PDA

View Full Version : Some thoughts on winter backpacking



chris
12-03-2003, 16:13
With winter now full in hand, trails empty, shelters become spacious, and the land presents a much different look and feel than in the spring, summer, or fall. With the leaves off the trees and the bushes emptied, one can see the true extent and shape of the land that one walks through. Without others around, the solitude that is missing from the popular seasons can be found in abundance. Winter is a fabulous time to go out backpacking, provided you are prepared for the logisitical and technical difficulties that separate it from backpacking in the warmer months. For the rest of this post, I am going to try to describe a few techniques that I have found helpful for backpacking during moderate winter weather. By moderate, I mean daytime temperatures no lower than 10 degrees (F, of course), with night time temperatures not lower than 0. Snow and ice, of course, are allowed, but not to the point where real crampons or snow shoes are necessary. I am focusing on these conditions, because I can rely upon finding them where I usually go backpacking in the winter (the Smokys) and because I don't have much experience on snowshoes or in extended sub-zero temperatures. I may miss some points that others might want to add (please do) or state things that others disagree with (please point these out) and what I am stating is what has worked for me. For those who don't want to read much further, here is short summary of what follows:

1) It is easy to stay warm while hiking, much harder while in camp. Have dry, warm clothes to change into at the end of the day.

2) You won't drink enough cold water to stay hydrated, so make a lot of warm liquids in camp.

3) The days are short, the nights long. Plan accordingly and eat alot.

A general principle for winter backpacking is that it is easy to stay warm while you are moving. Carrying a pack up and down hills generates a lot of body heat. However, staying warm when you are sedentary (i.e, in camp) is more difficult if you are not prepared. The body heat that you were generating while hiking is also going to generate sweat. That sweat is going to chill you to the bone when you stop. One solution is to regulate how much you sweat by wearing appropriate clothes while you hike. Here are my hiking clothes for the winter time:

Andiamo Skinz (underwear)
MEC Ferrata II Pants (made of dryskin)
MEC Warmwear top
Moonstone Evolution Jacket (softshell, worn if it is below freezing)
MEC Earband
Fox River Polypro liner gloves
Running socks
Brooks Tresspass Trailrunners (or boots and gaiters if lots of snow)

The Warmwear top has a partial zip and allows me to vent well. The earband can go over my ears for warmth or act like a headband for partial warmth. This set up allows me to cruise up hill most of the day and still arrive in camp not too sweaty. For my normal breaks of 20 minutes, I'll be warm for most of the break but decidedly cool at the end. For a longer lunch break, I'll need to pull out a down jacket (see later) to stay warm. During a break, a sit pad (a square of an old foam sleeping pad) is a delight to have.

Arriving in camp, the first thing I'll do is drop my pack and fetch water. I'll still be warm in When I arrive in camp and can easily get my night's water supply. Once back from fetching water, a liter of water goes into a pot and I start it heating. I then generally will put on:

MEC Midweight Thermal tights
MEC Midweight Thermal top
MEC Cygnus 700 Down jacket
Wigwam Polypro hat
Smartwool Socks
Sierra Designs Down Booties

If it is supposed to be very cold, I'll bring along some old Campmor fleece pants. A pair of Black Diamond Guide Gloves come with as well.

By the time I get all this bulky clothing on, the water is coming close to a boil and I'll make soup. When it is below freezing, it is pretty hard to drink enough cold water to stay hydrated. So, drink hot liquids instead. A liter of soup really fills you up, so make something brothy and light: You are after liquid here, not calories. After drinking the soup, I'll put on water for my main meal and unpack. Meals need to be big and you should really have two during the night: A first, main course, and a second, lighter one before bed. After my first dinner, I'll put another liter of water on for tea. Again, I'm rehydrating here. About an hour before going to bed, I'll consume a few more calories, like a large chocolate bar. The idea is to get a few more calories to burn for the evening: The more calories you have in you, the warmer you will be. Wearing a hat to bed helps keep you warm as well.

