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Bruce Hudson
11-26-2007, 06:47
I'm hoping this thread might persist for a bit as a place for general advise and information regarding cold weather hiking. My experiences thus far in my first winter for back packing experiences have been at night that according to my neighbors started at 13 degrees in Shinning Rock Wilderness in NC and the just completed T-Day weekend hiking the AT out of Hot Springs.

Shinning Rock was clear and cold-- almost zero moisture, no condensation on the tent and the Campmor 0+ bag was quite adequate sleeping on an REI inflatable pad. I walked in at night so the problems of what to do with the long night didn't pertain.

This weekend, with spitting sleet on Friday I cut back my original plan and hiked from where NC 208 crosses the AT (Allen Gap) back to Hot Springs leaving about 11:00. The weatherman said it was going to clear but there was not much evidence of clearing until late afternoon.

I spent the night at Tanyard Gap-- pretty much on the top of the hill after the AT crosses over 25/70.

So here are the assures: I'm carrying what seem to me to be plenty of clothing options, down jacket, rain jacket, pullover fleece and Patagonia long johns and I had more than I needed for the hike to Tanyard. But what do you do when that spitting sleet turns to freezing rain? Does that trail disappear under snow?

And then with all that moisture in the air, Friday night was the coldest and longest I've ever experienced. With the early sunset I was tented by 6:30 and under clearing skies and the setting sun the temps quickly dropped into the low 20's.

I had plenty of reading material but there was no way I was extending my arms out of the snug bag, and a trip to pee fund the fly kinkily with frozen condensation. So problem two is what to do with those long nights, and what would I have done if I would had waked up to say freezing rain.

Both mornings following the frigid nights are some of my most memorable camping experiences thus far-- both woke to brilliant clear mornings in the woods. But I also awoke to a strong sense of vulnerability fast changing weather (we drove out of Hot Springs Sunday in a cold rain. I guess I'm hoping to see a little survival in winter hiking discussion.

Bruce Hudson
bruhudsonj@mindspring.com
Raleigh, NC

JAK
11-26-2007, 07:29
Sounds like you had a great trip. I think you should now know very well what would work best in such conditions. My own choice is lots of wool and fleece and food and hot tea with milk and honey, and just enough sylnylon. What did you carry that you ended up wishing was something else?

JAK
11-26-2007, 08:25
I have a CF Gortex Bivy that weighs 2 pounds but I think is worth it for such occassions. I have thought of cutting it into two, using blue foam pad as the bottom and the gortex for the top or some such thing, maybe a cape or poncho, but haven't done so. Perhaps if I find another cheap. I am not normally fond of gortex, but I think this stuff actually works as it should.

wudhipy
11-26-2007, 08:32
:bananaFinally

Another hiker that enjoys the cold............sounds like you had a great trip.For what it's worth I have found that staying hydrated especially when temps dip below freezing is important to staying warm. Another trick Trail Angel and I have found to keep those toes warm in the bag is to bring a Nalgene of water to a boil ( please only use the lexan type as the plastic will melt ) pour the water into the Nalgene, secure the lid well, pull a pair of wool socks over it and place in the bottom of the bag. It will slowly release heat all night keeping those toes nice and toasty, and come morning you will have a head start on heating water for breakfast.

Wudhipy

JAK
11-26-2007, 09:03
When I went through my basic officer training in the hills around Chilliwack BC in winter I learned much about cold weather hiking from a very large Cree from North Bay. He didn't graduate with us however, but went to the other ranks, where he was far more valuable I suppose. His advice included carrying those esbit tabs and drinking lots and lots of hot drinks. Heat up everything you drink and drink often. Wool sweater next to the skin. Blue foam pads as extra insoles under wool socks. He also had some questionable suggestions about putting vodka in your water bottle for long night marches and ways to make love to a woman which I have not always found to be profitable, but he was a heck of a guy and seemed to know how to live in the woods. Not sure how he made out in the 'real' world.

JAK
11-26-2007, 09:05
Can't remember his name, but I'll never forget that moustache and ear to ear grin.

Chaco Taco
11-26-2007, 09:08
Love the cold. My usual routine for the evening is getting into camp and unpacking. If it is raining, I lay out my raincover to set my pack on and then set up my tent. I have a sleep system of capilene or wool long underwear and a pair of Patagonia fleece pants, nice and warm and have never had any problem. Plus they dont get twisted up in my bag and wake me up. If it is raining, I just keep my rain pants close by. I use a bottle for any urination at night cuz its just too damn cold. I knowyou shouldnt drink before sleeping but I do drink some hot chocolate right before I try and settle. I always write before I attempt to sleep. my sleeping pad is a closed cell foam pad that used to be attached to a yoga mat. Good insulation and weighs the same as my Thermarest. Oh yea and I boil extra water when I cook and throw it in one of my Nalgene's and put it in my bag immediately and it heats up my bag. Balaclava when i sleep depending on how cold it is. I love cold weather hiking because the air is so crisp and you can shed layers and be comfy. Have fun out there. I may do Hot Springs to Erwin in January. :banana

Chaco Taco
11-26-2007, 09:10
Speaking of hot drinks, hotTang and emergen-C is pretty good to stay healthy. I like to make a couple of packets of Russian Tea which is basically Tang mixed witha cinnamon apple tea pack. Pretty quick and easy

gsingjane
11-26-2007, 09:28
I guess it is a good idea to drink a lot of fluids (this has never been an issue with me but I know it matters a great deal to many people) but it can be helpful to limit fluids about an hour before bedtime if you are camping in the cold. It just seems to dissipate so much of the heat you've worked so hard to build up, to keep getting up and out of your tent to go to the bathroom. I guess guys have it a little easier but it's still a pain and c-c-c-cold!

