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Moosky
10-08-2012, 16:58
Hello WhiteBlaze,

Moosky here. I'm a potential 2014 nobo thru-hiker. Since there is no forum for 2014er yet, I decided to post my questions here and hope 2013ers don't kick me out :o

I think many people (especially students) might have the same problem as I have. I have to finish my hike by late July/early August to go to school. Yet, I am not super fit therefore I'm not confident I can finish the hike in 5 months. Therefore the only solution is to start early.

Are there any 2013er or more experienced hiker that will/have started in February? I'd love to hear about how you deal with the first month or so. I also have some specific questions below.



How cold does it get in the mountain in February? What temperature rating do I need for my sleeping bag? Is it ok if I have a higher temp bag plus a bag liner?
Can I get by with a 3-season tent? In particular, can I use the SMD Gatewood cape + Serenity NetTent combo?
How to cope with frozen water/water source?
Do I need snow shoes?
Does the mountains ever get impassable?
Anything else I should know?


Any suggestions or comments are welcome! A bit about myself for those who are curious. I'm 25 yo, Chinese (therefore the panda pic), office worker in NY. I hope I will be going back to business school soon, but hey, why not defer for a year and hike the AT? That's my tentative plan.

Thanks and happy trail! :sun

Moosky

ChinMusic
10-08-2012, 17:09
Welcome to WhiteBlaze.

I have a plan for a late Feb start in '13

1. I will be taking a 15į bag. I will supplement that with a substantial down parka/sweater. I have used my parka with a 30į bag down to 20į without issue. I should be fine down to 10 but will pull off the trail for predicted temps below that.
2. 3-season tent will be fine. Again, I will pull off the trail for predictions of heavy snow. I will "get by" if I am caught.
3. Water sources will not be frozen, or at least I have not found them frozen from my winter section hikes.
4. No. If conditions are that bad, I am off the trail. I will have Microspikes.
5. Yes. Can happen in March too. Blowdowns are as much of an issue as snow at times. Again, I am preparted to pull off the trail.
6. There always is........

Slo-go'en
10-08-2012, 17:27
The most important thing for you to know is those starting in Feb have a much higher then average drop out rate than those starting later in better weather. Between the cold, short hours of daylight, the potentual for serious storms and a heavy pack, making any progress can be tough.

You would be better off starting in mid March at the earliest. Even with that later start, you still have the potentual to run into some nasty weather, but it will be short lived. To answer questions:

1. You'll want a warm bag, probably 0* Might be overkill, but there will be many a night your glad you have it.

2. The Gatewood cape/net comboe could be a bit marginal.

3. You might need something to chop through ice to get to the water. A more serious problem is with your water container freezing. Although I generally dislike Nalgen bottles due to their weight, they do have advatages in the cold. One, you can get insulating sleeves for them and two the top is easier to get off if frozen in place than other containers.

4. You might wish you had snow shoes once or twice, but not enough to warrent carrying them. Some kind of trackssion device like Microspikes would be more useful on average. If you run into icy trail that could be the only way to keep from injuring yourself.

5. After a 3-4 foot blizzard the mountains can be quite impassable for a while. Or at least very difficult and slow.

6. The biggest issue maybe dealing with frozen boots every morning. About the only way to avoid that is to use waterproof boots with removable felt liners ( like LL Bean duck boots or Sorells). The only trouble with these types of boots is thier not that great to hike in unless there is snow on the ground.

Seldomseen
10-08-2012, 17:29
I started my 96 hike The first of February. I had a 0 bag with a vapor barrier liner, down parka, goretex raingear, 2 sets of long underwear, 2 hats, 2 pairs of gloves, fleece pants, and down booties. I used all of the above almost everyday. As a matter of fact this is exactly what I carry December 1st to 1st week of March. The vapor barrier liner is the single most important piece of gear I listed because it will keep your bag from freezing from condensation build up overtime (I learned this the hard way). That time of year it is also CRUCIAL to have a sure method for always starting a fire in ANY condition. Don't expect the GSMNP to be cleared and I would carry crampons through that section (maybe the smallest ice cleats). As long as you have the gear to stay warm it is a great time of year to start!!

Seldomseen
10-08-2012, 17:34
Oh yeah, and a pair of vapor barrier socks to keep your boots from freezing. And for shelter I would look into the Black Diamond Beta Light or something that goes all the way to the ground (4 season tarp). You will freeze with a 3 season set up or if you plan to stay in shelters. Remember the ground is way warmer than the shelter floors! I always laugh when I see people with their tent set up in the shelter that time of year. No need for bug netting until April or May even.

