sleeping bags may be unnecessary

8:56 p.m. on May 29, 2007 (EDT)
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Not wanting to put unnecessary wear on a rather costly summer-weight sleeping bag Sunday night, I left it home and slept in a water-resistant sleeping bag cover, formerly made by OR, wearing long underwear bottoms and a pile sweater.

The low temperature in southern Vermont was about 57F. With a tad more clothing, this set up could easily be viable to upper 40s. Clothing is more versatile than a sleeping bag for obvious reasons.

A few other times in similar weather, I've taken a lightweight jacket, the underwear, and a hat, and dispensed with any sort of bag.

However, I was pleased with cover as it enabled me to dispense with a groundsheet, and there were heavy thundershowers, & thus tarp was rather damp and it protected me from a large, wet, muddy dog.

1:34 p.m. on May 30, 2007 (EDT)
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calamity, that's called "bivouacing". OR actually sold that cover as a bivy sack. And yes, those of us who have spent a bit of time in the woods and hills do bivy, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. But it really is not appropriate for inexperienced backpackers who still have a lot to learn.

2:16 p.m. on May 30, 2007 (EDT)
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Calamity - glad the cover protected you from a wet, muddy dog - that's a true peril in the wilderness .... ;=)

2:30 p.m. on May 30, 2007 (EDT)
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In places like BC or Alaska where second chances do not often happen, this type of advice will get someone killed. Everyone should carry a warmth-retaining, weatherproof shelter system IN ADDITION to appropriate clothing on EVERY trek.

2:56 p.m. on May 30, 2007 (EDT)
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Kutenay -

Even in the "temperate" zone it's foolish for anyone to head into the woods unprepared. People die on the Appalachian Trail here in the mid-Atlantic states from exposure and hypothermia - and the AT is about as close to a freeway as you can get for a footpath - but get disoriented - go off-trail 20-30 yards - panic, get injured or both - and it's apparently quite easy to die.

My daypack may seem a bit excessive - but perhaps being "over prepared" (if there is such a thing) comes from doing S&R and coming across folks for whom the "R" meant "recovery" rather than "rescue".

Then again, I know lots of people who drive around with no tools, no understanding of how cars work, no spare tire or jack - just a AAA card and a cell phone - who figure someone will always come along and help 'em out ..... why is it that I always seem to find the sorry SOB's?


10:21 p.m. on May 30, 2007 (EDT)
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Rather than bivouacing I was luxuriously prepared with sitz chairs and a sizable and completely enclosed shelter in the form of Golight Hex for myself, a small girlfriend and two Samoyed dogs.

The sack weighs a pound, was cheaper than most sleeping bags, and is more durable and in some respects provides more protection. Extra clothing can rum the gamut and obviously a Himalayan down suit inside the sack under a Hex tent would be adequate for the most dire scenarios...though in June, July and August etc one can actually get by with very little.


1:54 a.m. on May 31, 2007 (EDT)
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Are you a tow-truck driver ?

7:35 a.m. on May 31, 2007 (EDT)
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No, I am not a tow truck driver, I'm a project director for a major company in the printing industry. While I have a great deal of respect for tow truck drivers, and feel it's a fine profession, my educational qualifications are a wee bit past those generally required for driving any sort of truck.

May I inquire of you, Calamity, are you, perhaps, an author working in the realm of fiction?

While others heard the dog say "arf" I understood that his nonsensical utterings were symbolic of the scream streets of Sri Lanka, where the mountains wept technicolor tears ...

10:03 a.m. on May 31, 2007 (EDT)
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Calamity tells us that in June, July and August, one can get by with very little, well, my experience makes me disagree.

Two years ago, a young man from Wisconsin, whom his family stated was an "experienced outdoorsman" went hiking, without an emerg. kit including bivy and bag, from the top of the Grouse Mtn. Cablecar in the mountains surrounding Vancouver, B.C. This is the most mild climate and one of the most populated parts of Canada, BUT, within a half-mile, you are in raw, untouched wilderness, wet, often cold, with high winds and very difficult terrain.