In terms of how to make the long winter nights go faster, I agree that it is tough to read much when it is very cold. A purist would not like this idea, but I would consider investing in an ipod and download some books or podcasts to listen to, or even some soothing music. You could use the earphones under your hat and stay pretty nice and warm, while still being entertained.

Take care,

Jane in CT

sixhusbands
11-26-2007, 09:36
I just finished a 3 day hike across the Presidential range in the White Mountains. It was cold windy and wet, but we were all very comfortable and safe. The one thing I always take with me is jello. Just ad your favorite flavor to hot water and enjoy. Not only does it warm you instantly , it is a huge pick me up.

Tipi Walter
11-26-2007, 09:53
You might want to check out these recent threads on the subject:

www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?t=29423 (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?t=29423)

www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?t=29494 (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?t=29494)

www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?t=29226 (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?t=29226)

Summit
11-26-2007, 14:46
Consume more food than you normally might when it's very cold. It adds fuel to the fire - your internal furnace, that is! I normally don't keep food in my tent, but when very cold, it's a good idea to keep a little snack (ziploc'd and non-smelly) in case you do wake up cold. ;)

Thoughtful Owl
11-26-2007, 15:11
:bananaFinally

Another hiker that enjoys the cold............sounds like you had a great trip.For what it's worth I have found that staying hydrated especially when temps dip below freezing is important to staying warm. Another trick Trail Angel and I have found to keep those toes warm in the bag is to bring a Nalgene of water to a boil ( please only use the lexan type as the plastic will melt ) pour the water into the Nalgene, secure the lid well, pull a pair of wool socks over it and place in the bottom of the bag. It will slowly release heat all night keeping those toes nice and toasty, and come morning you will have a head start on heating water for breakfast.

Wudhipy

And a warm pair of socks to put on.:banana

ed bell
11-26-2007, 15:38
Down booties changed my outlook on cold weather backpacking. Something about toasty feet makes evrything else a lot easier to handle.:sun

woodsy
11-26-2007, 16:28
Cold and snow make winter backpacking a whole new ballgame from the other three seasons, especially in rugged terrain.
Much of the gear and clothing is different....boots,inner and outer garments, tents, bags, stoves, traction devices for boots and/or snowshoes with built in crampons to name a few.
Mileage in snow is about half that or less of the other three seasons and it's easily twice the workout with breaking trail and being vigilant about footing on the steeps.
Due to the extra workout, more breaks are needed to prevent overheating and excessive sweating.
When you stop for any amount of time in the cold after hiking, you need to add a layer or two to keep warm. It seems to be a constant struggle maintaining optimum comfort.
I like winter hiking even though the daylight hours are minimal, distances covered are shorter and staying comfortable is a struggle, builds character,
survival skills and appreciation for the comforts of home. And, you might get to see awesome scenes like this (http://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/showimage.php?i=20020)

Summit
11-26-2007, 16:57
I did a little winter snowshoe hiking in the High Sierras a few (OK, quite a few) years back. That will really test your skills, stamina! In Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe, I was out two nights and the warmest it got was 19 degrees. I don't know how cold it got but around zero would be close.

There was no running water as everything was frozen solid. So much time (and fuel) was required/consumed melting snow for water for cooking and drinking. I had a -20 down jacket and booties which made camp tolerable.

I was pretty comfortable hiking, even unzipping my down jacket going up hill. My hiking companion and I stomped out a tent pad in the snow with our snow shoes. I was very warm in my 0-degree sleeping bag but my partner was a little cold as he didn't have a closed cell foam pad like I did.

I remember another time when I had just purchased the above down jacket, a friend and I purposely headed out into a winter storm from Neels' Gap in Georgia. Freezing rain, frigid temperatures, hoar frost big time the next morning! You have to be a little nuts to enjoy this kind of "survival mode" thing! :eek: Now that I've put on a few years, I don't quite have the zeal for drastic winter conditions like I once did. Maybe that's called getting wiser with age! :)

Bruce Hudson
11-26-2007, 21:20
#1, I did have a great trip, and there wasn't one ofpiece of equipment that I thought was wrong. Two questions persist. It's dark really early and that's a long night. When the temp is in the teens I found no way to even get my arms out for any sustained time lying in the tent. (Is that what you were recommending the Bivy for?) So basically I'm pulled in under the mummy cap of the bag and simply waiting out the night. So I was looking for how others handle that time.

Second was my concern if conditions worsened. There was an entry in the shelter from a Johnny Apple Seed from Nov. 18. Right now I would be very uneasy committing to a week or two weeks on the trail with the potential for really crazy weather shifts. But obviously people do it, so I was just looking for hints-- many were provided and much thanks.

