a first choice in the mountains in winter. In shoulder season, especially spring in the Sierra Nevada, they can be airy and comfortable, but using them in winter in the mountains carries more risk in my opinion than using even a bivy sack and tarp. And, regardless of the shelter, I now bring SMS snow anchors and snow stakes, the anchors being the most reliable choice.

The picture of the folks in the snow kitchen is from Yosemite as well (that's blogger Calipidder and her husband, backpacking buddies of mine for many years). When we go in larger groups like that, we always take time to dig out a snow kitchen table, seats, and trench, and sometimes niches for cooking and storage; otherwise, we tend to cook individually in vestibules, with all the cautions you recommend. In the fairly mild conditions in the picture, you can see we were using both remote canister and canister-top stoves, but for more serious conditions, I always bring a remote canister stove now (in preference to gasoline/diesel/kerosene stoves, which can be reliable and powerful, but no longer seem worth the trouble and mess for our conditions here). If I'm using a pulk, I usually bring a heat exchanger or heat exchanger pot in addition to the remote canister stove and windscreen, to increase efficiency.

The orange Golite Hex with the snow block wall belongs to Calipidder and her husband as well. On that trip, we stomped down a snow quarry, let it sinter, then used a snow saw to carve out the blocks and place them around the Hex. Conditions didn't actually call for this - it's the same trip where I slept under the tarp pictured earlier - but it was good practice to do it. We saw that it is certainly something better done before a storm hits, not once it's under way, and would offer only a modicum of additional protection. (I would more likely bury the perimeter of the Hex with snow and live with the limited airflow from the top vent - and resulting condensation - if I were trying to keep a raging storm out).

Thanks for helping get more people out in a wonderful, but sometimes underutilized, season.

A last pic, showing my wife very happy to be in a "real" tent, at Crater Lake National Park in mid-winter (sorry I can't remember how to embed pics):

[img]http://www.brilliantmedia.com/bp/jannucraterlake.jpg[/img]

Edited by slnsf on 11/29/2012 18:09:58 MST.

Gordon Bedford
(gbedford) - MLife

Locale: Victoria, Australia
Camping in the snow on 11/30/2012 04:19:40 MST Print View

Good material Roger.
Were the snapped poles carbon fibre? Could be pushing their limits. Compare to the single pole tents with alloy poles. Nothing against carbon poles. Just have to work with in the limits of gear.

If you are skiing use the skis to smooth the site. The scraper is good but just another bit of gear.

Dig a foot well in each vestibule. Easier to enter and exit. Safer to cook, especially with liquid fuel stoves. Thirty years ago I blew the insect netting from an early Macpac Olympus tent plus my eyebrows. Since then about 300 days of snow camping in tents using liquid fuel stoves(MSR) in the vestibule without a hitch.

Another problem with trees is snow falling off onto the tent. A large dollop can have an impact. I suspect it could be more of an impact with carbon fibre poles.

Some great tips in the article and from other people.

Regards,
Gordon

Edited by gbedford on 11/30/2012 04:25:08 MST.

Gordon Bedford
(gbedford) - MLife

Locale: Victoria, Australia
camping in the snow on 11/30/2012 04:19:41 MST Print View

Good material Roger.
Were the snapped poles carbon fibre? Could be pushing their limits. Compare to the single pole tents with alloy poles. Nothing against carbon poles. Just have to work with in the limits of gear.

If you are skiing use the skis to smooth the site. The scraper is good but just another bit of gear.

Dig a foot well in each vestibule. Easier to enter and exit. Safer to cook, especially with liquid fuel stoves. Thirty years ago I blew the insect netting from an early Macpac Olympus tent plus my eyebrows. Since then about 300 days of snow camping in tents using liquid fuel stoves(MSR) in the vestibule without a hitch.

Another problem with trees is snow falling off onto the tent. A large dollop can have an impact. I suspect it could be more of an impact with carbon fibre poles.

Some great tips in the article and from other people.



Regards,
Gordon

Edited by gbedford on 11/30/2012 04:27:32 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Cooking in vestibule if it has a floor on 11/30/2012 13:27:36 MST Print View

Strange tent, the Stephenson's Warmlite. I have to say I would prefer to not try to cook inside it myself.
If you must, I would start with a good square of something like plywood as a base, on the floor. Great stuff - light, stiff and insulating.

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Source for hard aluminum sheet? on 11/30/2012 14:02:03 MST Print View

Hi Scott

A by-the-way before I answer: the delay in answering is because Sue and I were up in those mountains for a week, and have only just got back. 4 days of HOT weather and 1 day of bad weather - our seasons are of course reversed.