SassyWindsor
10-08-2012, 17:54
I started my thru in Feb due to having to be finished for fall classes. It's a higher risk doing this but you'll see fewer people, make good time, and you don't have to worry about getting too hot till PA.

Moosky
10-08-2012, 17:56
Welcome to WhiteBlaze.

I have a plan for a late Feb start in '13

1. I will be taking a 15į bag. I will supplement that with a substantial down parka/sweater. I have used my parka with a 30į bag down to 20į without issue. I should be fine down to 10 but will pull off the trail for predicted temps below that.
2. 3-season tent will be fine. Again, I will pull off the trail for predictions of heavy snow. I will "get by" if I am caught.
3. Water sources will not be frozen, or at least I have not found them frozen from my winter section hikes.
4. No. If conditions are that bad, I am off the trail. I will have Microspikes.
5. Yes. Can happen in March too. Blowdowns are as much of an issue as snow at times. Again, I am preparted to pull off the trail.
6. There always is........

Thanks! I googled microspikes and they seem a great idea!

Moosky
10-08-2012, 17:59
The most important thing for you to know is those starting in Feb have a much higher then average drop out rate than those starting later in better weather. Between the cold, short hours of daylight, the potentual for serious storms and a heavy pack, making any progress can be tough.

You would be better off starting in mid March at the earliest. Even with that later start, you still have the potentual to run into some nasty weather, but it will be short lived. To answer questions:

1. You'll want a warm bag, probably 0* Might be overkill, but there will be many a night your glad you have it.

2. The Gatewood cape/net comboe could be a bit marginal.

3. You might need something to chop through ice to get to the water. A more serious problem is with your water container freezing. Although I generally dislike Nalgen bottles due to their weight, they do have advatages in the cold. One, you can get insulating sleeves for them and two the top is easier to get off if frozen in place than other containers.

4. You might wish you had snow shoes once or twice, but not enough to warrent carrying them. Some kind of trackssion device like Microspikes would be more useful on average. If you run into icy trail that could be the only way to keep from injuring yourself.

5. After a 3-4 foot blizzard the mountains can be quite impassable for a while. Or at least very difficult and slow.

6. The biggest issue maybe dealing with frozen boots every morning. About the only way to avoid that is to use waterproof boots with removable felt liners ( like LL Bean duck boots or Sorells). The only trouble with these types of boots is thier not that great to hike in unless there is snow on the ground.

Really appreciate your answers! Is a 3 inch blade with a stick enough to chop through ice to get to the water source? If I use a camel pack, will it still freeze in my backpack?

Moosky
10-08-2012, 18:07
Oh yeah, and a pair of vapor barrier socks to keep your boots from freezing. And for shelter I would look into the Black Diamond Beta Light or something that goes all the way to the ground (4 season tarp). You will freeze with a 3 season set up or if you plan to stay in shelters. Remember the ground is way warmer than the shelter floors! I always laugh when I see people with their tent set up in the shelter that time of year. No need for bug netting until April or May even.

Thanks for telling me about the vapor barrier liner! I also checked out the Black Diamond Beta Light. Seems to be a great tent, weighing just 19 oz. But it is floorless, and the Beta Bug floor will add another ~1.5 lb. Do you know of any other tent that goes to the ground, yet also has a floor?

ChinMusic
10-08-2012, 18:43
This is one of those YMMV comments:

I wear trail runners even in winter. No boots for me. As others have posted, your footwear WILL freeze. Frozen boots are a PITA. Frozen trail runners are a minor inconvenience. I just make sure the shoes have loosened laces when I take em off so I can get in em easily in the morning. I will have some down booties for camp.

Maybe I am just warm blooded but I don't get cold feet in nearly any condition the AT will throw at me. I don't even wear socks while sleeping (I will keep the socks in my sleeping bag). I DO like having the down booties for camp as well as a robust down parka (approaching overkill). My upper body does have a tendency to get cold in camp........not anymore.

Seldomseen
10-08-2012, 19:21
I like the Vapor Barrier Socks because they keep your feet warm and shoes from freezing, unless it has been raining or snowing. I like GoreTex trail runners in the winter time because they are warmer and keep your feet less wet. I would not worry about a floor, just a piece of Tyvek will do and when bugs hit get some cheap netting. Not sure about options that are as bombproof and light weight as the Beta Light. Maybe Tarptents or 6 Moon Designs??? Oh and make sure your sleeping bag is long enough to put everything in at night. I have an extra long down bag and I keep my shoes, fuel, extra clothes, and water (nalgene so it won't leak) down in my bag (outside of the VBL) by my feet. AS long as it is below freezing the VBL works great with a pair of long underwear on. If it gets above freezing it can get kind of clammy. The most important thing is that it keeps the insulation from freezing at night. If you go a long time in below freezing weather you will notice the insulation freezing a little more each night and that can become very dangerous after a couple of nights. Have fun!

