View Full Version : How cold is it?

Matt Pincham
09-10-2003, 10:56
Hello All,

I've been reading over this forum and see you're all very helpful people so hope you can help with my question.
Over the past month I have begun planning my thru-hike for charity which my girlfriend and I will undertake in late Feb/early March 2004.
The main question (and worry) I have is regarding equipment. I'm from sunny old England so anything I buy over here costs considerably more than any other country in the world (we're ripped off basically).
I want to buy good equipment but also am worried that I will spend too much. My main question is regarding Tents and Sleeping bags. Will a 3 season suffice or should I get a 3/4 season such as The North Face' Tadpole? (the Tadpole costs 200, approx $317 which is quite a considerable amount for me...I'm only 21) Will starting approx 20th Feb or 1st March be too cold?
Also sleeping bags cost lots here. Do I really need a sleeping bag which is water/snow proof or will a bag that is warm enough to -9C be OK? (think you Americans work in Fahrenheit... -9C is erm... very cold probably about 10F or less)

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Take Care

09-10-2003, 11:21
If you are doing a through hike make sure that you condiser weight of items into your purchases. After 5 months of hiking, you will appreciate a light item.

My experience is that a 3 season tent is fine. Some even started March with only a tarp. The lighter, the better - of course you need to be comfortable with whatever decision you make. You can get a cheap silnylon tarp for about half the cost of a tent.

My wife and I had 20F and 15F down sleeping bags and did fine with our March 3rd start date. -9C = 15F so I think you will be OK with a -9C bag, but different people sleep warmer than others. I know some who were cold in a 0F bag and others who were warm in a 30F bag. I think that the -9C bag is typical for a March start.

Down is definately the bag of choice for most. Make sure it does not get wet or it will be worthless. We packed ours in trash bags. That being said, down tends to be lightweight and is much more compressible than most synthetic materials.

As for cost of camping items in europe, check out online deals from foreign countries. Shipping may cost you more, but the tadpole tent you were refering to sells for $200 US. If all items are that expensive for you, the internet sounds like the way to go.

09-10-2003, 14:12
matt - I'm starting March 10th with a three season tent, and a 30 degree bag (-1C). My tent is a Dancing Light Gear - Arapaho Solo. My bag is a Western Mountaineering - Megalite. I've used the bag in the snow a couple of times and was relatively warm.

09-10-2003, 15:26
I would hesitate to start with a 30 degree bag, even one as good as you have. But it depends on your sleeping warmth, and what you have for extra clothes. I started with a zero degree bag last time, and plan on starting with WM ultralight 20 degree bag next time. I was never sorry to climb into my zero degree bag, but i was sorry to have to carry it :)

If you live in a cold climate, try sleeping out in it this winter. Typical temperature that you will see is 20 degrees starting when you plan. We had a night at 2 degrees in the smokeys. We tried a pair of sleeping bags that we wanted to start with, and after a couple of hours of being cold, we decided that we needed to start with warmer bags. Those bags were a lousy EMS 20 degree synthetic bag, and a 20 feathered friends down bag that really needs to be restuffed.

Gravity Man

09-10-2003, 16:00
Some of the best advice that I heeded was to keep your winter gear until after Mt. Rodgers. And I started in late April. There was a hard frost in the valleys of North Carolina that year the week after Memorial Day. I used my 20 degree bag, and was glad to have it with me.

So, the 15 degree bag should be OK. I'd be hesitant to start with anything else, especially in March.

09-10-2003, 16:40
I used my 30 degree bag for a weekend last december from Dicks Creek Gap to Bly Gap and return, where I walked in snow the whole weekend. Pitched my ultra light year on the snow. Also used the 30 degree bag in March of this year between Gooch Gap and Neels Gap. Waking up sunday morning in slaughter gap the tent was covered with snow. The rain turned to snow during the night. Both of those nights I was fine in my bag. That's why I don't hesitate to start with it in March. Will use it again during this December. Not sure where we're going, but it will be in Georgia or North Carolina. I have a 0 degree Marmot down bag, but would rather not carry the extra weight.

09-10-2003, 17:05
Good that you have experience with your bag. What was the temperature during those hikes? Yes, there will be plenty of nights where even a 30 degree bag can be overkill in march, but its those handful of nights where it isn't that will be miserable.

Since you already have the other bag, I would suggest making sure that it is ready to be shipped if you deem you need it. Although I would go the other way (start with the warm one, then decide if/when I can go with the cooler one). Your coldest nights will probably be in the smokeys since you are up much higher there, but you never know...

Just trying to tell you my experience. I would not have been able to sleep very many nights with a 30 degree bag until after damascus. We had warm and wonderful weather for Mt. Rogers though...

Gravity Man

BTW The coldest nights are usually the clearest. When it was snowing, I was never cold sleeping. Plenty cold hiking though since it tends to wet my gloves.

Spirit Walker
09-10-2003, 17:21
Matt, a light three season tent is fine - Look for something in the 3 lb range - and a 15-20 degree sleeping bag will be fine most of the time. As others have said, it depends on how warm or cold you sleep. I tend to be cold when I sleep, and there were a few nights when I was very cold in my 20 degree bag, but not all that many. If you get a warmer bag, then you will either roast later on, or you will have to exchange it for a lighter bag, which is hard unless you have someone here in the states to help out. You may run into ice storms and you will certainly run into snow, but probably not more than a foot deep, and except in the Smokies, it is easy to find an exit if necessary. One suggestion, it is warmer in a tent than in a shelter. One other thought, can you start later? These days, so many folks start early, you are more likely to run into crowds with a March start than with an April one. Also, instead of walking with spring, you have a fairly long wait until you start running into spring flowers, etc. with a February start, which can be rather depressing. It is much harder to get up in the morning when it is cold, plus it gets dark so early in February and March. That means a lot of very very long nights. Waiting a few weeks would be easier in a lot of ways. I know I find it difficult to deal with cold day after day, even when it's dry.

09-11-2003, 09:59
Don't know the exact temperature outside, but it was probably 15 or 20. It's always warmer inside the tent but even inside everything that was wet froze during the night.

Matt Pincham
09-14-2003, 14:34
Thanks very much for the reply guys.

I've now purchased a small, 2-man, three season tent (McKinley Duolite) and a relatively warm synthetic (I know Down is better but I'm poor!) sleeping bag (McKinley Logan). (Bag is comfortable down to -9C and I have no troubles sleeping cold anyway)
Besides, I'll have my beautiful girlfriend to keep me warm on the cold nights anyway ;)