First Time Snow Camping - Gear List

11:15 p.m. on March 13, 2013 (EDT)
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I will be snowshoeing and snow camping for the first time in a few weeks. I'll be going to the Eastern Sierras for a 3-day weekend trip, where the average daily highs at that time are 43-51*F and average lows are 17-24*F. I was hoping to get feedback on my gear list for my sleeping and clothing system. I have questions about my other gear, but will reserve them for another thread. :) I should add that I am 5'1", 102 lbs, so weight is a critical consideration for me. I also get cold easily while stopping and sleeping.

For sleeping, I am borrowing a Feathered Friends Murre 0*F women's sleeping bag short (up to 5'3"). I will add a Cocoon silk liner, that is supposed to add almost 10*F. I have two slepping pads: exped synmat ul 7 (r-value 3.1) and thermarest z-lite sol (r-value 2.2).

For clothes to wear while snowshoeing, I plan to wear: icebreaker glacier 320gm beanie, smartwool midweight baselayer top and bottoms, icebreaker 260gm quantum long-sleeved hoody, patagonia rain shadow jacket, marmot full zip precip rain pants, outdoor research verglas gaiters, icebreaker quantum 200gm gloves, outdoor research over mitts, liner socks, and wool hiking socks. I also have a buff and smartwool neck gaiter, but not sure if I would need them. (I would bring one or the other, but not both.)

For clothes to wear around camp and maybe sleep in: patagonia cap 4 expedition weight top and bottoms, mountain hardwear hooded phantom down jacket, rain jacket, montbell ul down pants, rain pants, and goosefeet gear down socks with waterproof over-booties.

I'll do the tips I've read on the forums such as putting a hot bottle of nalgene in my bag (as well as my gas canister). Underwear, extra socks, and an extra pair of smartwool liner gloves will be packed as well. Do you think I have it covered? I feel like I may be underpacking. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated!

1:10 a.m. on March 14, 2013 (EDT)
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Hi and welcome to Trailspace.  I havent done winter backpacking but have been learning a bit about cold weather camping and have done a bit of snowshoeing.  It wasnt cleat from your post which you're doing. I think the principles of how to stay warm will be similar whether you're backpacking or car camping

In terms of your snowshoe clothing, you may find you heat up pretty quickly.  Snowshoeing is a lot of work, especially if there's deep snow.  So it's best to have multiple layers available so you don't overheat while moving, but can add more to warm up when you stop.  I've been finding I wear up to 4 or 5 layers on top plus a down jacket when I'm in camp in teens/20's weather.  But when moving (if it's sunny and not too windy) I might wear just one layer. As an aside, have you checked to see what the actual snow conditions are where you're planning to go?  I snowshoed in Sequoia NP, on the west side of the Sierra, this past weekend.  At 7,200 feet the snow depth was a few inches in the open, more in sheltered areas.  At ~9,000 it ranged from a few inches (sunny southern exposure) to 2-4 feet in sheltered wooded areas. As a point of reference, on this same trip, while snowshoeing, I wore a pair of soft-shell insulated pants, goretex boots with liner socks & heavy smartwool socks, and for most of the trip just a mid-weight capilene shirt & of course my Trailspace cap.  When I stopped I added layers.  My socks got wet, presumably from sweat.  I wore fleece gloves while in the shade (but not while in the sun). Make sure you bring extra clothes so you'll still have warm layers in case some get wet. I'm not sure what others think about this, but I found myself wishing I had some down booties for in camp. While not moving, having a warm hat is very important, to me anyway. YMMV, I'm a 175lb male.  I'm sure you'll get plenty of other responses from the helpful folks here, there's tons of cumulative experience on this forum. In my opinion it wouldn't hurt to have microspikes in case the snow is shallow/packed/icy and you end up not using the snowshoes. You didn't mention - are you backpacking, or car camping?

1:59 p.m. on March 14, 2013 (EDT)
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You are on the right track.  Make sure your menu has adequate fat and carbos for the cold weather.  Add more stove fuel than usual to melt snow and for more hot food..  Make sure your sleeping pad is adequate for snow.  Bring a pad for pets to sleep on.  Have a shelter that can take snow loads.  Sunglasses and suncreen for the face.  Have fun.  The wilderness boundary in winter is much closer to the road.  Fire is your friend.  Bring food that needs refrigeration if you want.  Camp in a spot with morning sun.

2:50 p.m. on March 14, 2013 (EDT)
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 I went snowshoeing around Mammoth Lakes  about five years ago. It was a short out spend two nights and back trip. This was the first time that I had been snowshoeing, and I learned a few things. First I overdressed at the beginning and worked up a sweat, and I chilled when we stopped. It’s easier to warm up when you’re dry than when you’re damp.