He seemed to feel much as Calamity does and "knew" the "wilderness" as his family said in TV interviews while the dearch for him took place. Yeah, sure he did and this was demonstrated when his corpse was slung out under a 206 a week later....autopsy results were "death due to hypothermia", which happens here frequently due to this attitude.

Very simply, anyone who goes hiking without an emergency bivy-bag-pad and other gear IS going to eventually end up in deep doo-doo. I have SEEN enough deadly incidents here during my employment, my younger brother is an EMT who has flown out lots of deceased wannabes in body bags and I ALWAYS carry a full emerg. pack.

12:39 p.m. on May 31, 2007 (EDT)
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Ahh Kutenay,

Calamity is correct - you can get "away with" very taking little - with being unprepared - in fact some folks manage to do so quite often.

You can also "get away" with climbing free-solo, approaching bear cubs, drinking untreated water in third world countries and many other very risky activities - sometimes.

You never, however, hear people discussing the times they didn't get away with being unprepared. It's rare to hear people discuss the nights spent wet and cold, the deep desire for sleep, the inability to focus, the final feeling of tragic, quite submission to hypothermia, because those folks tend to be dead.

1:27 p.m. on May 31, 2007 (EDT)
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Getting Away With ....

I think SteveFolky is on the right track. Calamity is actually a writer of adventure fiction, an ancient and honorable occupation, dating back to before the days of the ancient Greeks. I did a bit of bush flying some years back (including a bit in your neck of the woods), and "hangar flying" is a major pastime between flights. Now, hangar flying requires the story to have some factual basis and a lot of "embellishment". There is a whole book, titled "There I was, upside down,..." In my flying, I, too, got away with some things that frighten me even today, 30 years later. I wrote up one of these that got published in AOPA Pilot magazine in the "Never Again!" column (broke both the wings, aileron pushrod, stretched control cables). Actually, that article was factual and included sections from the FAA report of the incident.

When I was 16 (with all the immortality, invulnerability, and omniscience of adolescents), I "got away with" getting bit by a rattlesnake (and, yes, the snake died, which is true, though not for the reason you would first think).

There is a whole series of books with the title "I never should have gone" and extensions to the title ("More I never should...", "Still more I never ..."). These are mostly tourist trips, but a few camping trips are among them.

Shackleton "got away with" getting stuck in Antarctic ice, with "Endeavour" being a great book (ok, Shackleton was a great leader and had a goodly amount of supplies and experience to draw on). But Scott didn't "get away with it", though the fatal trek makes for great reading in "The Worst Journey In The World".

I expect that Calamity will give each of the members of Trailspace an autographed copy of his soon to be released book "I Got Away With It".

3:12 p.m. on May 31, 2007 (EDT)
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Ahh ... "Armchair Mountaineering" ... very nice way to pass an evening seated in a nice leather chair, brandy and cigar within easy reach, faithful dog at your feet, a friend or two seated in equal comfort, sharing tales of adventure!

Being a guitar playing fool, I got a kick out of the following joke the first time I heard it ...

Q: Did you hear what was written on the Blues musicians headstone?

A: "Well I didn't get up this morning"


10:07 p.m. on May 31, 2007 (EDT)
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More obvious bait:

The great mountaineer, athelete & manufacturer Ivon Chouinard, in his seminal 1978 how-to book "Climbing Ice" gave advise to this effect:

"Leave the 'ten essentials' at home" and "Never take bivouac gear, unless you plan to use it."

It's very true that Chouinard's advise is sometimes grossly misapplied: for example, the case in December on Mt. Hood.

Here, let me first apologize for stuipd personal background crap. So I never climbed Hood, but I climbed St. Helens 2x during 1978, including once in February. I've done six summer alpine routes in BC and Alberta, and about twenty in Washington, over many years & mostly with hellish approaches; also soloed Mt. Washington 3x in winter, & soloed to 16500 snowy feet on Orizaba at Mardi Gras in '02 where slight health concern suggested turn around.

