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2013 winter list: Northern Rockies
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David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
2013 winter list: Northern Rockies on 01/22/2013 20:20:11 MST Print View

This list represents what I've been using for the past two months here in northwest Montana. You can find it in my profile, or here:

One must be realistic about conditions for a gear list to be meaningful. For me this means that local winter trips will be cool to cold (i.e. rain very unlikely), fairly dry, and snowy. Skis are mandatory, and rain is unlikely. The vast majority of my winter trips (all trips, for that matter) are weekend affairs due to professional obligations, which makes planning easier and more certain.

Short trips also mean less food weight, which in part explains the luxury items above. A wood stove is not necessary, and for most of my trips I've got more insulation than is strictly necessary, but the added pounds simply do not matter. Come March and April when my fitness and ambition is on the upswing, I'll gravitate back towards taking the bare minimum.

I also have to confess that the majority of my backcountry trips in the next two months will be for a park service research project, which gives us access to patrol cabins. All the shelter gear save the insulated poncho will in those cases be left behind in favor of luxury food and many pounds of research gear (motion capture cameras, frozen chickens, tools, etc). Often, like this past weekend, this ends up meaning a 28 pound pack for an overnight, at least until we got the bait stations set up. Good training.

Comments and questions welcome.

Andrew Urlacher
(anarkhos) - M

Locale: Colorado, Wyoming
Wood Splitting, Clearing on 01/23/2013 06:49:43 MST Print View

Have you ever used a Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet or Small Forest Axe? I use the hatchet in winter, I find it my most favorite tool. Combined with a Laplander folding saw, it makes the best winter fire tool set I have ever seen. I know not even considered lightweight, I think its about 21 oz. But for winter bushcraft and outdoor work it is hands down the best hatchet on earth. Holds a razor edge, rust resistant, and durable as hell. Expensive, got mine for around $110.00, but worth every penny. Obviously the Small Forest Axe is slightly larger and heavier but even more capable.

I'm sure your Trail Hawk is perfectly capable, and maybe even lighter (1.2 lbs?), I just wanted to take a rare opportunity on BPL to tout a bushcrafting item of supreme value.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: 2013 winter list: Northern Rockies on 01/23/2013 08:12:04 MST Print View

Good list Dave. Any reason you're using the Boreas over the Cap4 for a midlayer? Seems like brethability might be limited with the Boreas plus Essenshell vs Cap4 plus Boreas. I suppose the Cap4 is less useable as an outer layer in warmer conditions.

Gransfors axes are absolute pieces of art. I don't have one, but a friend has several and they're beautiful.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: winter list on 01/23/2013 09:07:03 MST Print View

"I suppose the Cap4 is less useable as an outer layer in warmer conditions."

Exactly. The Cap 4 might come along if I know it'll just be plain cold the whole time.

The G-B axes look great, but 25 bucks for the Trail hawk (which is an honest 22 oz) is about as much as I'm willing to pay at the moment. The long handle and light head mix is a reasonable way to get light weight and decent function.

Ryan Bressler
(ryanbressler) - F
Re: 2013 winter list: Northern Rockies on 01/23/2013 10:23:14 MST Print View

We've been skiing a lot in the Bitterroots (south of Missoula) this winter which seems to have a similar climate, perhaps a bit warmer in the valleys but we spend a lot of time up high where it gets nastier. Regardless I have lots of comments and questions.

The softshell based clothing system you are using is similar to what we have ended up with. Lots of our trips involve starting out low and skinning up to higher elevations so we tend to go with wool + r1 pullovers on top which breath well skiing up and then add Patagonia Ascentonists (another discontinued patagonia unlined softshell) and maybe even nano puffs over the top when we get up into the real cold and wind. We may go with something lighter like your system as it warms up again.

I'm curious if you ever feel the need for a warmer active layer? We have found ourselves skiing down and hiking out in the dark wearing our nano puffs at the end of a long day more then once and have also appreciated having them absorb moisture that would otherwise end up in the parka.

Have you tried any griddy fleece bottoms? I'm using military surpluce r1 bottoms and my wife has the cap 4 bottoms. We both agree that the comfort range and ability to deal with moisture from inside or out makes them much nicer then our wool bottoms for long days with lots of varied conditions. Maybe the cap 2 has enough texture to behave similarly?

Do you cut down and repackage your kick waxes? We are on AT skis and i've just started to experiment with kick waxing for the flat bits.

Have you figured out a way to use the fixed length ski poles as the megamid center pole?

What are your thoughts on the thickness of the overbag? I've been wondering about using something like a montbell thermal sheet as an overbag for two:

Only one pair of liner gloves? I find I need at least two in different thicknesses (or pl 100 + or pl 400). I like the idea of uninsulated work gloves as shells, do you sno seal them?

No insulated pants?

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Montana winter list on 01/23/2013 10:37:25 MST Print View

Ryan, AT skiing requires different moisture management techniques than nordic skiing, especially if you're out all day in puking snow. For day trips on AT gear (lapping pow) I usually bring a synthetic parks, either a DAS or Xenon depending on temps, a second set of liners, and often a spare base layer shirt. If you're only out for a day, why not?

The deerskin gloves are lightly coated with Snoseal. A little keeps them from wetting out too badly, too much makes them tacky which I don't like. Layering the gloves works in a good range of temps and keeps my liners from dying after 3 months of use.

I don't repackage the waxes. Polar and violet don't get used very often, while green, blue and x-blue are the mainstays. I've gone through almost half an x-blue stick in one three day trip.

Last year I would bring micropuff pants on especially cold overnighters, but the poncho/overbag is a good enough and more versatile substitute. Mine is 100 g/meter Primaloft One, which seems like a good compromise. I'd worry about the Montbells DWR, which I've generally found sub-standard.

Ryan Bressler
(ryanbressler) - F
DWR on 01/23/2013 11:52:34 MST Print View

Thanks for the comments and answers Dave.

As as a former Washingtonian I pretty much expect to have to replace any DWR within a few months use. In a typical cascades winter (going out every weekend+bike commuting in the rain every day) all of our softshell tops and bottoms and synthetic poofies would get 2-4 treatments with Granger's or Revivex (Nicwax just doesn't work) which was key to getting through rainy winters with minimal use of hardshells. (Side note, be careful with welded seem garments when using the dryer to set the DWR...too hot and they will come apart.)

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
ruff on 01/25/2013 08:27:17 MST Print View

I was thinking to myself when did Patagonia ever offer a coyote ruff garment :) when I was in the Air Force our winter parkas had coyote ruff- nice stuff!

I scored a pair of last years model Alpine Guide pants on ebay for $70, thus far they are proving to be a really nice winter/shoulder season weight pant

I want to see your March snowshoe list :)