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Gear Test Results last night in -5ºF
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Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Gear Test Results last night in -5ºF on 02/10/2013 07:45:54 MST Print View

I tested out a new sleeping setup last night in Western Massachusetts, up in the Berkshires. We camped overnight at Windsor Lake in North Adams, and the temperature dropped below zero. Windchill may have breached -10ºF. I hope someone can compare my results to their own and benefit. Please ask if you have any questions, even if it's "Why the hell don't you use an underquilt?!"

I used:

Hennessy Hammock Ultralight A-Sym Backpacking Hammock
Tyvek Kite-Making Sheet Liner

Thermarest Z-Lite Sol Torso Length

Sleeping Bags:
Outer- EMS Solstice 20º Synthetic
Inner- MH Ultralamina 32º Synthetic

C.A.M.P. Men's ED Slim Down Sweater
Smartwool Midweight Baselayer
Baffin Down Booties w/ thick socks
MH Mesa Backpacking Pants
OR Windstopper Peruvian hat

Lessons Learned:

First off, the sleep setup was very, very close to warm, but not quite warm. I fell asleep about 10:30 PM and awoke from the cold at 5:30 AM, so I got 6-7 hours of continuous sleep. That is the mark of a good sleep setup in my mind, even if I'm uncomfortable once I wake up. I felt my stomach in the morning and my core was as warm as a furnace. Still, the discomfort could have been prevented, which I'll go into below.

I also learned that no matter how bad I want to, my 40L backpack is not big enough for my winter setup. It technically fits everything easily, with room to spare, but that constitutes compressing both sleeping bags. I will be using a bigger bag in the future. That was not fun to do in the morning with cold hands. I also did not enjoy untying the knots on my hammock with freezing fingers, but I got it done in the same amount of time that I usually do.

Wind under the hammock was, as I predicted, negated a lot by the Tyvek sheet. It was big enough to wrap up the sides of my sleeping bag on both sides, and it stayed in place all night. It also made shifting my pad around inside the hammock during the night much easier. I was a huge fan of this sheet, and while I am concerned about durability it looked fine in the morning.


1) Warmer hat

2) Swapping the Thermarest Z-Lite Sol for a Thermarest NeoAir X-Therm Torso. I was reluctant to use a NeoAir since I was so satisfied with my Z-lite, but it really is a necessity and with a hammock, I'm unlikely to puncture it.

I didn't know they made a Torso X-Therm! I was unhappy with the full length All-Season I had because if my feet hang mid-calf I can't sleep. If they hang mid-thigh I have no issues. I was looking at the NeoAir X-Lite Torso (the yellow one), and the R-rating was only a bit higher than my foam pad... did I really want to spend $130 for 3.2 R-value versus 2.6? No. But will I pay $150 for 5.7 R-value? Hell yes! I had been meaning to pick up another all-season and this is perfect for my needs.

3) Swapping my MH 32º Ultralamina for a MH 45º Ultralamina. My body wasn't cold, except my back from the insufficient pad. I will save a little weight here and get a bag that will be more suited to the Spring/Summer trips I have planned, and continue using the EMS Solstice 20º combined with this as a liner for warmth.

Overall, it's a good system. It seems sketchy using so little insulation with a hammock, but I can sleep through anything and I am glad for the leg elevation. I am a believer in Tyvek, and if I rip it, it was only $7. I will be using this setup, with the mentioned changes, this coming weekend on Mount Moosilauke, NH. I'm guiding a 3-day student trip.

Edited by mdilthey on 02/10/2013 21:08:31 MST.

Tom Lyons
(towaly) - F

Locale: Smoky Mtns.
Good on 02/10/2013 08:03:45 MST Print View

I think it sounds good.

If I can make it to 5:30 a.m. before waking up, I consider that a complete night.
At that point, I'd just get up and make some coffee. Then break camp and be cleaned-up and packed and ready to move at daylight.

I can't argue with the X-Therm idea. However, you did make a statement recently about going ONLY CCF forever, so that's a fairly big change in philosophy all of a sudden.
I guess the cold can do that to you.