Seldomseen
10-08-2012, 19:26
One more thing: I also carry a very light insulite pad along with the lightest air mattress I could find. It gives me something to sit on and a tremendous R value. Plus if the mattress gets a hole in it I will not die. My winter pack setup weighs about 8 more pounds than my spring setup. I also carry a sawvivor because I can cut dead logs to exact perfect length and not spend too much time gathering firewood.

Slo-go'en
10-08-2012, 20:24
Really appreciate your answers! Is a 3 inch blade with a stick enough to chop through ice to get to the water source? If I use a camel pack, will it still freeze in my backpack?

Most likely you won't have to chop through ice to get to water. If you can't get to it using your hiking pole or a rock, you'd need a real ice axe to do the job.

I wouldn't use a camel bladder in the winter. (I don't even use one in the summer, too many potentual problems and plastic soda bottles are a lot cheaper). You need to insulate the hose and the mouth piece and make sure it's empty at night. So long as it's on your back it isn't going to freeze, but at night it well could. You don't want to wake up to 2 pounds of ice you have to carry...

Papa D
10-08-2012, 20:41
If (and I hope I do) I thru-hike again, I will start in February - - a Feb NOBO hike involves hiking in cold temps, snow, and probably really slow going for about a month - - extra time in hostels and towns is to be expected and cold weather skills are a must. This said, the early north-bounder is rewarded with all the trail has to offer a NOBO (as the trail does set-up best this way) without the downside of super crowded shelters and being forced to hike with the "pack" - - in this scenario, all you have to do to find the part is slow down a few weeks and let a few March starters catch-up - - this start date really puts you in drivers seat.

Seldomseen
10-08-2012, 21:06
It's a great time to start! The earlier the better! Only carry bottles you can sleep with because you are going to want to heat up water, put it in a nalgene, throw it in the bag, and not have to drink super cold water the next day. Get a stove that works in cold weather (not alcohol) and save fuel by heating water over a small campfire. Plan on hot lunches to because they can make a cold day warm! Another great thing about the Beta without the floor is you don't have to get completely out of your tent to piss! or you can carry a pee bottle. Winter hiking is a comletely different style of hiking. With 5 days of food the lightest my pack is in the winter is 35 pounds.

magic_game03
10-10-2012, 10:05
Three Thru’s. Two of them I started on Feb ‘14th, the other on Dec 28th. It was cold and I love it that way. I highly recommend a 0 degree bag (down not synthetic!!!). Some tips. Everything freezes all the time. Bladders are almost useless because the hose will freeze up and so will the water in the mouthpiece. It’s very hard to clear the mouthpiece and if you mess with the mouthpiece too much it will not function properly. People will try to give you advice on how to use the bladders but if your out 24-7 you just can’t stop every 5 minutes to thaw it out if you need water. You almost have to use Nalgenes because you are going to want to heat boiling water a lot to make coco or a bag warmer. Hot water bottles that go in the sleeping bag at night will be cold by morning (but usually not frozen). Use butane canisters and a good windscreen, alcohol doesn’t burn well at that temp and white gas requires too much work. I used trail runners (shoes) with desert gaiters. All shoes (and boots) will freeze up every night, boots will be impossible to get on when frozen and trail runners are not easy to use either. You have to unlace them every night and stretch them out to prepare for morning. When you get up you will just have to fit your foot into the solid shoe and wear it for a few minutes till it thaws enough to wear and lace. I did use reserve bladders but they freeze up every night. Platypus is ok but the pour spout is too small for winter use because you cant get the ice out, camelbacks are better, as well are Nalgene wide mouths. Resupply is quite difficult. Nothing is open and hitching is iffy. Neels gap is open. Even though hostels are considered closed if you come across the owners they are cool and will take you in. There is rarely any roadside trail angels or magic. You hear a lot about hikers hitting some dirt road and there is some angel cooking up hotdogs and burgers, I didn’t get my first dog till my 4th thru (first PCT hike in the main group). A lot of the gas station pit stops are closed for the off season, as well. Only the Big Meadows wayside in the Shannondoas (sp?) will be open. You will have two issues with getting water. First, in the south most of the springs will not be flowing. The Appalachians are very wet so there is water everywhere but it is surface water and often contaminated and very tannic while the springs are frozen and dry. In the north you come across quite a few ponds, here the water is covered by ice so thick you can’t get to it with a tree ax, much less a climbers ice ax. You also have to hike all day. If you stop you freeze so you just keep going. Better views in the winter though, when it’s not misty. You will fall a lot on the cold wet ground, rime iced logs and rocks, and micro spikes will not help you. The trail turns into small creeks while just beside the trail is semi-dry land but not traversable. Where the water makes small creeks in the trail then freezes up into ice chutes on very cold days, still micro spikes will not help. You just have to learn how to keep your footing and skate it. You can use a down sleeping bag but stay away from down clothes. You may be cold but you will also sweat a lot and sweaty-down does not mix well. You climb some crappy mountain like Groan (Roan) mt. and start sweating in your down. Then the temps plunge into the negatives, you are screwed-with no place to go and no help, then you die. After 6 Thru’s I’ve know people who are no longer with us. Most of those who have passed are due to one condition, hypothermia. 2 of the last three times I ran a mountaineering group up to Shasta someone died that day. Not in my group, but we walked by them only meters away and we never even saw them buried in their snow cave. When you are up there, even in the sub 6,000 ft Appalachians, you are almost always alone.

