sleeping outside in cold weather

2:39 p.m. on October 25, 2011 (EDT)
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in the interest of not hijacking another thread, i pose the question: what is your preference for sleeping out in sub-zero weather?  i'm focusing on sleeping bags rather than tents.  i have my own thoughts but am interested in what others have to say.

1.    what sleeping bag do you like for sub-zero weather? any distinctions between 0 - 10 below and 20-40 below? does anyone like/prefer synthetic fill for such cold conditions?

2.    do you use one bag or a system?

3.    do you generally wear clothes/layers in your bag, and what do you wear (i don't need to hear about peoples' underpants, but long johns and outward are fine!).

i have evolved on this issue.  ii sleep warm.  it's not unheard of to see -30f when i hike in the winter (northern new hampshire, northern new york maine).  for a long time, i used a massive, bulky military issue bag/sleep system.  until a year or two ago, i used a synthetic fill north face bag rated to -40f for a number of years without any problems, except for the space it ate in my backpack.  i'm using a down bag now, mountain hardwear, and i'm happy with it. 

i don't layer much sleeping in the winter, just long johns.  i do bring damp layers and accessories into the bag, lay them over me, and 'sleep them dry,' and i keep the inners of my mountaineering boots in the bag overnight.  i tent; haven't had to dig a snow cave or use the bivy bag that i carry, thankfully. 

 

have at it - dissent welcome, i'm always interested in learning. 

 

4:22 p.m. on October 25, 2011 (EDT)
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I have not yet been out in sub 0F temps. Not because I shy from it, but that  east TN only sees those temps extremely rarely below 4000ft. Above 4k it does get that nippy somewhat regularly, but I haven't been in the highlands when one of those winter storm rolls though. 

So I can't answer the question as asked, but in tempts around 0F I have been quite comfy in my synthetic bag rated at 0F. I've only ever worn a base layer of Polypro or Wool. I have had additional insulating layers with me, including down and primaloft, but haven't needed them while sleeping.  My wife, however, needs a far warmer bag than I.

4:44 p.m. on October 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Now this is the way to start a thread...an OP with precise language and a sporting demeanor...

I started my winter excursions using a double-bag system; I put my summer bag inside my 3-season bag. This worked fine for the first season, but from the very first use I experienced the bunching and binding often associated with using such a system, though this effect was certainly due to my sleeping style as well (stomach, side, and back sleeper...).

To counter the binding effect, the next winter I then started draping the summer bag over the 3-season bag, quilt-style. This was less constricting through the night, but my constant movement would cause the top-bag to shift during the night, awakening me with cold spots and drafts.

Next, I tried going what is often referred to as "the Ultralight route." Tired of slugging two bags into the backcountry, I realized that it might be a more intelligent decision--weight-wise--to just wear to bed the insulated clothing I brought along anyways, and supplement with radiant heaters (a nalgene or two filled with very hot water, wrapped in a sock if necessary). Over my baselayers, I would often wear a light, synthetically-insulated pullover and pants, a micro-beanie under a balaclava, and a second pair of socks a size larger than the ones I usually wear. (constriction/compression is not your friend when at rest)

This worked awesomely at first, until I started miscalculating the effect of said heaters/additional clothing (really, just feeling comfortable taking more risks...), and spent a few early mornings WIDE awake. I did often experience the moisture collection on my inner layers as well, but this was not much of a concern for me, as these layers were often also worn during the day, and would dry out, in use, from my body heat.

I understood early on that camping in winter is more enjoyable for me than camping in any other season, and from then on I knew that a dedicated winter bag would be a good idea. Realizing what an investment buying such a bag could be, I wanted to make sure the one I got was the absolute best one available for my intended purposes.

I first looked at vintage gear because, let's face it, they just don't make good $h1t anymore. Holubar, Blacks, Eddie Bauer, Marmot Mtn. Works, and the like. Realizing that their features didn't meet my needs as well as would have liked, I looked at "the best" modern stuff I could find: Valandre, Western Mountaineering, Feathered Friends, PHD, Integral Designs, Marmot, Montbell. Being a Wilderness Ranger and an REI co-op member, I was able to see, touch, and lay inside a number of sleeping bags, something I would recommend to anyone looking for their first winter bag, or a new winter bag after a long while "out of the game," so to speak.