Definitely the hat will be a big help. I use as much hat as I can carry in the cold. I use a VBL under any insulated hat.
It sounds funny, but I wear a women's vinyl shower cap which weighs very little, on my head when I go to sleep. It's an amazing improvement in comfort, even with just a VBL layer on my head, if not anywhere else.

And I'll say it again at the risk of sounding repetitive.
If you used a VBL in that weather, and remained at a "neutral temp" which it sounds like you would have, you would have been warm enough and not generated any clammy feeling inside the VBL.
Did you get any frost inside the sleeping bags from condensation?

Edited by towaly on 02/10/2013 08:13:51 MST.

Michael C
(chinookhead) - F - M
convertamitts on 02/10/2013 08:08:42 MST Print View

You did not mention what kind of gloves you used. I have a lot of years of winter activities and camping in the cold b/c I lived in Michigan until 2 years ago. You mentioned the issue with untying the hammock in the cold. This issue of tasks that demand dexterity led me to needing a glove system that I actually wore for the maximum amount of time. This is why these llbean convertamitts are my favorite:

Unlike, many other convertamitts, which I find useless......they also have a flip down thumb. With convertamitts without a flip down thumb..... I still often had to take off my gloves for certain tasks.

Before switching to this system, I frequently had to do things without gloves and besides the temporary cold......after a couple days my hands would get torn up (dry, peeling etc,) from exposure and more easily cold before switching to this glove system. In extreme cold, I supplement these gloves with a liner (wool or synthetic).

I sometimes brought an extra pair of mittens for hanging out at camp. Half fingered rag wool gloves are fine for me into the 30's.

Edited by chinookhead on 02/10/2013 08:09:25 MST.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

X-therm on 02/10/2013 08:10:36 MST Print View

Two things contributed to my "CCF Forever" mentality, which I still have all the fervor for, if less resolve.

#1) It was my understanding that if I got an all-season pad, I was getting a full length, and if I was getting a torso length it would not be all-season. The Torso length X-therm is that happy, golden ratio I wanted, so I am satisfied.

#2) I wanted to push the temperatures, and it's not possible, so I'll revert back to the air mattress. Not a big deal.

I really didn't like blowing up my rectangular All-Season every night of my bike tour. Blowing up a mummy-cut torso pad will mitigate the annoyance.

As for the condensation- None! None whatsoever, anywhere. My hammock is like 50% open to the elements, since both sides are very open. I tied down my rain fly very close to the bug net, leaving about an inch that blew less or more throughout the night. Like this, I have developed very mild frost before, but not last night.

I have five nice wool hats. I'll pack one next time. One look at the great big, clear sky last night while snowshoeing to camp and all my troubles seem trivial at best...

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Gloves on 02/10/2013 08:19:06 MST Print View

My glove setup was embarrassing, bordering on dangerous. I was using L.L. Bean Polartec gloves, which I love. I had them in a Women's large and they developed a tear. When I replaced them, I got Men's large by accident and now they're a tiny bit too big. I tend to catch the fingertips when I'm tying my shoes and hammock.

My outer gloves are a pair of Burton Gore-Tex mittens, which I do not particularly like, but they are warm and they were VERY cheap. There seems to be two kinds of mittens available; cheap-o snowboarding mitts that work poorly and expedition-type mitts in the $150+ range. The middle of the road options are all gloves, not mittens. If someone can show me otherwise that'd be great, but I won't be buying new ones till I wear out my current ones, which could take a year or two.

Here's the dangerous part: My two buddies were Tim, who is vastly experienced for his age and EMS-trained, and Jared, who is vastly inexperienced and counted on us telling him how to stay warm. I gave my outer mitts to Jared and only used my Polartec mitts for the entire trip. In the morning, after tying my boots and untying my hammock, I was so worried about frostbite that I swapped back with Jared and made closed fists for a few minutes. By the time we packed up, I had restored feeling, but my right hand pointer finger is still a little bit tender. It's fading, and I've had worse.

I will definitely consider converta-mitts for this kind of finicky tying/untying stuff. Thank you for the link and the suggestion. I don't know why it never occurred to me!

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
mittens on 02/10/2013 08:31:53 MST Print View

"There seems to be two kinds of mittens available; cheap-o snowboarding mitts that work poorly and expedition-type mitts in the $150+ range. The middle of the road options are all gloves, not mittens. If someone can show me otherwise that'd be great, but I won't be buying new ones till I wear out my current ones, which could take a year or two."