 I was cold when I crawled into my sleeping bag, which was adequately rated, and it took a long time to warm up. The following night I drank some hot chocolate before turning in with much better results.

 The last day I should have warmed up my boots, either with hot water bottles or hand-warmers. When I put them on they were painfully cold, and eventually my feet went numb. Warming them up on the drive home was a painful experience as well.

 Some of the things that went well, I remembered to take snow-stakes for my tent. I had a closed cell foam pad under my thermarest and didn’t get cold from the ground. I had a frisbee to prevent my stove from sinking. Down booties and down parkas are wonderful.

Have a great trip.


9:10 p.m. on March 14, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for the replies everyone. I'll be backpacking (also another first). I haven't checked the snow report yet. :/

Sunglasses and sunscreen? Check. Based on the amount of heat it sounds like I'll be generating while snowshoeing, I'll cut back on the layers and just wear a base layer, gaiters, gloves, and rain jacket/pants when active and layer more when I hang out at camp. I'd like to wear waterproof outers since I'm not the most coordinated person and may end up falling on snow a lot. I've read using a closed cell foam pad to sit on and put under your boots will help insulate from the cold and snow too?

Should boots be placed in a sleeping bag too (wrapped in plastic of course) to keep them warm and easy to put on in the morning?

Ideas for winter food/drink/snacks menu will be asked in another thread so as not to make this thread veer off course. I'd love to read how creative people can get with food. :)

9:53 p.m. on March 14, 2013 (EDT)
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I am a easterner winter camper hiker and IMO you will be fine.....

I don't know all that gear well but if anything you will be too hot. In camp that stuff will be fine to any +17......... More than enough.....

Out walking in snow under assumed Sun you will want sun screen and sun glasses and the sun glass shall have no metal parts touching skin.

For years in far colder than +17 I wore and still do duofold top and bottom long johns, cargo shorts well below 0 with gortex wind pants over that.

My tops hiking hard up hill is just a old fashion wool dress shirt in plaid by woolrich, covered with a old fashion 60-40 unlined guide parka.

I carry a spare duofold top if for the one i have on gets wet from sweat in any day's hiking counting from the trail head to the next days hike... or even just a day hike when i will be getting back in the truck. I hate that wet soggy feeling even in the truck.

The key point is STAY Dry even if that means slightly cool.

My wind pants have zippers almost to my knee. When I put my gaiters on Once they are just caught on my laces and the sides are started to be zipped up, at that point I undo the pant zippers all the way to the top.

Then finish my gaiters zippers so there is a small opening in my wind pants just above the gaiters. That opening becomes a vent to get rid of heat and sweat faster.

I am mostly worried abut the gloves ..... That is because i don't like gloves in a general way, and i am not familiar with that line of glove.

If I were your guide I could see, but never the less I think I would have you bring a spare pair of wool boot socks to be used as mittens if the gloves fail to keep your hands warm enough.

The combination of the spare boot socks and the OR shells will do it...

I have the OR Shells.... I use old boot socks I modified to have my thumb go threw a hole my heels wore out, another hole, that if i make a fist I can withdraw my fingers out from in the mitts to be on the shells and have the wool behind my fingers still inside the shells to cool down faster when hot. But that isn't the end of what's on my hands as i also wear very thin glove liners.

This set up allows me to open the screw driver blade on a swiss knife, deal with zippers, and or run a 35 mm camera.

Hoping this isn't getting 'Too Much'.

When I dress I do it top then bottom or the other way around getting into or out of a sleeping bag...

Getting out for the day I will change into a duofold set of longies top and bottom in the sleeping bag. Get my dress shirt wool read and slid 1/2 way out of the bag... get that shirt on, get the glove liners on, get the wool sock mitts on to my elbows. 

Since it's cold and i want breakfast I add a wool jack shirt, and a down vest, and any head gear needed. That can be 2 balaclavas and a hood, maybe even a down parka.

Next i sit on my bags after getting the days socks read and make sure my feet are dry, add powder too, One foot at a time into liner socks boot sock and down booties.

cargo shorts go next and wind pants.

The mitt shells go last....

Note the boot sock mitts are trapped under the wool jack shirt on purpose. No matter what the day has in store there is no way snow can get in my sleeves..... The OR mitts seal my 60-40.

Anytime you get hot stop and fix that problem. Stay Dry 

The only article of clothing i can't open is my duofold


Knock off all the snow from your boots as best you can..... I carry a wisk broom from a common hardware store and sweep my boots clean then with no plastic bags or anything I use my boots as a pillow.

I also carry 2 cotton head rags common to summer hikers as a sacrificial face rag I WANT to freeze. The first one I wear in hard blown snow as a face mask until I need a real face mask. The fact it gets wet and freezes just makes it adjustable.

Sooner or later it will dry after i take it off.