I bought a Valandre Shocking Blue, and have never questioned my decision once. I've had it down to a verified -15F, with supplemental clothing, without any worries, and you can verify that by checking my review of the sleeping bag on this site if you like. Most of the time though, I do wear just my merino baselayer when using the Shocking Blue, as I appreciate the lack of constriction. Though I really don't ever consciously venture to places with -40F temps, if I do find myself in -40F temperatures, besides wondering what I've done wrong, I suppose I'd hope that I also brought along a true quilt to drape on top, my Ti-goat/Jacks-R-better UL Sierra Sniveller, do the radiant heater thing, and swear a lot.

5:24 p.m. on October 25, 2011 (EDT)
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On a trip before last I brought this information from the ADIRONDACK MOUNTAIN CLUB and concerns winter backpacking requirements (and mostly applicable to winter backpacking in the mountains of TN, VA and NC).  From Winterschool.org.
   
**  Pack must have a minimum capacity of 5,500 cubic inches.  I've been saying this all along.
**  Sleeping bag is required to be at -20F.  Here I agree again.
**  Cotton clothing is strictly verboten.
**  Expect your pack to weigh between 50 and 70 lbs.  Read it and weep.
**  Snowshoes are required.  Mostly not needed here.
**  Boot crampons are required (hinged 12 point).  Microspikes may be better.
**  Ice axe is required.  Not around here.
**  All boots must have removable boot liners.  Plastic mountaineering boots are the most acceptable.  I don't need them here.  My full leather Asolo 520's work great.
**  Bring a minimum of two pairs of insulating socks.  I always do.
**  VBL socks are required.  I never use them.
**  Tall gaiters are required.  Never use them.
**  You must have the three glove system:  Light synthetic liner gloves, heavier synthetic or wool mittens, and a nylon mitten shell.
**  Balaclava with wool toboggan hat.  Always part of my standard load.
**  Facemask with goggles is required.  Don't need them here.
**  Headlamp with lithium battery required.
**  Hydration bladders are not acceptable, even insulated ones. 

This gives you a general idea of what the Northeastern backpackers carry.  And when it's really cold (-30F) many hardy types swear on all-cotton anoraks and jackets.

LONG TRIPS IN THE COLD

I've honed my kit down to winter items which greatly improve camp life and in-tent living. 

**  I always recommend getting the best down bag you can afford, and at least 15 degrees below what you will expect.  My standard bag for winter is a WM Puma at -15F.  Won't use anything less.  Valandre and Feathered Friends are other great brands---just go overkill.  Expensive?  Yes, but we're living outdoors, right?

**  With the bag comes the vital sleeping pad.  Many winter backpackers demand two pads, a foam with an inflatable.  I dispense with the bulky foam and get one inflatable at between 5R to 8R.  I always keep an emergency pad cache somewhere in the area where I am backpacking, but I've never had to use it except once when a brand new Base Camp sprung a leak in the valve.  My standard winter pads have been the 3.10 lb Base Camp, the old style Standard and/or Expedition, and currently the Exped downmat at 8R.  The Exped is fantastic.  (Pack in repair kits too).

**  I never use my bag as a damp clothes dryer as I want absolutely no extra moisture passing thru the down which doesn't have to pass thru.  What gets wet during the day stays wet (and frozen) thru the night and is put on in the morning for shoving off.  Painful at first but you'll warm up quick enough.  And when it's really cold, what really gets wet, anyway?  Nothing should except your t-shirt baselayer, your boots, your socks, your rain jacket and maybe your rain pants.  Never your long john bottoms or midlayers or outer layers, and never the extra pair of socks and the extra gloves which must stay dry at all costs.  Sweat Discipline is knowing when to shed layers before breaking a sweat---important in winter backpacking.

**  Finally, for those who want true comfort on winter trips, I recommend getting a high quality down parka, a pair of down pants, and a pair of down booties.  It's like standing around in a sleeping bag.



7:42 p.m. on October 25, 2011 (EDT)
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For my sleep system for down to -30 I use:

Torso: Capaline 3 top, and a nano puff pullover

Legs: Capaline 2 long johns, cabelas down pants

Head: smartwool beanie, smartwool balaclava(typically pulled down around neck unless needed), if its really nippy I have a synthetic hood from an old jacket i add in, but this is rarely needed sleeping.