Before you go to bed, make sure to put your fuel in your sleeping bag with you, along with lighters. Neither will work well in the cold morning if you don't keep them warm at night. If you have put on dry socks, try putting your damp ones underneath your sleeping pad and the ground. They won't dry out, but neither will they be frozen in the morning. In the morning, another liter of tea with cold breakfast is a good way to get going.

A special consideration for winter hiking is the lack of daylight. In the cold, it is hard to start hiking before 9 in the morning. It takes a while to convince yourself to get out of your warm sleeping bag and drink down the hot tea or chocolate or coffee. At the other end of the day, it gets dark soon. You'll want to be in camp at least an hour before dark, but 2 is better. In the Smokys, this means you'll need to be in camp by 4, giving you a maximum of 7 hours of hiking. For me, I can cover 15 miles comfortably in this time span, but others might cover more or less. Hiking at night isn't much fun and it gets a lot colder. For comparison, a standard summer hiking day would see me cover 30 miles in a day, so mileage drops a lot in the winter time.

Streamweaver
12-03-2003, 17:03
2) You won't drink enough cold water to stay hydrated, so make a lot of warm liquids in camp.

I personally drink more water in the winter than any other time of the year,and the colder the better!! But I do love my tea,cocoa,hot cider etc!!! Just remember though that caffeine(sp?) acts as a diuretic and can actually work against you if you are trying to rehydrate. Thats not to say you shouldnt drink any caffeine,just drink it in moderation. Suger can also dehydrate you because when sugar is ingested water is drawn from your body tissue into your stomach to dilute it. Though I would rather eat my sugar and chase it with plenty of water than to do without the extra calories to help keep warm!!! Just something to consider because I get dehydrated very easily so I watch my fluids constantly!!! And when properly hydrated you will be able to stay much warmer !!! Welp thats my 2cents. Thanks for the good info Chris!!! Streamweaver

Alligator
12-03-2003, 18:27
Lots of good tips Chris. Hydration is very important. With the temperature ranges you specified, care should be taken to keep water from freezing. A solidly dependable water bottle is a must. Although I don't keep my fuel in my bag, (white gas, fewer cold weather problems), I do keep a water bottle in my bag to keep it from freezing. I like to use my wide mouth Nalgene in the winter. Narrow openings, such as on a platypus, tend to freeze, so I do not use these for overnight water storage. For extra comfort, I boil some water before bedtime and place it in the Nalgene. Keeps the feet nice and warm. Alternatively, store the Nalgene upside down in a boot. If it freezes, the ice will be on the bottom when flipped. (Unless frozen solid.) During the evening, I do use a platypus to hold water, but I keep this inside my jacket to prevent freezing. Always be careful with the caps when doing this.

I like to get the tent up first thing. Then no matter what happens, I have shelter. But getting water heated to eat with first is also a good idea, because food=warmth. If with a buddy, split the tasks.

I do two dinners too, plus multiple hot drinks. If that candy bar before bed has some nuts in it, all the better, because the proteins take longer to digest. I even keep a candy bar close should I wake up cold in the middle of the night.

A jacket with several inside (mesh) pockets is really helpful to keep items warm, such as lighters, water, and snacks.

Chappy
12-03-2003, 19:24
Chris: re you tenting or using shelters in winter? Also, if tenting, do you cook inside the tent the following morning? Thanks.

Percival
12-03-2003, 19:55
What are Ferrata II Pants and where can I view them on the internet? I plugged it in Gooble and nothing came up. Also searched for Ferrata II, nothing.

Who is MEC?

Streamweaver
12-03-2003, 20:34
MEC (http://www.mec.ca/Main/home.jsp) MEC Is Mountain Equipment Co op A British Columbia gear company. Streamweaver

Crash
12-04-2003, 09:27
GREAT THREAD.
I've been thinking about down pants but its hard to find- at least at a reasonable price.

