winter backpacking

8:07 a.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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thinking of trying some trips in dec. and Jan. done alot in spring summer and fall, but planning my first winter trip.  i know i need a sleeping bag rated for colder temps than the one i have, but was wondering how badly i need a 4 season tent.  or would my 3 season suffice

9:32 a.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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Hey Chris, 

I can't answer in full right this minute, and am not the most experienced in winter hiking, but I think I can give you some info. Tipi is the real authority on the subject, at least for this part of the country.

What locations and elevations are you looking at?

9:45 a.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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Without knowing the elevations and terrain you are hiking I can only give you a general answer.

Sleeping bag: I would look at something rated to 0 to -5. The decision of whether to go down or synthetic will depend on where you will be at.

I have not done a lot of winter hiking, but I have done a ton of winter mountaineering. I will say that a 4 season tent is worth the investment if you plan on doing this much.  They are designed to hold in heat better, and the larger vestibules are great for storing extra gear, and cooking.

Having said that, if you are only planning overnighters, and only looking to be out 3-4 nights for the season. I would say that a good 3 season tent would be adequate as long as the vestibule goes all the way to the ground. The reason for this is most 3 season tents have more mesh for airflow, and no other way to seal it. Without a full length vestibule snow will blow right up the inside of your vestibule and in through the mesh. 

12:11 p.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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four season tents are made to better withstand winter conditions - high wind, snow, etc.  so, the poles and fabric are more robust, and the design should be better able to handle snow weight or high winds.  i also agree with the comments above about the fly/vestibule design. it really depends on where you plan to go and your tolerance for bad weather.  this much is true - if your tent collapses or shreds and it's cold out, it is a pretty big problem. 

1:31 p.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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thanks for the answers. probably should've mentioned it will be mostly in south eastern and south central Kentucky, maybe on into Tennessee or Virginia.  2 - 3 nights a trip.

1:51 p.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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Good point Leadbelly, I had forgotten about snow load. I must admit that I am unfamiliar with the winters in that area. I am guessing that the snow is much wetter there than here in the Rockies. 

2:08 p.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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You don't need a 4 season tent unless you plan to get lots of snow? I use a 3 season tent and it does quite well even in winter. Its best to have a dome or type of tent that has interconnecting poles at the top to help shed the snow. Domes work best at this.

And as far as a sleeping bag go with at least a 20 degree bag, down is lightest but synthetics work well too. A good air filled or ensolite type pad will insulate your body from the cold ground. You can suppliment a sleeping bag with a blanet folded longways and sewn together on one end and along the long side and pulled over your sleeping bag, I did this many times in the bottom of the Grand Canyon in midwinter (temps around 10-40 degrees) and around Flagstaff (6500-7500') and rarely had any coldness problems.

Get insulated boots or wear a plastic bread bag over your feet as a vapor barrier with wool socks or polypro ones. I prefer wool because it warm even wehn wet.

 

2:15 p.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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more info on the conditions you'll experience will be helpful in determining whether 4 season is needed or if 3 season will suffice.

If you think you'll experience snow, wind, and cold temps, I'd go with 4 season. The biggest reason most people would rather not get a 4 season tent is because of the price, but you can get 4 season tents for pretty reasonable.

I'd be happy to tell you more about my experience with 4 season tents and my experience with finding deals if you tell me more about what weather you'll see.

I would say I hike more in the winter than any other time of the year.

3:16 p.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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Welcome to the wonderful season of Winter. By far my favorite season. But winter brings along challenges that are unique but that you must be prepared for.

I won't ramble on about winter backpacking, though I very easily could. I will just answer your questions for now.

Sleeping bag: I would recommend a 0F bag at least, however if on a tight budget an accurately rated 15 or 20F bag can be stretched lower by using additional clothing layers and a sleeping bag liner. You can also use a light bivy cover with a bag to gain an additional 10F or so.

Shelter/tents: There are alot of options for winter shelters, and several factors to consider when choosing your shelter. Your options to choose from are 1)A 4 season tent, 2) a 3 season tent, 3) a tarp, 4) a lean to, 5) a bivy(usually combined with a tarp).

After looking at your options you need to consider all the things you might reasonably encounter on your winter adventures, your budget, and experience level.

4 season tent: You should choose a 4 season tent if you will knowingly be seting up in an exposed area, encountering heavy snow loads, encountering high winds.

3 season tent: Can be used in winter if you plan ahead and find a campsite location that has some natural shelter/protection from the elements, are responsible enough to wake up every hour or so during a snow storm to knock off the snow so your tent doesnt collapse(it's very easy to break some 3 season tent poles), if you choose your location wisely you can mostly avoid the high powered wind situation. It however is important to choose a freestanding tent if possible, it can be challenging if not impossible at times to set up a non freestanding tent in winter, in the snow. There is a certain art to staking out a tent in the snow and wind.

Tarp: I personally use a tarp and hammock in winter, before the hammock I used a bivy and tarp. A tarp is easily used in winter, it just takes a little more knowledge and being 'comfortable' with winter to be able to use it successfully. I have a large tarp with doors so I can basically close it up completely (think A frame tent). A tarp is easy to setup, but is more succecptible to wind, and camp site location is very crtical. Can be very drafty compared to a tent if not set up well.

Lean to/permenant shelter: Choose backpacking trips where you can utilize shelters. Pretty self explanitory. BUT, you still need to carry some kind of backup shelter with you in case you can not make it to your planned shelter. I suggest and have used myself many times a tarp/bivy combo and would stay in shelters when possible. Using my bivy in the shelter helped with drafts, and you can also use your tarp to seal the front of the shelter alot of times.

Bivy: A bivy goes around your sleeping bag, and really can add a decent amount of warmth to your sleep system. You can use a bivy just to add some warmth, for weather protection, or as an emergency shelter option. Using a bivy alone without a tarp is less than ideal, as you have no place to just sit up and relax while being protected from the elements.

So weigh your options and choose the one that best works for you. A 4 season tent is great, but it isn't neccesarily a requirement despite what some may claim. Just respect mother nature and don't plan to camp in an exposed bald in your 3 season tent. If using something other than a 4 season tent, then plan accordingly and you will be fine. Just because you have to spend an extra 20-30 minutes looking for a good camp site isn't going to kill you. I have ridden out many a winter storms in my tarp and bivy, and only 1 so far in my tent/hamock, but that will probably change this winter.

Feel free to ask any other winter backpacking questions, it's a whole different world come winter time.

 

6:02 p.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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My winter hiking experience consists of setting up in sheltered Shenandoah valleys. Little wind, light snow. A decent air mattress and a 20 degree bag with a stable three season tent. This has given me a great winter experience. Anyone wishing to challenge the elements more robust then this should really have a very clear understanding of how inadequate this setup would be in high winds and sustained snow falls. Get out and crunch around in the snow and enjoy the crisp solitude. If you want the real challange of winter elements you need to research, take the above solid advice and go loaded for bear.