Here are a few examples of warm mittens that won't run you $150.

These are "all in one" systems. You could go lighter if you use a thin wp/b shell over a puffy liner mitt, like the following system:

and add this over it:

Look for them on sale because winter is "over" in the retail chain cycle. There are a lot of mittens out there that aren't the OR Alti Mitt (which runs over $150), that will keep you warm for any conditions you'll see in the lower 48 states

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Glove help- Thanks Guys! on 02/10/2013 08:47:20 MST Print View


Thank you very much for the suggestions. When I go to replace the Burtons, I will likely go with the MEC system you linked. I really appreciate your time!


As a photographer, fingers are important. The mere suggestion of fingerless gloves could mean a substantial amount to my comfort in the outdoors. I liked the L.L. Bean gloves but opted for a cheaper version, the apparently overbuilt Manzella Cascade Gloves. I ordered an XL, since A) that was all that was available, and B) Several people said they run small and I am only 1/2 inch off from the XL anyways. Extra loft, right?

I used, so the decrease in quality is offset by a return policy should these develop problems.

Kudos to you gentlemen for the assistance.

Edited by mdilthey on 02/10/2013 08:48:14 MST.

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
tarp? on 02/10/2013 09:27:08 MST Print View

i hope you have a tarp to take out for your 3 day trip. if it snows and you're without one good luck. i'm pretty surprised you weren't cold with the amount and type of insulation you're using. interesting...

EDIT: i see you mention rainfly. what kind of tarp is that?

Edited by StainlessSteel on 02/10/2013 09:28:54 MST.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Re: Tarp on 02/10/2013 09:33:14 MST Print View

My Henessey Hammock has a rain fly, which I pitched sharply so that a midnight snowstorm wouldn't collect and weigh it down too much.

As for not being cold, I don't know! I've been sleeping outside a lot this season, pushing my gear to the limit. I sleep out on the back porch and shed items until I'm just barely warm, and I've been outside every night this season that was below zero, which was about 6 nights (I might've missed some).

I also make a habit of biking to campus in light jackets rather than a winter coat, and I will occasionally underdress a lot when I go out socializing. There's people all over that adjust to the cold so much that they're like human polar bears, and then you have U.S. marines. I don't claim to have any of that kind of stamina, but the science behind adjusting your body's tolerance is sound.

If you want to be warmer, spend more time colder. When I do a risky trip, my full winter gear feels absolutely balmy.

Here's an example of the rain fly over my hammock:Hammock

Edited by mdilthey on 02/10/2013 09:34:41 MST.

Michael C
(chinookhead) - F - M
WPB on 02/10/2013 09:52:23 MST Print View

Max.......the regular cascade gloves look like they'd be just as warm as the ll bean gloves, since they also have a WPB barrier sandwiched between the fleece. However, the cascade convertible mitts don't seem to have such a barrier, so I suspect that they may not be as warm....especially in the wind. I find that this WPB adds quite a bit of warmth over plain fleece gloves by blocking the wind.

Also, the cascade gloves do not have a foldable thumb so you may still have to take off your gloves for certain tasks like tying. I hope that they work out for you!

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Re: membrane on 02/10/2013 10:26:31 MST Print View

The ones I ordered apparently have Windstopper. We'll see- if they don't work, I'll return them.

I was hesitant to forgo the thumb, but I've been without it before and if I had to choose bewteen a thumb that didn't stay on and one that won't come off, I choose the latter.


Locale: Western Michigan
Mitts for warm hands on 02/10/2013 11:05:45 MST Print View

In either of the products below using a thin pair of wool liner gloves (Ibex or Smartwool) will provide you all the warmth and dexterity you need. Just purchased a pair of Summit Mitts for my wife and she has used them now in Michigan the last two week when we had below temps and her hand she reported were "toasty".....and she is a notorious cold handed lady!

Price are basically equal when comparing products though the INNER mitts designs are NOT so check it out carefully.