Hands: Smartwool glove liners

Feet: smartwool trekking socks, down booties

I use a Hammock Gear Winter Burrow top quilt with 2oz of overfill (18oz of 900fp down) and a Winter incubator underquilt w/ 2oz of overfill (18oz). This is a hammock setup.

I fine down to -5F with just the capaline top and bottom, and add in the other articles as the mercury drops.

 

 

 

8:27 p.m. on October 25, 2011 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

....

1.    what sleeping bag do you like for sub-zero weather? any distinctions between 0 - 10 below and 20-40 below? does anyone like/prefer synthetic fill for such cold conditions?

2.    do you use one bag or a system?

3.    do you generally wear clothes/layers in your bag, and what do you wear (i don't need to hear about peoples' underpants, but long johns and outward are fine!).

....

 1. In 1960, I bought an Eddie Bauer Karakoram. The bag was rated at -40F/C with the liner. This served well for many years, though I generally kept it stuffed in the closet (limited room in a shared student house room, later in a "single" apartment, later still in a small apartment with Barb and her gear. At the time I bought it, a big argument was going on in the outdoor community about cotton vs nylon outer shell - the argument for cotton was that it would wick the moisture away whereas the nylon shell would just let the condensation lay there. If you took care to keep things dry, this worked ok - probably why I learned to keep everything dry despite camping in the usually wet Sierra snow.

I later went through a succession of down and synthetic bags rated at anywhere from +20 to -20F, using them with various amounts of clothing, some wool, some down-filled. Synthetic bags until the 1990s were heavy for a given rating, stuffed poorly (humongeous bulky pack fillers), and the fill lost its loft in short order. So I still used the Karakoram for really cold weather.

In the late 1990s, I got a Feathered Friends bag nominally good to -20F/-29C, but with 4 ounces of overfill, which gave a rating of -40F/C. This has been my primary cold weather bag ever since. My original FF used Goretex Dri-something fabric (a lighter version of the gtex for outerwear) in the hood area. It delaminated after a couple years use, so since I happened to be in Seattle, I stopped by the factory. FF took the bag and rebuilt it with a different set of fabrics which have worked well ever since.

I have had a chance to use a Western Mountaineering Bison on several occasions and been well pleased with it.

I have used these bags when below 0F, controlling the internal temperature by varying the hood closure (never breathe inside the bag!!!) and zipper. The Karakoram and FF have been at -40 and below a number of times, including a couple times outside (no tent or bivy) on a nice, clear night (measured low of -45 once on a digital thermometer with the display inside the bag and the thermocouple hung over my ice ax outside and -52 once, using a liquid minimum reading thermometer hanging nearby).

I have used a synthetic bag a few times in subzero F conditions (rated at -20F). It was ok and kept me warm enough, though I felt the rating was exaggerated (a TNF bag). Since things are pretty dry subzero, I see no reason to use a synthetic bag in those conditions.

I do tend to sleep warm, although with age, I sleep less warm these days, especially after a hard day with lots of altitude change and/or challenging climbing.

2. 1 bag or a system - most of the time, a single bag. The Karakoram came with a liner (optional), which I did use a few times when I expected temperatures lower than -20F. The FF and WM are single bags, no system. However, a few times I have combined a Marmot +20F bag (Primaloft) and another summer-weight (+40F, also Primaloft) bag as a double bag. This has been situations where I would be at lower altitudes (hence warmer) for part of a trip and could leave one of the bags at a base of operations, and at higher, colder altitudes for part of the trip, where I used one bag inside the other.

I generally find this less satisfactory, because the inner bag tends to shift relative to the outer bag.

The other "system" I have used from time to time has been wearing a filled parka and/or filled pants inside the bag. This is almost always less than satisfactory, since the clothes tend to bind and get twisted around, plus the filled clothing tends to fill up the inside of the bag, compressing the fill in either or both the bag and/or the filled clothing.

3. Clothing in the bag - at temperatures where I would normally wear long johns, I almost always wear the long johns in the sleeping bag, but only the long johns. I have worn almost all my clothes in the sleeping bag on certain occasions - at the 17,000 foot camp on Denali when we had multi-day storms with the possibility of losing the tent or otherwise having the possibility of having to get out of the tent in a hurry. A few times, this included wearing my boot liners as well.