9:05 p.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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Chris Utz said :

"thanks for the answers. probably should've mentioned it will be mostly in south eastern and south central Kentucky, maybe on into Tennessee or Virginia.  2 - 3 nights a trip."

I've been down south during some hellish ice storm's. One of the many reasons I did not end up living down south. Is your tent equal to the task of you holing up in during the mother of all ice storms.  If not, can you say cryogenics.

They only time you "need" a four season tent for four season conditions is when your 3 season tent fails in the fourth season. My mantra has always been not "when do you need a 4 season tent",but, "why do you not have a four season tent in the first place".  My very first tent was and is a four season expedition tent. I own in excess of 45 tents and 43+ are four season and or expedition tents. I have never had a tent failure and I never expect to.  I have also have never had any condensation problems as have been so often discussed here at Trailspace, ventelation is the answer, pur and simple.  Some of my favorite backcountry stories are of tent failures when such a failure could have been avoided with the proper tent.  You can find many a fine 4 season tent for really reasonable and or down right cheap prices on EBay and Craiglist at this time of the year. You may think that your 2-3 season tent will be able to handle what ever conditions that the 4th season may through at you. You will be right many times and that will give you the confidence to go higher and further until tent failure. I look forward to all the advice you will get regarding your tent decisions. There is a reason they rate a three season tent a three season tent. That's cause it's not rated as a 4 season tent, and you know, that’s pretty darn simple. Remember as all three season tents are not created equal neither are all 4 season tents created equal either.

The sleeping bag conundrum is a little more forgiving. If you use a liner then you can increase your temp range by up to 10 deg.  If needed, you can bulk up in your bag with fleece or wool and that will keep you roasty toasty warm.

Remember you need to be prepared for the very worst conditions that can happen, not what you think might happen moreover even what the weather person says is going to happen.

I live in a micro climate. The weather person the other day said that we should experience 3 in of rain in a 24 hr period. They did, we, at my house however recived 4.5 inches. Think of that in relation to the cold.  If its suppose to be 20 deg at night what if that changes while your out in the back country and it snows so much you can get out and then it gets down to -20 to -40 with 30 mph winds. This was not uncommon up where I lived in "The Colorado Rockies."

These conditions are called expedition mountaineering conditions. If you are going to do such things you need expedition mountaineering equipment.  Do not foo your self and think that these conditions cannot happen at lower elevations as well.  IMHO of course. Other will disagree and that is fine. It is better to have more tent than you need than less tent than you needed.

Remember a tent is designed to keep you dry and not necessarly warm.  A sleeping bag is designed to keep you warm but not necessaly dry.  The proper tent and sleeping bag willare desinged to keep you wam and dry.

When and if you decide to get a four season tent and or another sleeping bag I will be happy to add my knowledge to the frey.

 

9:59 p.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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I think the others have pretty much covered the salient points, I can only add a few thoughts of my own.

A good 0F or lower synthetic bag, ideally primaloft, would be my recommendation for winter in the Southeastern mountains. In a locale where the temperature is more consistent and well below freezing, a down bag would be fantastic. But for us, strong winter storm often either starts or ends with temps above freezing, making it very easy to get you a down bag wet and dangerously cold. That'll get you you kilt'

I do not currently own a four season or expedition tent, and love getting out in the mountains in winter. You just have to be smart, as a three season tent is not likely to fare well if a good one blows in while you are in an exposed location at above 4000ft. Most people have no concept of how severe and unforgiving a storm in these eastern mountains can be. I didn't until I saw it myself. I have a photo that most everyone thinks must have been taken in someplace like Alaska, but it was shot at 4,500ft on the TN/NC border last January. 60mph wind, 3ft of snow, 7ft drifts, and -20F. So if you head up there where you might just meet such a storm, be prepared with multiple contingencies to bail out for lower altitude and sheltered locations. And of course go equipped with adequate provisions, winter gear, and experience.

10:50 p.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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I have ZERO experience at what most people would call Winter backpacking/camping. I'm a native Floridian and I am not kidding you when I say that I have not seen snow on the ground.  I have seen it on top of the car and on a trampoline, but never what I would call a significant amount of snow on the ground.

This is what a conversation between a couple of Floridians going camping in January would sound like.

We'll need some warm clothes. 

Yeah, I'm packing a sweat suit for camp. Are you taking your winter bag?

Yeah  I'm taking my 20 degree bag.  Hopefully it'll be cold enough I won't roast in it like I did in November. I brought my Hilleberg 4-season tent too.

Why? It's not hurricane season.

I know but I never get to use it.

3:55 p.m. on October 19, 2011 (EDT)
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Hey Chris,

We live roughly in the same region and like you I’m about to branch out into some winter trips this year. So, sorry I have no expertise to offer (I’m a “newbie” too when it comes to serious winter conditions) but for what it’s worth, I plan on getting a four season tent to use in East TN. Some of the places that I’ll wind up are very, very windy and I know that I’ll at least need the wind stopping capability of a tough four season tent.

Patrick

7:46 p.m. on October 19, 2011 (EDT)
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With a 4 season tent I am comfortable in weather to 10 F above the sleeping bags rating.  If it gets much colder than that, I will be uncomfortable.  A 3 season tent is fine, but plan on maybe padding the sleeping bag rating with another 10-15 F if it will be much colder than freezing.  I find that I do stay warmer in a 4 season tent, but a 3 season tent is perfectly workable as long as you arent exposed to much wind.  If there is even a slight breeze, a 3 season tent gets pretty cold.  As long as you can stay out of the wind, you will be fine. 

 

Wearing a hat that fully covers you ears makes a big differance while you are sleeping. 

7:49 p.m. on October 19, 2011 (EDT)
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WISam said:

Wearing a hat that fully covers you ears makes a big differance while you are sleeping. 

 Like this?

new2.jpg

9:17 p.m. on October 19, 2011 (EDT)
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Bahahhaha. It looks like your wearing a bonnet the way the hood wraps around. How'd you get your hands free for the pic Rick?

9:51 p.m. on October 19, 2011 (EDT)
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Wow, and I thought I was a gearhead. I stand in awe of our Trailspace brethren. LOL.

I don't have what you would call extensive winter camping experience. It started with many a pleasant night on snow, under the pines, in a little park that was part of my college campus, with an Ensolite pad, a Sierra Designs 15 degree dcwn bag, and my own naturally sunny disposition (I am a very warm sleeper.) No tarp. No tent. Just the starry firmament overhead. Was that in conditions of gale-force winds and snow falling by the foot? No. Light wind and the snow was already on the ground.

There is a point to that little anecdote.

Gear is all well and good. But it is a secondary consideration. The most important tool is between your ears.

Researching climatological conditions in your target area has never been easier. Get on Google and look for climate data for the areas you mentioned. Of course there are microclimates within more general areas, but don't worry about that for now. What you want is max/min temps for that place during that month -- historical data, not forecasts, right? -- and the same for precip.