In summer non-alpine, sometimes my main safety & comfort worry is HFFAB, or "How Far From A Bar..." although I once hurt my knee on solo hike 15 miles from nearest dirt road at Northville-Placid trail's Canada Lakes in late October.

I've also made a long-term study of ditch-camping -- which may be yet another discipline open to many more fine points of debate...& about which I coult offer a few snake-tips for Californians in particular...


1:45 a.m. on June 1, 2007 (EDT)
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Calamity, whatever your resume may be, and it certainly is more robust than mine, the point that Bill, Kutenay and Steve are making is an important one.

This site attracts everyone from people like Bill, with decades of experience, to people who shouldn't be left alone in their own backyard.

While you and Yvon Chouinard and others may "get away" with little or no gear, other people can't and shouldn't be encouraged to do so. They just don't have the skills,experience or wilderness sense to do without the basics. Blanket statements about what gear to use or what to leave at home can lead to unhappy situations. I moderate on another site as well, and we keep an eye on these kinds of discussions. That particular site is for lightweight backpacking, so the temptation to make profound statements about what people need or don't need so their pack only weighs a few pounds is great.

I've been up Grouse Mtn. and that's pretty hairy territory, even if you can see the city below. The same is true of many places around LA. They just pulled a guy out of the local mountains yesterday with a helo-fell and broke his ankle. Two years ago, there were about 5-6 fatalities from falls, hypothermia or disappearances that never turned up. Encouraging anyone to be less than fully prepared for the unexpected really does them and this site a disservice.

8:26 p.m. on June 1, 2007 (EDT)
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Tom: I do agree with you basic point and must offer an actual apology...HYet lowest temperature for next five days in S. Vermont as of Friday is now 50 degrees.

Fortunately, due to climate change or other reasons, the first Campmoor catalog ever to appear with wide sellection of sleeping bags with 35+ ratings is now available. In itself this is a good trend.

An ability to analyze equipment relative to expected conditions is important & may even help avoid the hellacious, and horribly haunting and horrendous consequences of many a misfortune of miscalculation etc for the equipment impaired or testosterone psycho-idiots or mere babes-in-the-woods.


8:24 a.m. on June 2, 2007 (EDT)
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What utter bullsh*t.

8:00 p.m. on June 2, 2007 (EDT)
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You opened this thread with the statment that you did not want "to put unnecessary wear on a rather costly summer-weight sleeping bag." You then explain that a sleeping bag is unnecessary into the 40 degree range--the typical range for a summer-weight sleeping bag. Thus, all wear on your summer-weight bag is unnecessary.

Since you already spent the money, why not use the costly bag until it wears out and then go bagless?

7:35 a.m. on June 3, 2007 (EDT)
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We don't need no stinkin' bagses.

8:14 p.m. on June 4, 2007 (EDT)
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In mild weather such as we've been having, I normally use my beat-up and now slightly rotting 1971 duck down-and- feathers tapered bag, with cotton shell fabric. It was a very much lighter & different version of the common GI mummy bag of its day, and might almost still be good, with plenty of extra cloths and tent, down to near freezing.

Recently , I needed two summer bags; one for me & one for girl friend, for backpacking on a wilderness tributary of the upper Deerfield River.

Several years ago I bought the 1-pound Western Mteering "Highlight" model then rated at 40 degrees with the delicate ".9 ounce ExtremeLite" shell fabric.

It's a little bit of overkill for mild summer weather, and given that my girl friend was bringing her two large, predictably wet, dirty and affectionate dogs to snooze with us, I chose to spare the WMteering's crappy but ultralight textiles.

I used bivvy sack arrangement previously described and gave girl friend the rotting sleeping bag instead. She prefers its fine cotton shell to my method, though she complained about drips from Golight Hex tarp, while I merely pulled sack over my head.