While wearing the long johns is just fine (poly in the form of Capilene and merino wool pretty much move with you), wearing more tends to end up with the clothes binding and getting really uncomfortable. I do take damp clothing in the bag to dry (in really cold conditions the vapor moves out through the fill pretty easily, since it is also very dry then - I don't cook in the main body of the tent in part to keep the humidity in the tent down). But most of the time these days, I manage the moisture in my clothing well enough that the only clothing that gets damp is the liner socks (I often use VBL socks between the wicking liners and the heavy wool insulating socks in subzero conditions).

Depending on the temperature, I may wear a beanie, a "Peruvian" hat, or a balaclava. This helps a huge amount with controlling the temperature in the sleeping bag.

11:29 a.m. on October 26, 2011 (EDT)
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Pillowthread said:

"This worked awesomely at first, until I started miscalculating the effect of said heaters/additional clothing (really, just feeling comfortable taking more risks...), and spent a few early mornings WIDE awake. I did often experience the moisture collection on my inner layers as well, but this was not much of a concern for me, as these layers were often also worn during the day, and would dry out, in use, from my body heat."

PT - since I'm a SoCal boy, and have never had to use the heated waterbottle thing, can you elaborate on what the effect is keeping you WIDE awake? Is it that it was too cold by morning, body temp was kept too high during sleep? What specifically? Thanks in advance for learnin' me. This is a great post all around folks. Well done.

1:15 p.m. on October 26, 2011 (EDT)
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Yeah, by morning the water has cooled, and that, combined with an empty stomach, would often mean not enough warmth to keep me soundly asleep.

Now, at that point one could always get out of the bag, boil up more water, eat a snack, and go back to bed, but sometimes just the idea of such things is enough to keep one tucked away snugly, in a fetal position, waiting for the morning sun...

10:21 p.m. on October 26, 2011 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

in the interest of not hijacking another thread, i pose the question: what is your preference for sleeping out in sub-zero weather?  i'm focusing on sleeping bags rather than tents.  i have my own thoughts but am interested in what others have to say.

1.    what sleeping bag do you like for sub-zero weather? any distinctions between 0 - 10 below and 20-40 below? does anyone like/prefer synthetic fill for such cold conditions?

2.    do you use one bag or a system?

3.    do you generally wear clothes/layers in your bag, and what do you wear (i don't need to hear about peoples' underpants, but long johns and outward are fine!).

 

 1. Marmot Sawtooth MemBrain +15 Sleeping Bag ,  +15°F , 600 Goose Down

2. Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme Mummy Bag Liner ,  adds25°F

3. Moisture wicking base layer thermal socks and under wear.

10:31 p.m. on October 26, 2011 (EDT)
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pillowthread said:

but sometimes just the idea of such things is enough to keep one tucked away snugly, in a fetal position, waiting for the morning sun...

 I completely relate to this :) 

I don't know how many times I've REALLY needed to take a massive whiz, but opted to wait out the dawn because I also REALLY didn't want to get up into the cold. 

11:39 a.m. on October 27, 2011 (EDT)
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gonzan said:

pillowthread said:

but sometimes just the idea of such things is enough to keep one tucked away snugly, in a fetal position, waiting for the morning sun...

 I completely relate to this :) 

I don't know how many times I've REALLY needed to take a massive whiz, but opted to wait out the dawn because I also REALLY didn't want to get up into the cold. 

 +2

Oddly enough I rarely have to go to the bathroom during the night when I am home.

Here's background on my situation:

I've winter camped in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the UP of Michigan where the temperatures get cold but there are no altitude effects.  The coldest I have been out has been about -10F, certainly below 0, but I know the temps have not been say -20.

In the early years I used a big polarguard bag and clothes because that is what I had.  I bought an overbag and started wearing fewer clothes.  Both systems worked ok, not great, but I didn't get cold and that is the bottom line.

I switched to down bags some years ago.  My coldest down bag will work to 0F, maybe -10F.  If I am going out I'd still bring along a big overbag to keep me warm.  I like to be toasty in my bag versus being not cold, there is a difference.  I tend to sleep cold, I think this is an age thing as I don't remember that being the case 20 years ago.

I always wear long underwear tops and bottoms, socks and a balaclava when I sleep (all out of merino wool).  

I've been experimenting with a vapor barrier liner in my bag and also sleeping under a tarp versus a tent.  

My observations:

The jury is still out on the vbl.  I don't hate the dampness, in fact it was less than I thought it would be, but I do get tangled up in the liner during the night as I twist around a lot.

