Winter backpacking

7:53 p.m. on January 5, 2016 (EST)
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revisiting here is like revisiting a friend :) due to all good advice I received back when first getting started I'm back asking for tips and advice with winter trips. i seem to have a comfort zone of 30 degrees as the lowest and untill 5 pm or so. Have done day trips and close to home in winter but would like to try a group backpacking winter adventure coming up for 3 days without the luxury of heading back out and indoors. Tested out tea lights to bring up the temp inside the tent after someone I knew used this method when the temps dropped unexpectedl. (I only did while watching and to warm hands over and yes I know of the dangers but was well ventilated and would never when sleeping) the 5pm or so is I'm sure more due to other issues as I have a hard time on multi day trips during the night when it is beautiful out however any tips for that as well would be appreciated. I'm mainly concerned if temps would drop unexpectedly on a trip. I have been on several summer 2 to 4 day trips just looking to expand my hiking adventures thru the year and  am new to cold weather hiking and backpacking

8:00 p.m. on January 5, 2016 (EST)
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Well I found on down the forum someone with similar question new to winter backpacking so I am reading that post and answers as Well. Feel free to still offer advice or say hello :) sorry to post without looking better on the beginner forum

10:58 a.m. on January 6, 2016 (EST)
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Bring more clothes, bring more food, bring more fuel and learn to use a fire.

11:27 a.m. on January 6, 2016 (EST)
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Bring better clothes, bring way more food, bring the right fuel and learn to survive without a fire. Whatever works for you :)

What sort of weather would you expect be going out in Gammy? Winter and cold vary a lot by region and altitude so without context its hard to give specific advice.

Oh and nice of you to stop by to see us. I wonder where you've wandered off to sometimes, but assume you are too busy hiking to post here.

4:33 p.m. on January 6, 2016 (EST)
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it depends a lot on the region you're in and the park.  some places won't let you build fires or strictly limit where you can light them.

a number of people said 'more food.'  if you're out a lot in cold weather, you burn more calories.  not just because you may be hauling around more stuff, but also just from staying warm.  so, you have to add more calories.  

you definitely need to learn how to use a stove well because water starts to freeze up...and water purification takes much longer to work in cold weather. i'm pretty sure there are websites that will help you figure out how much fuel you would need, based on how many people and anticipated temperatures.

'more clothes' is a little broad.  on one hand, as you already know from hiking in cold weather during the day, you need clothes that both keep you warm enough and deal with sweat.  no cotton, wool or wicking layers, and layers generally so you can add or subtract to deal with the weather and the hiking conditions you encounter.  wicking base lawyer, mid-layers that can handle the sweat, at least one outer shell that stops the wind (and rain if that's a possibility).  when you're done hiking, you will want something warmer like a puffy jacket of some kind.  multiple pair of hats and gloves  are necessary, and a sleeping bag that can handle the cold you anticipate.

if you expect snow and plan to tent, the tent should be able to handle some snow loaded on top.  one way to ease into winter camping is to stay in some kind of walled but unheated shelter.  stops the wind, makes cooking easier, but it's still cold.  

have fun!

4:35 a.m. on January 7, 2016 (EST)
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While there is a single basic philosophy that the key to staying warm and keeping dry is employing layers of clothing, there are several schools of thought about the constitution of these layers.  Furthermore there are assorted methodologies regarding how one goes about their business in the snow to assure your kit and apparel maintains integrity and ability to continue keeping you warm for the duration of your trip.  This can be a lot to digest, especially if one has trouble understanding what gear and practices are compatible, or if one is unfamiliar with the various practices and gear combos.    

This is just a hunch, but me thinks you will benefit more gaining the knowledge you seek via a in-field snow camping seminar.  There you will receive hands on, first person exposure (sic) regarding best practices involving a given system.  I would advise you seek a guide service that provides instruction for the terrain/conditions you aspire to experience.  There is really so much more to snow and cold camping than apparent from forum posts on this topic, things we often wrongly discount as minor or forget to impart in our brief words of wisdom herein.  In the end you may find your experiences fall short (burr!) of your expectations, but going with a guided field course at least gives you the best fighting chance to overcome any obstacles currently stymieing your enjoyment of the fourth season.


12:05 p.m. on January 8, 2016 (EST)
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start small.  Begin with short hikes and camping excursions close to your vehicle and/or shelter, ideally with an experienced mentor. Gradually expand your range, along with back yard campouts/camping with a snug vehicle handy, etc.  You will want to learn what clothing works for you, what the capabilities of your footwear might be, and you want to be sure you can devise shelter and summon fire reliably.  Learn the fundamentals and increase you excursions sensibly.

9:07 a.m. on January 9, 2016 (EST)
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Last time I winter backpacked in snow country I was in Yosemite in 1980, I was young (24) and spent from the beginning of January to the end of May in the park.