takethisbread
10-10-2012, 10:41
I started my thru in Feb due to having to be finished for fall classes. It's a higher risk doing this but you'll see fewer people, make good time, and you don't have to worry about getting too hot till PA.
Make good time is probably wrong. February starters in GA thru Ten will see many blowdowns un attended to, and that will def slow you down and get you lost potentially. Also days are shorter, nights are colder and indeed freezing, conditions on the trail will include plenty of ice, p[lus wet feet, All these will conspire to slow you down. Still the advantages are less crowds and more solitude. A heavier pack is also a point to consider, starting in march in the southern appalachians you will have very warm days, and still cold nights. enjoy!

magic_game03
10-10-2012, 14:08
I understand your point, Takethisbread, but I would have to disagree. If you start in mid feb vs. first of march we are only talking about a few weeks and there is not that much difference in light, maybe 15 minutes worth. I would have to say that the cold quickens your time, makes you go faster. In the nicer weather months you will like to sit around an unperma-frosted area and soak up a few rays, enjoy a shelter siesta, and take in the early spring flowers. in winter, you gotta move or freeze. Then you have to account for the people. In mid feb, there are only a few people around. My loneliest time ever was a 3 day hike into Damascus without seeing a single person, didn't hear the far off sound of cars or planes, and when I got to the "Place" nobody was there. On the first weekend in March, two weeks later, you have more than 100 people all fighting for the few shelter spaces, waiting in line for nearly an hour to use the privy, and you have the urge to say hi to all your future hiking class. I'm not saying earlier is better, but I think starting on or after the first of march can really slow you down. the few of us at the front would always comment that we should take a few days off to let others catch up, but sitting around an empty hostel or a preseason town sucks so we always pushed on. I never had to fight for a shelter spot though :-).

magic_game03
10-10-2012, 14:39
(to continue on) on my first AT thru I started Feb 14th. I knew all the other hikers around me because there were only a few and each register proudly pronounced who they were. I can still name most of them off the top of my head. I/we would walk for hundreds of miles w/o running into these hikers that were only a day or so ahead of me/us. I never had problems getting thru the whites as an early start because they were too happy to see thru hikers at the huts. If you don't know about the whites, it cost $80 a night to stay and they only give 2 thru-hikers the chance for a 'work-for-stay' for the entire section of the Prezzies. I only had to do work twice that I remember, I mostly got drunk off them. This is the trade off of an early start. If you start on the first of march weekend, you will have 100 people a day starting Springer for Fri, Sat, Sun. that's almost 300 people starting at the same time. you get to the first shelter and it is packed to the gills. forget about getting a spot in a shelter that only fits 16 people at most. Remember this is still early in the season, the weather is rough. you can expect about half of your days being rained on. Then imagine those days being stuffed into a shelter with 8-16 other smelly, wet hikers who all just want a little room to hang their wet clothes. Those people who don't get shelter spots still camp around the shelter so you have this big group of people who all want to sit at the one shelter bench, use the shelter privy (which creates a line, I hear mostly women 'cause the guys just go into the woods, nice huh?), hang from same bear cable, and trample the same water source. Then you get to town and you never get to really meet the hostel owners because they are overwhelmed getting supplies and making sure all their stuff doesn't get broken, all while answering a million questions and shuttling hikers to trailheads. I don't know because I've never been in the mix but I've just heard so many people quit because this was not the experience they were looking for on the AT. Still you gotta be tough to do an early start, I'm sure an overcrowded hostel is better than one that is padlocked shut, and a ransacked soda shop is better than a wayside that doesn't open for another week.

