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Winter Camping Questions

Hopefully you'll forgive me asking noob questions so please bare with me.

I'm using a Mountain Hardwear Taurine 2 Tent.

Chinook Kodiak Extreme Sleeping Bag

Klymit insulated static V sleeping pad

1. There is moisture forming between my tent and ground cloth. The floor is not wet, but I am worried it will get wet over extended stays. Could this be related to my body heat, and if so, will adding more ventilation cure the issue during the day when the tent is not in use?

2. I put some wet socks at the foot of my bag. They were just as wet when I woke up. ( not drenched. Wool socks completely wrung out). If I string a line through my tent, will this be a better way to dry my socks? Or even wearing them?

3. Condensation. I believe to have cured the problem while circulating more air through the tent. Are there any other ways?

4. In a case that my sleeping bag gets wet, how can I dry it in below freezing temps?

5. I'm cold as hell and shaking, wet to the bone. What procedures can help save my life if no fire is available.

Thank You Guys! Total Winter Camping Noob.

I'm sure there will be more questions once I have some more time in the tent.


1. That's your perspiration plus your breath. The human body typically sweats off about a liter overnight plus breathes out about the same amount. Nothing you can do about that. Well, I suppose you could let yourself go hypothermic and cut the perspiration. But that has some serious side effects, like dying. Not recommended. One thing that helps somewhat is using a vapor barrier liner in your sleeping bag. That works for the perspiration, but many people can't stand the soggy feeling of the condensation inside the VBL, and it does not stop the moisture in your breath (you don't want to stop breathing, of course). So you can't do much about that part.

2. You could lay the socks on your chest. That allows the evaporated moisture to vent out through the face hole in your mummy bag. But that contributes to the moisture inside the tent and the condensation. During the day, you can lay the socks on top of your tent with the sun shining on them (you do have a couple changes of socks, don't you?)

3. That's the only cure for condensation in the tent - ventilation. Then again, if it gets cold enough, the condensation will freeze on the inside of the tent and/or fly. So no moisture raining down on you. But when you move and brush the tent, you get ice crystals raining down on you.

4. What is your sleeping bag filled with? If it is down, the answer is - you can not dry it in subfreezing temperatures, especially if it got so wet that the down has collapsed. BUT... if it is clear outside, during the daytime you can spread your bag on top of your tent in the bright sunshine. If the bag has a dark-colored side, face that side toward the sun. Unfortunately, down is hard to dry in the field. But if you have one of the new "dridown" bags, or if the down is only slightly damp, doing the top of the tent thing works somewhat. If you have a synthetic bag, though, you can squeeze some of the moisture out. The synthetic fills retain most of their loft, so will dry faster than a saturated down bag.

preventative measure - when you wake up in the morning, immediately roll the bag tightly to squeeze out the moist air inside the bag before it gets a chance to freeze. Then fluff the bag and repeat the tight rolling a couple times. Then put the bag on top of your tent to let the sun help dry it. Often in subfreezing weather, the humidity is low enough that a synthetic bag will dry in a few hours, as will a "dridown" bag and a down bag that hasn't completely collapsed.

5. First thing is to get out of your wet clothes and into dry clothes, including your dry layers (you do have a complete change of dry clothes with you, don't you?). Heat water and get some hot drinks and food in you. Exercising, just moving around will generate body heat.

What about your buddies? You didn't go off miles from the trailhead by yourself, did you? Basic thing is PLAN AHEAD!

Bill gave some grand advice above...but I would add...

1) You said between your foot-print and tent correct? My guess (if the moisture is located primarily near where you lay your sleeping-pad)...that the moisture is a result of conductive heat-loss through your sleeping-pad. I would suggest adding a really light piece of foam like the Gossamer Gear Thinlight under your inflatable pad when sleeping in low temps (some folks place the foam on top...this does not jive with my understanding of thermodynamics so I have never tried it). To be do not need a thick piece of foam...the purpose of the foam is to slow the loss of heat to the air trapped inside your sleeping-pad...what is referred to as a thermal break...the sleeping-pad filled with air warmed by your body is going to do most of the work of keeping you warm.

