First winter trip

2:08 p.m. on December 30, 2012 (EST)
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Going on my first winter outing purchased a Serria Design Zagori Bivy some base layer clothing, duo therm poly fill union suit drydex shirts and using my old reliable whisper lite stove, and a tarp. Going with someone who has several years experience in winter camping. Bringing snow shoes of course but looking for advice on other equipment or tips on a winter adventure. Going to try Bivy when it arrives, have a cat meow sleeping bag rated to 20 deg with thermo active liner the they say brings bag down another 10deg. Looking for tips advice and equipment recommendations cause if this works looks like year round hiking hear we come. Thanks in advance

2:15 p.m. on December 30, 2012 (EST)
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Do ya have a good pad to sleep on? The ground will suck the warmth right out of your bag if ya don't have something in between you and the cold ground regardless of the bag, liner, so on and so forth.

2:58 p.m. on December 30, 2012 (EST)
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My first solo winter trip was in Yosemite from Jan-May 1980. I thoroughly enjoyed everything, but having to melt snow or ice for water everyday, everymeal. Beware if you melt snow, be sure there is some water in the container before you start. If there is none and the snow scorches it will come out tasting burnt and no matter what you put in it like flavored drink mixes or make soup or hot cocoa, etc, will taste burnt too.

Another thing if you use a liquid fuel stove do not spill any on your hands, it can cause faster frostbite as the fuel evaporates fast in the cold and drys your skin out.

I once had to start a campfire using a roll of Toilet paper doused with liquid gas, then placed under my tinder becase all the available fuel was wet or damp. Having a fire in the cold and snow is very comforting, even if you usually don't have them in the summer or warmer months.

Also beware of handling anything metal like tent poles, stakes, snowshoes, etc. It makes your hands that much colder.

And if you are going to take a camera , keep it inside your clothing as much as possible. Moisture and condesation can build up inside the body, especially on DSLRs where you change lenses time to time. The front lens will fog up when you take it out to shoot photos, carry a soft cloth to wipe it with.

Also if you wear glasses as I do, put them in a pocket in the morning before you need to put them on a few minutes to allow them to warm up. Then they won't fog over by putting them on cold.

I have not done another snow camping trip since 1980, but often like this winter go to places where it gets cold like here in Arizona, where in the southern sections anyway it rarely snows.

Oh, also keep batteries warm too or they will not last as long in your equipment like flashlights and camera's, etc. The equipment will still be okay after they warm up, batteries and all.

3:01 p.m. on December 30, 2012 (EST)
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I was just getting some advice about a similar thing on another thread. Beware the wind in your in the ne, supposed to gust to 45 mph tonight. How you rig your tarp is critical, spindrift will be awful with those winds. I use the same liner, I agree with the ten degree gain. I carry an adventure medical 2.0 bivy sack to put over my bag and gain another ten degrees. Bring lots of high energy food, nothing other than layers will keep you warmer. Too many people under estimate the warmth generated by digestion. You can always go to a low a pitch and block the ends with snow or gear. Look at arson's videos he uses a burrito pitch that is kinda a modified wedge. Ive tried it and it really warm in front on a fire, it traps the heat well. Be smart and carry extra everything and you will be fine. I agree on the pad mayde a big agnes or exped for real warmth.

3:06 p.m. on December 30, 2012 (EST)
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hotdogman said:

...mayde a big agnes or exped for real warmth.

 
Exped-DM-7-009.jpg

:)

7:45 p.m. on December 30, 2012 (EST)
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Rick, do you love that pad or what? Best, warmest on the market if you ask me.

8:07 p.m. on December 30, 2012 (EST)
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Yes I do. I slept on it last night on the snow(backyard) in my-20 bag/Soulo without the inner and was toasty. I had a 9 on a loan to purchase from a relative(cheap) but it was wayyyyyyy too much pad for me.