Tipi Walter
10-10-2012, 14:41
You can use a down sleeping bag but stay away from down clothes. You may be cold but you will also sweat a lot and sweaty-down does not mix well. You climb some crappy mountain like Groan (Roan) mt. and start sweating in your down. Then the temps plunge into the negatives, you are screwed-with no place to go and no help, then you die. After 6 Thruís Iíve know people who are no longer with us. Most of those who have passed are due to one condition, hypothermia. 2 of the last three times I ran a mountaineering group up to Shasta someone died that day. Not in my group, but we walked by them only meters away and we never even saw them buried in their snow cave. When you are up there, even in the sub 6,000 ft Appalachians, you are almost always alone.

Nobody I know backpacks the Southern Apps in goose down but down clothing has saved my butt a thousand times after the hiking day ends and I'm hanging out in camp. Jan/Feb backpacking for me includes not only an outstanding down bag but a pair of down pants, down booties and an overkill down jacket or parka. These 3 items have allowed me to stay out when blizzards hit and temps stayed low for weeks at a time. A couple years ago I was out at the beginning of January and for 10 days the night time temps never got above 10F---it was a weather fluke. It's hard to sit in a tent or cook or do much of anything at these temps without some serious down clothing.

On the trail, though, none of this down is worn. Ever. Nobody I know would ever climb a mountain under weight wearing goose down, not even a down vest. Even on cold mornings when it's 0F or below with high winds there are other much better options---like midlayer merinos under a good rain jacket shell.

ChinMusic
10-10-2012, 14:55
Nobody I know backpacks the Southern Apps in goose down but down clothing has saved my butt a thousand times after the hiking day ends and I'm hanging out in camp. Jan/Feb backpacking for me includes not only an outstanding down bag but a pair of down pants, down booties and an overkill down jacket or parka. These 3 items have allowed me to stay out when blizzards hit and temps stayed low for weeks at a time. A couple years ago I was out at the beginning of January and for 10 days the night time temps never got above 10F---it was a weather fluke. It's hard to sit in a tent or cook or do much of anything at these temps without some serious down clothing.

On the trail, though, none of this down is worn. Ever. Nobody I know would ever climb a mountain under weight wearing goose down, not even a down vest. Even on cold mornings when it's 0F or below with high winds there are other much better options---like midlayer merinos under a good rain jacket shell.

I agree with all of this but it I will be pulling off the trail for weather you choose camp. I have the same down items for CAMP and for rests. That down is my comfort (survival if push comes to shove) at camp and I will not risk it getting wet from sweat. I am mostly merino wool for the upper while hiking with a wind shirt and rain jacket for layering as needed.

magic_game03
10-10-2012, 14:56
I agree with you 100% Tipi Walter. the only time I ever saw goose down on the Southern AT was at the outfitters. Unless you really know what your doing you shouldn't even have a goose down sleeping bag. The Southern AT is just too wet. One mistake and your done. I figgured that this forum was for 2013 nubies so I wanted to be sure that if I suggested a down bag that nobody interpreted that as a suggestion for any kind of down clothing. Thanks for highlighting this point of catastrophic failure. I will repeat do not use any down clothing early in the season on the souther AT, you will come to regret it.

ChinMusic
10-10-2012, 15:13
I agree with you 100% Tipi Walter. the only time I ever saw goose down on the Southern AT was at the outfitters. Unless you really know what your doing you shouldn't even have a goose down sleeping bag. The Southern AT is just too wet. One mistake and your done. I figgured that this forum was for 2013 nubies so I wanted to be sure that if I suggested a down bag that nobody interpreted that as a suggestion for any kind of down clothing. Thanks for highlighting this point of catastrophic failure. I will repeat do not use any down clothing early in the season on the souther AT, you will come to regret it.
I don't see what you are agreeing with. TW (and I for that matter) use down extensively for camp and survival. We just don't hike in it.

magic_game03
10-10-2012, 15:30
I'm not sure what your point is Chinmusic, read the post carefully. I'm agreeing that after three AT thru-hikes I've never seen anyone wear down while hiking in the souther AT. It's not even smart to use it at shelters unless you know how down works. YOU may use it at camp, but a nubie(like they one who created this thread) who has no long distance experience may make a terrible mistake that can cost a life.