2) To dry socks or anything at night (even in the warmer parts of the year) will need to utilize a source of heat...your body is one...a bottle of hot-water is another (at least for a couple of hours)...some hand-warmers will also offer a few hours of drying time (I prefer the reusable ones)...but a tent-stove beats everything if you're base-camping.

3) It sounds like you have the condensation thing figured out...but some hammock folks use a piece of fleece as a bib to "catch" the moisture due to respiration...I have never used I cannot say...but the folks on Hammock Forums are generally very reliable.

4) Bill has a lot more experience with really cold weather than I do...and offers some great techniques. For me...cold weather is frequently of the sleety and wet type (though snow is nearly always on the ground and trees somewhere). Overcast...higher levels of humidity...and general sogginess make sun-drying difficult to impossible. If my bag gets wet...I am probably walking out and looking for a laundromat.

5) I would suggest always bringing a mylar "space" or "emergency" blanket. A lot of folks have X ways to make fire in their "emergency-kits" (I have always found two lighters are more than enough) and no emergency blanket or other 100% reliable way to defend against (not prevent) exposure...which is a real tragedy because the conditions where fire is most needed are often the same conditions that building a fire is most difficult (fire should be a back-up...not a primary strategy). To be sure...a mylar blanket is not perfect...if things go poorly and you have no dry clothes/shell/tent/tarp you will probably die of exposure...but wrapping your head and as much of your body in the blanket will give you some more time...and if you wrap your head and body in the blanket and then burrow yourself in a big pile of leaves or other "fluffy" debris that creates air-pockets you'll live even longer.

You can always modify tents to improve ventilation.

I believe in taking all the items that hold moisture and taking them outside during the day weather permitting. Hang up your pad, sl bag and socks in the sun or at least where there is a breeze. If the weather is cold and cloudy, build a fire and dry them out. Same with your clothes before going to bed. I would never put wet socks in my sleeping bag.

For the wet and cold scenario, like falling in a creek, a fire is the best remedy. You don't have to go back to camp. Without a fire, strip off all of your wet clothes and get in a sleeping bag in a tent out of the wind. Have another person get in there with you if you still have trouble. Hot drinks if you are able or have help.

The best thing to do is avoid getting wet in the first place in winter conditions. Constantly modify your clothing for your activity level. If you are planning a big uphill slog or preparing to build a snow cave, take off several layers and avoid sweating and drenching your clothes. Be very careful around streams and lakes.

Arctic explorers and others on long trips in the cold struggle with accumulated moisture more than anything else. Over time a sleeping bag can get really heavy with accumulated ice and water vapor. Sometimes a stove in a tent is the only solution if you are above treeline. It is dangerous. Better to stay lower a build a fire.



I am going to mention a method for drying the inside of your tent and gear inside it that I strongly do NOT recommend. I only mention it because several people I know have tried it (and mentioned it here on Trailspace), claiming it works. It is potentially extremely dangerous with a high risk of serious injury and maybe death.

The method is to run your backpacking stove inside your tent. WARNING!!! Your stove (1) depletes the oxygen inside your tent; (2) generates carbon monoxide (highly poisonous and quickly fatal) and carbon dioxide (smothering because of the oxygen depletion); (3) is an open flame that can quickly ignite any and all synthetic material in the vicinity (your tent, tent fly, sleeping bag, clothing, etc, etc, etc). Again, if you try this you run a high risk of being seriously injured or dying.

I mention it only because some people claim they have tried it and that it works by warming the temperature inside the tent, lowering the humidity. Supposedly, if you provide sufficient ventilation, you will get enough oxygen and remove the CO and CO2.

If you are so foolish as to try this, I disclaim all responsibility of your actions and their consequences. I urge you NOT to try this method and to never run your stove or any fire within 20 feet of your tent (or your ice cave or igloo).

Again, if you run your stove inside your tent or even just the vestibule, you run a HIGH RISK OF DYING!!!

ppine suggests getting into your sleeping bag with another person. Actually, as is emphasized in Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness First Responder, and Wilderness EMT courses, this is likely to result in 2 hypothermic victims. Otherwise, his suggestions are good.

As an example of the accumulation of ice that ppine mentions, when Will Steiger and his North Pole Expedition did their first polar trek, they found their sleeping bags accumulate a couple pounds a day of ice. By the time they reached the pole, their bags weighed 70 pounds each. The take from this was the tight rollup each morning that I mentioned above. On their South Pole expedition the following year, they had no such problems.