Next, what kind of sleeper are you? Warm or cold? Incredibly important data. Providing that I am properly hydrated, and have eaten well beforehand, my bags really do perform at their rated specs. Something with some fats and protein in it -- nuts are good -- will help keep the digestive fires going. A wool cap, as someone else mentioned, and some nice dry socks. That takes care of the top, the bottom, and the middle, and I sleep pretty well.

You may be a cold sleeper, which means that 15 deg bag would only be good to 25 or 30 deg in the same conditions. You should already know what kind of sleeper you are. I don't even cover with a sheet in the summer, and can get by with sheet and light blanket through most of the winter. With the window open a bit. But I know people who want a blanket even in summer, and a down comforter or more in the winter. There's your clue right there. The clothing stuff -- wool cap or balaclava, dry socks, plus long-burning food in the belly -- those are standards.

So, you know what kind of sleeper you are, which helps tell you what your bag and mat are capable of, and you know what kind of weather to expect. Your sleeping system -- clothes, bag, pad, and tent -- should be adequate to keep you reasonably comfy -- perhaps not toasty, but warm enough to sleep most of the night -- if the low temp estimate turns out to be true.

Your margin of error is, in addition to this, you can put on every stitch of clothing you brought with you, if things go high and sideways on you. Lightweight bivy, as suggested? Sure, a little more margin of error.

Considering snow-loading on your tent has already been covered adequately. What I haven't seen mentioned is that in your target area, moisture is more likely to be a problem. One person did say "wet snow" and that is true. Wet everything more like. The wool suggestion is a good one, and of course wicking base layer. Think rain forest. A cold rain forest. LOL.

If you don't mind the weight, a good old Eureka Timberline with vestibule fly is a dang good tent. Handles wind better than most domes, and the design sheds snow pretty well. Ventilates pretty well in the summer -- not as good as some, granted -- and buttons down very well in the winter. I use the larger 4 man tent for just myself, year-round, here in North Carolina. I live on the coast, but get over to the Blue Ridge when I can. I used the two man version for 25 years before getting the 4 man. I know there are lighter tents that work as well, but price per weight it's hard to beat. Shucks, before all the ultralight stuff came out, the Timberline was a light tent!

11:47 p.m. on October 19, 2011 (EDT)
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JC5123 said:

..I have not done a lot of winter hiking, but I have done a ton of winter mountaineering. I will say that a 4 season tent is worth the investment if you plan on doing this much.  They are designed to hold in heat better, and the larger vestibules are great for storing extra gear, and cooking...

Ah, I wouldn't advise cooking in a tent or vestibule.  This is an excellent way to hurt someone.  Liquid or compressed fuel stoves are not fail safe, and tent fires occur too often to ignore this risk.

Ed

2:23 a.m. on October 20, 2011 (EDT)
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3 seasoin tent will do in most cases.

Considerations though,

- wind

- precipitation

- elevation (dehydration)

7:14 a.m. on October 20, 2011 (EDT)
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Lots of great advice, guys.  really appreciate the helpful hints.

3:21 p.m. on October 20, 2011 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

JC5123 said:

..I have not done a lot of winter hiking, but I have done a ton of winter mountaineering. I will say that a 4 season tent is worth the investment if you plan on doing this much.  They are designed to hold in heat better, and the larger vestibules are great for storing extra gear, and cooking...

Ah, I wouldn't advise cooking in a tent or vestibule.  This is an excellent way to hurt someone.  Liquid or compressed fuel stoves are not fail safe, and tent fires occur too often to ignore this risk.

Ed

 Too true, and I should have elaborated. However in bad storms up high with no other shelter than your tent, sometimes that is the only choice. 2 things to remember if you ever need to. Always start your stove outside, and bring it in only after it's running smooth,  and second VENTILATION!!!!!

Most 4 season tents come with vents and large openings, and whether the company chooses to admit it or not, cooking was thought about when they added them.

6:34 p.m. on October 20, 2011 (EDT)
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JC5123 said:

 ..Too true, and I should have elaborated. However in bad storms up high with no other shelter than your tent, sometimes that is the only choice...

I will assert few of us will ever see the conditions that warrant a stove in a tent.  I have yet to resort to this, and have been chased off the shoulders of Denali, been on trips above 16K’ five times, climbed Shasta, Hood, Baker, and Rainer several times, and regularly snow camped in the High Sierras for the past thirty years.  So I ask what conditions warrant chancing a flash fire in your tent?

Foregoing use of a stove for a day is not the end of the world.  Bring food that doesn’t require heating if you anticipate seeing the conditions you allege;  go a day thirsty if you can’t melt snow.  Learn to build a cooking stance that permits cooking in the elements.  The cold may be uncomfortable, but so are second degree burns and losing a tent.

Ed 

8:16 p.m. on October 20, 2011 (EDT)
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I was avoiding responding to this thread. but since the question of cooking in the tent came up, I have to get really harsh here and strongly emphasize Ed Whome's reference to the thread discussing this question. Read that thread thoroughly and completely.

I have witnessed a couple of tent fires involving people who were very experienced and who had cooked a number of times in their tents. It ain't pretty, to say the least. Read the two main books on the Wilcox expedition. These were experienced mountaineers on Denali. Yet they made their tent literally vanish is what was estimated to be under 10 seconds (a cotton tent at that, not one of the modern ultraflammable synthetics). That accident made a major contribution to the loss of a half dozen lives out of the 9 on the expedition.

The image below is the aftermath of a stove fire on Denali in 1999. The stove got tossed out quickly, but as you can see, still not far from the tent. This is after the fuel burned down.
StovFire.jpg

The photo below is the all too typical flareup when lighting a Whisperlite. The majority of people overprime their stoves (all too easy to do even when experienced). This was a demonstration by someone who stated he could "always" prime his Whisperlite without getting any flaring. My challenge to him was, "Show me." He had been backpacking, camping, and on climbing expeditions for some 10-15 years at the time and was considered by his compatriots to be a "real stove expert." Sorry, it happens to everyone sooner or later. 
Stvlit1RT.jpg

Bottom line here is DO NOT LIGHT A STOVE OR COOK OR BURN A CANDLE IN A TENT!!!! Yeah, I know. Lots of people have gotten away with it. That's a key word - "gotten away with it".

8:35 p.m. on October 20, 2011 (EDT)
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Believe it or not Coleman used to make a white gas catalytic tent heater.  My Aunt probably still has it in her attic.  She used it several times on car camping trips in the Rockies. 

10:48 p.m. on October 20, 2011 (EDT)
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stoves in tents is a bad idea. I have used tarps as windbreaks for cooking. In winter conditions I will sit on my air mattress outside of the tent and cook. If the weather is just too bad to cook outside, then I will hole up in my bag and tent until I can.

2:45 a.m. on October 21, 2011 (EDT)
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I was test firing my old XGK in my kitchen (yep, told this one before a while back) and didn't have the pump secured right. Bad idea, but it only took a few seconds to put out the fire because I was prepared for such an occurence. No harm other than some cosmetic damage to the pump-one of the old yellow plastic ones. Freaked me out, though and I was prepared for a mishap, since I hadn't run the thing in a long time.