The Solemates
10-10-2012, 15:32
(to continue on) on my first AT thru I started Feb 14th. I knew all the other hikers around me because there were only a few and each register proudly pronounced who they were. I can still name most of them off the top of my head. I/we would walk for hundreds of miles w/o running into these hikers that were only a day or so ahead of me/us.

we can vouch for that :)

Tipi Walter
10-10-2012, 15:34
I agree with all of this but it I will be pulling off the trail for weather you choose to camp. I have the same down items for CAMP and for rests. That down is my comfort (survival if push comes to shove) at camp and I will not risk it getting wet from sweat. I am mostly merino wool for the upper while hiking with a wind shirt and rain jacket for layering as needed.

Merino is my best friend. You bring up an important point in your first sentence. A very important point regarding the "right tool for the job" policy. My winter trips tend to be long with no town "escapes" or resupplies and so it's common to start a trip on January 5 at 45F and by Day 7 I'm on an open bald at 5,300 feet in a three day blizzard and then by Day 12 it's 50F and then by Day 15 there's an arctic O Canada air mass kicking my butt with -10F sub zeros and then by Day 20 I'm in an ugly sleetstorm with buckets of rain at 35F.

All these happen as I pack and move most every day unless a truly hellish series of blizzards hit and then it's just safer to sit put and wait it out. Waiting in the Southeast is due not so much to the cold but to deep ridge snow and drifts which will stop a hiker. Three feet is common on the high ground and here in the south we don't bother with snowshoes. Many Trail Journal type thruhikers starting in January or February usually bail off the trail then. Question is, why? Why not sit put in their tents and pull zeros and wait it out for 5 or 6 days? I mean, they're on a 5 month hike so just change the schedule and anyway, what's the rush?

Point is, the right tool for the job on Day 1 at 45F both clothing wise and shelter wise is completely different than on Day 7 with 60mph blizzard winds where a four season tent is in my opinion mandatory. The right tool then has to be a multitool so in effect there is no right tool when you're confronted with a half dozen different jobs.

Tipi Walter
10-10-2012, 15:35
I'm not sure what your point is Chinmusic, read the post carefully. I'm agreeing that after three AT thru-hikes I've never seen anyone wear down while hiking in the souther AT. It's not even smart to use it at shelters unless you know how down works. YOU may use it at camp, but a nubie(like they one who created this thread) who has no long distance experience may make a terrible mistake that can cost a life.

A newb may start the thread but old hands with experience chime in and the conversation changes to a discussion between them. If the newb is still around and keeps reading he'll be able to keep up, no problemo.

colorado_rob
10-10-2012, 15:44
I'm not sure what your point is Chinmusic, read the post carefully. I'm agreeing that after three AT thru-hikes I've never seen anyone wear down while hiking in the souther AT. It's not even smart to use it at shelters unless you know how down works. YOU may use it at camp, but a nubie(like they one who created this thread) who has no long distance experience may make a terrible mistake that can cost a life. I was confused as well because in your original post you didn't use the word "hiking". And in my 45 years of outdoor experience, I've never seen a "catastrophy" using down (meaning it getting soaking wet). Most of my pals all use down extensively in all sort of conditions. I think you are over-playing the shortcomings of down (like the losing a life thing), but on the other hand, also good to point these down issues out.

colorado_rob
10-10-2012, 15:45
And by the way, I personally do climb mountains occasionally actually wearing down, but so far only when above about 20,000 feet.

SassyWindsor
10-10-2012, 15:59
Make good time is probably wrong. February starters in GA thru Ten will see many blowdowns un attended to, and that will def slow you down and get you lost potentially. Also days are shorter, nights are colder and indeed freezing, conditions on the trail will include plenty of ice, p[lus wet feet, All these will conspire to slow you down. Still the advantages are less crowds and more solitude. A heavier pack is also a point to consider, starting in march in the southern appalachians you will have very warm days, and still cold nights. enjoy!

There were quite a few blow-downs and short re-routes more at first but you run into these occasionally all along the trail and I ran into several trail maintenance crews as well, still I felt I made better time. My "make good time" reference mainly described fewer hikers/groups along the trail, in hostels, restaurants, etc. I may have just lucked out on not having passage or weather problems.

magic_game03
10-10-2012, 16:22
Rob, r u equating rock climbing the Rockies, Sierras, or cascades to hiking the wet Southern AT? everyone in cali wears down cause its so dry, but 55 of my first 60 AT days were a down pour. I do not recommend down in those conditions. if it gets wet how would you dry it out.

also, it must be great to be care free and not know any who has died due to hypothermia but it haunts my concious to know I've walked by those people.