If it gets cold enough that I am pushing the pads limits I figured I could just place a ccf pad under it to compensate.

The 7 M is perfect for me and fits rather nicely in the Soulo.

2:02 a.m. on December 31, 2012 (EST)
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Thats exactly what I do. I have the trusty blue pad as backup or a campfire seat.

7:32 a.m. on December 31, 2012 (EST)
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newfiebound said:

Going on my first winter outing purchased a Serria Design Zagori Bivy some base layer clothing, duo therm poly fill union suit drydex shirts and using my old reliable whisper lite stove, and a tarp. Going with someone who has several years experience in winter camping. Bringing snow shoes of course but looking for advice on other equipment or tips on a winter adventure. Going to try Bivy when it arrives, have a cat meow sleeping bag rated to 20 deg with thermo active liner the they say brings bag down another 10deg. Looking for tips advice and equipment recommendations cause if this works looks like year round hiking hear we come. Thanks in advance

 You will either hate the bivy or tolerate it.  I can barely tolerate being zipped up and "mummified" in a regular sleeping bag---now throw on another zippered mummy sac bivy and I really get claustrophobic.  You'll find out at 3 in the morning when you wake up gasping for air and too hot and fumbling for both zippers which now are on opposite sides to each other. 

And as someone said, watch out for spindrift in a tarp.  Plus, a single wall shelter like a tarp can and will drip with condensation in the right conditions---i.e. cold temps and snow.  A double wall often keeps this water away from your gear.

11:21 a.m. on December 31, 2012 (EST)
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Good info.  I would reiterate that fuel and food calculations need to be on the generous side.  Avoid sweating.  Site selection is really important for the tarp in winter.  Find a protected site out of the wind.  Add an aluminum shovel for site clearing and building furniture.  I like big dogs to pull a small gear sled and to sleep with.

11:54 a.m. on December 31, 2012 (EST)
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Yea a shove is a must, aluminum is better than plastic. You should inspect your shovel for burs on a regular basis. In another thread someone mentioned how easily a bur can tear nylon or poly gear. Im careful, I dont think my shovel has touched anything but snow in the three yrs ive had it.

8:32 p.m. on December 31, 2012 (EST)
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I have an old Cat's Meow. It is no longer warm in cold weather. I now have two down bags, one rated to +23F and one rated to -10F. The +23F bag, plus an MEC overbag is good to around +15F. I use two pads-a full length Therm-a-Rest and a closed cell foam Ridgerest.

I don't like a bivy as my only shelter in winter if there is any chance of bad weather. I have a BD Winter Bivy, but it is more of a light cover than anything else. It was fine on a clear night, but in a storm, my 2 person winter tent is far more comfortable.

You need insulation - down or Primaloft type synthetic jacket and pants. Fleece won't be as warm, but a fleece jacket is fine when moving. I am wearing mine in my photo. Also, gaiters, winter boots of some kind. gloves and/or mitts, preferably both a light glove and heavy mitt, balaclava or beanie-fleece works well.

I would get a copy of Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book. About $10 at Amazon. The back half is all about winter camping and well worth it. Lots of illustrated tips for beginners.

Everything looks the same with snow on the ground. Take some kind of navigation aid-preferably map & compass. Take them even if you have a GPS and learn how to use them. Batteries go dead, map and compass don't. 

Get a headlamp. Far easier to use than carrying a flashlight around and trying to do something with one hand.

As mentioned, a shovel is a must. Mine is a Voile Mini. BD makes some nice ones. I've used mine for all kinds of things including digging my car out in a parking lot. If I had to leave something behind, my shovel would be close to last on the list. Don't buy one of the plastic bladed ones-they are useless against hard snow and ice.

 

1:07 a.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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Wow some new things to think about, I will dig out my other trap not much weight wise and double up, I do have a therma rest pad, based on what I here sounds like it might be worth my while to bring a second one. First one in the the bivy with me and other one underneath the bivy. I am packing soups but over last year or so used Knorr's meals with tuna, salmon or chicken in foil pouches, light load of calories about 2500 to 3000 per meal, should load be higher for winter? Will look for a shovel never thought about that.