HOWEVER, had that happened in a tent, it would have been catastrophic.  I can see using a canister stove in a vestibule, but a liquid fuel stove? No way. I'd rather eat Clif Bars and chocolate for a day or two, if it came down to it than risk burning up all my gear and probably me as well.

6:53 a.m. on October 21, 2011 (EDT)
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I also strongly discourage cooking in your tent, especially with a liquid fuel stove (white gas, diesel, kerosene, etc and even alcohol). It is way too easy to have a catastrophic accident. I agree however, that if your gonna do it despite what people say, at least use a canister stove. They don't flare up typically and really the only worry is tiping it over, and are the safest of the unsafe things to do in a tent haha.

I think something with a high pressure or high btu or both flame is worse compared to say a candle. Yes, a candle can cause just as much damage, but most people keep candles in some kind of enclosure like a candle lantern. So even if you knock over the candle lantern you wont end up with a tent fire more than likely, just a burn hole where the hot candle lantern made contact.

I will admit to using a candle in my tent, but have never taken the chance with a stove.

9:54 a.m. on October 21, 2011 (EDT)
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I think when you're talking about something like a candle lantern, circumstantial risk can be a factor. If one is in true winter expedition conditions, damage to a tent could have catastrophic consequences. In a familiar area and mild conditions, the same damage is merely annoying.

I also think that a person who has adequate detail and risk management skills can avoid avoid destroying their tent with a candle lantern, with near 100% certainty. If they are so lacking in attention and ability that such is a risk, then they are most certainly doing other things that pose far higher risk to themselves and others.  

12:21 p.m. on October 21, 2011 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

JC5123 said:

 ..Too true, and I should have elaborated. However in bad storms up high with no other shelter than your tent, sometimes that is the only choice...

I will assert few of us will ever see the conditions that warrant a stove in a tent.  I have yet to resort to this, and have been chased off the shoulders of Denali, been on trips above 16K’ five times, climbed Shasta, Hood, Baker, and Rainer several times, and regularly snow camped in the High Sierras for the past thirty years.  So I ask what conditions warrant chancing a flash fire in your tent?

Foregoing use of a stove for a day is not the end of the world.  Bring food that doesn’t require heating if you anticipate seeing the conditions you allege;  go a day thirsty if you can’t melt snow.  Learn to build a cooking stance that permits cooking in the elements.  The cold may be uncomfortable, but so are second degree burns and losing a tent.

Ed 

 

This is where Jet Boil shines. 


Squamish.jpg

I do realize that these are conditions that most people will never face. (Why would you want to?) The "suck" factor was high on that trip. But this is what I would consider conditions that warrant cooking inside.

Please don't misunderstand, I am not advocating bad procedure, or trying to argue the validity of your point. Only passing along personal experience. Things that I know work because I have had to make it work at some point.

1:39 p.m. on October 21, 2011 (EDT)
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An amusing note is that Bibler, Markill, and Black Diamond have a section in the instruction sheets of their hanging stoves "Do not use stoves in tents". So where do you think I am going to hang the stove?

5:24 p.m. on October 22, 2011 (EDT)
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JC5123 said:

Squamish.jpg

..this is what I would consider conditions that warrant cooking inside..

Why?


stormwalls.jpg
Above:  Cooking dinner OUTSIDE: Mt Langley @ 13,500’ late January,
air temp: -6°F (day time) wind speed: ~45mph.  Certainly this qualifies as extreme.  Have cooked outside tent in worse, as described on prior post.

Certainly if climbers on K2 with more tenuous stances can manage to cook outside their tent, so can we.

Other than a camp consisting of a hanging platform, I don't see anything exceptional about your situation.  Perhaps the photo doesn't show the gale force winds?  Why couldn’t the stove be positioned anywhere along that nice ledge, or on its own hang, independent of the platform camp area?

In any case if weather precludes the alternatives described above, that is a day where power bars, salami and cheese are on the menu, not tent fire roulette.  Do consider this:  If your tent and platform caught fire, what is the contingency plan?  Canister stoves have several failure modes unrelated to user skill, some which are uncontrollable once triggered.  Did you set your personal anchor such that when you dive out of your blazing tent your line will pendulum you away from the tent, or was it anchored where the fire can get at it too?    Was the same consideration given to gear necessary to evacuate after a tent fire, or is it also in the tent or otherwise vulnerable?  Judging by the alignment of the equipment in the pic, it doesn't look like that was considered.  But that isn't unusual; very few exercise such consideration when setting up their vertical encampments.  Plan (completely) for foul weather and you won’t have to add stove fires to the list of objective hazards accompanying mountaineering and big wall climbing.

Ed

1:36 p.m. on October 23, 2011 (EDT)
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A cedar tree?! (Just kidding! Those "explode.") Coleman makes something which attaches around fair sized  tree trunks for their big white gas lanterns--that's really not intended for backpacking, though. Maybe for hardwoods, too. Maybe it could be fashioned, somehow.

OK--a tree? I'm not really familiar with these stoves--I've heard of the cos., though.

3:25 p.m. on October 23, 2011 (EDT)
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Hey, guys! I miss the outdoors--I may be able to venture, though, later this year.  Frankly-- depending, of course--I dislike the summer for camping. I prefer the colder seasons. No bugs and no nonsensical heat--a reminder of where I'll be when my footprints end!  It's possible to control your environment, at least somewhat with cooler climes.  I'd like to photograph Bryce in February....

Another thread my prove interesting: Minimalist backpacking in winter--probably solo. Some guys here have touched upon this. A four-season tent certainly will pack on weight. A spouse or friend likely would split the burden, though. Frankly, I don't believe any solo tents are intended for 4-seasons.  (Maybe, some modification would help--people need to brush off their cleverness!) Some experienced guy here mentioned a tarp--seemingly, that's incredible to me--unexpected--probably others noted that and share that observation. I suppose, though, that given proper planning and placement, that may actually work (the stern caveat is "usually").

I live in a state (OK) with acute heavy ice every single winter--similar, I suppose to that these guys backpacking in Tenn., Kentucky, Va.--and W. Va. may experience similar weather. We did have relatively heavy snow the last two winters--nothing like the Rockies, NE, or northern states, of course. Wind certainly represents quite a problem--certainly, that never can be ignored.

Arkansas and Southern MO are other possibilities--MO generally is colder, of course. I like the desert, too: Big Bend, Guadalupe Mtns., Utah/Az., Calif., Dinosaur canyon, Grand Junction area! The SW and south central Utah and Moab area in winter--humm. Of course, I like Colorado, N.M., and the Rockies: Stupidly, I'm forgetting the east and north, too! I digress--just licking my chops! This could be yet another thread--winter experiences in differing special places in North America--even worldwide....

Getting back to minimalist: What about x-country skiing or shoeshoeing? Being from a state such as mine--and, growing up with a family which never took skiing trips to CO or N. M.--I don't have the first clue! One of my brothers married a N. Californian and lives in San Jose: His wise wife quickly turned him away from his  parents' unwarranted beliefs! ("I don't like the cold!") He says that he prefers x-country greatly to snowshoeing. 