Uncle Wayne
12-04-2003, 09:41
Thanks Chris and all the others for these suggestions / advice. My wife and I day hike all the time in winter but haven't tried camping yet. These tips may, probably not :D , but may entice us to try it this winter. The coldest I've ever camped was an 18 degree night / early morning with the Boy Scouts.

goshawk
12-04-2003, 09:55
What a wonderful new site. You guys are so friendly and knowledeable here. I'm new to the site and I want to say thanks for the winter info. I left thruhikers.com because there were so many rude people ridiculing every one.
Does any one have opions on the best place on the at for winter hiking and will a zero degree get me by on most nights or will I need a -10 -15 etc.

chris
12-04-2003, 10:06
During my winter trips, I generally will spend two nights in the backcountry, with one in a shelter (if in the Smokys) and the other under a tarp. When the weather looks really bad, I'll bring my bivy sack (very basic) for a bit of additional warmth and protection. Cooking takes place under the tarp.

MEC is, as posted above, a Canadian Co-op which sells really good gear at low prices, with the additional benefit that you pay in Canadian pesos. That sounded a lot like an ad (except for the pesos part), but there stuff is good. The Ferrata pants are made out of Dryskin, which offers more warmth than regular nylon-poly ones are really make me look cool while hiking.

Alligator
12-04-2003, 11:00
I have used a 20F bag and a fleece liner for deep winter camping. I will eventually get a strictly winter bag. A zero degree bag should be plenty adequate for the Southern half of the AT. I would be careful in NH and ME though, there would be other gear considerations required. Note that in winter, a good insulating pad is necessary. I use a thermarest ultralight pad and a foam pad together.

I think all of the AT is nice in the winter. The lack of leaves provides much better views.

RagingHampster
12-04-2003, 11:59
Great tips Chris.

The past couple years I've done alot of snowshoeing, and some winter camping in groups. I guess I'd like to throw a few pointers as well.

Almost everyone is concerned with pack-weight, and while leaving something behind in the summer may make for an unpleasent night, leaving something behind in the winter can be dangerous. Common-sense though.

I have found that in colder weather bringing extra layers of clothing is often better than a warmer rated sleeping-bag. Just as an example, instead of bringing a -20*F rated bag, bring a 0*F or 15*F bag along with a down/synthetic jacket and pants. This gives you more versatility, especially around camp. This also makes for a pleasent night when the temps aren't going to be as cold as you thought. Personally, I'm lucky to be a warm person (which sucks in the summer when I'm always hot), and have a fairly modest winter system. This is what I use for weather between -10*F and 32*F not including the windchill.

While Hiking...
- Thick Merino Wool Socks (1 Worn, 1 Reserve)
- Expedition Weight Polyproylene Pants & Shirt
- 300 Series Fleece Jacket
- Lightweight Fast-Drying Supplex-Nylon Convertible Pants/Shorts
- 300 Series Fleece Hat w/Windstopper Membrane for Ears
- Fleece Insulated Winter Hiking Boots, Not uninsulated 3-season boots!
- Goggles
- Gore-Tex Pac-Lite Jacket & Pants for Wind/Wet Mix Precipitation

Camp/Sleep
- +20*F Down Bag (Although I may switch to a Polarguard Delta bag)
- 300 Series Fleece Pants
- 300 Series Fleece Mittens (MUCH warmer than gloves)
- 300 Series Fleece Balaclava (Sometimes used during day if it's real cold.
- Last year I used a Polarguard 3D vest, But this year I'm switching to a Down Vest

Also remember that a tent tends to be warmer than a tarp/trail shelter, and astronomically warmer in windy conditions.

I second the bringing of the water bottle inside your sleeping bag tactic. As Alligator pointed out, boiling the next days water the night before and storing it in your bag makes a great foot-warmer but make sure the cap is secure!

If you plan on melting snow for your water, make sure that you bring enough fuel. Gasoline stoves do a much better job at this as well.

jackiebolen
12-04-2003, 14:28
I am the MEC guru...the queen of MEC actually! For some correct info....it's just like REI but in Canada. I think there's stores from the Maritimes to British Columbia (note....contrary to the previous poster who said it was only a BC. store). It's a well-run coop....meaning that things are as cheap as they can make them and no one is scamming you. They stand behind what they sell and almost all my gear for my upcoming AT hike is from this store. I still have fleece pants, jackets, hats, etc. from this store hanging around 5 years later after some heavy use. Impressive! The website is www.mec.ca It would probably be not too bad of a deal at all for you Americans out there with the exchange rate.