I would encourage you to follow Bill's caveat above. I have only used a stove while in my tent once and it was in extreme conditions. The stove was in the vestibule, which was open. It was a canister stove(Bluet), which were very poor in sub freezing temperatures. It is extremely dangerous. I would never do that again. The only way I would use a stove in the winter, is if the tent were a cotton wall tent and the stove had a proper flue. Synthetic tents are a no go and candle lanterns are even dodgy in them, IMO.

As ppine has said, avoid getting wet. Getting wet can kill you in winter conditions. Layer your clothing so that you can shed easily when you start to overheat. Think about the breathability of all your gear. Wool breathes better than synthetics. Down is great, but will lose all insulating power when it is wet.

A good way to easily regulate your temperature is with headgear. A wool balaclava is good.

Always carry several changes of socks, gloves, the small stuff.

I don't know where your outings are, but it is easier to stay warm when the air is cold and dry(as is the snow) then in those marginal conditions with mixed rain and snow and the air is very damp.

Again, the hardest part about winter outings, is staying dry and warm.

BTW, Bill, what is this thing called, "sunshine"?

Hi Bill,

I am actually staked out in my backyard right now and have been there for the past week. Kind of weird but it'd be nice to gather as much info before heading out from the trailhead. Since I have no friends in the area who are seriously interested in this type of camping I will be doing the outings on my own, so I find it imperative to gather the most information before heading out. Hopefully the things I learn out n about will be small in comparison. The rolling of the sleeping bag is a great suggestion. I will try that over the next few nights. The bag is filled with a synthetic insulation called thermofil. I really wish this area had more sunlight. I am in Michigan so its mainly gray and cloudy during the winter time. Man I miss those Colorado days.




Thanks for the tips on my sleeping pad. I have read that a foam pad under an air mattress is the way to go and this information only reinforces the facts. Unfortunately I will not be bringing any other stove than my little snow peak. I plan on lighting nothing more than a candle lantern inside my tent with my little stove for cooking in the vestibules. Thanks for recommending the space blanket, that's a great suggestion.


The majority of my camping this year will take place in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, towards the Traverse City Area. I plan on taking a few weeklong trips in the future towards Pictured Rocks on the North Country Trail but only after I get some experience under my belt.


Thank You for the pointers.  

Erich said:

Again, the hardest part about winter outings, is staying dry and warm.

BTW, Bill, what is this thing called, "sunshine"?


Here in the SFBay Area, we have a big shiny spherical thing that appears in the sky occasionally. When I was in Antarctica, I saw a similar object most of the time. Last year, I made a trip up toward your neck of the woods, but never that phenomenon. I did catch occasional glimpses of a similar object in Alaska. I think it may be a UFO that restricts its visits to only a few parts of the Earth.


Rob, doing the backyard tryout is an excellent way to shake down your gear!

The older I get, the less I like sitting around in the dark waiting for the sun to come up. It is the hardest part of winter trips. A fire is the obvious answer, but lanterns and headlamps are more important in winter. A fire with a lean-to or even a space blanket for a reflector is surprisingly warm and something more people should consider.

Rob...sounds to me like you have a plan of success. I backyard-test all my sleep and shelter gear...and walk-about-test all of my clothing before ever going out for more than a night...these things must perform at a very high level or a trip can go south. My next step is usually a multi-day trip with lots of "outs"...I really like loop-trails with bisecting roads. Though a little discomfort is're probably doing this for fun..."outs" help keep things fun and safe. Once you make your way up to a week-long trip in the winter you're taking serious trips (you will be mostly alone because only a few do this type of camping). As folks mentioned above...moisture have to be ridiculously serious about minimizing it if you're staying out more than a couple of days...because moisture only increases (gets worse) without an available heat-source (a small town with a laundromat would be a glorious thing to come across). I would also mention that if you plan to do week-long winter trips you might want to consider some conditioning. If your body routinely processes a lot of calories (big meals) into a lot of energy (movement)...then the energy demands to continually generate body heat will probably not matter much...but if you eat little tiny meals and/or are not more than moderately active...the stress of generating body heat continually can make you feel terrible (sick+lethargic) after a few days.