A little perspective, as a 64 year old guy who grew up in Central Indiana I had never backpacked in my life before about a year and a half ago. I walked from Erwin to Atkins, VA this summer as basically my inauguration. And this fall and winter I've been heading out at every opportunity. And the process is still one of learning something with every outing. My subscription to Backpacking mag. is a waste, and few books are helpful or focused at the level of my activity. The best advise I've gotten anywhere has been here on Whiteblaze. And for that I want to express my sincere thanks.

Bruce Hudson
bruhudson@mindspring.com
Raleigh, NC


Sounds like you had a great trip. I think you should now know very well what would work best in such conditions. My own choice is lots of wool and fleece and food and hot tea with milk and honey, and just enough sylnylon. What did you carry that you ended up wishing was something else?

Bruce Hudson
11-26-2007, 21:27
If I count the 15 I hiked over T-day I've got 45 to go to get to Erwin. I'm a teacher so my windows of opportunity are limited, but if visits from my kids allow, I'm hoping to close that 45 gap over Christmas which definitely has a lot to do with my questions. From experience thus far I probably prefer winter, but I'm well aware that I've yet to get caught out in the bad stuff.

Bruce Hudson



Love the cold. My usual routine for the evening is getting into camp and unpacking. If it is raining, I lay out my raincover to set my pack on and then set up my tent. I have a sleep system of capilene or wool long underwear and a pair of Patagonia fleece pants, nice and warm and have never had any problem. Plus they dont get twisted up in my bag and wake me up. If it is raining, I just keep my rain pants close by. I use a bottle for any urination at night cuz its just too damn cold. I knowyou shouldnt drink before sleeping but I do drink some hot chocolate right before I try and settle. I always write before I attempt to sleep. my sleeping pad is a closed cell foam pad that used to be attached to a yoga mat. Good insulation and weighs the same as my Thermarest. Oh yea and I boil extra water when I cook and throw it in one of my Nalgene's and put it in my bag immediately and it heats up my bag. Balaclava when i sleep depending on how cold it is. I love cold weather hiking because the air is so crisp and you can shed layers and be comfy. Have fun out there. I may do Hot Springs to Erwin in January. :banana

Bruce Hudson
11-26-2007, 21:30
Jane, great idea with the ipod-- i tend to be tech avoidance-- family just convinced me to start taking a Cell phone-- I tend to avoid them.


I guess it is a good idea to drink a lot of fluids (this has never been an issue with me but I know it matters a great deal to many people) but it can be helpful to limit fluids about an hour before bedtime if you are camping in the cold. It just seems to dissipate so much of the heat you've worked so hard to build up, to keep getting up and out of your tent to go to the bathroom. I guess guys have it a little easier but it's still a pain and c-c-c-cold!

In terms of how to make the long winter nights go faster, I agree that it is tough to read much when it is very cold. A purist would not like this idea, but I would consider investing in an ipod and download some books or podcasts to listen to, or even some soothing music. You could use the earphones under your hat and stay pretty nice and warm, while still being entertained.

Take care,

Jane in CT

JAK
11-26-2007, 21:56
#1, I did have a great trip, and there wasn't one ofpiece of equipment that I thought was wrong. Two questions persist. It's dark really early and that's a long night. When the temp is in the teens I found no way to even get my arms out for any sustained time lying in the tent. (Is that what you were recommending the Bivy for?) So basically I'm pulled in under the mummy cap of the bag and simply waiting out the night. So I was looking for how others handle that time.

Second was my concern if conditions worsened. There was an entry in the shelter from a Johnny Apple Seed from Nov. 18. Right now I would be very uneasy committing to a week or two weeks on the trail with the potential for really crazy weather shifts. But obviously people do it, so I was just looking for hints-- many were provided and much thanks.

A little perspective, as a 64 year old guy who grew up in Central Indiana I had never backpacked in my life before about a year and a half ago. I walked from Erwin to Atkins, VA this summer as basically my inauguration. And this fall and winter I've been heading out at every opportunity. And the process is still one of learning something with every outing. My subscription to Backpacking mag. is a waste, and few books are helpful or focused at the level of my activity. The best advise I've gotten anywhere has been here on Whiteblaze. And for that I want to express my sincere thanks.

Bruce Hudson
bruhudson@mindspring.com
Raleigh, NCBruce,
Thanks for the clarification and perspective.

Yeah, I've spent nights like that just lying there. It's fun for awhile, but its important, and even vital, to be able to sit up in your bag or on your side and read and make tea or do some gear repairs or dry out socks or boots and stuff. An enclosed tent is usually better than a tarp for this, but pound for pound a small tarp and bivy can work just as well in the woods if you can work into natural shelter. What I find helps me a lot though, when sitting up, is a heavy wool sweater and long wool underwear under my light nylon wind jacket. Cold air can come and go but the wool will help stabilize all that. Eventually once you are ready to settle in you can peel some of that off.

