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winter emergency gear
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Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - MLife

Locale: Western Washington
winter emergency gear on 01/28/2013 12:22:23 MST Print View

My boyfriend and I were snowshoeing at Mt. Rainier yesterday. It was snowing and quite windy indeed, colder than I've gone out snowshoeing in before too. I was reviewing what I had in my pack, and I think that I may need to step up my emergency shelter choices for winter hiking. I've purchased a Terra Nova Bothy 2 for shelter, but I think that my basic SOL emergency bivy might not be up to the task of winter conditions.

If you had a choice between the Blizzard Survival Sleeping Bag, and the SOL Escape Bivy, which would you choose? The Blizzard survival bag is the heaviest at 13.6 ounces, and reading reviews it looks like once it's deployed, it may not crush down as small again--taking up lots of pack space that I'd rather have for clothing. The SOL Escape Bivy is lighter, but more expensive, takes up more room than my SOL Emergency Bivy--but may not add anything to the temperature rating, just be more breathable, which is doubtful in rainy Washington anyway.

I'm also going to carry a full length closed foam pad, rather than the little square I have for sitting on.

Any other suggestions?

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
blizzard on 01/28/2013 12:29:07 MST Print View

its a tested 40F sleeping bag ... by the university of leeds to 8 togs

it is used by the US/UK military, UK SAR groups, etc ...

the SOL gear is mainly marketing done right ...

you can see a real review under real world conditions here ...

but more than anything ... practice the basic skills ... that is what will keep you alive

Edited by bearbreeder on 01/28/2013 12:30:04 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: winter emergency gear on 01/28/2013 12:53:30 MST Print View

Blizzard specs theirs as 8 togs = 5 clo = maybe 20 degree F lower limit = 3 season bag.

SOL has no such spec, but they say it's good for sleeping down to 50 F, 30 F if you wear some clothes inside

But that's for comfortable sleeping, in survival situation I bet either would keep you alive.

SOL says theirs is breathable. Blizzard is not. Maybe that's more if you're sleeping overnight, but not as important in survival situation?

What about cheap, light, small SOL emergency blanket or similar? That should keep you alive in survival situation. Maybe Blizzard and SOL bivy are over-kill.

Michael B
(mbenvenuto) - F

Locale: Vermont
bivy on 01/28/2013 20:28:53 MST Print View

If you already have the bothy (which I use and do like), I am not sure you also need a bivy. The bothy provides shelter and protection and warmth. Inside the bothy, I would think "spending" the weight on more insulation, say a puffy coat or vest, would provide more comfort, safety and usefulness, then using a bivy inside the bothy. The bivy is useful if you plan to sleep out, since sleeping in the bothy would likely be very tight and uncomfortable, and maybe not even possible.

I do think the blizzard bag could be warm and useful inside the bothy for an emergency. My guess is that you slit the end open, and share the blizzard bag for two persons in the bothy. You would never want to open up the blizzard bag unless you really needed it, but the bothy could be used all the time. So one person carrying the bothy and one carrying the blizzard bag seems like a good setup.

Nelson Sherry

Locale: Mid-Willamette Valley
Re: winter emergency gear on 01/29/2013 09:51:07 MST Print View

Once you're sealed out the wind and wet, survival will be all about insulation. A puffy plus a foam pad will be warmer and more useful, per pound, than any additional or alternate bag will be. . . of course a good exit strategy is best, and in snow, a shovel can be pretty useful too.

Ryan Bressler
(ryanbressler) - F
Re: winter emergency gear on 01/29/2013 10:22:52 MST Print View

Snow pack in the cascades is usually quite thick so building a snow shelter is a real option that will add more insulation and wind protection then a reflective bivy. Groups have holed up in snow caves on cascade volcanos and survived massive storms and a trench shelter that uses your poles, skis, tarp etc as part of the roof can be constructed quite quickly though a proper snow cave (with platform elevated above the entrence) will be warmer:

A small stove and pot might also be a good idea.

Lots of synthetic insulation plus a bothy does work quite well, especially for lunch stops etc in rainy conditions.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
My approach: trench on 01/29/2013 11:14:33 MST Print View

I carry a very lightweight folding saw (for winter ski/snowshoe dayhikes only), something like three lightweight (not the thick contractor type) yard waste bags, the lightest metal-head shovel I could find, and a length of candle. Optionally, depending on the trip, I might carry one of those plastic disc units made for emergency digging in snow rather than an actual shovel.