Cold air is more dense--it's cleaner and better! (Just ask your automobile!)

Hail, the shivering august birches, maples, and aspens--strong pines, spruces and firs laugh haughtily at these-- \cold and naked. Whispering in solitude--bristlecones echoing from unforgiving, impossible perches. High altars beckon daring adventurers--both on foot and on wing! Here, the cool and color of Fall must turn cold--and, die: Another stark winter on the horizon--white, wizened, and wise!

.

5:33 p.m. on October 28, 2011 (EDT)
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Hail, the shivering august birches, maples, and aspens--strong pines, spruces and firs laugh haughtily at these-- \cold and naked. Whispering in solitude--bristlecones echoing from unforgiving, impossible perches. High altars beckon daring adventurers--both on foot and on wing! Here, the cool and color of Fall must turn cold--and, die: Another stark winter on the horizon--white, wizened, and wise!

What a great image of winter! Did you write that, or are you quoting a poem?

7:26 p.m. on October 28, 2011 (EDT)
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Geoff M said:

Another thread my prove interesting: Minimalist backpacking in winter--probably solo. Some guys here have touched upon this. A four-season tent certainly will pack on weight. A spouse or friend likely would split the burden, though. Frankly, I don't believe any solo tents are intended for 4-seasons.  

 

There are many quality 4 season solo tents. I, for one, wouldn't venture out into a Canadian winter without my tent (a hilleberg unna). Not because it can't be done, but because I lack the knowledge of tarps and bivies that others have. I also often bring my 2 dogs and want them sheltered in a tent with me. The unna is a solo tent that has no vestibule and thus they've built the interior wider. I have both the 9mm and 10mm poles and have the option of doubling up for weight bearing although I havn't had to yet.

12:45 a.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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+1 On the Hille 4 season tents, including the solo versions. 

4:33 a.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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Jake W : "There are many quality 4 season solo tents"

Yes, yes there are........so many...........and alas............ so little time to experince them all.............

8:01 a.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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apeman said:

Jake W : "There are many quality 4 season solo tents"

Yes, yes there are........so many...........and alas............ so little time to experince them all.............

 95% of all the tents I see on my winter trips are of the three season variety, and for the most part these tents perform well even in stiff winds.  The only reason I carry and have been carrying a four season tent for so long is because they are made stronger and therefore last longer than their three season brothers.  This especially applies to the Hilleberg tents with their overkill floors, rugged kerlon and ample guyouts. 

Plus, I rarely if ever let a tent dictate where I want to set up---so a "bad" or tough location is still open for usage with the right gear, i.e. a strong four season tent with the proper guyouts.  The MSR Fury tent has room for 21 stakes to bolt it down, the Hilleberg Staika has 16 and the Keron has room for 18 pegs.  These numbers seem crazy until you set up atop an open meadow in a fast approaching thunderstorm or tent-eating blizzard.  January and February storms are bad, but some of the worst winds I've ever experienced were in July thunderstorms above 5,000 feet. 

And really, there are only a few top notch four season tents---after you do the research.  Most of them are just too heavy for a soloist to carry, such as the whole line of North Face four season shelters---

** NF VE25---10.13 lbs.

** NF Mountain 25---9.15 lbs.

** NF Himalayan 35---10.14 lbs.

** REI Mountain 3---9.13 lbs.

**  REI Cirque ASL 2---5.10 lbs (but it's listed as "3-4 season" along with the Arete ASL 2 at 5.14 lbs).

** MSR Asgard---8.5 lbs

** MSR Fury---7 lbs.

** Hilleberg Staika---8.3 lbs.

** Hilleberg Keron---8.10 lbs.  Ouch.

Other brands such as Terra Nova and Exped and Marmot and Sierra Designs and even Eureka have four season tents---yet untested.  You've got to pick one which has the room you need with a good weight.  36 sq feet is a lot bigger than 28 sq feet.  Hilleberg's Akto has around 18 sq feet---very small.

12:00 p.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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Welcome to Trailspace Chris Utz!

For many years the only tent I used in S. Appalachian winters was a 3-4 season convertible tent. This worked well for me since I could zip out the tents solid panel to reveal a large mesh section for increased ventilation, or zip it up for less ventilation on cold windy nights.

  As you know, the Southeast winter can be a mixed bag of temps & types of precipitation and being able to deal with this takes the right gear for this climate type and some experience using it. The "right gear" is somewhat a personal thing and is going to vary some from person to person. Experience, along with your own personal preferences, will tell you what works best for you.

Some people who have a good deal of experience can use tarps or hammocks in winter but I consider that a questionable starting point unless you are accompanied by an experienced mentor and you / they have all the right gear, which is a little expensive.

For a good first winter tent I would personally wish to err somewhat on the side of too much tent rather than not enough and that means a heavier tent in most cases, but not all.

My tent was heavy at around 8 lbs. but it sure did work well and the weight wasn't so bad split between two people. Lot's of times I lugged the whole thing myself or let my dog carry half.

One thing I learned is that even in 3 season mode I was quite comfortable IF I was using the right sleeping bag, pad, and clothing, and IF the tent was pitched correctly to withstand wind and precipitation.

So...after several years of winter experience I am comfortable in a 3 season tent even in February (with the right gear, bag, etc.) and will soon have a winter hammock set up that is sub 5 lbs.

Regardless of the winter gear you choose I would advise easing into winter camping by doing trips as winter approaches so you can dial in your gear and technique and build experience that will guide your decisions while on trips, as well as your gear choices, for the future.

I don't think that you necessarily need a dedicated 4 season tent for your area IF you are an experienced tenter with the right sleeping bag & pad, but a 4 season tent with good ventilation will probably be more forgiving than a tent with too much mesh and the wrong sleeping bag.

Mike G.

12:12 p.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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I used to use a TNF Mountain 25 for winter, and have since switched to a tarp. From one extreme to the other. With a brief stop in the middle with an attempt to use my Nemo Meta 2P in the winter. The Meta worked fine once you got it up, but getting it to up was challenging in strong winds solo.

So, i went to a tarp and hammock for year round use and have not looked back since. If I knew I was going to basically stop using my Meta 2P i never would have sold my Mtn 25, but alas we can't change the past. I would have liked to still have it in my arsenal in case I ever want to do some exposed camping.

I really liked my TNF Mtn 25, it was a very rugged, reliable and durable tent aka bombproof. It's one con was that it was heavy as already mentioned, but was easily carried solo, and even easier with 2 people.

I have not once wished I still had my Mtn 25(other than to have an option if i didn't want to use my hammock) since using my tarp and hammock setup. I have been through some bad thunderstorms, and bad snow storms in my tarp and hammock and have been just fine.  I can have a maximum coverage area of 66sqft if the tarp is pitched wide, but an average of around 45-55sqft is more common.

