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Please evaluate my gear for winter hiking / backpacking.
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Jun Bum Kim
(snvplayer) - F
Please evaluate my gear for winter hiking / backpacking. on 12/23/2012 05:49:29 MST Print View

I plan to go on backpacking 1 or 2 nights in -4 ~ 14 F in mountains where it gets pretty choppy.
I don't think I will be hiking in the snow or through water.

Could anyone tell me what I need to add or whether this works in terms of protection?
I have never hiked below 30F weather,and I am not sure about top and bottom layering.

Columbia Fleece hat.
Fleece Neck gaiter (which i can pull up to cover the lower face).

REI lightweight base layer long sleeve shirts.
Sleeveless synthetic shirt.
Northface 1/4 Microfleece
The North Face Redpoint Insulated Jacket (synthetic, not down)
The North Face: Men's Varius Guide Jacket

Underarmour compression shorts.
Northface convertible pants.
REI hardshell.
REI lightweight base layer.

Oboz Yellowstone 2

Synthetic socks. (Considering lightweight wool)

Northface Apex gloves.
Considering getting lightweight wool gloves when walking.

Sleeping bag
North Face cat's meow (25F) + Liner (+15)

3-sease tent (Double walled)

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
winter hiking gear eval on 12/23/2012 06:03:51 MST Print View

For hiking and being on the move, I think you will be fine.

But the min you stay still and hit camp, and when it's time to sleep...I honestly think you are going to suffer if it gets to your predicted 4 degrees.

Here are the things I noted:

You don't have any leg insulation
Your bag is not warm enough, and a liner (I'm assuming you're talking about a silk liner or similar) realistically adds about 3-5 degrees, not the 15degrees advertising would have you believe.
I would chatter the teeth out of my skull if I had to stand around camp in only a red point primaloft jacket as my own form of insulation.

For comparison, I've slept in 7 degree weather wearing ALL these layers, and still woke up cold at times:

Top: Wool t-shirt, Patagonia R1 powerdry hoodie, Marmot essence rain jacket, First Ascent Peak XV (13oz of down)
Bottoms: wool leggings, unlined soft shell pants, down pants (3.5oz of down), down booties
Sleeping Bag: EN rated 15 degree Sierra design nitro 15
Tent: Single Wall Black Diamond Firstlight (single wall is warmer than double wall)

Do you have softshells? I would consider dropping your hardshells and replacing with's too cold for rain in those temps. Consider getting mittens, even simple fleece mittens will give a lot of warmth. You're probably going to want a warmer hat. Def go with the wool socks.

You can also cheat a bit, and toss some nalgene bottles filled with boiling water into the bottom of your sleeping bag at night...should be good for a 3-4 hour boost in warmth.

What kind of sleeping mat are your using?

Personally, I can't tell too much of a difference when the weather is between 20 and 30 degrees, but the min it gets around 15 and under, I personally find it a pretty big perceivable leap. It's pretty crazy experience when your eyelashes start to freeze shut. I don't know how people in the midwest live with all that below 0 madness.

Edited by Konrad1013 on 12/23/2012 06:28:21 MST.

Jun Bum Kim
(snvplayer) - F
Re: winter hiking gear eval on 12/23/2012 07:32:52 MST Print View

Thanks for the information. I am quite apprehensive about the trip..

I am going to use Thermolite Reactor Extreme Liner, which supposedly add about +25F

For sleeping mat, I am using the army sleeping mat, which I think is like standard foam pad.

Leg insulation is going to be a problem...Can fleece pants and/or polyester (climacool) pants work instead of down pants?
It looks like I need to bring a mid weight base layer for the bottom.

For the top, I will throw in a mid weight fleece, which I can wear on top of the micro fleece and underneath the red point and various guide jacket.

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
Re: Re: winter hiking gear eval on 12/23/2012 08:01:57 MST Print View

Fleece pants will work well. They aren't as efficient in terms of warmth to weight, but it's better than nothing. I'm a bit worried about your mat. In winter, most people need an r-value between 4 to 6. I've used an old army surplus mat before, and although not all are made equal, I can almost guarantee that it not sufficient by itself. Consider renting a pad from REI, or going to walmart and buying a $6 blue foam pad (maybe 2) and layering everything together.