I do not mind being in a confined space, so being closed in will not be a problem. Had not much thought about the fuel issue and cold , will be little more careful when putting stove away usually spill little fuel on me, I field clean it after each use, may forgo that on this trip.

I will have a head lamp but due to battery issue am considering a candle lantern with extra candles as a back up. 

I am grateful for all the tips and now am looking forward to my first trip in the snow, Maine just got hammered with 24 inches in the last three days! Will take any advice offered, half the fun of hiking is learning from others on how to make it more fun. A friend once told me life is good when the destination is the trail.

3:00 a.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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Hoping thermreactor liner will give it some life, used it recently in the white mountains in november down to about20 and was reasonably comfortable . That coupled with a duo therm poly fill union suit and the thermoreactor liner will give me the edge on the cold.

What do think

10:32 a.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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Hey newfie, you left out one intricate detail that will help us out quite a bit on your approach...

Where are ya going?

5:14 a.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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Ahh yes very important the excitement of it all forgot one of the most important parts, headed to Baxter Park region of Maine, most snow there and well the sights are great too

1:19 p.m. on January 3, 2013 (EST)
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I would have gone with separate upper and lower long johns, rather than a union suit.  Separate upper and lower items allow the option of using just one or the other.  Also I find jump suit tailored clothing restricts freedom of movement when bending and kneeling, both frequent stances around camp.

I would have chosen a different sheltering option than a bivi sack.  I prefer more room in my winter accommodations over that used in the summer, both to afford elbow room to don or remove clothing, as well as to reduce the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in a small shelter while waiting for a storm to blow over.   Lastly a bivy will require frequent excursions outside to extract it from falling snow.

The places I snow camp are often too cold to get by with the sleeping arrangements you describe.  I imagine Maine is the same… 

There are tons if tips and techniques that make snow camping more bearable, if not more fun.  Learning them will take time.  For example XC skis are often quicker and more efficient (and more fun) than snow shoes.  Dragging a sled is less laborious than carrying everything on your back.  Fetching melt water from a stream or lake whenever possible will significantly reduce the amount of fuel required to heat your water.  Sleeping in a shelter made from snow is far warmer than sleeping in a tent on the snow’s surface.  Another tip is don’t trek across wide open, flat, expanses unless you know for sure what lays beneath the snow – it could be a meadow, but it might be a lake covered by thin ice.  And then there is that whole snow safety thing, as well as the potential need for traction devices such as an ice axe and crampons.  (Get some formal instruction on these items.)  There are hundreds of such tips, far more than can be shared in a forum format.  Hopefully your friend has learned a good deal and can relate to you his acquired wisdom.  In any case it will take years before you become a master of the forth season, but it is well worth it, so don’t let the initial trials and tribulations discourage you.

Ed

10:51 p.m. on January 3, 2013 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

For example XC skis are often quicker and more efficient (and more fun) than snow shoes. 

 Thank you Ed, and amen!

11:02 a.m. on January 4, 2013 (EST)
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newfiebound - Have a fun trip!  I've just returned from some adventures in NW Maine, and man, was it cold. Daytime ambient temps around 15, nighttime around 0 and dipping below that with wind chill. You'll be far north of where I was, and see colder weather.

For me, the set-up you've described would be too cold.  I'd go with a zero bag.  But, with the liner and bivy set-up you describe, it doesn't sound dangerous, and could be warm enough for someone who is a warmer sleeper than I. I like to carry a waterproof pack liner that doubles as a vapor-barrier sleeping bag liner in a pinch.

During my walk, I was careful to smear most of my exposed skin with a thick sunscreen.  Great stuff for preventing frostnip and keeping one hydrated.  I drank a lot of hot water from a good thermos too. Have fun, be safe!