Rob Keith said:

Hi Bill,

I am actually staked out in my backyard right now and have been there for the past week. Kind of weird but it'd be nice to gather as much info before heading out from the trailhead.

 Just wanted to say that isn't weird at all and is actually a pretty smart idea. So much easier to learn from the issues that come up when recovery is easy rather than a matter of life and death.

Hi Rob, I have some experience winter camping so I don't mind answering your questions. Of course there is no one way to go about these problems but here are some things that work for me.

  1. The moisture or condensation found between the floor and ground cloth is due to the relation between the temperature and dew point. As night time temperatures fall below the dew point the water in the air condenses and forms water droplets. This may manifest itself as fog, rain, snow, frost and dew. So the moisture may already be there in the air and on the fabric, we just can’t see it until it condenses into a liquid state.
  2. I would never attempt to dry clothing in my sleeping bag. For one thing it takes a lot of energy and time to produce enough heat to evaporate water which is essentially what drying is. This can seriously compromise your sleeping system not to mention sap your energy. Remember, that moisture has to go somewhere and that place is your sleeping bag where it is likely to freeze. Eventually so will you. My sleeping bag is the last bastion between me and the cold so I keep it dry. I also use a VBL which I find to be quite comfortable. I also use VBL socks in the cold.
  3. The best way to eliminate condensation in a tent is to leave the tent at home. I have spent many a winter night outside without a tent using a tarp, a lean to or simply fluffing up my sleeping bag and crawling in. This keeps me close and personal with the outdoors which is what camping should be all about.
  4. There is no really reliable way to dry a sleeping bag in the cold; this applies to both synthetic and down. I have tried, when I was young, to dry out my down sleeping bag next to an open fire but I was very conscious of the risk. If it’s a lot below freezing then any moisture will probably be coming from your body, unless you spill a pot of water all over the place. Use a VBL. As Bill mentioned above the Steger Expedition to the North Pole had sleeping bags that weighed 70 pounds by the end. This was due to the fact that they slept fully clothed.
  5. In this case get your sleeping bag out, your wet clothing off and crawl in. Next, start consuming hot liquids. Start up your stove, warm your hands, warm your hat and put it on. Get as much external heat into you as possible. Every effort has to be made to keep dry, but sometimes it just can’t be helped. If your clothes are made of suitable materials they will still function well enough to keep you warm while hiking. I tend to dress very lightly even in very cold weather and I have dry clothes and a parka for when I stop. I also have a thermos with hot, sweetened tea.

Bill and Erich, we only have about 4 hours of daylight up here at the moment. In a couple of weeks the sun will set for a month and a half. This weekend the weather forecast is calling for minus 30C. Great time to go skiing.

North, I envy your dry snow.

Thanks to North. He is the closest thing we have to a winter camping authority.

I was wet from a dunking in a snow melt full creek and cold light rain.  Started shivering badly almost immediately.  I thought walking faster would help.  Nope.  I was too high for trees but found a fairly good size boulder I could shelter behind. 

I carry a large garden leaf bag at bottom of pack for things that need covering.  I poked a hole in top for my well covered head (shirt wrapped around it under hood parka), pulled garbage bag over me after I changed to single layer dry tops. I found that if you start shivering uncontrollably you don't have a lot of time to stay coordinated. Curled up as best I could inside and started up my pocket rocket and carefully squatted over it taking care not to melt me or the bag.  Didn't take long to stop shivering and warm up enough to get in my sleeping bag.  It took longer than I would have thought to recover.

Others have said similar but with no other heat source, exhaled into the bag.  A candle would probably have worked well too. 

I haven't had a candle in my pack for decades.  I've heard it helps on circulation in tent if placed near the vent.

Wet clothes don't dry in a cold tent. Best left outside. Even hanging frozen clothing will dry at altitude. Won't be much warmer inside the tent. 

Thanks for all the reply's. I really appreciate it. The issue that I ran into immediately was getting cold in my bag. It has since been returned and a Northface Darkstar ordered. I tried an experiment with my socks which envolved them being hanged in my tent. That night they were froze but some of the moisture had evaporated. From there I put the socks on my chest as recommended and by morning they were dry. My chest was pretty dang chilly for a bit. Thank You so much for the replies.