The dogs were also another great argument against tent floors, but not ground sheets, but that's another equipment debate.

I use bivvy sack a lot and I like how it makes ground sheets a little redundant. Its bulk & 1-pound weight is comparatively negligible, and it makes a stuff-sack & stuffing redundant. With WM bag optimal temp range for me, is about 20-45F degrees, assuming additional tentage protection at lower end of range. In warmer temps I might use '71 bag, or nothing. In winter, with different sleeping bag, it's spares worry about snow etc on the bag.

9:22 p.m. on July 6, 2007 (EDT)
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Last weekend I trail-ran the "Knee Knackering Trail Run". This is some 50 km across the local mountains of Vancouver, BC. I started out at 6:00 pm with the intention and preparation to bivouac that evening in the mountains, as it did happen. I went with a 28 liter backpack and ultralight gear.

The temperature was high of 20 oC with low of 13 oC. I camped at 1200 meter elevation, for which the temperature was a colder 10 oC. I erected a very simple silnylon tarp as shelter. My bedding consisted of a Thermalite Emergency bivy bag (aluminum mylar type) and silk bag liner over a mattress composed of evergreen needles and twigs. I had no sleeping bag but wore all my clothing: goretex rain jacket and pants, fleesey jacket, polartec shirt and poly pants, and two pairs of wool socks, toque.

I was continuously chilled throughout the night, awakening every hour. I knew, and the night experience confirmed, that my provisions for sleep were at their limit. Even so, this was done at the hottest time of the year and with the best of weather (clear skies, no wind, moderately low elevation).

My point: overnighting without a sleeping bag should be confined to one's backyard when otherwise challenged with the conditions of Western Canada's environment and climes.

10:28 p.m. on July 6, 2007 (EDT)
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What I am currently packing for hikes year-round, usually solo in this exact area is an Exped Wallcreeper Primaloft "sleeping bag", with a cut down Ridgerest and a Hilleberg Bivanorak, this is super light, but, it WILL keep you warm enough to function well, if combined with clothing, down to well below freezing.

I NEVER go ANYWHERE without an emergency "cocoon" and have several different rigs to suit my needs in different environments. I have bivied a LOT all over western Canada and going without a sleeping bag is simply idiotic.

10:35 p.m. on July 6, 2007 (EDT)
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Skeleton, check with Mountain Magic in Surrey and MEC, I think that these are now on sale and an ID child's bag used as an "elephant's foot"is also a good option for your kind of activity, a light Pl jacket is, IMO, MUCH warmer than fleece and MEC has a pretty decent one.

Your comments reflect my own experience here in BC, I found that some ultralight options were NOT real wise and led to freezin' nads!

11:20 p.m. on July 6, 2007 (EDT)
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For the benefit of those who may not realize, the climate of BC is variable depending on location, and because of the influence of the Pacific ocean, much of it is milder than most of North America.

Vancouver, for example has many palm trees along its beaches, and Victoria is actually warmer, though of course, neither could be termed sub-tropical.

In coastal mountains for a fair distance to the north,
the summer climate is often delightful, and even in winter, those mountains are relatively very mild, though there is lots of slushy snow and stormy weather.

The farther east one travels, typically, the colder it gets in winter and hotter in summer. Yet because the maritime influence on climate often extends to the Columbia Trench, most of the province apart from the far north isn't noted for extreme cold spells relative to other parts of Canada.


12:00 a.m. on July 7, 2007 (EDT)
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OK, enough is enough, that is a deliberate lie and you do not know what you arfe talking about. There are NO palm trees along Vancouver's beaches, they are NOT indigenous to this region and there is STILL deep snow visible from my window as I type this. Severe storms with 100 KPH winds happen here frequently, heavy snowfalls happen all winter which is six months and longer in the interior and people die, EVERY year, from Hypothermia within sight of my home, ESPECIALLY "experts" like you who have NEVER experienced cold weather.