8:06 p.m. on January 4, 2013 (EST)
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Seth reminded me of a seldom used tip.  Most folks like to stow their pack inside the tent so it doesn't get covered with snow.  I find this just further cramps this living space, plus and snow or dampness on the pack will add to the frost/condensation issues inside the tent.  Instead leave the pack outside, and cover with a plastic trash bag.  You only need a few items from the pack while inside the tent anyway; you can pick those out and take them with you when the time comes.

Speaking of things outside the tent:

Do not leave any of you kit laying around unattended.  Snow has a way of covering stuff overnight or while away on a day hike.  I am sure many here will attest of lost gear for this very reason.

One more serious tip:

DO NOT USE A STOVE INSIDE YOUR TENT!  The risk of fire is certain; eventually it happens to anyone practicing this behavior, it is just a matter of time.  Rarely is the weather so bad as to justify this risk.  Even the "experts" have suffered the consequences of tent cooking, only to have a mishap or malfunction result in significant destruction of property, injuries, and in some instances, fatal disaster.  Mountaineering lore is rife with such tales.  Search this forum for "Wilcox expedition" to read more on this topic.

Ed

9:39 p.m. on January 4, 2013 (EST)
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One thing I enjoy when sleeping during cold winter overnights, is I boil water and put it into my nalgene bottle right before bed. It's a nice warm thing to cuddle up to when things are chilly.

Also, eat some nice fatty, high calorie food just a little bit before bed. That cranks up the 'ol internal furnace a bit to help you stay warm.

8:41 a.m. on January 5, 2013 (EST)
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So will make some adjustments here will still use bivy as bag liner sounds like couple of contractor garbage bags for covers and barriers will be in order, will practice building snow shelter and bring the tarp to make for better living accommodations. Then based on what I am hearing sounds like sleeping pad inside bivy and one outside will be good barrier. Will bring poly union suit as additional layer for sleeping but use two piece base layer for the day. Planning on high fat high carb food and bring extra fuel for white gas stove. Think I am headed right direction can you all refine any more. This has been great and really got me excited about winter hiking. I will try some this out prior to hiking. I have been reading " The extreme survival almanac" has great stuff on shelter building so will be digging in the snow!!

1:44 p.m. on January 6, 2013 (EST)
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If you've ever worn coveralls to work in during the winter, you'll know that the union suit design (while sometimes inconvenient) really helps you stay warm by funneling heat from your legs upwards to your core. I also find the form-fitting long johns tend to restrict circulation a bit. Not a big deal if you're walking but annoying if you're at rest. Your plan to use both styles sounds good. 

1:24 a.m. on January 8, 2013 (EST)
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Before going, I would suggest checking out www.viewsfromthetop.com, a NE oriented website. The members there know pretty much all there is to know about the North East, including the Whites and the Daks and a lot of them are winter hikers, campers and climbers.

2:47 p.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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Tipi Walter said:

You will either hate the bivy or tolerate it.  I can barely tolerate being zipped up and "mummified" in a regular sleeping bag---now throw on another zippered mummy sac bivy and I really get claustrophobic. 

I can't sleep in a mummy bag, although they are warmer than a barrel bag. Too constricting, both physically and mentally. Same problem with bivy sacks. I never seem to actually get any sleep; I just lie there staring at the ceiling. 

7:52 p.m. on March 2, 2013 (EST)
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Just wanted to thank everyone for all the help. Trip was awesome, even in the middle of a blizzard on the first night, snow cave way to go, bivy worked well but moisture minor problem on this trip but will overcome easily with vapor barrier next time. This trip definitely great because of all the help both from a hiking buddy who was experienced went with me and all you folks.  Already thinking about next trip, thanks again this is what makes back country so much fun. 


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8:40 p.m. on March 2, 2013 (EST)
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Great shot! Im glad you had a good time, first trips are important.

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