Another question, water. I've heard some tips that say keep your bottoms up to prevent freezing and also to wrap it in an insulated barrier. Sounds good. Boiling snow then to replenish your spent water is that what you suggest? Any tricks to melt it quicker? Thanks for all the help.

Speacock, I'm sorry you spent a cold night shivering. Been there, more than a few times and didn't enjoy it. The key is, to avoid it. Tents don't really raise the temperature level. They cut the wind chill but have the disadvantage that they trap moisture.

It is important remember that conditions can vary wildly, and the solution to keeping dry and warm vary as well. I would rather be in dry and cold conditions, than wet and cold.

To Rob, I usually sleep with my water bottle. Bu then, my conditions are not as extreme as North's. Keeping hydrated is always an issue.

Keeping water liquid -

The "upside down" recommendation is because of one of water's peculiar traits - most substances shrink when the temperature is lowered and expand when heated. Water is unusual in that there is a range of temperatures where the water/ice expands as you cool it. That's why ice floats on liquid water. So by setting the water bottle upside down, you end up with the ice on top of the water, which means at the bottom of the bottle. So you can get the lid off nd have some liquid water available. BUT... this does not prevent the water from turning to solid ice eventually if it is cold enough.

Another trick is to bury the water bottle in the snow. The snow acts as an insulator and lets the water stay liquid longer. Besides which, frozen water (the snow) tends to stay pretty close to 32°F/0°C. So the water bottle tends to stay liquid longer.

Another trick is to fill the bottle with hot water (boiling if possible, but remember that this will leach certain chemicals out of the plastic, like BPA, and into the water). Then put the hot bottle in your sleeping bag, usually near your feet. CAUTION - wrap the hot bottle in your socks or a towel so you do not burn your skin - basically the same as scalding with boiling water. Also, use a water bottle that you know does not leak at the cap.

Another trick is to take a thermos and fill it with hot water. That way, you can have your hot coffee or cocoa first thing in the morning, before you get out of your warm sleeping bag and into the cold. Note: not all insulated containers are equal. A few years back, I did a comparison of a dozen containers to see how long they would keep the initial boiling water hot (above body temperature). I found that there is a HUGE difference among the supposedly well-insulated containers. The best for backpacking were the 1 liter and half-liter Nissan bottles. One REI bottle that looked very similar to the Nissans might as well have been a plain Nalgene without a cozy. The graph below shows the comparison. The top line is the 1 liter Nissan and the second is the half-liter Nissan. The fastest drop is a 1 liter Nalgene with the OR cozy. The horizintal axis is in hours and the vertical axis temperature of the water in degrees Fahrenheit.


Thanks to Speacock for sharing a true life experience. Wet and cold is one of the worst situations to be in. It is amazing how fast people can become incapable of helping themselves.

In very cold conditions where the water in your bottle is likely to freeze, I recommend Hunnersdorf High Altitude water bottle that I reviewed on this site. I have had one for three decades. BPA free and the lids don't crack or freeze shut.

I have tried the upside down, in the snow thing with my water bottles and found it simply does not work in any sort of real life application. I have spent hours and wasted precious fuel by trying to thaw out a frozen bottle. I always end the day by melting snow and filling up a bottle or two with hot water and placing it in my sleeping bag. After all, why would I not want to take advantage of that heat rather than waste it by burying it in the snow?

I have found most thermos bottles also do not retain enough heat for a full 8 hr sleep period. However, as Bill mentioned, the Nissan bottle is probably the best for backpacking. I have one myself and use it for all my winter camping trips. There is nothing finer than being able to consume a hot drink in the middle of a long day of skiing without having to build a fire and melt snow. Also, a hot drink can go a long way in preventing post-exercise hypothermia; something that I am prone to.

Erich I also like the  Hunnersdorf bottle in the 1.5 litre size, although unfortunately I have cracked the lid on one.

Speacock, it is great to see someone improvising in the bush rather than being gear-dependent. I also take several large garbage bags along for a multitude of uses. I make my VBL out two garbage bags taped together. This provides a totaly waterproof barrier compared to the silnyl ones you can buy which still seem to let moisture through. In a pinch I have also used them as over-boots for wading through over flow which is common up here.