I understand your concerns though. I know what I have and what I do works down to 0F, even after some freezing rain, but what if I get -30F ??? Totally different situation. The only thing I can suggest to everyone is to ALWAYS bring a thermometer with you when winter camping, so you can better quantify what your experience actually was, whether it worked or not and how well it did, against what you might have gotten when you look at climate extremes for that location and time of the year. Then get out and practice some more when you get the opportunities, but push the envelop only a little beyond your limits, and as close to home as possible. I can get -30F in my backyard here a few nights each year, so I have gone out to see what its like. Really now the same as the third night out though, especially after some rain.

My final suggestion is to re-evaluate your clothing and gear system so that you CAN sit up and read and have tea when you want to, even in the worst conditions. If you can do that, then you will have some extra buffer for when you can't. Plus it is a whole lot more fun. Listening to the wind can get old.

JAK
11-26-2007, 22:01
re: really now the same.

Meant to say backyard in -30F is really NOT the same as third night out in the woods in -30F, but it is still a good test. You can improve the test by spending the day outside before hand, shovelling snow, walking, skiing, or whatever.

ed bell
11-26-2007, 22:38
Two questions persist. It's dark really early and that's a long night. When the temp is in the teens I found no way to even get my arms out for any sustained time lying in the tent. (Is that what you were recommending the Bivy for?) So basically I'm pulled in under the mummy cap of the bag and simply waiting out the night. So I was looking for how others handle that time.

Second was my concern if conditions worsened. There was an entry in the shelter from a Johnny Apple Seed from Nov. 18. Right now I would be very uneasy committing to a week or two weeks on the trail with the potential for really crazy weather shifts. But obviously people do it, so I was just looking for hints-- many were provided and much thanks.

................................ The best advise I've gotten anywhere has been here on Whiteblaze. And for that I want to express my sincere thanks.

Bruce Hudson
bruhudson@mindspring.com
Raleigh, NCGlad you had a good time Bruce.:sun Do you have the clothing to be able to sit around camp comfortably for a couple of hours without a sleeping bag? If so I would delay retiring to sleeping quarters for at least a couple hours to keep your nights shorter. If not, I would recommend walking longer at night and starting earlier in the morning. As far as your second question, do you have the gear to get you through your worst case scenario? If not, consider including bail out plans. Winter is unpredictable as hell down here in the south. The other tip I would give is to try to research weather predictions until the moment you leave to at least have some idea as to the possible weather you will encounter. One cool website for good insight into high country weather down here in the south is:http://www.raysweather.com/Forecast/ . Explore his site for forecasts for the 4000ft+ elevations of western NC and Tenn. He has a genuine love of high country winter weather, and tries to give insights that population centered forecasts avoid. If you are considering more than a week, well, I'd be ready for any and all.:cool:

Earl Grey
11-26-2007, 23:08
Always check out the point forecast for where youre going ahead of time. For instance here cold mountain. http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?site=GSP&llon=-82.982083&rlon=-82.069583&tlat=36.072917&blat=35.162917&smap=1&mp=1&map.x=38&map.y=185

SteveJ
11-26-2007, 23:22
Hi, Bruce. I'll attempt an answer to your original question - what do you do for over 12 hours when it's really cold?

I've been on maybe 10 of these trips, and live in the southeast, so take this with a grain of salt - there are plenty here with tons more experience in cold weather.

First - I define "cold weather" as what I find here in the Southeast - about the coldest you find is at elevation in NC / TN. I've been on several trips to Shining Rock where temps were + / - 0.

Part of my solution to this is to hammock - I find it much more comfortable to lay in for 12 - 15 hours than laying on the ground. I have to carry about 2 more lbs bottom insulation than laying on the ground, but I find the comfort well worth it.

2nd - a combination of things that involve a book, a down jacket, and a flask of good whiskey! I bring a down jacket for wearing in camp. If I can't have a fire, I'll go to bed, err... to hammock early with my down jacket on (which will later become my pillow), a good book, headlamp, and the flask of scotch. Keeping the down jacket on (with fleece mittens that have both the fingers cut out of the mittens and the part of the mitten that pulls over the mittens), I'm able to recline in my hammock comfortably, reading my good book, with my arms out of the bag / quilt, sipping my good whiskey! When I get ready to go to sleep, I come out of the down jacket, which becomes my pillow.

Sounds like you had a good trip! I'm hoping to get up to Shining Rock one weekend around the holidays....

Steve

Earl Grey
11-26-2007, 23:32
Shining rock is where I have encountered my coldest temps so far. Around 10-15 for me but i plan on a mt mitchell ascent sometime this winter. Shining Rock and cold mountain are my favorite places to hike so far. i just like the feeling of being "up there" I suppose.


Hi, Bruce. I'll attempt an answer to your original question - what do you do for over 12 hours when it's really cold?

I've been on maybe 10 of these trips, and live in the southeast, so take this with a grain of salt - there are plenty here with tons more experience in cold weather.

First - I define "cold weather" as what I find here in the Southeast - about the coldest you find is at elevation in NC / TN. I've been on several trips to Shining Rock where temps were + / - 0.

Part of my solution to this is to hammock - I find it much more comfortable to lay in for 12 - 15 hours than laying on the ground. I have to carry about 2 more lbs bottom insulation than laying on the ground, but I find the comfort well worth it.