I don't like sleeping under tarps.  Maybe I would get used to them if I used them more, but I prefer the snugness of a double walled tent.  Walter's recent photo from his trip report of the inside of his tent with a big puffy sleeping bag inside while the weather outside was nasty hit home for me.  Call me old school, but I'll take that warmth and security any day.

Nesting two sleeping bags works fine from a warmth standpoint, but is otherwise a PITA to manage both from twisting around during the night in the bags and from the weight and bulk of two bags.  I use a pulk so pack space isn't a big deal for me. 

Someday I am going to buy a dedicated winter bag and call it a day.  If I use my REI dividend I can buy Marmot's -40 bag at a reasonable amount of money out of pocket.

At the moment I've accumulated multiple bags but they tend to be about the same temperature ratings.  What I could use is a lighter bag for summer temperatures, say good to 30F to 40F and a heavier bag good to -40F.  In the mean time I use what I've got.

12:46 a.m. on October 28, 2011 (EDT)
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Tipi,

Gaiters add about 15 F. to yourots and keep snow from wetting your socks and boots. GTX tall gaiters are great for winter in over 4" of snow.

REMOVABLE liners that you can bring into your sleeping bag are a virtual necessity in below freezing camping. Painful feet in the morning are the result of frozen boots.

VBL socks are another necessity. Keep yer insulation dry.'Nuff sed.

Your other recommendations all depend on the (worst) conditions expected.

All things being equal down bags are warmer than synthetic bags of the same loft.

I speak as a former Nordic ski patroller, winter camper and Mountain Travel and Rescue trained alpine patroller.

 

1:49 a.m. on October 28, 2011 (EDT)
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Why would anyone bother with gaiters in a mere 4" or a bit more of snow? They are not necessary and just add weight, albeit  not a lot, to each of your feet, while snowshoeing or skiing, etc. I have snowshoed literally hundreds of miles for decades without gaiters and I have several different pairs. What I find most useful are the short OR stretchy gaiters for most situations.

Ah, yes, frozen boots, what fun, BTDT and learned the hard way. I usually wear stiff pacboots to showshoe in and these have removeable liners, which are placed, in individual stuff sacks, in the foot of my bag, inside the VBL. I have, however, done a fair amount of winter camping, in deep snow and sub-zero temps. in leather boots, sized to allow heavy woolen socks. This is doable, but, not always comfy and I only did this as these were my only boots at the time. Again, they come inside the bag in stuff sacks.

VBL socks, well, I don't care for them, but, some do and I prefer to always have a spare pair of liners with me. I have found that two pairs of liners and spare insoles can last for a five day solo camp in cold weather, if, you are careful and keep them as dry as possible.

The down-synthetic bag issue is not quite that simple and a given amount of loft will tend to insulate to much the same degree. The real difference is in the WEIGHT of the insulation-bag(s) relative to the degree of body warmth retention each type will afford the user.

I have found that, for several nights in succession, in temps. from -25 to -40, I required a bag with 9-10" minimum of total loft and my roughly 6" lofting Primaloft ID combo. is good to about 0*F and then it tends to get a little cool. My old FF GT-down custom unltralight mountain hunting bag seemed to be about the same and it got pretty chilly below 10*F, however, the Pl. combo weighs about 5.5 lbs and the FF down bag was about 2.25 lbs. IIRC.

In DAMP cold, say just below freezing to 10*F, I find that the Pl. bags tend to feel "warmer" than the down ones I have used and then the down feels better below 10*F; this is just my experience using quite a few bags for many years here in western Canada. Much of this is subjective in any case and one thing I notice here is that few posters seem concerned about the insulation-pad(s) that they have underneath them; this is actually more important than exactly what insulation is in your chosen bag.

 

 

3:28 a.m. on October 28, 2011 (EDT)
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The following has worked for me on many winter trips to the Sierras, Cascades and Rockies, a number of Alaska high altitude trips, and a couple of South America trips in the high Andes.

I wear expedition duty long johns, top and bottom. wicking socks, and wool balaclava in a down bag for temps below 20°F.  Currently I use a late model  mummy down bag rated to -25°F.  The rating seem honest.  If that doesn’t suffice, I layer my down parka and pants over me.  Historically I used the blue foam sleeping pads; 2 extra long one-half inch thick pads for snow camping.  Very comfy.  I may try my therma rest next time I go in tandem with one blue pad. 