I think you have gotten some great advice so far in this thread so I wont add too much.

In regards to 5) When all other options have failed or are not available to you for whatever reason. You move. You keep moving, and you don't stop. No matter what. It may hurt, it may suck, but it will keep you alive. Cold, wet, tired, and miserable you may be but if you keep your head in the game and just keep moving you will be alright.

Now, I am not saying to wander randomly off into the darkness. If your on a trail, just keep following it. If your worried about becoming lost etc then stay where you are and do exercises. Do jumping jacks, pushups, run in circles, whatever it takes.

The vast majority of people that succumb to hypothermia die because they made the decision to stop moving, and try to bunker down somewhere. There are times when this is appropiate, like if you have a shelter, and dry clothes and a sleeping bag. But if you fell in a river, lost your pack and all your gear and all you have is you and the clothes on your back, then move move move.

North1 said:

I have tried the upside down, in the snow thing with my water bottles and found it simply does not work in any sort of real life application..

 Yeah, but North, where you live, the hottest temperatures in midsummer are -20°C. {;=>D (I'm kidding, of course)

You are right, though, that there is no such thing as perfect insulation in thermoses or any other container. Note that in the tests I did, the freezer I put the containers in was at a steady 0°F/-18°C. The Nissan 1 liter went from boiling down to 100°F/38°C in 27 hours, which is body temperature. I did not let it go to freezing, because I did not want the expanding ice to damage the Nissan liner.

The inverted Nalgene in the snow will generally have a fair amount of liquid water in winter conditions in the Sierra, NH Presidentials, or US Rockies where it is considerably milder than your environs. I did actually try this in Antarctica while we were waiting out a blizzard. In one "night" (abt 8 hours) with the air temperature, the bottle was about half liquid water and ice, enough to brew up a couple cups of hot cocoa or coffee.

I like the advice here. Let's not kid ourselves though, if I had a dollar for every time a mountaineer cooked in his tent each year I could easily retire. It is often done safely but there is risk.

Jeff said:

Let's not kid ourselves though, if I had a dollar for every time a mountaineer cooked in his tent each year I could easily retire.


In spite of all the warnings to the contrary I regularly cook in my tent during the winter months. However, more than the threat of CO2 poisoning is all the frost that builds up between inner and outer tents due to the water boiling. But just opening the doors a bit will often eliminate that. I also use my stove to warm up things like mitts and boot liners which may have frozen into awkward shapes overnight. The last few days of a ski trip, if I have more fuel left over than I need for cooking, I will often spark up the stove in my tent and get it nice and warm and luxuriate for a while.  This works much better with double wall tents as opposed to singles.

FromSagetoSnow said:

I like the advice here. Let's not kid ourselves though, if I had a dollar for every time a mountaineer cooked in his tent each year I could easily retire. It is often done safely but there is risk.

 I agree with Sage and North. The reason I keep posting the cautions is that a lot of people, both here on the Beginners page and other newbies, and a lot of more experienced backpackers are unaware of the risks and the precautions to take.

Plus I work a lot with Boy Scouts and teach adult scout leaders. The youth, being adolescents ("immortal, invulnerable, and omniscient=know-it-all") like to play with fire, as well as not really realizing that the synthetic materials of sleeping bags, tents, and a lot of clothing are highly flammable and not realizing that colorless, odorless CO and CO2 can kill.

Yes, if you know about the risks and are very careful, you can get away with cooking in your tent and snow shelter. But I have seen a couple tents go up in flame, including one that the 2 occupants were supposedly experienced mountaineers.

Just like, we all know about crevasses on glaciers. But almost every experienced climber I know has stuck a leg or more in a slot, despite knowing the hazards of glacier travel.

I love that you are backyard testing, great!  I have a few quick pieces of advice.  Someone mentioned drying your socks on your chest.  It is good advice.  When I get back to camp or set up camp, I put on dry, wicking layers, with my down on top.  I place as many of my wet clothes from the day on my body under the down. That way, some things will be dry before bed.  Then I can pack them away and dry the rest of the stuff in my sleeping bag with me or sometimes under my sleeping bag over my pad works as well.  The condensation will always be there in your tent, so keeping stuff inside your bag with you should keep it relatively dry as long as you are dry when you hunker down.  Another thing you can do if you are cold in your bag to generate some more heat is a few crunches.  I always start the night off with a few warm water bottles between my legs and once those are not warm it is on to crunches until I stop shivering.  (I get really cold at night) It is a good excuse to eat snickers! 

