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ChinMusic
01-10-2010, 19:01
Not that I would ever choose to be on a trip in this kind of weather, but the cold snap gave me a chance to see how my gear would do in extreme (for me) conditions, from the security of my backyard. Forecast was for 5 below, light winds, and we already had about 4-6 inches of snow on the ground. Actual air temp got down to -9 with a -13 dew point.

Tent: Six Moon Designs, Lunar Solo (vestibule rolled up)
Bag: Montbell, U.L.SS.Down Hugger #0
Pad: Big Agnes, Insulated Air Core (rated to 15), full length, rectangular.
Pad2: Thermarest, Z-Lite (cut for torso only) for added ground insulation.

Clothing (while in bag):

Top: Icebreaker Hopper T (short sleeve) and Icebreaker Rock Zip (long sleeve), no jacket
Bottom: REI Saharas, nothing special, no long johns.
Feet: Thin Smartwools socks
Hands: Thin fleece liner gloves
Head: Loki balaclava, Buff, and Icebreaker Mogul Hat (I wear a lot on my head as I roll around lot and my head comes out of the bag)

Nunatak Down booties on feet while setting up the tent (not worn in bag). My feet felt completely comfortable in the Teanaway booties, not even a chill.

The ground was rock hard and I had to use a hammer to get the stakes to hold (good rock would have done the trick). The MSR Groundhog stakes took the pounding well. The stakes were hard to get out of the ground in the morning. It made me wonder how some of the lighter stakes would handle the abuse.

To my pleasant surprise I wasn't even chilled throughout the night. I tend to sleep warm but thought these conditions could be a problem. The Montbell bag is amazing. The added Z-Lite pad (torso only) under my Air Core gave good ground insulation. Added insulation under my legs was not missed. The Lunar Solo iced up with some condensation, and given its limited head room, led to some ice bits on my hat and bag once I moved around in the morning.

My main problem was getting my head covering, and position in the bag just right, for comfortable breathing. I had the balaclava on. I could pull the Mogul hat over my eyes and nose to keep them warm (I tend to breath through my mouth).

The air was just so cold to breath. I tried pulling the Buff loosely over my mouth but that felt claustrophobic. It was a tough balancing act to keep my face warm but also allowing comfortable breathing. Breathing the cold/dry air also gave me a sore throat, which I still feel now.

The experience was a good one. It gave me the confidence to know that my gear was good to those temps (granted that there was little wind). The cold air making breathing uncomfortable was a bit of a surprise.

mkmangold
01-10-2010, 19:04
Good job and thanks for the report. Welcome to the "Sub-Zero Club."

babbage
01-10-2010, 20:34
My problem is that after three days of that type weather the feathers in my bag end up frozen. Then the bag has less loft and I get cold. This has been an issue I have been fighting for years. There is no way to stop condensation and when it gets to the bag, and the down it causes havoc tha only warmth and sunlight have been able to cure. But in those type temps the warmth, and sometimes sunlight do not cooperate.

BrianLe
01-10-2010, 20:57
Seems to me then that you're getting into temps where a vapor barrier inside the sleeping bag might be in order --- or at least, that might be part of the solution if in fact it's not so much condensation (from outside) getting into the down as moisture expelled by your body.

Bilko
01-10-2010, 21:01
Chinmusic, did your bag get colder as the night went on? I slept on my back porch (Atlanta) Friday night, it got down to about 17 degrees. My Northface 20+ bag kept me warm at 60 degrees for several hours. Around 4:00 AM I ran into the same problem you did the air was so cold outside my bag it was difficult to breath. My bag temperature dropped a little, I guess I needed to eat something. I can't imagine staying out for weeks in sub freezing weather. Not yet anyway. I'm not into winter camping quite yet.

Blissful
01-10-2010, 21:11
Sounds good.

ChinMusic
01-10-2010, 21:14
Chinmusic, did your bag get colder as the night went on? I slept on my back porch (Atlanta) Friday night, it got down to about 17 degrees. My Northface 20+ bag kept me warm at 60 degrees for several hours. Around 4:00 AM I ran into the same problem you did the air was so cold outside my bag it was difficult to breath. My bag temperature dropped a little, I guess I needed to eat something. I can't imagine staying out for weeks in sub freezing weather. Not yet anyway. I'm not into winter camping quite yet.
There is a limit to what a backyard test can tell you. My tank was full. I had a great meal that evening and certainly wasn't in caloric deficit. My bag had not accumulated any condensation (had been hanging in my gear room).

I was warm all night. Cold simply wasn't an issue except for breathing. I need to learn to breath through my nose but I don't think that is possible.

I was thinking that maybe it hadn't gotten as cold as predicted. I was shocked to find that it had actually gotten colder.

Like I posted, I don't PLAN on being out in those conditions. But is is nice to know I can if things get worse than predicted.

bigcranky
01-10-2010, 21:29
My problem is that after three days of that type weather the feathers in my bag end up frozen. Then the bag has less loft and I get cold. This has been an issue I have been fighting for years.

Brian is right, this is moisture from your body (insensible perspiration), which passes into your bag at night and condenses in the down. People who are going to be out in very cold weather often use a vapor barrier liner inside the bag to prevent this.

bigcranky
01-10-2010, 21:30
Like I posted, I don't PLAN on being out in those conditions. But is is nice to know I can if things get worse than predicted.

