PDA

View Full Version : How to put up tent in snow?



Feral Nature
08-10-2011, 15:55
How does a person put their tent up in the snow? Do you dig down a ways, put it on top of the snow. Use stakes? I have no idea.

Also, is there a certain depth or type of snow that it is not advisable to hike in? Thanks, I am just trying to think this through before I get to Springer Mountain (March 2012).

Ktaadn
08-10-2011, 16:05
I haven't pitched a tent in much more than 6 inches of snow but I used a technique similar to the one in the link below. Basically, my hiking partner and I shuffled around the tent site to pack down the snow before setting up. We were still able to use standard tent stakes since it wasn't that deep and we also made a small pile of branches behind the tent as a wind break. We were camping near Mt Rogers in VA and it was really windy that night. Just check the trees above you before setting up camp. The weight of the snow and wind can really knock down a lot of weak/dead branches. I got a small puncture in my fly the next morning.

http://www.backpacker.com/skills-pitch-a-tent-on-snow/slideshows/155

Feral Nature
08-10-2011, 16:18
Thanks for the link. Does the snow provide insulation under the tent or is it just cold. Oh, and I like the windbreak idea.

Feral Bill
08-10-2011, 16:31
It's cold. You need extra insulation underneath you.

Feral Nature
08-10-2011, 16:38
Yes, I will bring plenty of sleeping gear, but had alwas heard snow insulates. Obviously, I have no first hand experience!

Snowleopard
08-10-2011, 16:41
Thanks for the link. Does the snow provide insulation under the tent or is it just cold. Oh, and I like the windbreak idea.
The snow is cold. The real surprise is that it is hard. You absolutely need a mattress or pad for insulation (or both if it's below 0F). If the snow is deep, pack it down with your skis or snowshoes -- if it's really deep you're going nowhere without them. If it's 6" just set up the tent.

You can dig it a hole to put the tent in if the snow is deep or build a snow wall to protect yourself from the wind, but that's more important on Denali or Everest than Springer.

Feral Nature
08-10-2011, 16:46
Ok, I'm learning stuff here :)

ChinMusic
08-10-2011, 17:36
For depths of snow you would be hiking in, just set up your tent as if the snow wasn't there. With any deeper snow you will prob be pulling off the trail til it breaks.

VTATHiker
08-10-2011, 17:46
Snow insulates about as well as wood chips (R-value ~1, but highly variable). Calling something an insulator alludes to its ability to resist heat transfer, but this does not necessarily tell you about total heat transfer – especially when there’s a phase change involved. The snow you lay down on at the beginning of the night is roughly the same temperature as the air – just like a sleeping pad would be. Your body will warm the snow, in the same way your body will warm a sleeping pad. The trouble with snow is that the temperature wont rise above 32oF (the top of a sleeping pad almost certainly will) and an R-value of ~ 1 means your body heat is still going to travel through the snow faster than most think is acceptable (I combine pads in the winter to get an R-value of about 4.5).

Rocket Jones
08-10-2011, 19:58
I did some test nights last winter to get a feel for how well my sleeping setup worked in the cold. What I found was that a closed cell blue foam pad (~10 bucks at Wally World) on top of my regular pad really helped me stay warm. I was comfortable down to the low 30's with my 40* quilt and light clothing. Your best buddy on a cold night will be a hat, neck gaiter, buff, balaclava, or some such.

With fall coming (eventually) you'll be able to test your gear. There's nothing like real experience.

shelterbuilder
08-10-2011, 20:10
I haven't pitched a tent in much more than 6 inches of snow but I used a technique similar to the one in the link below. Basically, my hiking partner and I shuffled around the tent site to pack down the snow before setting up. We were still able to use standard tent stakes since it wasn't that deep and we also made a small pile of branches behind the tent as a wind break. We were camping near Mt Rogers in VA and it was really windy that night. Just check the trees above you before setting up camp. The weight of the snow and wind can really knock down a lot of weak/dead branches. I got a small puncture in my fly the next morning.