The ... maritime influence on climate...DOES NOT extend the The Columbia Trench, that is nearly 700 miles AND the vast area between the coast and the RMT has a DESERT in it, just east of the Coast Range. The desert OFTEN has sub-freezing temps. and always has snow during the winter, while the regions west and east of it have huge snowfalls for about seven months per year.

The northern BC coast is cold, stormy, wet and has enormous snowfalls, some of the largest on the continent. Just east of the Coast Range is the Cariboo-Chilcotin, which records temps. BELOW -50*F, fairly often during winter.

BC has some of the coldest weather ANYWHERE in Canada, collecting data on this, in the field was a significant aspect of much of my work during most of my life, Canadian Coast Guard, BC Forest Service, Alberta Forest Service, etc. WHERE does YOUR info. come from and WHEN, WHERE and for HOW LONG did you live and work here?

Your stupid comments have no relevance to backpacking and I doubt that you have/do EVER GO hiking/backpacking. SOME of us really try to give experience-based info. here and all you can do is wreck one thread after another with your arrogant, ignorant BS. Gawd, you really ARE a piece of work!!!

12:22 a.m. on July 7, 2007 (EDT)
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kutenay - email me with your address. I have some information that will be of interest to you, I think.

-- Bill S

2:59 a.m. on July 7, 2007 (EDT)
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Thanks for the heads up on Mountain Magic. I haven't shopped there yet but it sounds worth checking out (always looking for more gear).

Yes, I have a PrimaLoft jacket. Six of us climbed Mt Matier (Joffre Prov Park) about two weeks back. My PL jacket served as my pajamas inside my -20 oC rated WM sleeping bag for the days we camped at our base camp.

(Sometimes even a sleeping bag is not enough to stay warm in the summers of British Columbia, eh? Well - certainly not at 9000 feet with winds blowing down from the col, anyway.)

10:03 a.m. on July 7, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill, will do.

Skeleton, yup, I also put the synthetic bag or clothing INSIDE the down bag, had a Chouinard Thermolite emerg. bag and have a Feathered Friends ul bag that takes a Thermarest in a pocket and used this in the South Chilcotin at temps. that froze my boots rockhard, yet, I was very comfortable.

I just bought a WM Alpinlite Super for summer fishing trips into remote lakes and combine this with my ID Uniselter and one of my Syltarps; this works very well and is really light to pack. I have found ice on many lakes in the Kootenays in July and August,so, gotta agree with you.

I have decided to just go for it and am going to buy a WM Bison for winter camping, I feel the cold more at 61 and can save weight elsewhere to compensate for the 4.5 lb. sleeping bag. I gotta sleep well if I am going to trek in tough country, gettin'old!! :) :) :)

My apologies to all for my somewhat inchoate comments in my last post, I should just ignore BS of this kind.

4:44 p.m. on July 7, 2007 (EDT)
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It's suprising that a BC resident could be ignorant of palm trees in the province. They are not indigenous, but are commonly seen along the beaches of SW BC. A Google search can easily confirm this.

Yet the only significant August snowfall I've ever seen was in the Bugaboos, and I probably overstated the case for the climate in BC, which is as I mentioned earlier, highly variable depending on location.

I've also climbed in the northern Selkirks and in nearby Alberta, and in total have probably spent six weeks in BC in the past 30 years. Mostly I've taken 40F-rated sleeping bags on summer mountain trips, and also in winter on Vancouver Is. lowlands.

Not using a sleeping bag requires good judgment and is dependent upon what type of clothing is available, and whether a bivvy sack is used.

For a night out at freezing, using an $800 down suit and a bivvy sack would be overkill and irrational. Shorts and a T-shirt would be equally irrational.

I've found sleeping bagless camping useful in my home area in eastern U.S. during summer, where low temps are often extremely mild. I also encouraged my cousin to try it at 0 F when he forgot his bag. I don't think he liked it.

5:25 p.m. on July 7, 2007 (EDT)
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Regarding maritime climate influence east of RMT in British Columbia, see page 223 "Timberline: Mountain and Arctic Forest Frontiers" 1982, Stephen F. Arno & Ramona P. Hammerly.