Oh on melting snow, make sure to start with some water, makes it go faster. 

smokysultana said:

Oh on melting snow, make sure to start with some water, makes it go faster. 

 Not only that, but starting with only snow (especially the dry snow that you scoop up in extremely cold places like parts of the Rockies known for their excellent light powder), you can scorch the pot. I did that once with a titanium pot (Ti is a poor heat conductor to begin with) while demonstrating how to melt snow for water and not paying attention as I explained the procedure. Everything cook in that pot for the rest of the snow season tasted scorched.

Hi Bill, great advice as always. I don't see it mentioned above, but I just did a quick scan. As a last resort, carry a few chemical heater packs, like the ones that fit into a boot or glove. Heat Factory is the brand I have used. Those will dry out socks or wet gloves. I have a pair of Heat Factory boot insoles that fit a small heat pack in a slot under the ball of your foot. I've used them in ski boots and they work really well. They last a few hours. Their website is nothing to get excited about, but I really like their products.

These guys-

Also, if you get hypothermic, cuddle up with another person. My preference is someone who is cute and generates a lot of heat. :)

Really Appreciate all the tips. As far as crunches maybe I should start doing those anyways regardless of it being before bed. 

I just got back from a trial run up in White Cloud and discovered a few areas that I need to work on. 

1. Kitchen Clean Up. I brought along paper towels (and tortillas) to help clean my pots after meals. However the oatmeal was the most  difficult to get clean in the cold temps . 

2. Organization. I seemed to misplace things quite frequently. 

3. Water Consumption. For my 3 night stint I used slightly under a gallon and a half.  That included all cooking and drinking as well as cleaning. Does this amount sound about right. That is roughly 192oz for 4 days. I did not spend much time hiking with only short 3mi hikes during the days. 

4. Fuel seemed to deplete quicker. 

Other than that everything went well. Overall it was a good test and gave me some more confidence. 

Thats actually quite impressive for how little water you used, but I guess it makes sense if you arent doing too much hiking daily. I just did an overnighter, 10 miles of walking, and I went through 3 L of water. That covered drinking, cooking pasta, rehydrating a desert, cooking breakfast, and making some ovalteen.

Organization is easy. Just get some bags of various sizes and colours and organize your stuff as you see fit. Makes it much easier to maintain organization when you design a system that is easy to follow.

Kitchen cleanup is just no fun in the cold. Not much you can do about that. You can get oatmeal that is in a pouch to which you just add water. That avoids cleanup, but also really raises the cost compared to just buying big bags of the stuff for next to nothing.

FYI, be sure to drink plenty if winter camping. You can get dehydrated and not notice it because it's cold.

Also, right before turning in, eat at least half a Clif Bar or something similar; the extra calories will help you stay warm at night. If you eat half, keep the other half handy in case you wake up cold. You'd be surprised the difference that makes.

Bring a thermos of some kind. Mine is made by Liquid Solutions, was pretty cheap (about $20) and keeps hot tea warm for quite a few hours in @20F. I made a cozy for it out of part of a blue sleeping pad (about $10 for the whole pad at Target) some neoprene cement and duct tape.

If you are day hiking, take a small gas stove with a little cartridge and a pot it fits in, and a cup of some kind to make tea or soup.

Even if you just think you are going to be gone from your camp for a few hours, take enough with you in case you don't get back-a pad, extra clothes, stove and some food at a minimum.

One item I always carry if there is snow on the ground-a shovel. Mine is a Voile Mini, but BD and others make them. Forget the ones with a plastic blade-they won't cut through hard crust or ice like a metal blade will. Mine is  light and handy for all kinds of tasks. I have mine with me all the time, even on a day hike. Worse comes to worse, you can dig a shelter with it.

I recommend Allan & Mike's Backcountry Ski Book, even if you aren't on skis-a cheap, easy read with lots of winter camping tips.