If I know a bad storm is rolling in I pitch steep and to the ground to shed snow. If its a thunderstorm I pitch low and wide. If its just an average storm I will pitch 1 side semi-steep and 1 side in porch mode, and if it gets bad I can easily just drop the side in porch mode to the ground. My tarp also has doors on the end to completely close off the tarp if need be.

I have found that I can set up my tarp anywhere with trees from 12-25 ft apart with ease, and the ground doesnt need to be level. I have set up on a 40 degree slope before. If I know a bad storm is rolling in I tend to take a peek at my map and determine a good area that would offer good natural protection and plan to set up camp there.

The only thing I need is two trees ideally 13-14 feet apart and I can have my camp setup in less than 5 mins. My only limitation to where i can setup is there needs to be trees. If I need to hunker down for a few days until a bad storm front passes I can easily do so in my 'palace' of 50ish sqft, with the MOST comfortable chair and bed in the world-my hammock and quilts.

You don't need a 4 season tent unless you just really want to be able to set up in exposed areas. With a little forethought and planning you can plan to make camp in an area adequate to your choice of shelter.

Here are a few pics of a general setup of my tarp.

Doors staggered for easy entry
superfly-_1_.jpg

Doors closed
superfly-_2_.jpg

Doors stretched out
superfly-_3_.jpg

1 side of doors is pulled back
superfly-_4_.jpg

The tarp is pitched steep and a little above the ground for max ventillation which is normal. But it can be easily staked directly to the ground if weather conditions warrant. You can easily see how much room you would have, put down a little ground cloth if you want and your all set to lounge around in or out of your hammock, cook (i just pull the leeward door back and can cook while sheltered from the wind), or otherwise do whatever you want.



 

1:02 p.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks TheRambler for your pics and ideas.  I'll probably never go the hammock route (which is really just tarp camping with a hanging bivy sac) as I like to stay put for many days in bad weather so I can store everything in the tent and even cook in the closed up tent vestibule.  (No howling allowed here).  I like spreading out in a little nest with no possibility of spindrift. 

So, we come to the Three Arguments Against Tarp Camping.  I spent the winter of '82 and '86 in a tarp (on the ground) and gotta say Never Again. Why?  Because I woke up every morning covered in a half foot of snow.


TRIP-118-368.jpg

Here is argument number one:  Windblown snow.  I spent seven days at this level spot in a series of four snowstorms coming one right after the other.


TRIP-117-211.jpg

Argument Two---All the snow you see here was blown onto and up under the small umbrella fly.  A tarp won't stop this stuff.


Trip-103-242.jpg

Argument Three---Same conditions but with a different tent and inside a different storm at a different spot.  Spindrift is tricky stuff but predictably tricky in that it will reach into any and every opening of a shelter system.  Ergo, the four season mesh-less tent.



2:05 p.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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I guess we have just had drasticly different experiences. With my tarp staked to the ground and the doors closed I have never had a spindrift 'problem'.

Typically there is already snow on the ground, so i will build a little snow wall around the bottom of the tarp which eliminates spindrift completely. When there is no snow on the ground, i do get very minor spindrift, but not anything I would say is a problem As none of my gear is on the ground. The most i have ever gotten blown in under my tarp would be a 'dusting' and no more.

With a tarp, site selection is criticaly important, as well as proper pitching/rigging.

3:10 p.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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There is a guy named Shug Emery who has a channel on YouTube with a bunch of well made videos on hammock camping, including winter snow camping with a tarp tent he designed.  Well worth watching. He is in the Midwest somewhere, I think.  His tarp is fully enclosed and you need trees to hang it, but it has doors and goes all the way to the ground. 

BTW, he is kind of goofy, but don't let that put you off, he is very entertaining, the videos are funny, but he knows his stuff-watch all his videos and you will know more about hammocks and hammocks in winter than you will likely find anyplace else. 

Here is a good place to start-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7NZVqpBUV0&feature=fvsr

3:10 p.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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Tipi, you are a wimp! You don't show any REAL snow! Just kidding, of course.


tent.jpg
That's a full-on expedition tent under that snow. Yes, I have used tarps and bivy sacks in storms. And I have constructed and used a variety of snow shelters - snow caves, igloos, quinzhees, "grave" trenches, and more.I have experienced that much dump (and more) in a single day of a multiday storm in the Sierra, Rockies (Colorado, Tetons, and Canadian), Presidentials, and Alaska (not in Antarctica, though, since it only snows a couple inches a year there - it does drift, though).

Geoff, what you use depends very much on the conditions where you are going to camp. If the snowfall is going to be light, as in Tipi's or TheRambler's photos above, you can get away with almost anything - tarp, hammock, 2 or 3-season tent. As Tipi says, though, if you are going to get winds, then even a light snowfall will blow up under the fly and through the mesh. And with winds, a tarp will flap a lot more than a tent, and a hammock can feel like a canoe on the ocean in a storm. In some locations (like the Sierra, where the photo above was taken), you can get several days straight of 2-3 foot dumps with winds that will drift snow against the side of the tent. I learned early on that if I planned to camp in such conditions, the zipper on the outer fly better have a top-down option or you better have a sleeve entrance (and absolutely have entrances at both ends of the tent). I had the situation once where the snow dump was so much during one night that the vestibule of the fly (which had a bottom-up zipper) was crushed to the ground. The snow load was so heavy that I had to spend a long time kicking at the vestibule from the inside where I was trapped to get the snow moved enough to get at the zipper pull. I almost got to the point of pulling my knife out and slicing through the side of the tent to get out.

Something to consider before you follow TheRambler's suggestion of covering the bottom of the fly - Tent material, especially coated as flies often are, doesn't breathe all that well. If it gets coated with ice (possibly by the snow cover melting and refreezing from body heat or cooking inside) it may not breathe at all. Blocking the airflow at the bottom seals you off from air circulation. If you cook inside, you not only collect carbon monoxide, but even if you don't cook, you cut off your outside oxygen supply. You might ask about snow shelters - same thing can happen, except that snow does let some air through. Your body heat or cooking heat can glaze the walls of the snow shelter. But usually, you leave the door slightly open, and you can scrape the walls and have a small vent hole in the roof (keep it open with your ski pole kept in the hole).

I am not saying don't camp in winter. Just be aware of the precautions needed and practice them. In fact, winter camping (and snow camping in general) is the best, most beautiful, and most fun camping I have ever done.

3:26 p.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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I have to ask why you say a hammock can feel like a canoe in the ocean during a storm. The only time my hammock sways at all is when i move, or if its a strong storm and i am tied off to very small trees. And when it does sway, its soothing if anything.

Using a self tensioning line on the guy out points(except the ridge line) almost completely prevents the tarp flapping. The only flapping i ever get is when i tie a door back as in my last picture above. I only use self tensioning lines in winter, since silnylon sags more with a snowload on it. Otherwise, in the warmer months i just use standard guy lines and i have virtually no issues with the tarp flapping as long as i dont purposefully leave a door end or etc loose or otherwise hanging down. If everything is rigged right and tight, i have had no problems with tarp flapping.