Alligator
12-04-2003, 15:21
MEC is a great resource for those of us in the States. Great quality at low prices, even better with the exchange rate. Shipping is slow to get to us though, so plan ahead. One sad note is that some items are not available to US customers, but previously were. I think the major manufacturers may have placed pressure on MEC to not ship certain items to US addresses. I got an Arc'teryx pack for $100 (US) cheaper than anywhere in the US. It's no longer shipped outside of Canada. But in MEC's favor, they do ship their brand here, and the quality is always excellent!

Alligator
12-04-2003, 15:23
This list can handle down to 0 degrees (probably more if necessary). I could use a warmer bag though, so I would be unworried in negative temps.

Hiking

2-Ply Gore-tex shell (pit zips, chest zip).
Full side zip shell pants (2/3 breathability of Goretex)
Polypro long johns (Wal-mart brand)
Polypro thermal top (Wal-mart brand)
Fleece headband
300 wt. Fleece windstopper hat
200 wt fleece gloves
neck gaitor
liner socks
regular hiking socks

Camp
Sierra Designs Wild bill bag (20F) not recommended, has no draft collar.
Campmor microfleece liner bag
MEC PL1 vest
MEC Expedition wt top (underwear)
MEC Expedition wt bottoms
Golite Arctic Night Parka (wicked overkill)
Duofold turtle neck top
Fleece balaclava
300 wt mittens
gore-tex mitten shells.
Fleece socks.
Fleece booties.

The neck gaitor, fleece headband, fleece hat, balaclava, gloves and mittens all provide numerous options for moisture management. Hats and gloves tend to get wet, thus back-ups are important. Two hats are really a necessity. I avoid sweating at all costs, even hiking slightly cold if necessary. Count out any clothing worn during hiking as night wear. I donít typically wear the polypro long johns unless it is like 20 or lower all day. Iím a pretty warm hiker, shorts down to about 40 with a long sleeve top.

Safe to me is not having to get in your bag to stay warm.

Love the fleece neck gaitor. I will tarp down to about 20-25F alone, but if with a buddy, I have a good four season tent. Tents will add about 8-10 degrees and block the wind. Having a vestibule or two is nice, especially for cooking (outside door open, only as necessary, please be careful).

For those interested in winter backpacking, start off with some late fall runs and bring extra clothes. If possible, go out monthly. Once through a complete winter season, youíll have a good idea as to what works for you. Also, try to go with someone experienced.

kaytee
12-04-2003, 16:44
I am the MEC guru...the queen of MEC actually! For some correct info....it's just like REI but in Canada. I think there's stores from the Maritimes to British Columbia (note....contrary to the previous poster who said it was only a BC. store). It's a well-run coop....meaning that things are as cheap as they can make them and no one is scamming you. They stand behind what they sell and almost all my gear for my upcoming AT hike is from this store. I still have fleece pants, jackets, hats, etc. from this store hanging around 5 years later after some heavy use. Impressive! The website is www.mec.ca It would probably be not too bad of a deal at all for you Americans out there with the exchange rate.

You need a $5 dollar life membership to buy things there. Besides trying to keep prices as low as possible MEC also trys to be socially and environmentally consious (ie making fleece out of recycles pop bottles, converting old warehouses to make new stores, selling clothing made out of organic cotton, packs not sewn by children chained to sewing machines). Hey Jackie we definatly do have a bunch of MEC stores out "east" - one in Halifax and two in Ontario. Plus one opening soon in Montrťal. Haven't been to Nova Scotia but the two in Ontario are great. (I was just in the one in Toronto Tuesday)

I'd like to ask a question myself to all you Americans, is REI a co-op (do you have to be a member to buy stuff and are they out to make money) and what is Campfor (Camphor :confused: spelling is not my thing)?

Thanks :)

kaytee
12-04-2003, 16:48
MEC is a great resource for those of us in the States.