OK, the aluminium. The ideal for this is a 7000-series aluminium alloy. 7075 alloy, as used in Easton tent poles, would be perfect. Something about 0.8 mm thick would be fine. Getting a small bit of it is more difficult however as it is a bit 'industrial' and not normally available in suburban hardware stores.

A 5000-series alloy such as 5054 is far more suited to bending and folding tasks, and it would be a bit weak for this unless you used some a bit thicker. To be sure, 1.6 mm (1/16") would work fine.

What we call CP or commercially pure aluminium, typically a 1000-series alloy, would be hopeless imho. It is far too soft. Avoid it.

An interesting alternative if you are keen would be some 0.5 mm Ti alloy, preferably 6Al4V. You can get this in small bits (offcuts) from Titanium Joe. But do not try to make any sharp bends in this alloy! (And the same goes for 7075 Al alloy too.) Instead either bend it with heat or around a bit of 1/2" pipe, to get a gentle curve. You can also use some round-edged wodden decking as a former.

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Camping in the snow on 11/30/2012 14:44:36 MST Print View

Hi Gordon

The snapped poles in the photo were indeed CF tubing, but don't hold that against them. The tent had a huge snow load on it before it was really thumped by a savage vortex from above. Al poles would have collapsed just as well - and I have had Al ones fail too. Basically, I had pitched the tent in a really BAD spot! But we were not expecting that much snow in autumn. (Excuses, excuses...)

> If you are skiing use the skis to smooth the site
Yes, I have tried doing that, but the skis were too long for me to handle easily. The far smaller Al scraper lets me dig and scrape much more easily. Extra weight, yes, but at the end of the day we all have limited energy left. :-)

> Dig a foot well in each vestibule
Some do, some don't. I have never found it useful myself. But as noted, I do NOT like white gas stoves!

> problem with trees is snow falling off onto the tent
I agree totally. We never camp UNDER the trees for that reason and because of the risk of branches breaking off and falling down.

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Igloo Camping on 11/30/2012 14:47:32 MST Print View

Hi Mark

Too hot in Australia for igloos. Sad! The snow gets wet and seals the igloo and people die inside - it has happened here.

The other points - all good ones. I use 3-ply rather than a mouse pad as it is really solid.
Pee bottles - OK I guess but we never need them anyhow.

Cheers

Michael Gillenwater
(mwgillenwater) - M

Locale: Seattle area
Aluminum sheet on 11/30/2012 15:35:29 MST Print View

Just found these guys online for Al sheet. Not sure if it will work for what Roger describes, but worth a few dollars to try. And after filling out the shipping info, it turns out they are only a short bike ride from my house.

https://www.onlinemetals.com/merchant.cfm?pid=12657&step=4&id=916&top_cat=60

Edited by mwgillenwater on 11/30/2012 15:36:57 MST.

Jim Colten
(jcolten)

Locale: MN
Re: Aluminum sheet on 11/30/2012 15:54:58 MST Print View

Roger,

Regarding your aluminum scraper ... yes shovels are heavier but after using a scraper tool without a handle (SnowClaw) I'm sticking with a shovel.

But I'm wondering about the consistency of the snow in your location. Relatively dense perhaps?

In my locale, mid winter snow might average 10% water content. That's not fluffy by northern rocky mountain standards but very fluffy by Sierra Nevada standards (from what I hear).

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Aluminum sheet on 11/30/2012 19:17:27 MST Print View

Hi Michael

OnLineMetals - yes indeed. One of the more available sources, but HORRIBLY expensive. Never mind: a single 12x12" bit for $7.62 will make two very fine scrapers.

Remember to bend around a curve rather than trying to make a sharp bend.

Cheers
(And a photo would be nice)

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Aluminum sheet scrapers on 11/30/2012 19:29:52 MST Print View

Hi Jim

> the consistency of the snow in your location. Relatively dense perhaps?
What do you expect when the daily temperature oscillates between 5 C and -5 C?

Yes, a small scraper like the photo showed might be a bit too small for dry powder snow. I still wouldn't go to a shovel myself; I would just make a bigger scraper. I tried something like a Snow Claw once and didn't like it. That may be a function of the snow consistency of course.

But what I did not mention in the article is something else you can do with my simple scraper. You can easily cut snow blocks. By holding the scraper sideways and plunging it into the snow (fold is now vertical), I can chop out blocks from quite hard icy snow very fast. Doing this with a shovel or a Snow Claw is much harder.