http://www.backpacker.com/skills-pitch-a-tent-on-snow/slideshows/155Yep, "stomp" down the snow - not only where the tent will be pitched, but also anywhere in the campsite area where you will be walking - in deep snow especially, this will compact the snow enough to keep you from sinking in with every step. (In less than 6", don't be too picky, but if there's more than 8" to 10", do a good job, and give yourself a bit more space to move around in than you think you'll need.) If conditions are windy, and you don't think that your stakes will hold, look for some broken branches (16" to 20" long). Tie some extra cordage between the loops on the tent and the centers of the branches, and lay the branches down under the snow so that the branch and the cordage form a "T". Pile extra snow on top of the branches and stomp this down really, really well. (It helps to have these extra pieces of cordage already cut to length and tied off so that they can be used with a minimum of fuss - remember, fingers don't work well in the cold.) For fluffy, dry snow, use the rocks instead of branches (maybe 3 or 4 rocks).
The Eskimos have over 30 different words to describe the stuff that we call "snow". When you're sleeping on it, it's cold. If you use it to build a snow cave, then it becomes an insulator , PROTECTING YOU FROM HEAT LOSS TO THE WIND. But it's still cold when you are trying to sleep on it....
Have fun.

LDog
08-10-2011, 20:20
Your best buddy on a cold night will be a hat, neck gaiter, buff, balaclava, or some such.

A nalgene bottle filled with hot water may be too.


--
Chilly

May just grab my pack and head for the mountains ...

laughingdawg.blogspot.com

BigHodag
08-10-2011, 20:37
The only thing I don't see mentioned is snow stakes (http://www.rei.com/product/358111/smc-sno-tent-stake). If you do a bit winter or snow camping in deep snow, you might consider snow stakes which are wider and have holes for the snow to pass through and refreeze.

Usually its better to camp above the snow line than below in the mud and muck.

Personally, I'd stay off the ground and snuggle into a nice warm hammock with under quilt. Just watch the snow loads above as someone mentioned.

generoll
08-10-2011, 21:11
let me take the contrarian view here. Unless you have plenty on insulation beneath you it's very possible that you will melt the snow beneath you from your body heat and end up laying in wet. Unless the temps are very cold or the snow is very deep I'd advise scraping the snow away and pitching your tent on the leaves.

fiddlehead
08-10-2011, 22:53
In 3 thru hikes of the AT, i've slept in the snow once.
Now, the CDT in CO or the Himalayas is a different story.
I learned from the Sherpas in Nepal to use rocks to tie the tent lines to and then bury the rocks in the snow.
A limb from a tree can work also (they don't have many of those in Nepal however)

The best thing you can do is go out and try it the next time you have a sufficient snow storm.
You'll need a few feet of snow.
If it's less, just brush the snow away and use the bare ground.

Have fun.

Tom Murphy
08-11-2011, 12:19
A light snow cover and frozen ground is tough.

With a good 6 inch ground cover it becomes a lot easier, regular stakes, even extra long ones, won't hold in snow (or sand). Instead you construct a dead-man.

Tent stakes sometimes work for this, but you're better off with something thicker. A tree limb, for instance. Tie a line to the middle of the dead-man, and bury it in the snow (or sand) horizontally, and parallel to the side of the tent. The deeper you bury it the better.

Back fill the hole, and tie the line to the loop in your tent where the stake normally attaches. Let the snow harden before tensioning the guy line.

What happens is that the dead-man resists being pulled through the snow, thus anchoring the tent.

Also big rocks can be used as anchors.

Feral Nature
08-11-2011, 18:08
Thanks yall. I have not ever been in snow over 2 to 3 inches deep. So I am learning here.

ChinMusic
08-11-2011, 18:31
Thanks yall. I have not ever been in snow over 2 to 3 inches deep. So I am learning here.

I watched King of the Hill. I know how you Texans react to a 1/2-inch of snow...........:D

Bearpaw
08-11-2011, 18:42
If the snow is deeper than 6 or so inches, dig in and build a berm around your tent. It helps as a wind break.

I'd recommend a couple of pads if you know you'll be on snow for much time, usually one closed cell foam and one inflater. When I was deployed in Norway, the Norwegian Rangers used a CCF pad and a rein deer skin on top. It was pretty luxurious, but pretty heavy unless you were skijoring behind a vehicle or actually inside one.

About the only way snow can "insulate" is if you dig in and make a snow cave or snow trench. Then it can "insulate" you from the wind. But you're still essentially sleeping on ice. It's cold.

Snowleopard
08-11-2011, 20:55
... is there a certain depth or type of snow that it is not advisable to hike in? Thanks, I am just trying to think this through before I get to Springer Mountain (March 2012).
I would really want to use snowshoes if the snow is over 18" or 2'. But, TipiWalter, who has more time in the southern Appalachians in winter than all of us, doesn't use them. He says that too often the bushes bend over or branches bow down so that you're walking through a low tunnel. When the depth gets beyond 2' or 3' it gets really difficult to walk through snow (this is called postholing because of the hole your steps leave in the snow). I've once walked through 5-6' of soft snow and it was very very exhausting and I was young then.

