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Smoky Mountain Winter Gear List.... Help Please!!!
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Eric Dodson

Locale: southeast
Smoky Mountain Winter Gear List.... Help Please!!! on 10/17/2013 21:18:19 MDT Print View

I need some advice on my sleeping and clothing systems for my trip in the Great Smoky Mountains in early January. I plan on staying in shelters for the entire trip from Russell Field to the end point at Newfoundland Gap. I know this setup is not ultralight but I am not accustomed to the winter weather of the Smokies so I am trying to stay safe while also being as light as possible. I do plan on sleeping in the down jacket and M65 Liners if needed. What are your thoughts on the two systems? Also can you guys give me some ideas of what normal temps to expect in the higher elevations, snow depth, additional gear I should consider or any helpful info.

Enlightened Equipment 20 degree Quilt
DIY 2.5 climasheild quilt used as a liner if needed
Themarest Z-Lite
Thermarest Neo-Air Short
Windshield Reflector with backpack under my feet
Zpacks down Hood

Nike Pro T-shirt
Patagonia Capilene 3 Baselayer L/S Shirt
Patagonia Ultralight down jacket
Patagonia Torentshell Rain jacket
Patagonia Capilene 3 baselayer pants
Mountain Hardware Convertible pants
Dri Ducks Rain pants
M65 Military Pant liners to sleep in
Patagonia beanie
Buff used as neck gaiter/ Balaclava with beanie
3 pairs of wool socks
DIY synthetic booties to sleep in

Would an additional synthetic jacket be needed such as LL Bean Packaway Pullover?

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Pad on 10/17/2013 21:22:46 MDT Print View

I'm not super familiar with winter in the Smokies but I wonder if you might want a full length pad?

Eric Dodson

Locale: southeast
Full length pad on 10/17/2013 21:35:57 MDT Print View

My Z-lite is a full length pad and then I use my backpack and the windshield reflector under my legs to further insulate my legs that the Neo air doesn't. However I do agree with you a full length neo air would be nice but I'm a poor college student haha. I'm trying to use what i have.

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
Down Jacket on 10/18/2013 09:51:59 MDT Print View

Those Patagucci Ultralights are pretty thin for "real" cold weather...for 4-8 extra ounces you could have a MUCH warmer jacket!

I have 2 different down jackets, depending where I'm going. My Ghost Whisperer (v. similar to your P. Ultralight) is fine when nighttime temps are going to be high 30s or greater, but any colder than that, I need something thicker, and I use a Super Trekker down jacket (10oz) that has plenty of very lofty 800 down.

The weight difference for a warmer down jacket could be almost equalized by leaving out the "car reflector" sleeping pad -- between the Z-Lite and the Neo Air, you really don't need it.

smokies on 10/18/2013 16:25:27 MDT Print View

Are you getting dropped in at Russell Field by helicopter or something? Its not exactly a starting point.

You will also not know what you will need until a couple days before. It could include a 4 season mountaineering tent, snowshoes, and 2 weeks of supplies.

Or you might just be a fair-weather hiker. Or a dreamer.

Seriously, at that time of year you must be prepared for anything, you wont know conditions expected until a couple days before, and they could change. You are expecting to hike in deep snow I hope? People die of hypothermia there on short hikes, all the time. Dont treat it trivially, and if you have to ask what you need, you probably shouldnt be going at that time of year.‎

Edited by livingontheroad on 10/18/2013 16:35:22 MDT.

Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
Smokies in winter on 10/18/2013 22:58:47 MDT Print View

To a certain extent, I must echo MB's comments; if you don't have experience with winter conditions, solo in the Smokies can be a rough introduction if the weather is sketchy. If you're locked into dates, you could see anything from low 30Fs and rain/sleet, to high teens with near whiteout conditions, or clear and windy with single-digit overnight lows. I've seen all these on the same 5 day trip.

As far as your gear list, I would also drop the windshield reflector. I would add a bivy and a small tarp. If you don't have snowshoes in a storm, these can be lifesavers. I've been caught between shelters on the AT before in winter; a tarp and bivy are the difference between a forced bivouac and an emergency. The bivy will also be handy in the shelter, as they can be drafty depending on wind direction.

On the clothing front, make sure your feet stay dry/warm. Extra socks, tall gaiters, waterproof socks, neoprene for stream crossings, all are essential. Also spare glove liners, and waterproof shell mitts. I like a waterproof wide-brimmed hat like an OR Seattle Sombrero in winter; I can wear a windshirt with the hood underneath the hat and be relatively protected from snow.

Rather than add a synthetic puffy, I would add a fleece pullover/hoody. Fleece is great in variable conditions, and will prove invaluable if daytime temps drop. A Powerstretch facemask weighs one ounce and combined with your beanie and buff under a good hood would be sufficient for the worst weather possible in the Smokies.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Pads and Backup Plans on 10/18/2013 23:44:46 MDT Print View

If the Z-rest is full length you should be fine, no need to buy a full length neo air.

+1 on a bivy or shelter in case you can't make it to an AT shelter. Snow, ice, blisters and other surprises can slow you down when you least expect it.

I would not be afraid to do the Smokies but I'd be careful,I'd make a backup plan in a lower elevation area if that is possible. A big storm might cover everything in snow but there are times when the high areas will be snowed under while everything else is snow free.