2nd - a combination of things that involve a book, a down jacket, and a flask of good whiskey! I bring a down jacket for wearing in camp. If I can't have a fire, I'll go to bed, err... to hammock early with my down jacket on (which will later become my pillow), a good book, headlamp, and the flask of scotch. Keeping the down jacket on (with fleece mittens that have both the fingers cut out of the mittens and the part of the mitten that pulls over the mittens), I'm able to recline in my hammock comfortably, reading my good book, with my arms out of the bag / quilt, sipping my good whiskey! When I get ready to go to sleep, I come out of the down jacket, which becomes my pillow.

Sounds like you had a good trip! I'm hoping to get up to Shining Rock one weekend around the holidays....

Steve

JAK
11-26-2007, 23:44
Always check out the point forecast for where youre going ahead of time. For instance here cold mountain. http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?site=GSP&llon=-82.982083&rlon=-82.069583&tlat=36.072917&blat=35.162917&smap=1&mp=1&map.x=38&map.y=185That's a good point. In winter I like to be prepared to the climate extreme also, but that is because I hike in the woods. I would imagine that in the mountains being prepared for a 50 year climate extreme would be rather like wearing scuba gear to the shower... because you live on a flood plain. I think in the woods though, at lower altitude, its practical to be prepared for the climate extreme, but you should still check the forecast also.

Phoenix Rising
11-26-2007, 23:54
to keep those toes warm in the bag is to bring a Nalgene of water to a boil ( please only use the lexan type as the plastic will melt ) pour the water into the Nalgene, secure the lid well, pull a pair of wool socks over it and place in the bottom of the bag. It will slowly release heat all night keeping those toes nice and toasty, and come morning you will have a head start on heating water for breakfast.

Wudhipy


Well, I would have to disagree with you on this one based on my experience this weekendÖ I know all of you are thinking ď but she lives in AZĒ right? Well, letís just say this weekend at 7400 feet the boiling water trick didnít work. By morning, the bottle was colder than my feet (which itís hard to be colder than my feet). And by the time I pulled the bottle out of my bag and would have been getting ready to cook, it was frozen almost completely solidÖ
Phoenix Rising

ed bell
11-26-2007, 23:57
Shining rock is where I have encountered my coldest temps so far. Around 10-15 for me but i plan on a mt mitchell ascent sometime this winter. Shining Rock and cold mountain are my favorite places to hike so far. i just like the feeling of being "up there" I suppose.blackmath, you have chosen the best areas to get the full effect of winter down here in the SE. It probably doesn't get much colder on average anywhere else that is within a couple hours of you. 10 to 15 is rather mild for full on winter at these elevations. I say keep at it and get out as much as possible. I would try to get comfortable at the -5 to 5 degree range to be fully prepared for whatever comes your way. While I have learned a lot of great tip on this MB, nothing compares to experience. Keep us posted.:sun BTW, consider Carvers Gap and Mt. LeConte for other winter experiences, they are as cold or colder than any other overnight sites you can legally camp on.

Jim Adams
11-27-2007, 00:08
I don't know what your pack weight is but I tend to pack 1 or 2 luxury items when I know the temps will be below 10-15 *. I will carry the lightest crazy creek type chair that I can find and definitely a flask of whiskey, brandy or schnaps. I will heat up a nalgene of water with the sock over it and put it in the bottom of my sleeping bag. I wear a balaclava and a down jacket. I set up my stove next to me under my tarp (outside if I'm tenting) so that I can continually heat tea anytime that I want some. I get into my sleeping bag and I sit up in the chair and read or listen to music as I read and sip as I enjoy the view out the front of my tarp.
I typically use a 0* down bag on a thermarest and the cc chair unfolded and under the thermarest for added isulation. I usually sleep in smartwool tops and bottoms with the light weight balaclava and the down jacket for my pillow. As long as I'm out of the wind, I am good to about -5 to -10 with this set-up under a tarp. I am good to -20 in a tent.
Sounds like you are already handling the weather extremes fine, just tired of the boredom. Common sense and a knowledge of your equipments abilities will keep you safe 99% of the time, experience will teach you how to back out or wait it out for that other 1%.

geek

Tipi Walter
11-27-2007, 00:13
Plus, there's a certain inertia that comes with a winter storm, blowing blizzards and frigid temps elevate the lowly nylon shelter into a cozy survival nest etched, if not in stone, in ice. The inertia comes from an unwillingness to pack up and move when conditions turn ugly, so what normally would be one or two nights at a spot turns into 5 or 6.

And then, when the big one comes('93 Blizzard/1985 -25 degree coldsnap)along with it comes some panic. In winter backpacking, the exit date can be kept flexible, even up to a week to 10 days, as many mishaps occur when people try to get out quickly and in a panic. Lives are lost due to impatience and fright and yet they have the gear to set up and stay put for at least another week. Maybe not in the Yukon or Minnesota, but here in the southern appalachians waiting out a freak winter storm can be prudent.

It is all relative to experience, too. Sleeping out in zero degrees, minus 10 degrees, once these numbers have been reached with the sleeping system your're using and you stay warm, well, you've pretty much learned the conditions of winter in the southeast. A few curve balls will come, occasionally, like 10 below with a 60-70 mph windstorm(real wind like this is rough in the winter, testing all over again your sleeping systen and tent), or a deep 3 foot snowfall making moving difficult and trail finding a problem.

