View Full Version : advice for fall thru hike southbound

09-23-2002, 13:30
I'm going southbound and want some advice for the fall/winter months, please be understanding of my desire to do this then please send me your advice! PLEASE! I'd love to hear whatever you can think of and it will help me be safer and smarter out there, anything you write I would like to hear. Leaving in a week, love the cold air, but still haven't really hiked in the winter so I want the advice...

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09-23-2002, 15:06
hey, good luck, wish i was out there with ya. im not really sure what you already know but i figure youve done atleast some hiking in the past. your up for a great hike. seeing as how youll be hiking over the winter months be sure you have warm gear, im sure youve thought of that. i suggest you carry a shelter rather than try to shelter hop, but some people chose to do that. im sure youve put a lot of planing into this, so i guess the big thing is hike your own hike and have a great time.

09-23-2002, 15:42
As much as possible, try to keep a set of warm clothes in your pack as campwear. That means you do not wear them during the day, so that when you are done you have something warm and dry to change into. The fastest route to hypothermia is to sit around in wet clothes with the wind blowing. A set of heavyweight thermals at the least. In addition a pair of fleece pants and a fleece or (better yet) an insulated jacket would be good. This is in addition to whatever you would wear while hiking. If you have a down sleeping bag that does not have a moisture resistant shell, I would get a bivy bag or an overbag. Gaiters would be good, as would multiple pairs of socks (like 4) and gloves (2 pair). I would probably go with boots over trail runners for the snow in the north. If you haven't done so already, seal your boots with something like freesole and then waterproof them. Either carry or have mailed to you (maildrop, bouncebox, etc) extra waterproofing.

In terms of food, I would bring along a large stash of instant soup. Enough for a liter at the end of the day. In my experience, this is the fastest way to warm up in the evening. Plus, instant soup weighs almost nothing. If you are reduced to melting snow for water, make sure to seed your pot. That is, put a little water into the pot along with snow. This helps it get going. I would use a strong, reliable stove. I have not used an alcohol stove in the northern winter. The MSR XGK works really, really well in bad conditions but the solid fuel line is a bit annoying.

09-23-2002, 17:57
It's amazing at how much perspiration you can generate when the air around you is below freezing. Consequently, you end up with wet clothes at the end of the day, regardless of how well you've been able to moderate your body temperature through layering. The problem is that these wet clothes will tend to freeze once you take them off for the evening (wearing damp clothes to bed will result in a very cold night and an eventually wet sleeping bag). You'll need to thaw them sufficiently to put them back on in the morning (and then get moving fast to keep from freezing!). Even your gloves will eventually become damp and frozen with enough exertion.

Given your October 1 start, you may just get by without the need for snowshoes, but you should certainly be prepared for some slow hiking days in the December-through-February timeframe.

So, try to stay dry, keep a set of dry camp clothes, layer-layer-layer, and have a great time!

09-24-2002, 04:27
thank you for the responses! I'm concerned about the wet clothes, how do I keep them from freezing at night without having them in my WARM sleeping bag! ha... the inside of the tent, if cold outside should be pretty cold right? so they won't ever dry will they? :confused: I hate the thought of having a stove that isn't the alcohol kind, wouldn't that be too much to carry with all the heavy clothing? well, I do appreciate the help. any thoughts on the hunter situation? what do you recommend for that also.

09-24-2002, 09:07
Here is what I do as regards wet clothes in the cold. When I get in, I change into my dry ones within a half hour of getting into camp. The wet ones sit around in the air till bed time. Then, some of the dry clothes come off and the wet ones go one when I go to sleep. This is only if the wet ones bother me in the morning. The wettest, and most annoying, layer will be the one next to your skin; i.e, thermals and socks. This will cause your sleeping bag to pick up some moisture at night. It won't be too much and it will be several days before it starts to affect the bag's performance. During my mountaineering trips to northern Canada, my down bag has done fine with this technique, even though the dampness, particularly at the foot end, was noticeable. If you wear the clothes to bed, they will be dry in the morning. If you don't, and leave them outside the bag, they will be cold and getting dressed in the morning will become really fun. If you are carrying a tent, it will be warmer by around 10 degrees (F) in the tent than outside the tent, depending, of course, on conditions (windy or not) and tent design (mesh, solid, single wall). If you don't carry a tent, I would carry a bivy or over bag.

About the stove. The reason I suggested an stronger stove was due to the possibility of having to melt snow for water. I do not know first hand what a northern New England winter is like. But, I think the chances of having to melt snow in nasty conditions is good. This is easy with a powerful stove, but would take a while for an alcohol stove.

Another tip: Bring a sit pad. If you use a foam pad and it is accessible, use that. Else, just cut a square from an old pad. Rocks are cold in the winter time and the pad allows you to sit anywhere you want.

Finally: Think about bringing more than one warm hat. This was, you can hike in one and still have a dry one for when you are done. An extra hat will hit you for another 5 or so oz., not a big price to pay for keeping hypothermia at bay.

09-24-2002, 09:10
I also meant to add that the hunters are out already in Indiana, although I thought hunting season was still a few weeks off. I would wear a blaze orange vest, although there is probably a ligher way to tell eople you are not a future meal.

09-26-2002, 05:13
hunting season in pa is in november... wear blaze orange!

09-28-2002, 02:28
great stuff guys! thanks. hey, how do I build my own small stove which will heat up soup real good or maybe even strong enough to cook something small? I've heard people making their own. I leave in a week, so hopefully someone knows about this. I think the small stoves with the tanks will be too heavy with all the winter stuff I have, right? :) thanks for help!!