For online winter camping tips, also look at and VFTT is a New England site and Wintertrekking is mostly Canadians who camp in subzero weather, mostly hot tenting, which is a whole different style of camping, but you can learn a lot on that site.

Yes, the book he recommends is great!  For cleaning, I usually just use some water I have heated up after dinner or for drinking water, and drink it down! super easy peasy~  

For cleaning pots - I like to clean while the pot is still warm, it only takes a few seconds and makes the work much easier, especially in cold weather.

In restaurants where I worked years ago this is referred to as 'cleaning as you cook'.

1. For easy food prep and clean-up I recommend dehydrating and freezer-bag "cooking". A small and simple food-dehydrator can be had for less than $30.00...and allows you the flavor/variety (also savings) of your favorite left-overs on the trail. In practice it looks something like this...1) take 2 cups of low-fat leftovers with a thick consistency and dehydrate it 2) place dehydrated contents into freezer-bag (I use mylar bags and vacuum seal them) and while doing so make note of how much volume was lost in the dehydrating process so you know how much water to add later 3) bring to boil noted amount of water and add it do dehydrated meal 4) wait long enough for meal to rehydrate 5) eat food and discard empty package into fire 6) lick-clean and sanitize long-handled spoon

2. How one organizes their pack tends to be idiosyncratic. I do not think my method is perfect for anyone but myself...I use the following: 1) one trash-compactor bag to store all my clothes (minus rain-gear) and any sleeping insulation I bring. 2) one sufficiently large LokSak to store all of my food and one small LokSak to store a single day's food which I refill each day. 3) one quart-sized "zippered" freezer-bag to store all of my small essentials (photo below). 4) one small wallet-sized vacuum sealed bag with emergency gear (photo below) 5) one sandwich-size "zippered" bag for cell-phone 6) DIY stuff-sack for shelter

3) Holy crap that is a little more than 1/3 of my water should be checking your pee to make sure you're properly hydrating!

4) If not due to simply heating more water or unblocked wind...your additional fuel consumption might be due to lower water temps...hard to know without being there.

Small Essentials

Emergency Items


Question about snow stakes.


I plan on using both stakes and deadmen for the tent. I have found the SMC stakes without the holes drilled in the middle. Will these do just as well as the ones with the holes drilled in the middle? Are the holes there just to tie off the guy lines and to shave weight?


Thank You

I have my first trip planned. Agawa canyon to hang out with some ice climbers. Can't wait!

An alternative to snow stakes (there are many alternatives) is to use "parachutes". These are 6 inch square pieces of cloth (almost any cloth will do) with cord tied to each of the 4 corners (2 cords, each tied to 2 corners) to make something looking like the toy parachutes kids make. Dig a hole in the snow, lay the 'chute in the hole, pack some snow into it to hold the 'chute open, attach the tent guy lines to each 'chute, then fill the hole with more snow. There are commercial versions of this. Much lighter than stakes and hold as well or better. Be sure to retrieve all the 'chutes, per Leave No Trace principles.

Another alternative is to use plastic bags of the type you put your fruit and vegetables in at the grocery. Again, retrieve them when you take your tent down - you don't want the plastic floating around the woods in the wind next summer.

Another alternative is Toughstakes. I did a review of these here on Trailspace. They are excellent for snow, sand, and other loose materials. A bit pricey, though, and heavy like all stakes.

If you are in an area with downed wood, you can also make deadmen with pairs of 10-12 inch tree limbs set into the hole as a cross. Problem with this is finding the wood. Retrieve the cord you use to attach the wood. The wood can be left for someone doing a summer campfire if fires are allowed at that site.

A website that has a huge amount of information on the outdoors generally and winter in particular is the Princeton Outdoors Action website. This originated as the Princeton University Outing Club. They have published versions of their gear lists, skills discussions, etc, though you can find almost all of it on the website I linked. The info is extremely well vetted, as well, unlike the vast majority of websites, almost as well as certain Trailspace members.

Cool. I plan on using sticks for the deadmen on the guy lines. The stakes are mainly for the tent body. I guess sticks could be used for the body as well so we'll see how it works. I ordered them. The SMC sheet stakes. Once I get more experience and feel comfortable trying some things I'll let you know. Will also post up some pics when we get back on Jan. 11

August 14, 2020
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