But if something serious hits, like the '93 blizzard with 3 or 4 feet of snow(and bad drift-forming winds), everything's shut down anyway, no cars are moving, so why not just stay put for a week and, since no one's carrying snowshoes or crampons this far south, why not just burrow in and wait?

ed bell
11-27-2007, 00:22
Well, I would have to disagree with you on this one based on my experience this weekendÖ I know all of you are thinking ď but she lives in AZĒ right? Well, letís just say this weekend at 7400 feet the boiling water trick didnít work. By morning, the bottle was colder than my feet (which itís hard to be colder than my feet). And by the time I pulled the bottle out of my bag and would have been getting ready to cook, it was frozen almost completely solidÖ
Phoenix RisingThe air pocket inside your bag should have been at least within 20 degrees of your body temp. How was it that the water froze almost completely solid soon after pulling it out of your bag? Extremely cold temperature and a bag not suited for the temps? What was the low temp? I'm sure that AZ at 7000+ feet can get downright frigid, but a nalgene of boiling water should not come close to freezing before dawn in your bag.

Tennessee Viking
11-27-2007, 01:21
I saw the Cold Mountain/Shining Rock webcam. It looked a bit nippy. Most of the wilderness was covered in heavy frost.

Phoenix Rising
11-27-2007, 01:26
The air pocket inside your bag should have been at least within 20 degrees of your body temp. How was it that the water froze almost completely solid soon after pulling it out of your bag? Extremely cold temperature and a bag not suited for the temps? What was the low temp? I'm sure that AZ at 7000+ feet can get downright frigid, but a nalgene of boiling water should not come close to freezing before dawn in your bag.

My bag is a 20 degree, and I know I was testing the limits of it... at 5K feet in the nearest town (below the rim that we were camping on) the low was 28 and we guessed the wind was blowing steady between 30 and 40 mph on the rim, so without the wind chill it should have been about 17. I camped in the bed of a pickup truck (with a friend) and I watched one of my hiking partners open a bottle of water (that was not frozen) go from liquid (had been in a sleeping bag over night) to completely frozen as she tried to drink it. Let's just say after that experience I will be altering my plans for this weekend! But even with the cold the trip was a lot of fun and the side trip to the hot springs was even that much more appreciated!

Jim Adams
11-27-2007, 01:41
My bag is a 20 degree, and I know I was testing the limits of it... at 5K feet in the nearest town (below the rim that we were camping on) the low was 28 and we guessed the wind was blowing steady between 30 and 40 mph on the rim, so without the wind chill it should have been about 17. I camped in the bed of a pickup truck (with a friend) and I watched one of my hiking partners open a bottle of water (that was not frozen) go from liquid (had been in a sleeping bag over night) to completely frozen as she tried to drink it. Let's just say after that experience I will be altering my plans for this weekend! But even with the cold the trip was a lot of fun and the side trip to the hot springs was even that much more appreciated!

Did you have a pad between you and the bed of the truck?

geek

ed bell
11-27-2007, 01:58
Hot springs after a cold night is definitely a good plan.:sunSounds like a good trip.

Captain Slider
11-27-2007, 11:47
Bruce, I understand all the equipment issues.. pack for the cold.. but my concern is like yours... what to do during that long "sack time" I get stiff after that long in the sleeping bag.. and bored in the tent.. what are some ideas about how to spend that time.. Slider

EWS
11-27-2007, 11:52
Read, write letters though they shock people nowadays, spankdana, the best in just listening to the weather though.

Summit
11-27-2007, 12:10
Bruce, I understand all the equipment issues.. pack for the cold.. but my concern is like yours... what to do during that long "sack time" I get stiff after that long in the sleeping bag.. and bored in the tent.. what are some ideas about how to spend that time.. SliderNothing like a good book! Either go with a light, paperback and use an LED headlamp, or my preference, an eBook on a PDA or electronic reader. These provide backlighting which is perfect and very easy on the eyes.

Summit
11-27-2007, 12:13
If it's cold (for reading) I sit in my ThermaRest chair, jacket covering my top half and sleeping bag the bottom half, with gloves and headsock/ balaclava.

Johnny Appleseed
11-27-2007, 13:47
Winter is survival mode-this was a great idea posted above. If the snow melts it can get tough. Your shoes will get wet and at night they freeze. Then when I am eating breakfast I sit on them and warm them up enough to get then on and take down the tent. Must go fast or I have to sit on them again. The rush is to get packed and hiking to generate heat. The morning to get started was the only hard part for me. I have had days so cold I stayed in the sleep bag all day. But, there is a reward that can't be matched with hiking in any other season. I like rain pants in the winter-w/ 1 layer of fleece bottoms. Also the neck gator heats my whole body 10 degrees from just my neck being covered. Bring a space blanket also for extra lining if needed.