deaths due to hypothermia: AT sobo in prezzies '03, AT hiker has fingers amputated after hypothermia survival in Smokies '04, ranger dies in prezzies '05, two PCT hikers succumb (not together) '05, 06 PCT hiker, '07 R1 JMT on Shasta, '08 two fall/one dies after being left behind on Whitney, '10 Whitney Glacier Shasta one dead. these are just the first that come to mind, that have passed within minutes hours or days of me being exactly where they were. 3 of them I knew personally. So you can throw advice out there alls you want but you are not taking personal responsibility of knowing who to tell what to.

colorado_rob
10-10-2012, 16:34
Rob, r u equating rock climbing the Rockies, Sierras, or cascades to hiking the wet Southern AT? everyone in cali wears down cause its so dry, but 55 of my first 60 AT days were a down pour. I do not recommend down in those conditions. if it gets wet how would you dry it out. . I've hiked and climbed all over the world, lots of times in very wet conditions, so no, not talking about the Dry West. I grew up back east.

I am sorry if I touched a nerve and about your personal losses, truly. But; are you saying these happened because of wet down? sure, wet down is close to useless, I don't dispute that. Are you also saying that you had 55 days of RAIN in late winter? My experience out there is that generally such days in February (the OP title) "rain" is snow, albeit sometimes wet snow. I have many times successfully dried out down in my sleeping bag at night, and many times over a fire. Again, I think you have overplayed the "danger" of down. Just keep it as dry as possible.

This all being said, if I were starting the AT in February (and I sure wish I could, believe me), I'd start with my Mont Bell synthetic Thermawrap, but also my Mont Bell down sweater as an additional layer (total weight of the two about 20 ounces). And definitely a good rain/snow outer shell, probably my goretex pro shell.

The number one lesson we teach in our Mountaineering class out here in Colorado: Don't hike at a rate or with too many clothes on such that you sweat. If you sweat, you will get cold.

ChinMusic
10-10-2012, 16:35
I'm not sure what your point is Chinmusic, read the post carefully. I'm agreeing that after three AT thru-hikes I've never seen anyone wear down while hiking in the souther AT. It's not even smart to use it at shelters unless you know how down works. YOU may use it at camp, but a nubie(like they one who created this thread) who has no long distance experience may make a terrible mistake that can cost a life.

You never said "while hiking" in a previous post. As far as I could tell you were against down altogether. If your point was to not wear down while hiking but that is is great for camp, I am 100% in agreement.

Moosky
10-11-2012, 09:05
I am still around and finding the posts very helpful. Thanks and keep them coming!

ChinMusic
10-11-2012, 09:39
I wore a down vest on a dayhike (with backpack) as an experiment in subfreezing temps. It turned to oatmeal from my sweat and I wasn't really working that hard.

Josh Calhoun
10-11-2012, 12:38
i do not have no where near as much experience as these folks commenting on your post, but i will tell a few things that i have found out on my Cold weather hiking trips. i am blessed with bieng more cold tollerent than most. i am starting the trail on FEB the 16th.

1. if you use a water purification device like a pump or gravity filter. put it inside something like a compression sack and sleep with it inside a bag. they will freeze pretty easily when temps fall.
2. also i use gatoraid bottles "lighter than other options". sleep with them inside you bag as well. this will keep them from freezing. you can heat up water to put inside them to.
3. i also put me next days clothes in my bag as well. its nice to have warm clothes to put on as soon as you wake up.
4. sweating is definatly your enemy, be weary of this. even on days down in the teens you will usually see me in shorts and short sleeves. i hike fast and build up allot of heat. on days when hiking fast is not a option i have wool layers to add underneath my hiking clothes.
5. i use a good quality 0* DOWN sleeping bag, and i hardly ever wear anything more than hiking shorts inside.
6. practice your fire building skillts. even with wet kendling. its a good skill to have. some people just cant master it.

winter hiking is better in my opinion bc you have spectacular views and you dont have to worry about crowds. enjoy!

Moosky
10-12-2012, 10:56
i do not have no where near as much experience as these folks commenting on your post, but i will tell a few things that i have found out on my Cold weather hiking trips. i am blessed with bieng more cold tollerent than most. i am starting the trail on FEB the 16th.

1. if you use a water purification device like a pump or gravity filter. put it inside something like a compression sack and sleep with it inside a bag. they will freeze pretty easily when temps fall.
2. also i use gatoraid bottles "lighter than other options". sleep with them inside you bag as well. this will keep them from freezing. you can heat up water to put inside them to.
3. i also put me next days clothes in my bag as well. its nice to have warm clothes to put on as soon as you wake up.
4. sweating is definatly your enemy, be weary of this. even on days down in the teens you will usually see me in shorts and short sleeves. i hike fast and build up allot of heat. on days when hiking fast is not a option i have wool layers to add underneath my hiking clothes.
5. i use a good quality 0* DOWN sleeping bag, and i hardly ever wear anything more than hiking shorts inside.
6. practice your fire building skillts. even with wet kendling. its a good skill to have. some people just cant master it.

winter hiking is better in my opinion bc you have spectacular views and you dont have to worry about crowds. enjoy!