I had a minus 30 degree sleeping bag, mostly wool outer clothing and long underwear.  I used an expedition tent the North Face VE24, a large external frame pack the Jansport D3, had heavy duty mountaineering boots by Vasque.

I stayed in Yosemite Valley only when in between up to one month long pack trips into the high Sierra. I was always very comfortable in my gear.

I remember water being the hardest thing to get, being most of the time the minor creeks in the high country were froze solid, so I had to melt snow and found its possible to burn water, by not starting with a little of it in my cook pot, the ice crystals would scorch and make anything I used the water for to taste burnt.

Other than that I also learned fuel from my Svea 123 stove spilled on fingers would create a instant frostbite feeling.

Winter camping is fun. I also winter caped at the Grand Canyon from October to April every other year from 1983-03, but except on the rims there was little snow fall inside the canyon. Night is the canyon were cold especially beneath the south rim in the constant shade from the winter sun. Days were much warmer than they had been in Yosemite, in the 50-60s.  Very comfortable as I could get down to shorts and a light long sleeved shirt.

So different places will be different types of cold and weather.

6:21 a.m. on January 20, 2016 (EST)
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Good advices by everyone here. Thanks alot for sharing. I will always keep these things in mind.

3:16 p.m. on January 20, 2016 (EST)
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maybe I missed if it was mentioned in other posts, but a high R-factor (well insulated) sleeping pad is key.... much more so than a sleeping bag.

The bag under you will be compressed and wont have all that loft to keep you warm, so you will be in direct contact with the cold ground. 

I go overkill with an Exped Downmat 9, but its worth every extra oz and $ when you settle in for the night and not have to wake up at 3 am with a cold behind!

3:29 p.m. on January 26, 2016 (EST)
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Thank you all so much for answering and advice. to answer the busy part, I have found myself for the past few years back in the parent role. Fortunately i have semi retired (I say semi because not sure if will stay in retirement land or a few yrs down the road re enter the work force. I am finding I have reinforced my you don't need as much as you think you do to live and be happy so... :) with the retirement status I have managed to still hike and am looking forward to a few upcoming trips this year. As for what conditions of winter backpacking. More somewhat cold than snow. I have done a few day trips solo now and please don't laugh (well it does look funny I'm sure) have tented in the cold and snow in backyard resisting the temptation to head indoors Along with day hikes before I join a group hike So as to know if I would be able to keep up so to speak. Fire usage is not a problem. My issues I have not resolved are no matter how I layer getting sweaty and hot, then cold as I unzip, take off Ect. Probably need to find the perfect jacket. Keeping my hands warm, finding the right kind of fuel for my stove but am considering a jet boil verses my home made, and staying toasty once the sun is down which a better sleeping bag (and I def need to upgrade sleeping pad) may be needed. I hate the dark hours but love waking up out there in the mornings if that makes since. I hadn't considered a seminar, was looking for beginner trips. Seminar sounds like an excellent idea. for water I have the sawyer mini. Any better recomendations? I'm pretty happy with it. Try to carry too much water because I need to learn to not fear the icky water. Thanks everyone :)

5:54 p.m. on January 26, 2016 (EST)
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Backyard testing for cold weather gear is an important step I think. Much better to find out something doesn't work at home.

I hike really hot so totally understand the sweaty thing. Usually I start out in what I'll be comfortable in once I warm up so the first mile might be chilly, but I don't have on so much I over heat. The other option is to start peeling layers off as you go but for me its easier to just start out cold and warm up.  Also pacing becomes really important to avoid getting sweaty. I'll make myself slow down just a shade if I feel I'm getting too hot but can't afford to lose any more layers. I also keep warmer hat and jacket handy to pop on for even short breaks.

Your Sawyer is fine so long as you don't let it freeze. I leave mine home and melt snow if I expect real Winter conditions. Otherwise if I think it might get too cold in my pack I'll sleep with it in my pocket to keep it warm.

10:41 a.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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Thank you all and update :) did a mini 6 mile adventure testing out new layering system and finally after much trial and error and thrifty purchases happy to say have found a 3 stage (chilly, cold and brrr freezing for even me lol) system. Now onto sleeping system and find a seminar. Happy adventures to all of you 

8:49 p.m. on February 1, 2016 (EST)
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Not much else to add really, everyone else seems to have covered it well. Rather than tea lights though, a proper candle lantern would be a safer option with the benefit of a much longer burn time. 

Also down booties are a godsend when it gets cold. Good ones even have a sole that you can wear outside. In the winter I don't leave home without them. 

7:47 a.m. on February 2, 2016 (EST)
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I applaud you all who camp in the snow and extreme cold. Although the last time I was in elements like that my team members and I saw the most beautiful creature a snow leopard !  It was amazing it moved so grateful and was so memorizing that we all forgot about the cold and how miserable we were and in a blink it was gone. One of the best experiences of my life. Now for recreation no snow or extreme cold for this guy.

August 16, 2018
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