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winter backpacking gear choices
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Joshua Gilbert
(joshcgil2) - F

Locale: Seattle
winter backpacking gear choices on 04/12/2007 16:36:16 MDT Print View

I know that it is spring, and were all thinking about where we are planning on going when the snow melts, but I've been thinking about getting back into winter camping. (I used to go a lot, but haven't in years)

If anyone out there is like me, you're on a gear budget (thanks to the wife)and need to carefully consider your purchases.

I have plenty of "winter ready" equipment, but it's heavy as hell,and as I've gotten used to carrying lighter packs, the thought of carrying a 10 lb tent and a 4 lb sleeping bag (somewhat optimistically rated at 0 degrees)makes my blood run cold.

so, first the shelter, anyone have some expierence w/tepee type shelters that they would like to share? How are they in the wind and snow? I've heard good things, but I want to hear more. Any cascades hikers who have opinions about floors, do you need one or can you get away with bivy's in our wet snow? would it work for moutaineering?

as for the bag, I have a synthetic rei nooksack, rated to freezing (again, optimistically) and after listening to that winter hiking podcast, wherein Ryan mentions using a two quilt system, I had this sudden flash, that I could use one of the new cocoons as an overbag, w/my patagonia das, I am wondering if this sounds like a system that could take you down to zero, which is about as cold as it ever gets in western washington (I am a bit of a cold sleeper fyi)and which cocoon would work best for this?
thanks all.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Joshua, your requirements? on 04/12/2007 20:43:52 MDT Print View

Joshua, I think you will get many replies since we all love to talk about our gear choices. In order to make specific suggestions, I think I would want to know what your requirements and $ limit are? for example, for a tent, these are mine:

Performance: Freestanding with floor, large mesh peak vents, room for 2, vestibule option, 3lbs or less.
Financial: Less than $300, with a lifetime repair or return policy.

This led me to buy the BlackDiamond HiLight from REI.

A similar analysis, but with different requirements of course, led me to a Montbell down sleeping bag, and GraniteGear Meridian backpack for winter trips.

If you define your requirements set strictly enough, after careful thought; there might only be one or two product options which 'fall out'.. makes your buying process a lot easier, IMO.

Joshua Gilbert
(joshcgil2) - F

Locale: Seattle
winter gear choices on 04/12/2007 22:41:08 MDT Print View

Well, my requirements for a tent are, not too much money and not too much weight. Not to be delibrately ( I wish there was a spell checker on this thing) obtuse, but I, like so many others at this site, am going through a bit of a paradigm shift, and I guess I'm looking for advice on how to best do this without rupturing my gear budget. I thought about the bd tents, but I'm 6'1" and fairly broad shouldered (195#) and they just seem too small for me, especially since my wife is 5'10". we need a little more space than a firstlight or a highlight offers, I think.

Most of my winter camping expierence to date has been in new hamsphire and pennsylvannia, where conditions are very different than in the cascades. That is to say it is wet and not extremely cold, although not exactly warm. Every time I get done snowshoing, I'm usually damp, so I know that synthetic bags are going to be the way to go, and any tent should be big enough that a tall guy isn't going to touch the sides (sub 3# is nice too)floor? don't know. Freestanding? don't have any expierence with tepee style tents period, especially not in snow.

not more than $250 on the bag, I think. actually thought about getting a ray way kit and sewing my own. but I am highly clueless where sewing is concerned, still, I like the overquilt Idea, more versatility, and I imagine easier to dry in the field.
Thanks for pointing out the need for clarification Brett

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: winter gear choices on 04/12/2007 23:42:17 MDT Print View

Hi Josh,

I'm in Seattle too (Redmond) and I've done loads of winter camping in our mountains. I used to have a BD Lighthouse but deemed it a bad choice for our soaking wet snow conditions. It just isn't waterproof enough. Great for cold, dry winters but that ain't us. I sold mine.

Wish I could help you on the teepee tent question. It's really my one gaping hole in shelter experience (I used to be the shelter editor here at BPL). But I've used bivies, snow caves, single wall, and double wall tents as well as winter hammock systems. I've settled in on Hilleberg tents as my favorites in almost all situations (currently a Kaitum). Great space for the weight and in the winter, I prefer more space and a vestibule. They are not cheap, though, and not as light as the teepee tents.

With a teepee though, you'll want a bivy with our wet saturated slushiness (at times at least!) eVENT is the brilliant setup here. Having slept many nights in a snow cave, I think you could skip the floor on the teepee, and would probably want to- you can dig the floor out of a shelter like this and create a cavernous castle- a real sweet deal.

If I were to buy new for two today, I'd get a Hilleberg double wall (Nallo or Kaitum) or a teepee (ti goat, Oware, or Golite probably) with an Integral Designs eVENT bivy. I'd also consider an Integral Designs MK1XL, expesially if I wanted to favor snowloading over usable space.

Even with our wetness, I use a down bag in the winter but synthetic clothing. But the down is losing loft by the third night. If my winter trips were longer, I'd be scrambling for something synthetic. I've just never been able to stomach the weight and bulk of a synthetic winter bag...