When building a snow wall around my tarp i always leave the door ends free, so there is still ventillation.

7:05 p.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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Guess you haven't been in a real storm in your hammock. There is also a question of lightning strikes -- trees tend to stick up in the air and become lightning rods.

7:37 p.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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if your hammock is swaying like crazy then you are either not rigging your hammock, tarp, or both correctly. yes, trees sway a little in storms, but it's not anything crazy. I could see how if your tied off to very small trees you might be able to really get a rockin.

The lightning thing is a valid concern, but realistically you are probably safe in a hammock due to the fact that lightning will follow the path of least resistance to ground and you will not be exposed to the radial effect on the ground around the tree. most hammocks are hung with synthetic straps and are at least semi insulated from the trees you are tied to. Being in a hammock you are far from the path of least resistance.

12:18 a.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Rambler,

When you are hanging the hammock on a face (see JC5123's post), you don't have a lot of choice. You are directly exposed to the winds. When (happens to everyone sooner or later who does a hanging bivy on a wall) an unpredicted big storm appears, you can get bounced around a bit. Admittedly, weather prediction has improved greatly since the 1960s. but it still happens. Your photo and likely all your campsites were well sheltered in groves of trees, where you don't get strong winds at hammock level. But I have hung a hammock in unsheltered areas, where you had only one choice of a suitable pair of trees. So my short answer is BTDT.

Lightning - Go to the Sierra or Rockies near treeline - you will see lots of "lightning trees". Usually (and "usually" is the operative word) if you are in a group of trees of relatively uniform height, you won't have a problem with lightning in a thunderstorm. But I have been near a group at Philmont in a campsite of pretty uniform height trees, when a tree was struck near enough to them to give a pretty strong "tingle" to several in the group. Lightning is a fickle phenomenon.

The basic point is simply, don't defy Nature's Rules. Trees are not put there for the sole purpose of acting as a safe support for your hammock. Ever hear of "widowmakers", to mention another potential tree hazard? And to repeat, I have spent many many nights in hammocks. They are really great, in their place. But they do have limitations.

6:49 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Bill S said:

..The basic point is simply, don't defy Nature's Rules. Trees are not put there for the sole purpose of acting as a safe support for your hammock. Ever hear of "widowmakers", to mention another potential tree hazard? And to repeat, I have spent many many nights in hammocks. They are really great, in their place. But they do have limitations.

Another issue I was pondering, similar to widow makers when considering hammocks amung trees, is the when a snow loaded tree bombs you.  Often that snow is more like ice, and can wrench your neck or worse should you be the target.

Ed

7:01 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Interesting....you guys must go adventuring in areas where there are spots with no trees.

Where I go it is wall to wall trees, except for streams, roads, and the occasional meadow or bald highland.

Even in a tent you are surrounded by trees, so you might as well hang from a couple when you want to.

7:49 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Just found a picture of the conditions I have in winter. We are diggin into a hut for a short stop. One funny detail is the divided spade set up against the chimney. Without the help of a GPS we would not have found the hut. Even when we were close it took some time to see the chimney, this was the only object sticking out of the snow.

The picture is compressed from the sides, the roof is more flat in reality. More pictures of the hut here http://ut.no/hytte/corraskoia 

IMG_2361.jpg

2:02 a.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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1179368263_oisBU-L.jpg

2:47 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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I am on the same page as trouthunter i think, windowmakers are just as much of a concern when using a tent as it is when using a hammock. I can only think of a handful of areas near me that are void of or lacking in trees. Otherwise, be it a tent or hammock you always have to be careful where you set up.

For the snow 'bombs' i have taken fire from several angry trees to no ill effect. It is usually not a solid block of ice and they just slide off like the rest of the stuff. It however, does scare the dickins out of you when your under your tarp nice and cozy in your hammock. Snow bombs will hit tents too...

5:06 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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TheRambler said:

..Snow bombs will hit tents too...

The point about snow bombs and widow makers is a tent can be set up away from this hazard, whereas hammocks almost always require set up in the landing zone.

Perhaps the treees of your forests don't release large bombs, or lower hanging limbs bust them up and disipate their energy, but the conifer forests of the Sierras and Cascades often are free of branches for twenty feet or more from the gound.  Clumps of snow falling that distance unempeeded pack a real wollop, and have seriously injured campers.  I have witness snow bombs large enough to damage any encampment located in the target zone.  The first time I saw a big snow bomb I immedictely moved my tent; I had no desire to experience such bombings first hand.

7:50 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Falling tree limbs, trees themselves, and the spears trees let lose (and end up speared into the ground several inches) all are a concern.  In the last year I've had to topple two dead trees next to my potential tentsites and bring down several dead limbs over a couple campsites. 

The best way to do this if you don't have a bowsaw or folding saw or hatchet (who carries this crap when backpacking?) is to use your 40-50 feet of bear line to either swing atop the leaning snag or to snare over the dead limb and tug down.  This will save a lot of nighttime worry as the wind picks up and you're in your shelter.

Really big dead trees over a suitable campsite pose a risk and the thoughtful backpacker will avoid these spots if at all possible.  I know of a couple excellent campsites ruined by a towering "death tree".

Most backpackers don't even look up when fixing camp, and once I saw a group of six boy scouts with their two leaders set up under a leaning dead oak just waiting to fall.  They placed three tents right underneath the Death Tree and I mentioned something to the scout leader.  Shrugs.  Four months later I return to the spot and yes---POW---the tree fell.


tj4861_102706_062307_191414.jpg

Here's the Death Tree but these fellows ARE NOT the boy scouts or their leaders, as the pic was taken on an earlier trip.  The Death Tree is visible at right and yes, other people like the campsite as it's sheltered.  Oops, it fell.  Right where the tent is sitting.

7:55 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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I have never been to the Sierras or Cascades, but your warning about high altitude snow bombs is duly noted whomeworry.

There are a few places I have been where you have the ability to pitch a tent away from trees, but most times I can't.

I can pick spots where the trees are smallish or otherwise less of a threat a lot of times, and I do take these things into consideration, but the trees do grow quite thick here and cover almost the whole landscape.

8:15 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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THE T-REX'S ARE ROAMING---Back in 1980 I was camping in a preserve called the Swamp Site at a campsite next to Little Winklers Creek.  In those days I didn't give a real hoot about overhanging whatevers and just looked to the ground for my night's home.

About 3 in the morning a giant tree limb---more a trunk---falls out of the sky and lands ten feet from the tent. A dinosaur has found my camp!  Welcome to Fear.  In the morning I estimated the thing to be around 800 lbs, maybe more.  In the Southern Apps it's just a crapshoot.  

8:37 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Tipi Walter said:

THE T-REX'S ARE ROAMING---Back in 1980 I was camping in a preserve called the Swamp Site at a campsite next to Little Winklers Creek.  In those days I didn't give a real hoot about overhanging whatevers and just looked to the ground for my night's home.