When I sleep I wear the other one trying to catch 'breath' in that instead of everything else. I also use a vapor barrier sleeping bag liner....

If this helps any and you think I might answer anything else feel free to ask.

Back East it is wetter and colder so far as I know.

10:14 p.m. on March 14, 2013 (EDT)
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I think you have too many base layers, but you need to go out to see what works for you.  You could use some vapor barriers in your boots to keep them drier so you wouldn't have to worry about frozen boots in the morning.  Sleep with them?, they take up too much room.  Man up and be ready to go in the morning before putting them on.:) I've been out in below zero temps on one trip this winter and a couple more in the single digits F and the warm trips in the teens and even hot mid 20's.  Enjoy yourself.


10:19 p.m. on March 14, 2013 (EDT)
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hikerduane said:

I think you have too many base layers, but you need to go out to see what works for you.  You could use some vapor barriers in your boots to keep them drier so you wouldn't have to worry about frozen boots in the morning.  Sleep with them?, they take up too much room.  Man up and be ready to go in the morning before putting them on.:) I've been out in below zero temps on one trip this winter and a couple more in the single digits F and the warm trips in the teens and even hot mid 20's.  Enjoy yourself.


 LOL Man UP? Did you read her size?

5:21 p.m. on March 16, 2013 (EDT)
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clothingwise you've got it covered. what are you taking for shelter? that is a critical consideration. I also see you're taking a canister stove. what kind? will you be going alone or with a group\ friend?

7:25 a.m. on March 18, 2013 (EDT)
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ppine said:

Add more stove fuel than usual to melt snow ...

Actually try to obtain water from a stream, and you will consume a lot less fuel.  It shouldn't be difficult to find a flowing stream this time of year.  You need one calorie of heat to raise a milliliter of water one degree Celsius.  But it takes an additional ten calories just to make water change from a solid (ice) to a liquid state. Save those ten calories and start off with liquid water.

Attach a collection container to the end of a pole or stick and use this contraption to dip into the steam when collecting water, so you don't have to get too close to the stream and risk falling in.


One thing you want to keep in mind is avoid sweating in your clothes.  Sweat soaked layers lose a lot of thermal efficiency.  Strip off layers before you get very warm.  Personally I prefer to be somewhat on the chilly side when under way, so as to reduce both the amount of sweat generated, and minimize the number of layers I subject to getting wet with sweat.

Camps pitched somewhat up a slope are usually warmer than those pitched in low lying areas.  Cold air sinks.  Get away from low areas to obtain a warmer camp.  Twenty to thirty feet above a meadow often is sufficient for this purpose.


No mention was made of how you plan to deal with the snow when the sun doesn’t soften it.  Snow in the Sierra is often frozen solid.  It can be slippery and treacherous unless you have crampons or similar traction devices.  It takes just a wee bit of incline to send you on a scary and dangerous slip and slide. And if you have crampons, you should also have an ice axe.  And you should obtain instruction on their proper use; these tools are sharp and dangerous, especially to someone who doesn’t know proper ice tool  techniques.  But not having them can be even more dangerous.


Avoid  traveling across relatively flat terrain that is otherwise surrounded by slopes, unless you are certain what lies beneath the snow;  You could be crossing a snow covered lake with thin ice;


1:59 a.m. on March 23, 2013 (EDT)
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Where is your emergency gear? I see nothing on your list. Take a shovel-something like a Voile Mini. I always carry one, even on day hikes. Got trekking poles with snow baskets? If not, get some. If you fall over in soft snow, you will have a heck of a time getting back up without them. What kind of snowshoes do you have? Make sure they are big enough. At your size, that shouldn't be a problem. Get a pair with heel lifters if possible, saves your calves on the uphill.

Your clothing list is similar to mine, except for brands so you will be fine in those temps. I wear old Capilene midweight top and bottom, Precip pants, lightweight fleece jacket, carry an REI rain jacket, light fleece gloves and now have a big pair of mitts. Take goggles if you have them. Mine fit over my glasses.

I don't believe in putting a bottle in my sleeping bag. Don't trust them. I'd rather wear more clothes or get a warmer bag, which I have done.

6:12 p.m. on April 2, 2013 (EDT)
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Lodge Pole said:

 LOL Man UP? Did you read her size?

And you think this is a factor based on what?

I don't think size has anything to do with generation of body heat I know a lot of smaller women who stay a lot warmer than I do. And remember that woman have an extra half-inch or body fat which will help keep them warm, too. Obese people also have more insulation which will help them retain body heat, but that's often compensated for by having poorer circulation. 

6:54 p.m. on April 2, 2013 (EDT)
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Sorry Peter, I see you didn't understand the humor in telling a slight built female to man up.  I just thought it was funny..... 

April 2, 2020
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