And when I have finished making camp, I can use the scraper as a stove base too.

Ah well, to each his own snow patch!

Cheers

Michael Gillenwater
(mwgillenwater) - M

Locale: Seattle area
RE: alumimun scrapper on 11/30/2012 19:35:53 MST Print View

Thanks for the reminder Roger. Bend around a curve.

And I the idea of triple use. cutting blocks of snow as well as a stove platform. Sounds like the shovel is off my gear list for sure.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
snowpack on 12/01/2012 16:28:28 MST Print View

Slightly OT, but just out of curiosity: Roger, how thick is the typical snowpack that you are traveling over in Oz?

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: alumimun scrapper on 12/01/2012 16:56:23 MST Print View

Great article Roger, good replies

I don't do a lot of snow camping but I sometimes take this folding saw, Corona, from the big box store, blade maybe 8 inches long, maybe 12 ounces weight.

Mostly I use it for cutting branches that have grown across the trail

This also works as a snow saw. I can cut blocks that are 8 inches x 8 inches x whatever. Just lift them with my hands.

Mostly I just remove snow from the ground to make a bare spot to pitch tent, which shows my normal extreme of snow camping. You could make an igloo or whatever I suppose.

Maybe a saw is a better tool than a shovel for snow.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: snowpack on 12/01/2012 21:06:42 MST Print View

Hi Paul

> how thick is the typical snowpack that you are traveling over in Oz?
Variable, very variable. It depends on the season, the time of year, and the position. But in general we would regard 1 metre thickness out on the windswept plains as being quite good.
That said, there have been years when anything that covers the grass is considered good!

On the other hand, the option of clearing the snow away to the grass is never a good one. The snow is far too heavy and consolidated.

Cheers

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Re: snowpack on 12/01/2012 21:41:07 MST Print View

Roger - interesting. For comparison, in the Sierra we usually see about 4-6 feet in most areas where the touring is good, though 8-10 feet is not uncommon, and on one trip I took during a big snow year, we happened to pass very close to a snow survey location, where the snowpack was measured at just over 14 feet a day or so after we passed by. I can see that some strategies would be different depending on depth of snowpack. For instance, it is very rare that we can dig down to find a stream unless it pretty late in the spring, when it may be exposed despite still having 4-6 feet of snow adjacent. So one of our tricks is knowing how to get water from an exposed stream that has 6 foot high , vertical (or overhanging) banks without going for an icy swim.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: snowpack on 12/02/2012 01:57:36 MST Print View

Hi Paul

> 8-10 feet is not uncommon
snark, snark, snark ... sigh.
Terrible thing, jealosy! :-)

> knowing how to get water from an exposed stream that has 6 foot high , vertical (or
> overhanging) banks without going for an icy swim.
Oh, we do get that as well where there is a lot of water. The Snowy River can have snow banks several metres high (drift snow), it is fast, and if you fall in you are not likely to survive. It has happened. So we seek elsewhere.

Cheers

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
A New Winter Tent... on 12/05/2012 19:14:44 MST Print View

Roger,

Thanks for the excellent winter camping photo/word essay. Lots of good pointers.

As a backcountry skier I'm thinking of buying and modding a Tarptent Scarp 2 just because I like the basic design. (Ripstop nylon interior, natch.)

1. I'll cut down the "crossing poles" and run them inside the fly, sewing in small Cordura in pockets at the apex of the CF corner struts to recieve the pole ends. Velcro cable ties hold the poles in place at the center top. Much better canopy support for wind and snow load with the poles inside the fly.

2. A heavier main pole in the sleeve is also a must for winter.

3. As with my TT Moment I'll have pre-made guylines (end clips and LineLoc tensioners) that I can quickly clip in place when winds are expected.

4.> Possibly eight to ten small grossgrain nylon loops sewn to the fly bottom hem for stakeout points if wind might be extreme.

Thoughts?

UPDATE: (1-22-'14)

DONE! Got the Scarp 2 and modded it. (See photos and text in BPL's "Winter Hiking" page.) The main thing was to buy a heavier duty main pole and move the X-ing poles inside for excellent fly support.

Edited by Danepacker on 01/22/2014 12:06:55 MST.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Camping in the Snow on 12/05/2012 20:40:41 MST Print View

Average April 1 snow depth at the snow test site at 5400 feet (~1650 m) elevation on the south side of Mt. Hood, our local volcano, is 140 inches. That's close to 12 feet or, for you metric folks, 355 cm. or 3.6 m. Of course this can vary widely from year to year.