Hey watch out alligator, MEC gear is how we Canadians identify each other abroad. :) (we needed something new after "you guys" started sewing Canadian flags you your backpacks ;) )

Streamweaver
12-04-2003, 17:18
note....contrary to the previous poster who said it was only a BC. store

Hey Jackie Bolen, Show me where I said it was only a BC company!! The article on another site said they were out of British Colombia so thats what I posted. You got a problem with that then BITE ME!! Streamweaver

Alligator
12-04-2003, 18:53
I'd like to ask a question myself to all you Americans, is REI a co-op (do you have to be a member to buy stuff and are they out to make money) and what is Campfor (Camphor :confused: spelling is not my thing)?

Thanks :)
You do not have to be a member at REI to buy, but you do need to be a member to get a discount of 8%, 10% if you have their credit card. It costs $10.00 to get a membership I think. I do not know the answer about their profit motives.

Campmor (with an 'm') is a store in New Jersey with an online site and a mail-order catalog. Frequently the cheapest place to find stuff and a very extensive catalog.

jackiebolen
12-04-2003, 19:38
Hey Jackie Bolen, Show me where I said it was only a BC company!! The article on another site said they were out of British Colombia so thats what I posted. You got a problem with that then BITE ME!! Streamweaver

No need to get nasty :sun :sun Think happy thoughts sunshine

Streamweaver
12-04-2003, 19:54
Hey Jackie Bolen, Show me where I said it was only a BC company!! The article on another site said they were out of British Colombia so thats what I posted. You got a problem with that then BITE ME!! Streamweaver

No need to get nasty :sun :sun Think happy thoughts sunshine

Sunshine my butt!! Im thinkin snow!!!!! :clap :clap :banana :clap

Frog
01-01-2004, 07:49
Winter hiking is the greatest for me anyway. The views are at there best especially on the ridge tops. But rest assure you can get in trouble in a hurry if not prepaired. Take a tent. A tent instead of sleeping in the shelter is a must. You will stay much warmer adding several degrees keeping the cold wind/rain/snow off your sleeping bag. This is from expericence or from learning the hard way. The breeze in a shelter can swoop away your heat and a tarp will too. And one of the best things you can do is as soon as you get to camp change socks and t shirts even if you think they are dry. And never over dress for your sleeping bag. On one trip one of my freinds and we tried to tell him but he would not listen. He put on about 3 shirts and his down coat and 2 pair of long johns and then crawled in his sleeping bag and woke up freezing from sweating in his aray of clotheing he said it was one of the most miserable nights of his life and it has now been 10 years and we still havent got him back out in the winter. Remember this one thing if nothing else put on before you get cold take off before you get too hot.

Valmet
01-01-2004, 09:35
Winter is my favorite time to hike. No bugs, few people and the ones you see are true hikers. Great line of sight from the trail. I hike the southern end of the trail. I really like the way the morning feels when I climb out of my bag, it is so crisp and clean. It really makes me feel alive. Also nothing better than cranking up the stove and having that first hot cup of coffee. I also like the way the mountains smell in the winter. I know that sounds weird.

Skyline
01-01-2004, 11:41
To everyone's list, I'd add a good book and extra batteries/bulb for your light source or maybe just a candle lantern--especially if solo. 12-15 hours of darkness can get to be a bit too much solitude night after night, and something you really want to read makes it more enjoyable. Ditto a decent lightweight radio.

Other habits I've gotten into in cold weather:

Before crawling in my bag (inside a tent, not a shelter), I boil water and put in a real Nalgene bottle with a tight lid to keep in my bag with me. It won't stay warm all night, but definitely adds heat and it won't be frozen like your other water in the AM. Also, right before turning in I do just enough calisthenics to get warm (but not to sweat) and then jump right in. Between that body heat and the heat from the Nalgene, it's toasty!

I agree with some of the comments about not sleeping with too many clothes on, tho some are warm sleepers and some are cold sleepers. I think that's something each hiker has to experiment with to find his/her most effective comfort level. But generally, over-doing the clothing will be counterproductive. You just want to have some closeby to put on when you have to get out of the bag/tent in the middle of the night. Better yet if those extra clothes are warmed up by being kept inside the bag with you.