In the Adirondack E. High Peaks (not on the AT) snowshoes or skis are required when there's more than 8" of snow. This is because the tracks and postholes can make the trails unsafe for skiers or hikers when it freezes, also because the rangers get tired of rescueing people that don't carry snowshoes.

I love thinking about snow when the weather is hot!

LIhikers
08-12-2011, 19:43
Keep in mind that if it's cold enough for snow to accumulate on the ground, the ground may be frozen hard.
That might keep you from getting tent stakes into the ground to stake out your tent.
If the tent is free standing and you only have to stake out the fly, you may have to get a little creative.
If the tent is not freestanding and you need stakes to make it stay up, you may have to get a lot more creative.
It's not impossible, just a little more work.

ChinMusic
08-12-2011, 23:21
I leave the real light weight Ti stakes at home and take more robust stakes in winter. Ones I can pound on with a rock if the ground is frozen.

Feral Nature
08-12-2011, 23:53
I am preparing for being in some snow on Springer in March. Yes, I do freak out if there is more than 1/2 inch of snow, heck I freak out if there are only a few flakes. I have been known to set my alarm so I can wake up and see the flakes that the weatherman has predicted.

Anyway, I sure do appreciate all these tips. :)

LDog
08-13-2011, 14:36
I have a set of REI brand sand/snow anchors that are like tiny sea anchors you place down under the snow, and pack around with your feet. Works great.

13562 13569

I never intended on packing those for an end of March start. Thought of carrying a few SMC Sno stakes (http://www.rei.com/product/358111/smc-sno-tent-stake). The trick with them is to tie your guy lines down in one of the lower holes so leverage won't yank them out. They could be used in snow, and to dig sanitation pits - Dual use!

But even those seem like a lot of weight for a "what-if" that could be managed with what we could find laying around. If we get hit by snow, I'll tie off to trees and use deadfall to make deadmen if necessary. I'd reconsider if I was setting up a winter base camp, or intentionally heading out for winter trek in deep snow.

Montana
08-14-2011, 13:39
How does a person put their tent up in the snow? Do you dig down a ways, put it on top of the snow. Use stakes? I have no idea.

Also, is there a certain depth or type of snow that it is not advisable to hike in? Thanks, I am just trying to think this through before I get to Springer Mountain (March 2012).

You will probably not see the kind of snow load on the southern AT in March that would require worrying about the answers to these questions. However, without snow-shoes, one can easily walk in about a foot of fresh snow, more if it is light and powdery like it is around here. Camping in really deep snow, or if the ground is frozen, requires using rocks or sticks as anchors rather than stakes, but requires little more effort than normal. If camping on top of snow, you want to make sure that you are using some sort of insulation between you and the ground, but most people carry a sufficient sleeping pad even in the summer. The key is having a warm enough sleeping bag for the expected temperature, and you can expect freezing temperatures during the early spring.

One other issue that you will probably experience is with is your water bottles freezing, keep them next to you while you sleep to stop this from happening.

Feral Nature
08-14-2011, 13:44
Thanks ChillyWilly and Monyana about the tips. Very helpful.

So what type of sleeping bag would be good for a cold sleeper doing a NOBO in March?

ChinMusic
08-14-2011, 13:58
So what type of sleeping bag would be good for a cold sleeper doing a NOBO in March?

Unless you plan to pull off the trail to avoid a cold snap, I would think a 0 would be best for a "cold sleeper". Personally I would be fine with a 15 or 20 bag and a down jacket.

Toolshed
08-14-2011, 15:22
13569
Tip 1) These Snowstakes are great, however, to make them even easier to use, take a 2'-3' section of para-cord and tie it through the top hole (by the lip) either as a loop or a line, so that when you need to use them, you have cord to stake your tent down with, as you will be burying these in the snow and not hammering them into the frozen ground, bury the stakes and pack down with snow, wait 30 minutes and those suckers will be frozen in place.

Tip 2) Paint these stakes bright Green yellow or red, so you can find them in the snow. (You will need a stick or ice-axe to pry them out the next morning - kicking with trailshoes/boots and cold toes won't work (trust me on this one....LOL)

Tip 3) tents take longer to dismantle....Tent Poles will be frozen solid where they join each other. You will need to wrap your hand around each joint for 10-15 seconds to let it thaw before you can pull the sections apart. You then need to warm your hand under your armpit for 30-45 seconds before going to the next tent pole section. (this is where a decent pair of liner gloves or spare socks come in play.)