In some storms, the daily snowfall can be measured in feet rather than inches, and more often than not it's heavy, soggy snow (aka Cascade concrete). Could be rather hard on almost any tent unless removed frequently during the night!

Shovels are required for those venturing into avalanche territory. In a lot of places around here, avalanche safety is really important.

Edited by hikinggranny on 12/05/2012 20:45:16 MST.

Bobb Bobb
(confused)

Locale: Northern CO
Newbie Questions on 03/07/2013 16:07:57 MST Print View

I just found this thread...and would love to start winter or shoulder season backpacking. I hope you will pardon some novice questions:

1) Years ago I took a snowcamping class in Oregon. It was fun, but I was chilled the whole time. When you wintercamping folks are in your tent, are you chilled (not dangerously so, but just uncomfortable)? I'm wondering if I just need a warmer sleeping system, or warmer clothing.

2) Do you find bivy sacks useful to help keep warm?

3) Do you worry about gloves and shoelaces freezing? Do the tents keep them warm enough?

4) I live near the northern Colorado Rockies, and one thing that happens when a cold front comes in is that, depending on conditions, topography can cause 20F variations in temperature, so a cold front that brings in 0F (-17F) to some areas can cause -30F (-34) in certain valleys. While this might happen only once or twice a year, is this something that you experienced folks think about, ending up in conditions where cold pools in a valley (not small topographic variations like being near a tarn, but over larger regions).

5) At what temperature do you decide it isn't fun? Not that I am going to go out as a novice in really cold conditions, I'm just curious.

Thanks, Bobb.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Newbie Questions on 03/07/2013 16:25:34 MST Print View

Some of your questions might be answered with this one rule about winter camping.

If you can stay absolutely dry, it isn't that hard to stay warm. As soon as you start getting wet from rain, from snow, from sweat, or falling in the stream, you are in trouble unless you can recover and dry out in a hurry.

For some folks, that means bringing a wider variety of clothing until you understand exactly what works and what doesn't.

--B.G.--

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Dry side of the Eastern Sierra's
Re: Newbie Questions on 03/07/2013 17:39:56 MST Print View

I recently spent my first night winter camping with a few fellow BPLers. To answer a few of your questions:

1. In your tent or shelter you might be cold, it is mostly blocking some/all of the wind and precipitation. You should not be chilled when inside your sleep system, however.

2. I also tried a bivy for the first time during my winter outing, it may have been warmer (they're often stated at adding 5-15* to a sleep system), but I found it invaluable in blocking the spindrift under my tarp.

3. Keep your insulating/liner gloves dry and with you in your sleeping bag if they get a little damp during the day, they should dry out from your body head overnight. You can place a nalgene bottle of hot/boiling water in your boots in the morning to soften them up if frozen/stiff.

4/5. If I had the proper insulating equipment (-20* bag, parka, pants, etc.), I would not hesitate to go camping in such cold weather. Blowing wind, heavy snow, and whiteout conditions are my fears when winter camping. If the temperature is going to be really cold, you might consider building a snow cave or quinzee. The interior temperature in these shelters can be at or near freezing (32*).

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Newbie Questions on 03/07/2013 17:53:08 MST Print View

Bobb - here are my thoughts:
1) You should not be cold like that. My feeling is that If am ever cold while I am out in the mountains, one of two things is going on: I've blown it; Or I'm in a transition between activity levels and amounts of clothing and haven't quite adjusted yet (like when you start out a little cold because you took off a layer knowing you're about to go up a big hill and you'll warm up soon). If you are hanging out in camp and you are cold, you're not wearing the right clothing for the conditions.

2) Bivy sacks add a little warmth, but not much, except for when you are actually sleeping outside a shelter and the bivy sack is cutting the wind - then it can be significant. If, instead of carrying a bivy sack,you carry a sleeping bag with added insulation, that will give you more added warmth than the bivy sack for the same added weight, assuming you ar in some sort of shelter (tent/cave/igloo, etc).

3) Gloves go in the sleeping bag with me at night. Shoelaces - well, this no longer applies for me since my skis boots have buckles and not laces, but when I did have boots with laces I used them as underlayment for my pillow or placed them between my tentmate and myself, and never had frozen laces.

4) This happens all the time, and it's pretty much habit for me to pick campsites that up of the valley bottom a ways to avoid it. It doesn't usually take much to make a difference.

5) It isn't fun anytime the conditions are beyond what you are equipped for and prepared for in terms of experience. So the real trick is to know what temperatures are too low for your gear.