This is an awesome feeling, isn't it?

russb
01-10-2010, 21:30
My problem is that after three days of that type weather the feathers in my bag end up frozen. Then the bag has less loft and I get cold. This has been an issue I have been fighting for years. There is no way to stop condensation and when it gets to the bag, and the down it causes havoc tha only warmth and sunlight have been able to cure. But in those type temps the warmth, and sometimes sunlight do not cooperate.


Be sure the first thing you do in the AM when you get out of your bag is immediately deflate the bag. Expel all the warm moist air that is trapped inside before it can condense and freeze.

Deadeye
01-10-2010, 21:43
I wish I could tell you a comfortable way to breath sub-zero cold air, but I can't. The best luck I've had is wearing a trooper hat to bed, with all the flaps down, i.e. the fur is pulled over my eyes and cheeks. I think that at least helps keep the sinuses warmer, but your nose will be cold, just about no matter what.

Mango
01-10-2010, 22:07
Chin Music,

I have similar gear and did similar tests before going to Mtn Ned's Snow School just before Christmas. I also have a SMD Lunar Solo; my bag is a WM 25 deg. F, and I use a silk liner. Underneath I used a cheap closed foam pad and a NeoAir from Thermarest. I wore similar clothes in the bag, but more of them, including my down booties and glove liners. My hands got the coldest, along with my nose, of course. On the back porch I got cold the first night; came in at 3 AM. Made some gear changes and did fine the 2nd night. Lows were low 20's both nights. At snow school conditions were more challenging, but I slept okay. Low 1st night was around 15 F. - water bottles froze. Second night was very windy but warmer. There was enough snow to use a "deadman's" (??) method for the tent pegs. Dig a hole in the snow, bury the peg perpendicular to the line, cover with snow, and stomp down. All pegs held without any slipping. My best piece of gear at night? A pee bottle.

Trying out gear, clothes, bags, etc. in the back yard or back porch before getting out in the woods is just plain smart. If something doesn't work well, just go inside. You've learned a valuable lesson without a severe penalty.

Rain Man
01-11-2010, 11:09
... I can't imagine staying out for weeks in sub freezing weather. Not yet anyway. I'm not into winter camping quite yet.

Funny you would say that. I just finished a book by Sir Ernest Shackleton on his failed Antartic expedition in the early 1900s. Their ship, the Endurance, was crushed by the ice and sank. They survived on ice floes for many months, then many more under two lifeboats on a rocky "shore" on a small island below the Antartic Circle.

It makes me feel a little less sorry for myself in chilly hiking weather! LOL BTW, I led a "National Winter Trails Day" hike on Saturday (yes, a day early) at Land Between the Lakes. The high for the day was about 20. We had a GREAT hike in the snow and cold!

Rain:sunMan

.

JAK
01-11-2010, 11:53
You can easily knit a wool neck tube. Knit a rectangle and sew it into a tube.
Use 100% wool. Thicker yarn knits up very fast. Best heat recovery system ever.

Rocks are not so easy to be had when its -9F.

DGG
01-11-2010, 21:20
I really enjoy winter hiking and have been wanting to take up winter backpacking, too. Before Christmas, I finally bit the bullet and ordered a warm bag -- FF Widgeon overfilled, which is good to -15 F. Tried it out last week on the coldest two nights of the year so far in E. PA. I "camped" in the back yard so I could retreat if necessary.

Clothing: Wore long polypro pants & shirt, a pair of REI pants, and a fleece shirt the first night, a warm wool sweater the second. (That was also the colder night.) No cap, no gloves, no booties. Used a blue pad from Walmart on the ground & my old inflatable POE pad (Thermo-Max?). I have a warm tent, however (Hilleberg Akto).

I'm a cold sleeper, and I feared the ground insulation might be insufficient. I was right, especially the second night, when I woke up feeling colder than I liked from below. Supposedly the Thermo-Max is insulated, but, as I said, I'm a cold sleeper. Have since remedied that by spending still more money, on an Exped Downmat 9.

I didn't have trouble breathing the cold, dry air that others have mentioned. Maybe that was because of the tent. Also, I sealed myself up pretty tight in the bag. Little more than my nose was exposed.

I agree with one of the other contributors: you want to be happy in the winter, you better have a pee bottle. A big pee bottle. :sun
Now, if someone can just tell me how to arrange for delivery of the Down Mat while my wife is at work, everything will be cool. Otherwise, I may be living in my new gear.

Cheers,
Dennis

Dogwood
01-11-2010, 21:38
Be sure the first thing you do in the AM when you get out of your bag is immediately deflate the bag. Expel all the warm moist air that is trapped inside before it can condense and freeze.

Explains a few things. Thanks for the advice.

300winmag
01-13-2010, 01:41
I wear a "PolarWrap" face cover while sleeping when winter camping. Its copper mesh layers inside warm the incoming air , which aleo keeps you from dehydrating as much during the night.

Look in Cabela's online catalog for PolarWrap"

JJJ
01-13-2010, 08:40
Funny you would say that. I just finished a book by Sir Ernest Shackleton on his failed Antartic expedition in the early 1900s. Their ship, the Endurance, was crushed by the ice and sank. They survived on ice floes for many months, then many more under two lifeboats on a rocky "shore" on a small island below the Antartic Circle.
...
.

A great quick read.
Those people were just plain tough -physically and mentally.
The challenges that those who went back for help faced were unimaginable.
jjj

bigcranky
01-13-2010, 09:40
Have since remedied that by spending still more money....


Yeah, that seems to be the solution to a lot of my own problems. :sun