About the sleeping bag liner. I have my doubts, and others seem to say that that particular model also does not add much warmth. You may want to read this thread:

I'm sure the trip will be awesome and you don't want to miss it. But I would encourage you to rent gear that you need. REI even rents 0 degree bags.

Edited by Konrad1013 on 12/23/2012 08:03:30 MST.

John Reichle
(mammoman) - M

Locale: NE AL
Yikes on 12/23/2012 09:43:24 MST Print View

That mat/sleeping bag/liner phppttt combo is dangerous if it gets down below 5 degrees, and will be uncomfortable probably at or below 20 degrees. Get an R5 mat, a 0 -10 degree down sleeping bag and ditch the liner. Also, you need some puffy lightweight insulation for upper AND lower body. Montbell Thermawrap pants and parka as an example, possibly adding a down jacket as well. To supplement, not replace, any fleece.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

+1 Konrad on 12/23/2012 10:51:27 MST Print View

Konrad is 100% right. I own the 25º Reactor Extreme; it's useless. Might as well read 5º, barely adds any warmth. Ignore the warmth rating.

Ideally, you would replace a lot of that gear. Since you're leaving soon, I'll assume you can't and I'll give you the cheap solutions:

As for sleeping bags, take the lowest temperature you expect and get a bag that is a few degrees lower, if you can. If you can't, two sleeping bags is almost just as good. if you supplement your 25º bag with another cheapo summer sleeping bag, you'll be much better off. Wear the higher rated one inside the lower rated one for best warmth.

For your sleeping pad, bring a $1.00 Mylar emergency blanket and put it underneath the pad, or on top of the pad and underneath your sleeping bag. The reflective surface will increase your warmth and it costs nothing to do.

For your body, rain pants and a raincoat will create more airspace if you wear them over your baselayer inside your sleeping bag. I wear rain pants all winter.

Heating a Nalgene bottle full of water and placing it in the foot of your sleeping bag will keep you much warmer.

Bring heavyweight Merino Wool socks, not lightweight- you'll thank me.

I guide winter camping trips for novices at my college, and following these cheap steps has never let one of my mates down.

Edited by mdilthey on 12/23/2012 10:53:09 MST.

Yes 1000
Sleeping Bag on 12/23/2012 11:13:21 MST Print View

What I have figured out myself is that if your sleeping bag is overrated by 10*F its still fine. On my first winter camping trip, I took my 30* bag since the predicted lows were around 25-27F, I slept in Cap1 silk weight, Cap 3 for upper body and REI power stretch pants for the lower. I was warm and toasty and cozy for 5-6 hours after getting inside the bag,and I believe that was because of the hot and spicy chilli I had eaten for the dinner but sometime at around 11PM I had come outside my tent to clear the snow and pee and I didn't reaally warm up very well after that, my legs were cold and I had to wear my soft shell hiking pants to stay warm.

Lesson learnt, and I've ordered a 0Deg bag for my next trip.

Jun Bum Kim
(snvplayer) - F
Re: +1 Konrad on 12/23/2012 11:54:46 MST Print View

Would you recommend using a fleece blanket inside the sleeping bag? My bag is rated at 25F and I am hoping a fleece blanket would add 10~15...

For now, I am most worried about pad from my past experience where the cold coming up from the ground was unbearable...

This is going to be A LOT of gear...I might have to resort to using the camp ground and just do several day hikes...

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Not too much gear! on 12/23/2012 12:01:44 MST Print View

You can get a sleeping pad from Wal-Mart for not too much money, and one good sleeping pad or two bad sleeping pads will be enough to keep warm. Use the reflective space blanket underneath you. The fleece blanket is probably a good idea.

25º Sleeping Bag
1 Thermolite Reactor Bivy
1 Fleece Blanket
2 Sleeping pads

not too much gear.

Where are you camping? The temperatures you listed are pretty extreme. -14ºF is VERY cold, and that gear there is not enough for it. -14ºC is not as cold, and that gear will be just fine.

Also, in just about every area I can think of where the temperature is -14, there IS snow on the ground already, and there'll be more later in the season. If I were you I would expect to be hiking in snow.

If you're going into -14ºF, you need to follow the advice of some posters here and spend money on a down jacket and pants, or buy a second sleeping bag.

Edited by mdilthey on 12/23/2012 12:02:51 MST.