I do not use VB tech; I hate the dampness.  I don’t dry damp gear in my bag for the reasons Bill S states; instead I place yesterday’s socks and gloves in my day wear layers to dry out.  I do however, bring to bed my boot liners bagged in plastic, the next day’s inner layers, and my water bottle (my bag is XL).

Normally I sleep in the open, unless blowing snow or rain are an issue.  When I do sleep in a tent, I prefer it to be well ventilated, finding dry-cold is less problematic than damp-but-less-cold.

One trick I use to keep the sleeping bag dry is bringing a black trash bag, stuffing the sleeping bag into the trash bag.  When resting en route, I take the trash bag out and lay it on a pad in the sun, and use solar rays to heat the contents.  Every few minutes I pump the air trapped in the trash bag to exchange the damp air inside with dry external air.  Haven’t done a scientific study of this, but it should have some affect.

I have been on a few trips where the weather was much woorse than nominal expectations for the season, forcing protracted tent sieges; one time we exhausted our food supplies and were forced to retreat when we could no longer stay warm.  I have found inadequate calorie intake is a major contributing factor to feeling chilled.  Thus make sure you have a nice full belly of carbs and fluids every night before sleep.  The carbs are necessary to keep warm, and the digestive process itself generates heat that will aid your comfort level.

Ed

10:29 p.m. on October 28, 2011 (EDT)
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regarding the call of nature at night: if i'm not willing to leave the tent due to weather/temperature, i dedicate a large ziplock bag or nalgene bottle to the task.  usually a bottle because it's less likely to leak.  by morning, it's always frozen, and i knock the bottle against a rock to clear it.  just make sure you don't confuse it with the drinking bottle. 

thanks for mentioning pads - essential for cold weather.  an easy shorthand is to make sure the R value of your sleeping pads is 7 or better for really cold weather.  most people combine a closed cell pad with an inflatable pad.  i prefer closed-cell only for winter because i fear a puncture/failure; closed cell pads typically available for retail have an R value of around 2.5.  you can order thicker closed cell pads online (foamorder.com, for example).

 

12:26 a.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

..i prefer closed-cell only for winter because i fear a puncture/failure...

Hence why I too still use two blue foam pads instead of one foam, and one inflatable. But maybe I'll give it a go some day...

Ed

11:24 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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Over the weekend I listened to a presentation by Tyler Fish who along with John Huston became the first two Americans to ski unsupported and unassited to the North Pole.  Temps at the start of the trip were -60F eventually warming up to zero.  The sleeping bags were impressive.

They used vapor barrier liners - just a sylnylon sack.

Bergans down bags, good to probably -40F.

Overbags by Integral Designs.

The size of the overbags was amazing.  They have to be huge to layer over a huge -40 bag.  I've never seen anything quite like this.

Here's the interesting part.  Humidity on the trip is 100% as they are on the ocean so the humidity is really high in spite of the cold.  Because of the high humidity moisture from the air condenses inside the overbag.  The VBL keeps body moisture out of the bag, but not the moisture from the air.  The overbag slowly builds up moisture and eventually freezes into a brick, after about 30 days.  At that point they tossed the overbags and broke out a second overbag which they had each packed for such an occasion.  At the bottom of the Artic Ocean are two really nice ID bags.

The specialized gear was really cool to look at, you just don't see this stuff in normal circumstances.

12:18 a.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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I have one of the ID overbags, these were developed as part of a combo for the UK Special Forces and Canadian Forces who train with them in several regions here in Canada. As I have posted, these are far and away the best synthetic bags I have ever used and ID down bags are among the best of their type I have used, as well.

The ID VBL is a simple silnylon sack with a drawstring top and it works very well and makes a down bag much more useful in cold, damp weather. They also can be used as an emergency cover in wet weather, if you want something that is ultralight and waterproof, not the most comfortable option, but, it will work.

9:38 a.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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The ID overbags used on the trip were down, not synthetic.  Lots of the gear they used was custom made or highly modified for their expedition.  It was all quite interesting to look over, I wish there had been more time to look it all over, but the evening needed to wrap up.

4:50 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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alan said:

Over the weekend I listened to a presentation by Tyler Fish who along with John Huston became the first two Americans to ski unsupported and unassited to the North Pole. 