Johnny Appleseed
11-27-2007, 13:50
i find it too cold to read or anything else. I hike, eat then sleep. W/ extra energy I hike more. That is the mode I get into for winter. The fun is washing 1 body part at a time in the heat of the sun. This is a test of a real hiker I bet. I slightly fail because I do only 1 part and not a plunge, also I have no towel to dry off w/.

Phoenix Rising
11-27-2007, 14:39
Did you have a pad between you and the bed of the truck?

geek


Yep, Women's Thermarest Prolight 3, full length... I realize the hot water bottle trick should have worked... but on this trip it failed me... hopefully next time, I will have a warmer bag and this won't be an issue, or I will be able to convince my hiking partners not to go when it's going to be that cold!
PR

sasquatch2014
11-27-2007, 19:55
Most will agree that hiking has a mental component to it and I think that when it is cold and dark this side of it just becomes so much more pronounced. When it is sunny and not too hot or too steep or too humid any fool can hike. It is when we put ourselves in situations that are outside of what we are comfortable with physically, or in the case of winter hiking and the dark that is part of it, the psychological aspect of the hike. What I would do in the nice weather with nothing more than a water bottle in the winter brings on a whole new way of looking at it. The footing the thoughts of if I got hurt how long would I lie in the snow before someone finds me creep in when you are at the start of a downhill that in dry warm weather you would fly down. Donít get me wrong it is embedded deep in our skulls to help keep us aliveÖor most of us. The Darwin awards sometimes pop in mind and this also helps in my planning.
2675
Now to something a bit different. I recall hearing that alcohol actually thins the blood and while it may give you the feeling of warmth it actually makes you more susceptible to the cold and the dangers that come with it. Now donít get me wrong a good strong nip can give some comfort (or Southern Comfort as the case may be) but if you are really in the thick of real cold weather where frostbite may be an issue I might think twice before having more than a few pulls off the jug.

mudhead
11-27-2007, 20:27
Yep, Women's Thermarest Prolight 3, full length... I realize the hot water bottle trick should have worked... but on this trip it failed me... hopefully next time, I will have a warmer bag and this won't be an issue, or I will be able to convince my hiking partners not to go when it's going to be that cold!
PR

Pad(s), closed cell, on top of Plywood type stuff, in the truck bed will keep you happier than right on the metal truckbed. Much warmer. Less lumpy.

Snags can be an issue, I have an old bedspread for that.

rainmaker
11-28-2007, 00:05
This has been an excellent thread. The one thing that has been stated several times and which I would emphasize is when winter camping in the Southeast, plan for the worst. While the lower elevations may be moderate if not balmy, once you get over 4000 feet everything changes. That's not to say that it will but don't get caught unprepared. Don't attempt to try out your latest ultra-light stuff in the Shining Rock/Middleprong area between now and the end of March, maybe April.
BTW, I love to crawl into my sleeping bag up on Flower Knob as a front moves through . The wind will start somewhere on the other side of Cold Mountain sounding like a low roar and then you will hear it build and build until it blasts through the gap sounding like a hundred freight trains and your tent, if its staked down OK will shudder and vibrate until the wind dies down only to hear it start up again. An MP3 player with some R&R and a wee dram of brandy will make it all seem like your personal concert.
Happy hiking.

Phoenix Rising
11-28-2007, 00:11
Pad(s), closed cell, on top of Plywood type stuff, in the truck bed will keep you happier than right on the metal truckbed. Much warmer. Less lumpy.

It was not my truck, it does have a bedliner already and in the end, it was a last minute change in plans. Maybe someday I will the right gear for weather that cold and have my own 4x4 so I can get into all the really great trailheads and climbing spots... but not today, too many hikes to save for!

Jim Adams
11-28-2007, 00:21
Now to something a bit different. I recall hearing that alcohol actually thins the blood and while it may give you the feeling of warmth it actually makes you more susceptible to the cold and the dangers that come with it. Now donít get me wrong a good strong nip can give some comfort (or Southern Comfort as the case may be) but if you are really in the thick of real cold weather where frostbite may be an issue I might think twice before having more than a few pulls off the jug.

This is true however the key to successful winter camping (survival) in very low temps is to know the skills needed and have the correct equipment for it. If you know how and are able to stay warm then the alcohol wont matter.
OTOH, if you are out there at -10* testing out your newest +30* bag you may as well go ahead and guzzle the entire bottle and get a good buzz before you freeze to death!:D

Bruce Hudson
11-28-2007, 17:28
Can you be more specific about the chairs. I saw a couple at shelters this summer in a sort of stadium chair with their blow-up matress as the cushion. But I"ve not seen any that were very light or completly flexable for packing.