"The western slopes of the Great Divide support an inland maritime forest, whereas the eastern slope, in Alberta, has none of the Pacific tree species."

I've observed stands of cedar between the divide and the Columbia, so maybe Dr. Arno is on to something.)

5:43 p.m. on July 7, 2007 (EDT)
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Dr. Arno also points out that the Monashees and Selkirks "have a strong maritime climatic influence, and are the only part of the Candian Rockies supporting mountain hemlock." (Arno's geographic nomenclature departs somewhat from local usage in defining these ranges as a part of the Rockies.)

Elsewhere, he reports that "the low-elevation interior valleys of south-central British Columbia are the warmest-driest areas of all Canada, largely because they lie in the rain-shadow of the Cascades and coast ranges."

It's a good book on mountain forestry, covers all of N. America and is perhaps available at your local library. (It has no information on palm trees.)

6:59 p.m. on July 7, 2007 (EDT)
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This is more of the SAME "cut and paste" BS and HERE are the FACTS.

WHERE are these Palm Trees, they ARE NOT ...commonly seen along the beaches...etc. as the BEACHES here are almost entirely MANMADE due to tidal, geological and climatic influences.

I LIVE here, my family pioneered here BEFORE BC was part of Canada and I spent most of my life IN FORESTRY, the very FEW Palm Trees here are in gardens devoted to non-indigenous species, they DO NOT grow along Vancouver's beaches and NEVER HAVE.

...I probably overstated the case for the climate in BC..., YES, you certainly HAVE and your knowledge of BC is not only miniscule, you deliberately mislead people here by stating ONE thing and then another. Your experience level here, allegedly six whole weeks in 30 years, is simply insufficient to make the comments you have made, but, since you obviously enjoy acting the fool, well, I think that others have a pretty fair idea of your credibility.

The Rockies and the Selkirks are DIFFERENT RANGES, the Coast Range and the Cascades are also different ranges and the climatic influences on the Monashees, which are a sub-range of the Selkirks are "Continental", NOT "Maritime", see V. Krajina, et al."Tsuga Mertensiana" aka Mountain Hemlock DOES NOT GROW in the Canadian Rockies, see RC Hosie, et al., it is actually a quite rare tree and found in non-hybred form very seldom now for various reasons....where, btw, did YOU identify your last observed specimen?

Again, your authority is WRONG as the "Pacific tree species", such as "Tseudotsuga menziesii", aka Douglas Fir, "Pinus Monticola", aka Western White Pine, "Pinus Albicaulis", aka Whitebark Pine, "Pinus Contorta"aka Lodgepole Pine, "Abies Laziocarpa"aka Alpine Fir and "Thuja Plcata", aka Western Red Cedar DO grow in Alberta where they are among the major commercial species as they are here in BC.

Again, I worked for BOTH the BC and Alberta Forest Services for quite some time; YOU rely on erroneous opinions from a book that YOU say is a ...good book on mountain forestry..., WHAT is YOUR qualification level to supporet this judgement, are YOU a forester?

Almost every opinion I have seen you post on this forum concerning BC, cold weather camping/gear and climbing/backpacking is wrong and seems intended to stir up a "flamë war".

The warmest part of Canada is Lytton, BC, in the Fraser Canyon, on the eastern slope of the Coast Range and the desert I referred to is approximately the same with ambient mid-summer temps. to about 43*C, max. It is NOT "dry" in the way "Death Valley"is dry, ALL of BC is wetter than almost all of North America. The lush vegetation from riverine, lacustrine and meltwater irrigation makes even our driest regions quite verdant in comparison to the Mojave, foe example.

Snow in the Bugs in August, sure and every other BC mountain range is the same, as I said. Maybe YOU like to go without appropriate gear here on your expeditions, but, locals who live here and haul the corpses of guys who share your level of expertise in the mountains certainly don't agree.

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