Here's the interesting part.  Humidity on the trip is 100% as they are on the ocean so the humidity is really high in spite of the cold.  Because of the high humidity moisture from the air condenses inside the overbag.  The VBL keeps body moisture out of the bag, but not the moisture from the air.  The overbag slowly builds up moisture and eventually freezes into a brick, after about 30 days.  At that point they tossed the overbags and broke out a second overbag which they had each packed for such an occasion.  At the bottom of the Artic Ocean are two really nice ID bags.

 

 As a Canadian and a lifelong, active conservationist, I have to say that this disturbs me greatly. I looked into the website concerning this expedition and found that it was, so they say, based on "values". I find the dumping of ANYTHING, into the Arctic Ocean to be unacceptable and not my idea of acting in a sustainable manner, a term they use in their website comments.

If, as seems the case, they did this in Canadian sovereign territory, north of Ellesmere Island, this violates Section 33 of the "Canada Fisheries Act" and we take this seriously here.

I do not want to take this further as politics is not the basis of the "Gear" section of TS, however, I believe that ALL hikers should be very concerned about environmental issues and behave accordingly. When, one is a foreign national in another country, as was the case here, this should be axiomatic and I am not impressed with this dumping of gear or by anyone who would act this way.

After most of my life spent working in Canadian environmental management and protection agencies and decades of active advocacy of wilderness preservation and wildlife conservation, I have VERY strong feelings about this kind of behaviour.

5:49 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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I don't know where Canadian territorial waters end and I have no idea one way or the other if they were in Canadian waters at the point they tossed the bags.  At some point on the expedition they would have been in international waters.

6:52 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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alan said:

Over the weekend I listened to a presentation by Tyler Fish who along with John Huston became the first two Americans to ski unsupported and unassited to the North Pole.  Temps at the start of the trip were -60F eventually warming up to zero.  The sleeping bags were impressive.

They used vapor barrier liners - just a sylnylon sack.

Bergans down bags, good to probably -40F.

Overbags by Integral Designs.

The size of the overbags was amazing.  They have to be huge to layer over a huge -40 bag.  I've never seen anything quite like this.

Here's the interesting part.  Humidity on the trip is 100% as they are on the ocean so the humidity is really high in spite of the cold.  Because of the high humidity moisture from the air condenses inside the overbag.  The VBL keeps body moisture out of the bag, but not the moisture from the air.  The overbag slowly builds up moisture and eventually freezes into a brick, after about 30 days.  At that point they tossed the overbags and broke out a second overbag which they had each packed for such an occasion.  At the bottom of the Artic Ocean are two really nice ID bags.

The specialized gear was really cool to look at, you just don't see this stuff in normal circumstances.

 Ok really,  Why could they have not slit the bags dumped the feathers as they are natural and biodegradable and stuffed the tiny amount of material into a back pack.  This is not rocket science.  Hughhhhhhhh, followed by a long sighhhhhhhhh.

 

Dewey :

"As a Canadian and a lifelong, active conservationist, I have to say that this disturbs me greatly. I looked into the website concerning this expedition and found that it was, so they say, based on "values". I find the dumping of ANYTHING, into the Arctic Ocean to be unacceptable and not my idea of acting in a sustainable manner, a term they use in their website comments.

If, as seems the case, they did this in Canadian sovereign territory, north of Ellesmere Island, this violates Section 33 of the "Canada Fisheries Act" and we take this seriously here.

I do not want to take this further as politics is not the basis of the "Gear" section of TS, however, I believe that ALL hikers should be very concerned about environmental issues and behave accordingly. When, one is a foreign national in another country, as was the case here, this should be axiomatic and I am not impressed with this dumping of gear or by anyone who would act this way.

After most of my life spent working in Canadian environmental management and protection agencies and decades of active advocacy of wilderness preservation and wildlife conservation, I have VERY strong feelings about this kind of behaviour."

 

 

Just cause you can make it to the mountain and climb the mountain does not mean you necessarily have high intelligence, IQ, or are in any way caring about the environment or the world around you. All it means is you climbed a mountain the easy way, in this case buy polluting the waters of the world and not packing  your garbage out. This in and of itself causes me not respect what they may have accomplished and I will not read nor watch anything that has to do with this venture.

.

 

 

7:22 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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+1 for every one of Dewy's points.