Bruce


I don't know what your pack weight is but I tend to pack 1 or 2 luxury items when I know the temps will be below 10-15 *. I will carry the lightest crazy creek type chair that I can find and definitely a flask of whiskey, brandy or schnaps. I will heat up a nalgene of water with the sock over it and put it in the bottom of my sleeping bag. I wear a balaclava and a down jacket. I set up my stove next to me under my tarp (outside if I'm tenting) so that I can continually heat tea anytime that I want some. I get into my sleeping bag and I sit up in the chair and read or listen to music as I read and sip as I enjoy the view out the front of my tarp.
I typically use a 0* down bag on a thermarest and the cc chair unfolded and under the thermarest for added isulation. I usually sleep in smartwool tops and bottoms with the light weight balaclava and the down jacket for my pillow. As long as I'm out of the wind, I am good to about -5 to -10 with this set-up under a tarp. I am good to -20 in a tent.
Sounds like you are already handling the weather extremes fine, just tired of the boredom. Common sense and a knowledge of your equipments abilities will keep you safe 99% of the time, experience will teach you how to back out or wait it out for that other 1%.

geek

woodsy
11-28-2007, 17:32
Most will agree that hiking has a mental component to it and I think that when it is cold and dark this side of it just becomes so much more pronounced. When it is sunny and not too hot or too steep or too humid any fool can hike. It is when we put ourselves in situations that are outside of what we are comfortable with physically, or in the case of winter hiking and the dark that is part of it, the psychological aspect of the hike. What I would do in the nice weather with nothing more than a water bottle in the winter brings on a whole new way of looking at it. The footing the thoughts of if I got hurt how long would I lie in the snow before someone finds me creep in when you are at the start of a downhill that in dry warm weather you would fly down. Donít get me wrong it is embedded deep in our skulls to help keep us aliveÖor most of us. The Darwin awards sometimes pop in mind and this also helps in my planning.
2675
Now to something a bit different. I recall hearing that alcohol actually thins the blood and while it may give you the feeling of warmth it actually makes you more susceptible to the cold and the dangers that come with it. Now donít get me wrong a good strong nip can give some comfort (or Southern Comfort as the case may be) but if you are really in the thick of real cold weather where frostbite may be an issue I might think twice before having more than a few pulls off the jug.

I like this post and can relate to it having done a bit of solo winter hiking over the past 20 or more years in Maine and NH.
The mental game plays on you at times being miles from nowhere or anyone and you are IT, the lone survivalist in unhospitable and sometimes unforgiving terrain., it's up to you and only you to come thru a variety of challenges and you need to keep your wits about you no matter what you may encounter(LOOSING THE TRAIL, WHITEOUT CONDITIONS, EXTREME WIND AND COLD). This scenario changes when someone else is with you, a chance for fairly prompt rescue or aid if something bad happens or injury occurs.
It is always best to hike with a partner in winter conditions for numerous reasons. And, It is also best to leave the Alcyhol behind in winter(if you dare)because it can have undesirable effects on your winter hiking plans.,
cold sleeping, dehydration, lack of responsiveness to climate and terrain etc...best to keep all you wits about you, there is not much room for error out in the wilds come winter.
Walk On!

Jim Adams
11-28-2007, 17:41
Can you be more specific about the chairs. I saw a couple at shelters this summer in a sort of stadium chair with their blow-up matress as the cushion. But I"ve not seen any that were very light or completly flexable for packing.

Bruce

I carried a Crazy Creek chair rolled up and strapped under the side compression straps of my pack. They're not real light but not outragously heavy either.
REI also carries one that is light and you use your sleeping mat as the seat and backing.

geek

envirodiver
11-28-2007, 18:57
I've enjoyed this thread very much. I've done a fair amount of winter hiking, in the southeast, and agree that the Cold mountain area is very very cold indeed. I always learn something on these. Winter does change the dynamic considerably when you are going solo vs. with a partner. Makes the load heavier, and the margin for error much smaller. One thing that I have not seen mentioned is that I always carry what I would consider to be an extra 1-1/2 days worth of food. In a tight spot you could stretch it to 3 (I always overpack food anyway). I've heard too many stories of people getting stuck in the Smokies or other locations due to quick powerfull storms coming through.

I always go out expecting the worst, regarding weather conditions.

The cost benefit analysis always comes out in favor of benefit. The skies are so clear that it seems the stars are in your lap, no bugs, no snakes, bears are asleep, fewer people (which means I can go to GSMNP without the masses).

This is not the time to scrimp on gear. A good friend told me a long time ago that "I've never heard anyone complaining about how much their gear costs when on the trail in the winter".

sasquatch2014
11-28-2007, 20:13
I have not really been scared or had close calls when hiking in the winter. I think it is the 4 wheel drive philosophy. A friend once told me if you only use your four wheel drive to get you out of what you get stuck in with two wheel drive you will rarely get into trouble. I genearly don't hike myself into winter situations that I don't feel I can get out of in "two Wheel drive". I guess its easier said if you feel uncomfortable don't do it.

When we lived up in Sheridan Wyoming I went out for a "short" ride on my old snowmobile from one of the lodges up on the mountain at night. Now The Bighorns at night in the winter gained a ton of respect from me that night. As I was heading back to the lodge the wind picked up to the point where it became a ground blizzard and i had to just stop the sled and sit it out. That was a good choice as i could have easily gotten very lost. sitting there i realized just how cold and dark and empty it was up there. After about 45 min the wind let up and I was able to go the 12 or so miles back to the lodge and home. If i had gotten lost or broke down there is little chance that i would have made it the 12 miles. I figure the temps were at best in the single digets and with wind well into the neg teens or 20's.

My lesson was learned. Only go as far as the 2 wheel drive will take you then go home with the 4 wheel drive.

2688

Another winter shot from the last hike.