If snow is deep enough, my go-to survival shelter is a trench. Snow caves take too long too dig and too much energy, and you get too wet typically doing it, plus they require a certain degree of expertise and experience. So IMO not a good choice for an emergency situation. I've also heard of shelters built by reinforcing tree wells. Fine for blocking wind, but you need to create a warmer environment IMO.

Trench deep enough optionally to be able to sit up in the trench (or not, depending). Cut live branches (LNT goes out the window if my life is truly in danger). Line the bottom of the trench with live branches, and cover the top of the trench with longer/stronger branches plus trekking poles. Cover that with split-open yard waste bags, cover those with some inches of snow. Put on all your clothes, crawl in, cover opening as best you can, leaving enough ventilation for safety. Light candle.

In situations where there's not enough snow to trench, build a debris hut instead, similarly using all of the same tools, cover with plastic, cover result with snow.

It's always a compromise between safety and weight carried in terms of winter emergency gear; certainly some warm puffy clothing is very important too. But the minimal for me is these few 'tools' plus the knowledge of how to use them to build a fairly simple and easy shelter.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - MLife

Locale: Western Washington
bothy warmth on 01/29/2013 11:42:33 MST Print View

I haven't ever used a bothy, just ordered one yesterday, so maybe I'm underestimating its effectiveness at blocking wind and cold. I do carry puffy jacket and pants with me, plus balaclava, extra socks, extra gloves, an extra hat, and extra long sleeve shirt and long-johns. Seems like with all of that I might be ok from what you folks are saying, without getting a larger bag.

I always carry a shovel in the snow, and I typically carry an alcohol stove and Evernew ti mug on my day hikes, probably not a viable option in the snow--although, I have seen photos of folks using alcohol stoves in snowy terrain, just on top of an insulating layer. I gave away my MSR Whisperlite, as I never used it anymore. What stove do most folks use for an emergency situation? I'm not using it for midday warm-ups, as usually we keep moving to minimize chilling.

I like the idea of a trench shelter if necessary. Digging a full-on snow cave always seemed to me to be a very energy-intensive form of shelter building, good for building up a sweat, and easy to make mistakes in building.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - MLife

Locale: Western Washington
found stove threads on 01/29/2013 12:16:53 MST Print View

Ok, I did wander into the inverted cannister stove threads currently on the GEAR page.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: bothy warmth on 01/29/2013 12:19:40 MST Print View


A bothy is totally Windproof and you would be surprised how quickly they warm up.
I have a 2 person one which is light enough to carry solo as weighs 230g

Ryan Bressler
(ryanbressler) - F
Re: found stove threads on 01/29/2013 13:00:22 MST Print View

There is a bothy thread on cascade climbers with some info from people who have spent nights out in a bothy. Apparently it is workable if you take it off, shake it out and reverse it every couple of hours. They are also excellent for lunch stops in nasty 33f wet snow conditions...if you dig/stomp down a pit for your feet and sit on your packs you have a comfortable and warm dining room.

Jetboil Sols and MSR Reactors (stoves with pressure regulators) are popular with cascade climbers and work pretty well down to about 20f.

Of course the best cascade survival trip is to drive further east when the weather forecast is nasty...the east slopes (Blewett pass, methow etc) will often have pleasant conditions when west slope areas are downright heinous.

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: winter emergency gear on 01/29/2013 13:45:18 MST Print View

I always like carrying a tri-wing esbit stove with me in winter for a stove, because esbit's make great fire-starters if needed in an emergency.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
gear on 01/29/2013 14:12:15 MST Print View

A shovel, practice building snow cave or igloo with elevated platform, 4 ft foam pad, some sort of water proof bivy, some synt hetic insulation.

Depending on the lows you made need a cave for survival. Temp in a proper cave is 32 f. If the temp outside is 0f building a cave is probably worth it

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Re: winter emergency gear on 01/29/2013 16:32:46 MST Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/19/2015 09:47:05 MDT.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Plan ahead and Practice on 01/29/2013 17:01:43 MST Print View

Sounds like you are well prepared with gear. The next step would be practicing so you know what it takes to use that gear in various conditions.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
winter gear on 01/29/2013 19:07:15 MST Print View