09-28-2002, 11:02
Here are a variety of links that I've compiled that list out the hunting seasons for many of the states along the Trail:

Maine (http://www.state.me.us/ifw/hunt/seasons.htm)

New Hampshire (http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/hunting.html)

New Jersey (http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/hunting.htm)

Virginia (http://www.dgif.state.va.us/hunting/hunting_regs.html)

North Carolina (http://www.wildlife.state.nc.us/pg04_HuntingTrapping/pg4b.htm)

Tennessee (http://www.state.tn.us/twra/huntmain.html)

Georgia (http://www.state.ga.us/dnr/wild/huntingregs/)

09-29-2002, 13:11
Prepare to be lonely.

09-29-2002, 22:14
Sleeping bag: When you sleep in one bag night after night in subfreezing conditions, it will pick up moisture and loose loft. Might be OK for 1-2 nights, but you will soon notice. Ways to deal with this are (1) air your sleeping bag on every nice day - just hang it over a tree for an hour or 2 in the sun with a breeze. Moisture will sublimate out even below freezing. (2) prevent the problem in the first place by always sleeping in a vapor barrier liner. To dry clothes overnight, I find it works well to put the damp clothing between the bag and foam pad. Your body heat will dry it and you won't notice the moisture too much. Make sure your pad is at least 1/2 inch thich closed cell foam or one of the thicker Therma-rests (stay away from the Ultralight-it won't be warm enough). Supplement with clothing below your body if you are cold. You could potentially hit deep snow in Nov-Dec in the Whites or Vermont. Might want to have snowshoes available for a quick maildrop if needed. Gasoline stoves are the only reliable thing in very cold weather. Plan on up to a pint per day of fuel if you need to melt snow. Yes, it's heavy, but your life is out there.

09-30-2002, 08:40
Great advice, DebW. I had forgotten about vapor barriers. I also think that putting your clothes underneath the bag is a much better idea than putting them in the bag. By morning, they should be dry enough that you could bring them into the bag with you for a little while to let them warm up before you have to dress.

My concern with winter camping has always been trying to dry things out. Unfortunately, you don't seem to get as many days of sun and breeze to really dry things out. Humidity can also be an issue during the shoulder seasons when the temperature pushes above freezing and starts to melt any snow on the ground. Seems like it would be a good idea to incorporate more unplanned zero days to get stuff dry, either in town, by a fire or on the rare sunny day.

09-30-2002, 08:49
About VBLS: Do not use them unless the temperature in your sleeping area is significantly below freezing. I've found that by wearing wet clothes to bed, my sleeping bag picks up moisture but that it takes about a week before it starts to get noticeably bad. I've tried to put the clothes between my pad and me, but find this uncomfortable. Plus, I roll over a lot so the clothes never seem to dry.

Homemade stoves: I don't think you are going to be able to build a homemade alcohol/esbit stove that is capable of melting snow for water in an efficient manner. Alcohol and esbit just don't throw off enough BTUs to make this possible. One compromise might be to start with an alcohol stove and have a full on stove ready to go, possibly in a bounce box or with someone at home. This way, if you get into trouble, you can ride it out till the next town, pick up the other stove, and continue on.

09-30-2002, 14:02
thanks all! bears shouldn't be much of a problem right? one website I checked say play dead if after shouting and waving your arms at them to let them know you're a human (since bears sight isn't the best) doesn't work, then another site said if a bear actually continues at you, and if you've already thrown the food you may happen to have in your hands if applicable, that you fight for your life as lying dead will just get you dead. WHICH IS RIGHT!? :) I'd appreciate advice, both websites were very nicely done up, so who's right? Thanks....

09-30-2002, 15:20
dont play dead its just a myth. stand your ground and the bear will probably do a fake charge at you and if you dont move then itll wander away. if it attacks your suposed to fight it and hit fiercly cause the bear dosnt want to get hurt and wotn risk getting hurt just to hurt you unless its really mad (such as a mother defending cubs)

09-30-2002, 15:50
I would not think that bears will provide much of a problem source. However, I would still take standard precautions as bears do come out of hibernation from time to time during the winter.

How you respond to a bear depends on the type of bear you are facing and what the situation is. First, and easiest, if you are facing a polar bear attack, you better have a rifle. Else, don't worry about what to do. Second, for a solitary grizzly that has shown no signs of stalking (i.e, you run across it on a trail or a field or something), you want to stand still, talk softly to it, and, if it charges you, stand your ground until the last possible moment. Then, hit the ground, lying on your stomach, and cover the back of your neck with your hands. If the bear turns you over, roll back on your stomach. Hope that the bear loses interest. Adult grizzlies are not adept climbers. So, if there is a tree near by that you can climb quickly and to a sufficient height, that is also a possibility.

Most difficult to deal with are black bears. If you are attacked by a solitary black bear that shows no signs of stalking, I think you will want to fight the bear off. If you are stalked by a black bear, you definitely want to fight it off.
If a bear comes around at night, you want to fight it off. If you are attacked by a mother bear with cubs, I think you actually want to play dead, but I am not sure on this. The reasonning being that the mother bear is seeking to neutralize a threat to her children. Playing dead might end the attack whereas if you fight the mother bear, you will have to kill her before she lets up.

In my recent trip to the Smokys I ran into a momma bear with two cubs in the Bone Valley. I stopped, let the cubs reach her, then slowly backed away, facing her. She growled very audibly but did not move at all. One I was out of eyesight, I continued walking backwards but now at a faster pace. Once I was about 200 yards from the encounter, I moved away very quickly.