Jun Bum Kim
(snvplayer) - F
Re: Not too much gear! on 12/23/2012 12:18:38 MST Print View

I am planing to backpack some mountains in S.Korea. Temperature ranges from -22C to -5C. This is the temperature on the mountain top..

Is there a big difference between synthetic vs down insulator? I have a down liner, which I can bring along.

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
Re: Re: Not too much gear! on 12/23/2012 12:29:05 MST Print View

With the equipment you listed above, if it gets to -22C (-7F) where you are sleeping, you are going to be in trouble. I won't make any conclusions, but you have very little margin of error right now.

Synthetic will retain some warmth when wet but is heavy/bulky.
Down is warmer for the weight, very light and easily packable, but useless when fully wet (your body sweat and vapor will make the down collapse a bit every night).

What is your down liner?

Edited by Konrad1013 on 12/23/2012 12:29:56 MST.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

IMPORTANT on 12/23/2012 12:32:58 MST Print View

Jun, your questions lead me to believe you don't have much experience, so I will try and give you as much good information as I can.

Sleeping bag ratings are based on one thing: Survival. Comfort is very different. At 20ºF in a 20ºF bag, with no clothes on, you will be very cold and you may not be able to sleep. However, you will be alive- you will not get hypothermia unless your bag gets wet or there's a really high wind.

Your 25º bag is inadequate for -14ºF temperatures. You will have to buy a second sleeping bag around 20º to be comfortable (and alive) in that temperature. You will need to use both bags at once, one inside another. That is going to make your pack heavy, but carrying light weight in -14ºF temperatures means spending a LOT of money on very good materials. A Sleeping bag made for those conditions that weighs little will be over $400.

Down and Synthetic are different, but the warmth is relative to how much there is. Synthetic is warmer than down when it is wet, but it usually weighs a little bit more. The difference is slight. The only way to tell if your down liner will be enough is to know how thick it is. Look for a weight on the tag, or a fill count (my down jacket is 650 Fill, most sleeping bags are 800-900 fill).

If you use a good down liner, your 25º bag, a fleece blanket, two pads, and a liner, you will most likely live. I would try to read some articles on winter camping so you know what to expect. This trip may not be easy to do with your current gear, but it is likely possible.

If you can spend some money, you can get winter gear that weighs little and will keep you warm> But, you have to spend the money... Do not go into -14ºF temperatures without a heavily insulated jacket and pants, plus waterproof boots, thick gloves, a thick hat, and many layers of clothing.

DO NOT risk your life. Keep asking questions!

Edited by mdilthey on 12/23/2012 12:34:24 MST.

Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Insulation under your bag and hot water bottles on 12/23/2012 14:28:29 MST Print View

Is the minus 4 the coldest you expect it to be at night?

If so, as others say you need to seriously augment your cats meow with a summer bag or over quilt.

I use two summer pads for snow camping, one closed cell foam and a Thermarest. If you are not sleeping on snow you still might appreciate the extra insulation between you and the ground.

Adding an extra nalgene or three as hot water bottles can help immensely. One one three night trip I discovered that the zero degree rating on my rented bag was seriously optimistic. It was too late to build a snow cave but three hot water bottles did the trick.

Use the Boil the water, make sure the seal is tight, and insert the bottle in a wool sock. The wide mouth Nalgenes work best.

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
RE: Please evaluate my gear for winter hiking on 12/23/2012 16:00:51 MST Print View

You will be too cold, possibly dangerously cold. Read up on hypothermia.
Sleeping: add another sleeping bag roomy enough to go over your present bag. Add another pad (i.e., 2 pads), it can be 2/3 (torso) length. Use your backpack underneath your feet or head. If you're counting on wearing clothes inside your sleeping bag, make sure it all fits without compressing the insulation or restricting circulation.

Head: for -22C, take at least two hats or a hat + balaclava (things get wet in the snow). If it's a very windy place, bring extra hats.

Hands: Your gloves look from the ads like they are good liner gloves, but inadequate for -22C. Bring at least two pairs of wool or fleece mittens and if you can waterproof breathable overmitts.

Top: That NF jacket looks to be about the same insulation as my Patagonia nanopuff pullover. I was getting cold standing around at 0C; maybe when I was young it would have been good to 20F when I was young. Add several medium weight fleece jackets sized to fit over each other. If you're in the US now, you can get these very cheap at Walmart, etc., or thrift shops.

Bottom: Thick fleece pants would work fine if they fit under your shell pants.