Trailjockey
01-01-2004, 17:45
I have been toying with the idea of a winter section hike. I have accumulated most everthing I need for daytime hiking. Having done many a daytrip.
I also purchased a down +20 sleepingbag. Which I have used in the backyard only down to the low 30`s. with just silk longjohns. It was toasty. This seems to be quite sufficient and hopefully gives me a wider tempeture range. I tend to sleep on the warm side and figured a +20 with additional clothing should get me into the single digits.
Believe me I will experiment at home first. Jeramiah Johnson I`m not!
But what I wonder about most is moisture. I`m told that this is a critical issue, particularly with down bags. Have any of you had any experience with this? If so, how do you control it? Or is it not a real issue? :-?

DebW
01-01-2004, 23:00
I have been toying with the idea of a winter section hike. I have accumulated most everthing I need for daytime hiking. Having done many a daytrip.
I also purchased a down +20 sleepingbag. ...
But what I wonder about most is moisture. I`m told that this is a critical issue, particularly with down bags. Have any of you had any experience with this? If so, how do you control it? Or is it not a real issue? :-?

There are 2 basic approaches to this. Sleeping in a down bag over multiple nights with temperatures below freezing will result in moisture in the bag and loss of loft/warmth. It's really unavoidable, because somewhere inside the bag the moisture from your body will hit the frost point and condense into the down. One approach is to air your bag as much as possible. Let it sit in your tent awhile before stuffing it. Hang it over a branch for an hour on a sunny day. Hang it out in a breeze. This will allow the moisture in the bag to evaporate (it's actually sublimation when the temperature is below freezing). Approach #2 is to use a vapor barrier liner inside the bag to avoid moisture getting into the down. Wear only thin long underwear inside the vapor barrier, because the clothing inside it will get damp. You need some tolerance for clamminess, but polypropylene makes it tolerable against your skin. The theory is that once the air around your body contains 100% humidity, you will stop releasing moisture and therefore not get overly damp, provided you are not too hot. I've used both methods with success. However, method #1 works best with an occassional sunny day.

stranger
01-01-2004, 23:59
Deb W brings up a very solid point. Using a down bag for extended periods in extreme cold can be very dangerous without a VBL, and despite what sleeping bag manufacturers claim Dryloft will not work any better in this situation. When Will Steger reached the South Pole via dogsled his sleeping bag weighed around 70lbs, needless to say they didn't use down on that trip, atleast not for sleeping bags.

Be very careful when adding fuel to your stove in extreme cold as well, white gas will not freeze and immediately takes the outside air temperature once it's exposed to it. If you spill white gas on your hands in 10 below you will get instant frostbite...I speak from experience, not fun.

Carry plenty of fuel, water does not flow in exteme cold, melting snow is a long and boring process. A balaclava is very important and ski goggles are nice as well in very cold temps, wind can give you frostbite very quickly.

In cold temperatures you do not need any waterproof clothing, it doesn't rain when it's 7 degrees, so something windproof and very breathable is fine but be sure of the weather. This doesn't apply in moderate conditions where the temps might creep into the high 20's obviously.

Coffee cools very quickly, dishes are best cleaned with warm water, make sure you have good bottles that don't leak when you sleep with your water. Also try putting hot water into your bottles before bed, it's a beautiful thing. I highly recommend sleeping with your boots or boot liners to avoid a painful morning of walking. Do 25 jumping jax before bed to get your body warm, eat something small about 30 minutes before bed, always sleep with a hat on. Down booties are proof of god, down mitts are great if you can afford them.

My last comment would be on sleeping bags. I prefer to not play the sleeping bag/liner/bivy/down parka game...I bought a -20 700 fill down bag in 1996 and have never had a cold night in my life in that thing, of course using a VBL. I would personally recommend buying a serious bag rather than play the liner game, just my opinion.

Hope this helps.

screwysquirrel
01-02-2004, 01:41
Where's Canada?