Mercury Mitt

Summit Mitt (My Bias based on wife's reflection of product)

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
diamond on 02/10/2013 11:26:48 MST Print View

ok so you're using a diamond fly and then basically using a piece of tyvek as a windblock underquilt. are you using the sleeping bags as a pod system?

steven franchuk
Re: Re: membrane on 02/10/2013 12:05:59 MST Print View

I have been experimenting with windstopper light weight and medium fleece gloves mainly for rain protection. very Cold hands run in the family. My initial impressions is that they breath well. I have only had them out in the rain once (still waiting for the next rain storm) and they seem to keep my hand dry even though I haven't yet sealed the seams.

Not long ago went I was looking at threads on Tyvek I ran into this Tyvek MYOG Mits.

Glad to hear you had no condensation. How were your friends, Did they have any condensation and if so what gear did they use?

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Details on 02/10/2013 14:10:21 MST Print View

My Tyvek sheet was not an underquilt; rather, it was literally thrown into the hammock with me. It was directly in contact with the hammock itself, and then my pad and sleeping bags (podded, yes) were all on top of it. This way, it kept cold air from coming in direct contact with the bottom of my pad and allowed my pad to move around easier. I hope that makes sense.

My friends are funny. Tim comes from a long line of outdoorsmen, so some of his gear was very fancy (Osprey Exos, Columbia Ski jacket, NeoAir X-therm) and some of his gear is tried-and-true. Thirty year old snowboots, etc.

The rest of the stuff we had was borrowed from my college's Outdoors Club. I'm the quartermaster and one of the trip guides, so I grabbed gear for Jared. The two of them slept in a Kelty 3P tent from the mid-90's and Jared used two cheap 20º sleeping bags podded together, and two Ridgerest pads. He was still cold, despite having some of the most warmth available; he wasn't used to the temperatures like Tim and I were. I think he used his phone to text girls for most of the night. He never complained once.

AFAIK, they did not have bad condensation, but they had more than me and Tim had a lot more around the breathing area of his sleeping bag.

Tim was on the trip I did to Camel's Hump, VT, if anyone remembers that. He strongly advised me NOT to use the hammock; being a hammocker himself he knew what I was to expect, but he didn't know about my masochistic backyard testing for most of December. I knew what I was getting into and results were as I expected (read: I didn't shiver).

If anyone thinks this sounds irresponsible, I had the "bail" option of jumping into the 3P tent with Jared and Tim. We were also about 1 mile from our campus and 1.5 miles from my house, and my brother was ready to come get us if it was just too cold. Like a true gear test, I wouldn't ever be so experimental if I couldn't fail.

Edited by mdilthey on 02/10/2013 14:11:18 MST.

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Details on 02/10/2013 14:28:19 MST Print View

If you haven't done so, take a look at Shug's videos on You Tube (just Google Shugemery). He hammocks in the winter in MN at below zero temps. Informative and entertaining...

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Shug on 02/10/2013 20:12:51 MST Print View

The videos were hysterical. I watched it with a buddy who also hammocks. A lot of awesome things to learn, too; I'm going to start bringing a little reflective foam sit pad I already carry in with me for cold spots, and I'll probably experiment with straps in the future... I love his MYOG Hammock.

Herbert Sitz

Locale: Pacific NW
temp? on 02/10/2013 20:59:36 MST Print View

". . . the temperature dropped below freezing. Windchill may have breached -10ºF."

I wonder, did you mean to say "temperature dropped below zero"? Or was it just really windy?

Also, I'm curious since I'm not a winter camper: You said you fell asleep at 10:30, so I'm wondering what you do between nightfall at 5:15-5:30 or so and the time you go to sleep? Sit around a fire? Huddle alone in your hammock?

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Temp on 02/10/2013 21:07:53 MST Print View

I did mean below 0, I'll edit the OP to reflect that. That was close, I almost went metric...

If I was hiking, I'd go to bed much earlier. As it was, we were right up the street from where we live. We left at 9:30 and walked for about 30 minutes, then set up and went to bed. When we were in VT we would just chat and tell jokes. Four of us were very close friends, but the other three of us were either just friends with one person or new to the group, but if you're social and outgoing it's not hard to just interact for hours. It's the simple stuff like that that makes camping really rewarding for me.

seth mcalister
(sethmcalister) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
Tyvek on 02/11/2013 12:13:57 MST Print View

When you say you threw it into your hammock, are you meaning you laid it in your hammock, covered it with your pad and then laid on top of the pad?