I had to ditch gear once because our lives depended on getting out of an extraordinary circumstance.  We told the local guides it was theirs for the keeping, and its locations, should they wish to acquire some valuable booty.  It was not a logistical plan to this, no more so than fleeing a burning building and leaving everything behind. 

There is a very good chance no one will ever encounter the abandoned gear, if the locals didn't claim it soon after; stuff like this tends to be swept into crevasses, lost for millennia.  But we still felt awful, more so for sullying the mountain than the significant financial loss sustained.  We failed to achieve one of our primary objectives, to pass

Leaving gear behind by design is quite another matter.  The notion of purposefully incorporating logistics into any modern expedition that includes leaving gear behind is highly debatable from an ethics standpoint.  Virtually every nook and cranny of terra firma has been visited, so now the challenge of high end trekking is doing more "elegant" routes, faster route times, less reliance on resources and a lighter impact on the ecology.  Taking out what you brought in is part of this credo.  It is one thing to leave a sling behind on an abseil station, but quite another to leave fixed lines, bivies, or entire camps as part of the premeditated logistics of any trip.

Ed

5:30 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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philosophically, i agree that leaving gear and refuse behind is best avoided, and most of us, almost all of the time, can manage to do that.  in the few occasions where i had to beat a hasty retreat, i was fortunate enough that i could carry my gear and trash with me. 

there is an exception in my mind for expeditions in hostile conditions, meaning a long trip, altitudes at 15,000 feet or more, high winds, extreme cold  - conditions many of us will never experience.  maybe that's what Ed is talking about, i don't know.  while people in those conditions may have the best of intentions regarding packing their stuff in and out, the reality is that it's most important to stay alive and keep your extremities intact.  if that means descending fast to avoid a killer storm, avalanches, etc., then leaving behind a fixed line, a blown out tent, trash, fuel bottles, or anything else is a price most people would gladly pay in exchange for their personal well-being.  and i would have a hard time arguing otherwise. 

6:54 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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I use a bag that about 10 years ago was rated at 20 degrees. I don't think its that now as I have spent about 2800 nights in it since 1999. Yes, I have camped that many nights since 1999 or about 280 days a year, September to May.

I sleep in my clothes sometimes and sometimes either just undershorts or sometimes in the buff. Depends on the night and how cold it gets.

Right now I am in the desert around Tucson and it starts out warm at sunset (6 pm), at about 80 degrees, but by 3 am its 50 or less. So I start out in hiking shorts, socks and a tshirt, at about 3 am I get up put on a sweater, long pants and a woolen hat. (By 7 am I am up and back to just shorts and a tshirt and socks/shoes. Sunrise is about 5:30 am.

If I use my tent as I do in the mountains and canyons I sleep much warmer even at 3 am and so I just wear my shorts and sock and tshirt 24/7 while on long hikes. I average 7-14 day hikes at a time. Thats about a 45 lb pack with food for two weeks and gear/water. Anymore than that and I cache my extra food at intervals along the route when possible.

9:32 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

..there is an exception in my mind for expeditions in hostile conditions, meaning a long trip, altitudes at 15,000 feet or more, high winds, extreme cold  - conditions many of us will never experience.  maybe that's what Ed is talking about...

I am referring to those who consider remoteness or altitude as an excuse to abandon gear.  These considerations alone shouldn’t be acceptable reasons to trash the scenery in our day and age.

If you are facing extraordinary circumstances well beyond what should be anticipated, then you do what you must to get out.  Consider it an averted, unexpected disaster.  But often people go into extreme conditions, knowing they are extreme - this South Pole exped for example - and use that as the justifications to leave jetsam all over the landscape.  Mt. Everest, and the South pole have already be "conquered"; if you want to do these venues today, consider cleaning ALL of your gear off the pitch as part of the plan.  Consider it part of the primary objectives of the excursion, part of what defines the level of elegance of your route.  The only excuse to abandon kit is extraordinary, un-anticipatable, potentially mortal circumstances; otherwise such a trip is totally selfish and disrespectful of the tera.

Ed

9:22 a.m. on November 5, 2011 (EDT)
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i have a solution for the volume issue,have your significant other carry bags,pads and other low density stuff in a high volume pack,that leaves the brunt on other half which you will have to determine by sex,size,physical ability and who's the one that pushed the issue of backpacking.

July 30, 2014
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