DebW
01-02-2004, 09:50
dishes are best cleaned with warm water


No, dishes are cleaned with snow. Just dip some snow in your cup or pot, scrape the snow around with a spoon, and
dump it out. Bacteria won't grow below freezing. If you have 2 pots, keep one clean for melting snow. Or your water might taste like last night's dinner. Worst water I ever had was melted in the spaghetti pot and spent the night in my sleeping bag where it fermented. Yuck!!

micromega
01-05-2004, 14:20
In cold temperatures you do not need any waterproof clothing, it doesn't rain when it's 7 degrees, so something windproof and very breathable is fine but be sure of the weather. This doesn't apply in moderate conditions where the temps might creep into the high 20's obviously.



I would respectfully disagree with this quote. Snow will get you wet just as effectively as rain once your body heat melts it, even a dry snow that's falling in single digit temps. I routinely carry at least a waterproof/breathable jacket with a full hood, and wear it when snow is falling. Bottom line is it doesn't matter how you get wet in the wintertime. Wet is wet, not to mention cold, uncomfortable, and very likely downright dangerous. For the weight, a waterproof jacket is worth it. I cringe when I see people skimp on things like that to save weight because I don't believe the ultralight philosophy has much place in the winter backcountry (with the exception of those with the depth of knowledge and experience as can accurately judge an item based on safety as much as weight (and I don't count myself among that group, yet anyway)).

One thing I consider important to winter hiking that hasn't really been touched on is just how important it is to act preemptively, for everything. You need to adjust your clothing layers before you start sweating, and in camp do it before you cool off. Drink and eat before you're thirsty or hungry. The list could go on... A winter hiker just doesn't have the same margin of error as a summer hiker and has to behave accordingly.

About dressing for sleep, I personally prefer to wear as little as possible while staying warm. I'll bring my hat and an extra layer of clothes into the bag with me to put on during the night if I start to get cold. I'll also bring my daytime hiking clothes in the bag provided I was able to dry them off beforehand

Brushy Sage
01-06-2004, 12:12
As I came back in from a meeting last night (Jan 5th), with the temperature dropping rapidly, and snow on the trail at higher elevations, it occurred to me that there are already hikers on the AT starting north from Springer Mt. Every year someone(s) start on Jan 1st. Here's hoping they are well equipped!

Frosty
01-06-2004, 16:11
I would respectfully disagree with this quote. Snow will get you wet just as effectively as rain once your body heat melts it,

If you are losing so much heat that you can melt snow through a couple layers of thermals/fleece, you're in trouble. You should be keeping in more heat than that. Anyway, thermals are designed to wick moisture away. I have had snow on my thermals while hiking before and never got cold/wet underneath.

Wearing waterproof gear while winter hiking will get you all wet with the sweat you generate. I typically snowshoe wearing thermals and shorts.. If it is very cold, then nylon pants. I used to wear wool pants (I'm an old f*rt) and I would get tiny frozen iceballs on the wool fibers where moisture wicked out and then froze when it reached the cold air.

I do have a waterproof parka, but only use it in very cold and/or very high wind conditions while hiking. When stopped, more layers are added immediately.

I agree that is is important to act before need, as you say, particulalry to shed layers BEFORE working up a wetting sweat. Best way is to start a hike a bit chilly.

Also, I only adjust the upper layers. I make my best guess for below-the-waist and stick with it. Too much trouble taking off snowshoes/crampons, etc when it doesn't make that much difference anyway. Legs are only bone and muscle. It's the upper body (and internal organs) that must be kept warm.

Also, I don't think it's true that a lot of heat is lost through the head. I think the so-called head loss is lost almost exclusively through the ears. Or maybe it is just that I have a heat-resistant skull, because an ear band is all I ever wear while snowshoeing (unless extremely cold requiring face mask/goggles/etc. I have a fleece hat I put on when stopping for lunch.

Tom

stranger
01-10-2004, 22:31
Yes snow can melt...but when it's very cold out snow is very very dry and will flake off pretty easily. The reason I say you do not need waterproof clothing is cause I used it for years, and got very tired of sweating myself cold, even in temps around 0.

Dryloft, Supplex, Microfibers are all excellent in extreme cold, and I have never gotten wet from snow melting through my clothing. Please understand I am talking about very cold conditions, not 25F.

Hey Deb the reason I use warm water to clean pots is because of my past frostbite...it makes it very hard to handle snow when it's that cold, but that's a good idea...makes sense.