Diane said said: “I do carry puffy jacket and pants with me, plus balaclava, extra socks, extra gloves, an extra hat, and extra long sleeve shirt and long-johns… I always carry a shovel in the snow… The Blizzard survival bag is the heaviest at 13.6 ounces…” She did not mention rain gear. In the wet, wet, wet PNW, I would rather carry an eVent hooded rain parka and eVent rain pants than a 13 oz bivy because you can sit up all night in that outfit, plus you can do a lot of walking toward the cars, whereas you can’t easily walk out in a bivy.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"winter emergency gear" on 01/29/2013 19:52:08 MST Print View

If I'm in a winter emergency it's either because I'm lost or hurt. If I'm lost I can dig a trench etc. but if I'm hurt, my options will be limited in terms of building shelter. A bothy with a thick pad and lots of puffy clothes seems best in this scenario; easy to deploy and crawl into etc. At the moment I'm thinking of carrying a 13 oz. bivy, a Marmot 30 degree Hydrogen bag and a light down jacket, plus whatever clothes I'm hiking in. Oh and a light pad that I'd hope to supplement with boughs. This is bulky and kind of heavy but with ingenuity I think that it will get me through a night. Brian's ideas about shelter building are great; I may add a trash bag or two and follow his suggestions if I'm merely lost and can shelter build.

I would think that this set-up would be warmer than a bothy/pad/puffy clothes set up, but I wonder. The bothy set up is so much lighter and compact.

It's the sleeping bag that's the problem in my preferred set-up, because of it's bulk and weight.

I often winter hike solo so this is a bit more important than otherwise.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: winter emergency gear on 01/29/2013 20:09:04 MST Print View

"Any other suggestions?"

Chemical hand/foot/body warmers, a PLB, and an ample supply of high calorie food, e.g. coconut oil packets, nuts, Snickers bars, etc. High calorie food will go a long ways toward helping you maintain core body temperature. Aside from that, the advice about clothing, both insulative and water proof, and a bivy/survival bag would be worth heeding. IMO, you should not depend on digging a shelter, simply because you may not be able to if you are injured. Best to assume that you will be fortunate if you can get your extra clothing on and slip into a bag of some kind, hopefully in a sheltered location, and signal for help. And, as Eric mentioned, practice using the equipment you are carrying in various scenarios like a broken leg, etc. I'm assuming you are already carrying a decent first aid kit.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Re: winter emergency gear on 01/29/2013 20:19:59 MST Print View

In my Winter day pack I have half a ridgerest solar as the frame sheet and could carry the other half on my pack if need be.
Along with the Blizzard bag and bothy bag I pack a Synthetic Parka and trousers, all this gear and the pack comes in at about 6lbs.
Even if the rest of my kit, food and water brought that up 12lbs its not too heavy.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
skills on 01/29/2013 20:37:54 MST Print View

the blizzard will keep you alive if you know what you are doing ... the bothy IMO is nice but not strictly needed ...

it goes without saying that you should bring rain gear and insulation ...

the stove is nice as well ... if i recall there have been at least one incident where climbers would likely have survived if they had a stove to melt water ... and of course with a nalgene you can treat hypothermia with the bag

there is a fine line between overpacking the kitchen sink ... and bringing what you need ...

for example do you really need a shovel unless you are in avalanche territory ... snowshoes can make an improvised shovel, at the tree line, tree wells (dont fall in !!!) are a well known shelter option ...

learn how to start a fire under winter conditions, that is your best defense ... make sure you know how to signal to rescuers (those god awful colors BPLers hate) ... make a bed with branches, your rope, your pack, etc ... dig a hole or trench to keep you out of the wind

having the right gear will help you ... but again, the most important things are knowledge, practiced skills and the will to live

i suggest that once a year you go out in poor conditions a short walk from the car, and try to set up for the night using what you would normally bring on a day hike

this will tell you very quickly what gear and skills you fall short in ...

and read the rescue articles as well ... for example there was some old tough korean man who survived on mount rainier last year by burning dollar bills ... recently there was a man who survived in the north shore mountains here by peeing in a ziplock bag and using the heat like a hot water bottle to keep him warm ...

hopefully you dont have to resort to such things, but knowing what to do prevents panic

one thing few people mention is that surviving is ANTICIPATING ... at a certain point youre likely safer saying "eff it im lost, im going into survival mode" .... this preserves some energy for setting up your shelter, collecting wood, being where SAR is likely to find you, etc ... youll see in articles where people have tried to keep on wandering, wasted their energy, led SAR on a wild goose chase and suffered as a result ...

you should also learn to recognize and anticipate the signs of hypothermia in yourself and others before they get serious or affect your judgement

again ... skills ...

Edited by bearbreeder on 01/29/2013 20:46:24 MST.