As far as packs, I've always used a Golite Gust and have recently got the new Golite Pinnacle. Brialliant winter pack.

I've made a Ray Way hat kit- I was suprised by how a non-sewer like me could make such a beautiful product. The bag is bigger, but I'm sure you could do it. Keep in mind that a quilt without a bivy in cold conditions is bad news- you want that bivy to block winds and keep the warmth inside.

(By the way, Hilleberg's distrubution is in Redmond and they are also sold at Pro Mountain Sports in Seattle...I don't work for them- I just love these tents!)

Best of luck,

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Winter shelter on 04/13/2007 10:44:06 MDT Print View

I am a big proponent of snow caves---the most comfortable Winter shelter available---great for base camps. You do need a good metal bladed shovel---the lightest, strongest, most convenient shovel of choice being the BD Deploy 3. For Winter travel, one should bring along a shovel, anyway.

My second choice of shelter for snow camping (used a lot on backcountry ski trips is a pyramid style tent, such as the BD Mega-lite---a very convivial social shelter with ample headroom for several people---and dug in like Doug suggests, really, really strong. Don't forget the bivy. I would love to see a commercially available Cuben fabric 'Mid produced such as was used on the Arctic 1000, last year. A real 2 person shelter for under a pound rocks!.

If you are high enough in Doug's turf---like on the strato volcanoes---snow is not so wet, heavy, ugghy and I've used the BD Firstlight to lovely, comfortable effect. Not for the Olympics, though. East side of Cascades, like the Paseyten, works very well.

Although I really prefer a dome, "freestanding" style tent to the tunnel style tent for uber-Winter conditions, due to snow load strength and omni-directional wind stability, the Hilleberg and Stephenson tents stand out for their strength and features. I've used the dome style Bibler tent and the tunnel Stephenson 2R in Patagonia successfully and there is no greater test of a tent in sustained winds than that ( well, less exotically, the summit of Mt. Washington, perhaps).

I also prefer using Down bags in the Winter. To supplement, I use a synthetic insulated jacket ( Cocoon Pullover, for example) and when cold enough ( 20'sF), a VBL which not only adds warmth but protects the down from moisture build up from one's body. Don't breathe into the bag! That will help saturate the down after a few nights. All this being said, the new BMW synthetic quilt system looks very good for Winter or prolonged wet weather use.

Edited by kdesign on 04/13/2007 10:53:26 MDT.

Joshua Gilbert
(joshcgil2) - F

Locale: Seattle
Thanks Doug, Kevin, still looking for 'mid info, any thoughts? on 04/13/2007 12:47:53 MDT Print View

Kevin, thanks for your input. I've used down bags in the winter myself, and you can't beat them for comfort, but I guess I'm in the mood to try something different. My primaloft bag has served me very well up to now for three season use, and I've been wanting to try a quilt, so the quilt as overbag idea occured to me, especially after I had a paroxysm of gear lust over those new cocoons. but I have to think about cost, (hence the ray-way idea.)

Doug, I was hoping you would weigh in on this one, being a western washington local. I've thought about the hilleberg tents, they seem like a good choice for weight and,although not terribly cheap, they aren't bank breakingly expensive. I've also considered the integral deigns tents, but I would like a vestibule for the price that they charge. you mention using a bivy, do you think a dwr would be effective, or would you go with event for the waterproofing aspect?

Tangentialy, That lake ozette hike you went on with your family is awesome. My wife and I went out there one year, early spring, and actually had three days of good weather, and we found 12 japanese glass net floats, one the size of a basketball! I used to live in alaska, and I never turned up so many.

I'm still curious about the mid vs. tent question, they seem to be super popular w/the alaskan contingent and the weather up there is hellacious, I'm hoping that roman can weigh in on this one. the first time I even heard of one of those was in an article about one of his backcountry mountain-biking trips.

Ed Huesers
(iglooed) - MLife
Re: Thanks Doug, Kevin, still looking for 'mid info, any thoughts? on 04/15/2007 15:50:47 MDT Print View

Hi Josh,
Although I've never used a tepee type tent I read where they are popular with the cold country crowd. I had always used a tent with a floor but after many years of snowshelters I can see where cutting a trench in the tepee would mean you wouldn't track snow onto your gear and you can leave your boots on until bed time and still be able to go out and relieve yourself.
Also the snowshelters have taught me the importance of having standing room in winter. It's nice to be able to stand and rearrange the clothing layers around ones waist to help get rid of the moisture that collects there.
I read where some that use the tepee will sew on a sod cloth so they can put snow on it to seal the tent bottom. Just piling snow against the tent makes it sag in and one looses some valuable floor space. The sod cloth helps hold the tent walls away.
If you wanted to save a few bucks though, you might consider a snowshelter as Kevin mentioned. Other than a shovel, you probably already have the right gear. I used a +15f. rated bag in Yellowstone recently when it was reported to be -32f. one night. But, I'm pretty good at building snowshelters.