Bobb Bobb
(confused)

Locale: Northern CO
Re: Newbie Questions on 03/08/2013 13:14:18 MST Print View

Thanks for all the insight. Looks like my snowcamping experience was misleading. I think it might be worthwhile to peruse some of the gearlists to get a feel for what equipment is needed.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Camping in the Snow on 03/08/2013 14:55:49 MST Print View

No chance to read the entire thread, maybe someone said this already:

In a winter camping course in 1973 I was told to try to be comfortably cool the entire time. Cool to avoid sweating, but never cold. Exceptions have been noted earlier, e.g. just after a big change in activity level and in the middle of adjusting clothing.

I've camped many times in the winter, -15F the coldest I recall (or was it -20F), but I was never cold for any length of time, neither during the day or in my sleeping bag. This is an easy goal to achieve. If you are cold for than a few moments then you are doing something wrong.

Steven Vilter
(stevevilter) - MLife
Carbon Monoxide on 04/14/2013 15:46:21 MDT Print View

A study looking at climbers during a season on Denali/ Mt. Mc Kinley asked for a blood sample on the way up and on the way out. They asked one question, "Did you cook in your tent?". Everyone who cooked in the tent had elevated carbon monoxide levels as compared to those who didn't. Even in the windiest conditions, and I think Denali qualifies, it is risky to cook in your vestibule. Even if you don't die, you risk illness and decreased performance. I build a kitchen with a pit and snow blocks and wait for a relative lull to cook.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
A word on warm feet on 01/22/2014 12:15:57 MST Print View

As I've mentioned many times here in BPL, my solution for keeping my feet warm all day is to use:

1.boots with REMOVABLE LINERS (they go insie your sleeping bag overnight)

2. VAPOR BARRIER LINERS (I much prefer seam sealed thin neoprene diver's socks with thin poly liner socks. Even thin 1/8" Neoprene is waterproof AND very warm.)
Change out sweaty poly liners every night and turn the neoprene VBLs inside out to dry at night and warm up in your bag.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Carbon Monoxide on 01/22/2014 14:45:34 MST Print View

> Everyone who cooked in the tent had elevated carbon monoxide levels as compared to
> those who didn't.
I understand the point of the quote, but I have to reply that the data is almost meaningless if the types of stoves used is not known and the amount of ventilation used is unknown. And what about the weather?

For instance, if every climber was using an MSR Reactor, the result is to be expected. The Reactor emits an almost lethal amount of CO, as measured in our series on CO levels: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/stoves_tents_carbon_monoxide_pt_3.html

If the climbers had their stove wound up to full power and were melting lots of snow, then there could be a lot of flame quenching and a fair bit of CO emitted as well (depending on the stove and the pot). If this was done with inadequate ventilation, then the tent is going to hold a bit of CO. Fair enough, but that's not the fault of the stove: it's the fault of the user.

Why blame the user? If someone travels in avalanche territory without taking the appropriate precautions we would have no trouble saying they were stupid. The same applies to using a stove (or driving a car).

I don't think a blanket statement like 'it is risky to cook in your vestibule' is either useful or even relevant. Knowing what the hazards are and taking appropriate precautions is far better (like, don't set out in a howling storm). Cooking in the vestibule with adequate ventilation means you are out of the wind and able to rug up with your quilt or SB: that may be far safer than sitting out in the wind and going hypothermic. Experienced snow travellers and climbers cook in the vestibule all the time, quite safely.

As for the suggestion to 'wait for a relative lull to cook' - sorry, but that is farcical. What do you do when the storm lasts 36 hours? Or several weeks, as can happen in the Antarctic? OK, the idea might work under some conditions, but not where I ski.

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: A word on warm feet on 01/22/2014 14:49:07 MST Print View

> boots with REMOVABLE LINERS (they go inside your sleeping bag overnight)
CAUTION: all the moisture from the liners will end up inside the down in your SB. After a few days you may have a rather heavy soggy SB. I am not keen on this idea. OK, for 1 or 2 nights it is probably safe.

Cheers

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Re: Carbon Monoxide on 01/22/2014 15:19:55 MST Print View

Found a loophole exemption.

If you cook in YOUR tent vestibute... Carbon monoxide.

so, I propose donating each expedition member donate $1 to the future widow fund, and everyone use the vestibule of that ONE guy who will be well compensated, or his wife will be well compensated.

problem solved.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Re: Carbon Monoxide on 01/22/2014 17:07:28 MST Print View

"I propose donating each expedition member donate $1 to the future widow fund, and ... his wife will be well compensated."

Boy do we ever have a different idea of well compensated.....