Eric Dodson

Locale: southeast
Gear on 10/20/2013 20:42:14 MDT Print View

Sorry I didn't specify I will be starting at Cades Cove and staying the first night Russel or Spence Field shelter. I haven't thought of the helicopter idea,not usually my style but can you suggest a company in the area? I usually just to hike in, guess I'm a dreamer now. Or maybe this cloud of sarcasm will float me to the top of the mountain.

Now back to the issue at hand. The trip dates are somewhat flexible as I am going to be on a break from college.I have talked in another forum thread about the snowshoe issue with some guys that hike the Smokies in winter and they suggested leaving them at home. They said go with micro spikes or something similar but I do agree they would be helpful in the right conditions. I'm still kinda in a toss up on the snowshoes.

I'm planning on carrying my Shangra-La 3 or Gatewood cape with polycro floor for back-up if I can't make it to a trail shelter. Which shelter depends on snow forecast. Does anyone have experience with a Gatewood Cape's snow load capabilities?

Misfit and Luke what bivy do you guys sugguest?

My Sleeping Bag options are:
20* Enlightened Equipemnt Quilt 1.5 lbs
15* Marmot Sleeping Bag 2.5 pounds
DIY 2.5 Climashield Quilt 1 pound

Which combination would you guys suggest? I would like to stay light as possible and keep in mind I will be wearing jacket/pants.

I think for another layer I'm going to buy Mountain Hardware's Microchill 1/4 zip fleece shirt instead of Packaway Jacket.

I agree a back-up plan is a must, although I hope everything goes smooth. I will also be carrying a SPOT gps locator for the worst case scenarios.

Thanks for all the good input, keep it coming guys!

Edited by msudodson07 on 10/20/2013 21:37:33 MDT.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Bivy on 10/20/2013 21:38:49 MDT Print View

I use a MLD bivy, its water resistant but not water proof, I use it under a tarp.

Equinox makes a similar but cheaper bivy that I used for a long time. The floor isn't the greatest quality nylon and eventually it leaked. I'd pair it with a ground cloth or put your Z-rest under it to keep you off the ground.

I would definitely use a bivy with the quilts. With the bag its not as important but might be nice at times, especially if you are under the gatewood which is kinda minimal.

I'd be inclined to take the mummy bag. Its the same weight as the two quilts and I'm guessing it will be warmer.

Jeffrey A.
(Jeff81) - F
bivy on 10/21/2013 00:35:30 MDT Print View

Borah Gear makes a great bivy that doesn't break the bank. It's what I use. I think the two quilts will be much warmer. I'd take just the sleeping bag (less fiddle factor) rather than both quilts, unless it looks like temps are going to be lower than what it's rated to.

Edited by Jeff81 on 10/21/2013 00:38:10 MDT.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Smokes. on 10/21/2013 05:12:28 MDT Print View

I did a trip that ended at Newfound Gap last December. Here is an example of the crazy weather. day 4 - enter park from eat side on AT. dress - shorts and running shoes. By noon it started raining hard with very strong winds and lightning. Waited out the worst of that in shelter. That evening hiked down trail that now resembled more of a stream than trail, wind was still strong with trees going down. Made it to Tri corner shelter. Overnight rain turned to sleet and coated everything with a layer of white. By morning sleet turned to snow, temperatures dropped to 20 degrees. Wind was still howling as we walked up to Newfound Gap on trail that was now a river of ice. That was 24 hrs.

As far as gear, a quick look and it is not far off what I would take. I would definitely take micro spikes since ice is likely a more common show stopper than deep snow.

Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
Gear on 10/21/2013 14:09:28 MDT Print View

Yeah, microspikes or the like are definitely must-have gear in winter in the Smokies.

On the bivy front, I'd make one. It's about the easiest MYOG project, and relatively cheap depending on the materials selected. From the cottages, I think Borah Gear is an exceptional value.

I would choose the quilts, but I would use the synthetic as the outer of the two. This will provide some moisture buffering, both from outside and within. You could also do this with your mummy if you expect colder conditions.

If you're leaving a car at the newfound Gap parking lot, stash a shovel, windshield scraper, and maybe some tire chains in trunk. Maybe some spare food and stove fuel. Just in case; I've had to dig myself out of that parking area before.

If conditions are good and you can extend your hike, I would highly recommend adding a loop of Mt. Leconte. It's pretty awesome, but check the trail conditions. The accesses from anywhere close to Newfound Gap (Boulevard or Alum Cave) can be pretty nasty in winter.

Have a great time! The trick to winter is being knowledgeable and cautious; those fire-starting skills or moisture-management techniques count that time of year.

PS Unless the forecast is for lots of snow, I'd take the Gatewood. If weather forces an unplanned camp, nestle up close to the trunk of the biggest healthy fir tree you can find. Should be easy with a Gatewood, tougher with the Shangri-La. Take some extra guylines along for improvising anchors.

Edited by cooldrip on 10/21/2013 14:14:52 MDT.

Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
Fleece on 10/22/2013 09:04:30 MDT Print View

Before you spend $50+ on fleece, I would check the local Goodwill. I found a nearly new, Early Winters microfleece zip-t last year for $4. I've also found light merino sweaters, great for layering, again $4. Also an Eddie Bauer windshirt, made with a heavier-than-usual nylon for bushwacking, for $5.