About 3 in the morning a giant tree limb---more a trunk---falls out of the sky and lands ten feet from the tent. A dinosaur has found my camp!  Welcome to Fear.  In the morning I estimated the thing to be around 800 lbs, maybe more.  In the Southern Apps it's just a crapshoot.  

 Well I guess you win the close call award, I had the same thing happen in Chillhowie years ago, just not quite as close.

Quite a wake up call, and a turning point for me regarding how seriously I took back country dangers.

8:58 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Actually I am more concerned with summer time pine cone bombs.  We have a few species out west that grow rather large cones, definitely capable of hurting you good if you get beaned.  They can be a sustained hazard for weeks.  I haven't boned up enough on these trees to know when they drop their cones, so it is pretty much I will know of the danger when it occurs.  So far I have been lucky.

Ed

9:21 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

Actually I am more concerned with summer time pine cone bombs.  We have a few species out west that grow rather large cones, definitely capable of hurting you good if you get beaned.  They can be a sustained hazard for weeks.  I haven't boned up enough on these trees to know when they drop their cones, so it is pretty much I will know of the danger when it occurs.  So far I have been lucky.

Ed

 Do you mean while the cones are still green?

Maybe that's a dumb question, around here they turn brown on the tree if they don't fall first.

10:29 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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You have to beware of squirrels in the South.  They cut green cones off of long leaf pine trees.  You do not want one of these things to hit you. 

10:51 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

Actually I am more concerned with summer time pine cone bombs.  We have a few species out west that grow rather large cones, definitely capable of hurting you good if you get beaned.  They can be a sustained hazard for weeks.  I haven't boned up enough on these trees to know when they drop their cones, so it is pretty much I will know of the danger when it occurs.  So far I have been lucky.

Ed

 Idiot me, I'd worry more about my nice Hilleberg tent getting dinged than my head.

11:13 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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I am not kidding, I am certain the squirrels in the Tetons were throwing pine cones at me.  I haven't had them do that here in the southeast, but it was unmistakable what the ones in cascade canyon were doing. Funny thing is, they didn't seem afraid of me, and would come scampering right up withing a foot or two. 

While taking a breather, or stopped for a meal, and whap! a cone would hit or nearly miss me. Crazy cute little buggers :)

11:27 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Anyone remember the Windy Pass tents made by North Face?  I had one on a trip to the Shenandoah in 1987 and had it set up in a windstorm at night by Mary's Rock off the AT.  The tent was a NF knockoff of the VE24---a big domed thing suitable for two people with room to spare.

I got to the campsite at night in a mid March windstorm and found a level spot and looked up and noticed a big old dead snag standing like a rotten telephone pole.  My rodent brain said "Don't set up here!", but my human brain said "aw shucks, I'm lazy." 

An hour after arriving and having camp squared away, I went out of the tent to do some yoga stretches and dangit if that tree didn't topple right on top of the new fancy tent and break a pole and rip open the fly.  Nature 1 Human 1---an even score since I lived.  It could've been Nature 1 Human 0.

7:18 a.m. on November 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Do you know how easy it is to avoid widowmakers? Take a moment to look up and study the area above you and immediately around you before  setting up. It normally takes me 5-10 minutes usually to find a good safe spot to set up my tarp and hammock, then about 2 minutes to get it all up. Identifying potential hazards is am important part of hammocking, but they are very easy to avoid if you take the time to look for them.

If your in fear of getting knocked in the head by a pine cone or maybe attacked by a rabid squirrel throwing them i would maybe not set up under a pine tree?

8:12 a.m. on November 4, 2011 (EDT)
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trouthunter said:

 Do you mean while the cones are still green?

Maybe that's a dumb question, around here they turn brown on the tree if they don't fall first.

 Usually they fall out here after they open, but they can still be heavy with sap.  So some are greenish and others brown.

Ed 

4:17 p.m. on November 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Trout, 

some of the conifers out west produce cones many times the size of the largest ones we have in the east. Our largest are produced by the Longleaf and Loblolly pines, and though one of them would sting if it landed on you, there would be no risk of injury. Something three times that size might though. 

4:30 p.m. on November 4, 2011 (EDT)
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gonzan said:

Trout, 

some of the conifers out west produce cones many times the size of the largest ones we have in the east. Our largest are produced by the Longleaf and Loblolly pines, and though one of them would sting if it landed on you, there would be no risk of injury. Something three times that size might though. 

 Certain species out west produce cone15" long or more, 5' diameter, and weigh over a pound when dry.  I am sure OGBO could provide the details and tales.

Ed

4:41 p.m. on November 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Yeah, our largest are about 8" long and 3" in diameter. They might weigh in at 4-6oz. tops, and that would be a HUGE one. 

5:27 p.m. on November 4, 2011 (EDT)
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The open and dry ones won't do more than make you cuss. However a green closed one will probably make you bleed and give you an knot if it lands on your head.

6:54 p.m. on November 4, 2011 (EDT)
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The sugar pine cones are the 15x4 or 5 inch ones, always full of sap (which has a sugary taste). I have witnessed them putting a big dent in the hoods and roof of cars (often cut loose by squirrels). I have also seen one person who got hit on the shoulder, leaving a large bruise. I suspect they would do more than make you bleed if it hit your head, probably give you a moderate concussion.

Besides those, knobcone and digger pines have a sizeable bulk, shorter but fatter than the sugar cone. Redwoods, on the other hand have very small cones, and Ponderosas cone do not live up to the name.

11:02 p.m. on November 8, 2011 (EST)
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too many chiefs,not enough americans,is ocala in fla?why offer advice about 50*F winter?chinese people are giving driving lessons.

12:30 p.m. on November 9, 2011 (EST)
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Yes Ocala is in Florida.  As far as I can tell it's the only town/city named Ocala.  I did find a subdivision or something like that in Southern CA but that was it.

4:32 p.m. on November 16, 2011 (EST)
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Hey Chris, I do all of my backpacking in the NC mountains and only in the dead of winter and my 20-bag dose just fine "if" your tent is par.I use a single wall ..

4:45 p.m. on November 16, 2011 (EST)
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Welcome to Trailspace, ConfortinCold!

I imagine I haunt some of the same trails as you, from time to time. I live in the Chattanooga, TN area but do a lot of my backpacking in the Cherokee and Nantahala NFs. 

I am sure many here would love to hear more about your winter trekking! We like learning how others handle the cold and conditions :)

5:10 p.m. on November 16, 2011 (EST)
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Well Gonzan, I tried the ev2 and would have stayed warmer had i set fire to it..I really like my siarra design solamente. 1 person Little over 3lbs,My stove is the MSR reacter,I use a Bora 80 pack,Base layer is a TNF union suit Then Gamma AR pants,Shell is the Beta AR pants.Top is a mid fleece under the Mammut castor jacket ,top shell is the beta ar jacket.I really like to get up there after some melting has occured and puts down a nice ice sheet on the trail..I only camp on tops.Some of my favs are Black balsm knob,Roan Mtn,Hawksbill,or any other exposed top where i can put my gear to the test.

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