Wet: This is all assuming it's really that cold. If it sometimes gets warmer, that makes it harder not easier. At -22C, the snow is very dry. Warmer and you have to worry about getting wet. Carry clothes that will be dry at all times.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Please evaluate my gear for winter hiking / backpacking. on 12/23/2012 19:31:36 MST Print View

I'd guess that you'd need to be wearing at least two pairs of thick wool socks for those temps. You probably need larger boots if those are your summer boots, as wearing more socks will make the fit too tight and restrict blood circulation, making your feet colder. Read up on using vapor barriers in your footwear system. You can probably get by (I did) with using durable plastic bags, such as these:

Stephen Komae
(skomae) - MLife

Locale: northeastern US
unsafe on 12/23/2012 22:58:36 MST Print View

For hiking, your clothes sound adequate. Your body will be able to generate enough heat. However, you will not be happy if you have to stop at all.

Carry multiple pairs of socks and gloves. They don't all have to be high quality, or even super thick, but covering skin at these temps is vital. Be able to cover every inch of skin: consider ski goggles and a true balaclava as highly recommended.

Finally, your sleeping system is so unsafe you shouldn't even go out without making a major overhaul to this system. You would be in serious danger of becoming a human popsicle. Like others have said, your sleeping pad is inadequate and you can never count on liners to add any real warmth. You need to either layer a larger, similarly rated sleeping bag over your Cat's Meow. If I were expecting -14F I would plunk down for a -20F bag. That would at least buy you some margin of error and a good night's sleep. As it stands, your sleep and clothing system combined just might keep you alive at 0F. Alive, but incredibly miserable.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Please evaluate my gear for winter hiking / backpacking. on 12/23/2012 23:53:17 MST Print View

The North Face Cat's Meow is not a conservatively rated bag, it falls under the same marketing hype of labeling stuff lower than it really is. Those liners DO NOT add 15-25 degrees of warm, it's a lie. What you are suggesting is crazy man.

I have pushed a 35-40 degree bag down to 13 degrees but that was only possible with a stack of dry firewood (cold, but no snow), a shelter set up with a mylar blanket as a fire reflector, and carrying a lot of weight in clothes.

Yes, it's a lot of gear. Winter camping takes more gear, more insulation weight. If you don't want to carry that much weight, invest in a high quality down sleeping bag. Or get a bigger pack and carry massive amounts of clothing. Also, stack up some firewood and kindling before bed... just in case.

temps on 12/24/2012 00:08:40 MST Print View

I would say you are not ready to do this in the temperatures you expect to encounter.

-4F is not 3 season backpacking.

You do not have the gear or the know-how for the min. expected low.

Edited by livingontheroad on 12/24/2012 00:23:24 MST.

Jun Bum Kim
(snvplayer) - F
UPGRADE on 12/24/2012 07:15:43 MST Print View

Thanks for all the information, I am going to look into warmer gloves, socks, and hats.

It looks like the priority is to secure warmer sleeping bag. How would 0F bag work (Marmot Never Summer)?
Just to clarify, my 20F bag in 15F would not be comfortable, but OK to use if I am bundled up from top to bottom?

For the top, my down liner jacket is about 550 fill, which I can layer with the NF redpoint and the NF various guide jacket (hardshell with light insulation).

I think -5F is about the worst. On average, it gets as low as 5F.

Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Please evaluate my gear for winter hiking/backpacking on 12/24/2012 11:59:47 MST Print View

Yes get a warmer bag. I hesitate to recommend a purchase because a lot of people quickly decide that winter camping is not fun.

A zero degree bag might still require you to wear clothes at while inside the bag night depending on circumstances: wind and wind chill, relative humidity, number of occupants in the tent, whether you are sleeping on snow or barren ground, etc.

Marmot does use the EU EN system of testing which as one poster observed above, zero degrees mean that you will not get hypothermia in the bag.

I own an older TNF Cat's Meow and have found its 20 degree rating a bit optimistic. I have found the ratings on the Marmot down bags to be accurate.

One way to test your sleeping system to to watch the local weather forecast and try your backyard on the coldest night. Where I live an average winter night in the Sierra Nevada can range from 15 to 25 degree F while every now and then the San Francisco Bay Area can drop to under 40 at night If your are sleeping cold in your back yard at 39 degrees then you know the system will not work up in the mountains.