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Re: Tyvek on 02/11/2013 13:57:13 MST Print View

"When you say you threw it into your hammock, are you meaning you laid it in your hammock, covered it with your pad and then laid on top of the pad?"


Don Selesky
(backslacker) - M
Re: Gear Test Results last night in -5ºF on 02/11/2013 22:20:41 MST Print View

You seem to be hardier than me. Or, conversly, I'm more of a wuss. I was out in the Adorondaks two weeks ago when it got down to 7F at night, with substantial wind on the second night. I was using a Hennessey hammock with a full tarp overhead. Underneath me I had a long Ridgerest and a large NeoAir XTherm. I found that it wasn't enough bottom insulation, as my butt and back felt cool. Not freezing, but below where I felt comfortable. My insulation included a VBL hoodie and a full down parka, along with the usual base layer, plus a 5F quilt, etc. I found that fully inflating the NeoAir by mouth helped, but not enough.

steven franchuk
Re: Re: Gear Test Results last night in -5ºF on 02/11/2013 23:08:01 MST Print View

"You seem to be hardier than me. Or, conversly, I'm more of a wuss. I was out in the Adorondaks two weeks ago when it got down to 7F at night, with substantial wind on the second night"

Add a tyvek sheet to block the wind. Wind can blow cold air through the outer fabric, through the down, and out the other side. Stopping the wind (Tyvek is good at that) before it gets to your quilt could make a difference.

Don Selesky
(backslacker) - M
Re: Re: Re: Gear Test Results last night in -5ºF on 02/12/2013 03:18:21 MST Print View

What was cool was my back, which was lying on a ccf pad and the NeoAir. My top felt fine. Also, the first night was relatively calm. It appeared to be convection losses, specifically insufficient insulation underneath me, that wasn't able to cope with the cold.

Next time out I'll try using an Undercover just to see if it does make a difference, along with a thicker pad.

ETA: I know it was not enough pad insulation because if I fully inflated the NeoAir I could feel the difference. I remember a previous thread where it was reported that the amount of inflation affected the R-value, and it certainly seemed the case that weekend.

Edited by backslacker on 02/12/2013 11:03:33 MST.

John Almond
(FLRider) - F

Locale: The Southeast
Re: Frozen Fingers and Hennessy Lashing on 02/12/2013 05:08:48 MST Print View

One of the biggest things you could do to save your fingers some trouble in the cold is to switch over to a ring & strap or buckle/strap suspension system on the Hennessy. Tying and untying the Hennessy lashing is time-consuming and requires fine manual dexterity.

Adjusting a strap suspension requires being able to manipulate a climbing rated 'biner (or Dutch Clip) and tie a slippery half-hitch. Which is totally possible in gloves (mitts might require a bit of practice).

Now, it is heavier than the stock Hennessy suspension, but for deep cold the ease of use is more important than the weight, at least for me.

In warmer weather, Whoopie Slings (I can offer links if you need) are easier to use than the Hennessy lashing and lighter, to boot.

Hope it helps!

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Tyvek on 02/12/2013 06:18:46 MST Print View

The Tyvek sheet makes a difference. I don't know how much of a difference, but if it goes negative again I'll risk hypothermia for you guys and find out!

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

New Gear on 02/13/2013 16:07:16 MST Print View

I just got the Manzella Cascade gloves in the mail. The thumb DOES fold down! Which was an unexpected feature. This makes them an awesome value at $22.

They are too thick to be used as liners in an overmitt unless that overmitt was just a shell, without insulation. Also, the XL size I bought is slightly too big. When they restock the Size L, I'll give these to my father as a gift.

The Thermarest NeoAir X-Therm came as well, and it's a little noisier than my all-season, but you'd wake the dead before you'd wake me from something like crinkling.

I also swapped out the MH 32º bag for a 45º bag, because I'm a masochist.

Looking forward to using this gear on Mount Moosilauke in new Hampshire this weekend. I will bring back my results and tell you guys how it went!

Here's my new gearlist:

Gear List

Edited by mdilthey on 02/13/2013 16:09:20 MST.