Thanks Josh. On your #4, could you please elaborate on why sweating is so bad? Is it because you get cold and frozen when stationery? Why do wool layers help?

Btw, what kind of shelter do you use in the winter?

BrianLe
10-12-2012, 11:13
"In particular, can I use the SMD Gatewood cape + Serenity NetTent combo?"

I started the AT in late Feb of 2010, and I started with a Gatewood cape plus a very light bivy. No net tent --- too restrictive to use IMO when bugs aren't bad, and when bugs are bad I'd rather have a different shelter!

I swapped out of the Gatewood cape in favor of a light tent because blowdowns were bad enough early in 2010 that it was clearly not a good idea for my only shelter to also be my only (loose, easy to snag) raingear when stopping, crawling, etc around, under and through various types of blowdowns (both tree and brush). But I DO think that a really light shelter is a fine idea for an early starter, perhaps just a tarp, because my own experience was that I slept in shelters almost every night --- not that many people out there, thus not too much competition for space, and when wind or snow was an issue it was nice to be in a larger, dry, and solid shelter. My hiking partner carried an SMD Wild Oasis and that seemed like a good choice for someone spending most nights in a shelter.

I haven't read carefully through other replies to know if you've had answers to all of your (O.P.) questions, but this one stuck out for me as something that I know about!
I do suggest that you go prepared for wind during the day (cold wind). Mittens, not gloves. Something to cover your nose at night (balaclava or face mask). A couple of pairs of bread bags are highly useful and weigh virtually nothing.
I used a good quality 20F bag with a parka, down booties, and silk long johns to augment. The down booties were wonderful; I used Feathered Friends type, and the outer + inner combo there worked IMO particularly good in the environment of the early season AT. Don't neglect your sleeping pad combo; if you use any sort of inflatable I suggest at least a thin ccf layer on top (check Gossamer Gear for thinlight pads).

I'm a huge fan of microspikes, but for the AT in early season it's more ice that's an issue, not traction in general in snow, so yak traks are fine there I think. Either would be good, if you already own something.

Moosky
10-12-2012, 12:49
Thanks Brian. What do you think of the smd skyscape trekker? It is a bit heavier than the Gatewood cape, but it has a floor and bug net. Also it is supported with two poles, therefore should be steadier under wind and snow?

I understand your point that it will be much easier to get shelter space earlier in the year. However, just in case I have to camp outside in February, what kind of shelter do you recommend?

Slo-go'en
10-12-2012, 20:33
And in my 45 years of outdoor experience, I've never seen a "catastrophy" using down (meaning it getting soaking wet).

I saw a guy who didn't string up the trap over his hammock very well and a rain storm moved in overnight. You can guess what happend. His down bag was a soggy mess in the morning. Not sure how he lived through the night as it was a pretty cold rain too. This was just a few days out of Springer and he hadn't gotten the "hang" of everything yet. Come to think about it, I don't think I ever did see him again. Probably had to spend a few days trying to get his bag dry again...

silverscuba22
10-12-2012, 20:58
I Yet, I am not super fit therefore I'm not confident I can finish the hike in 5 months. Therefore the only solution is to start early.


Your well over a year before you would have to start about 18 months or so , if you are serious about doing this being "fit" by feb or march of not NEXT year but the year after shouldnt be an issue at all. start now, if you are in really bad shape start with just a mile a day, then add to it every month or so , heck you have enough time to be in really really good shape by then. starting even a month later, march 1st, you will miss alot of the bad weather, days will be alot warmer.

Moosky
10-13-2012, 11:01
Thanks! I live in urban area so don't have much opportunity to hike, but I've been running 5k and climbing stairs with a twenty pound pack. Climbing stairs is a b****! But I assume the trail rarely gets as steep as the stairs, is it true?

TEXMAN
10-13-2012, 11:12
I started at Springer on FEB 15th in both 2009 and 2010 >>
two more things to think about ...In Feb the days are short so you have less daylight which equals short miles every day ...and long nites ...12..14 hours in your tent every night can be quite boring ...
Also anything that has batteries have a problem working at the extreme cold temps ... you need to carry extra batteries

I slept with my stove fuel, my cell phone, batteries, water bottle and various other items in my sleeping bag to keep them from freezing...
Hiking in Feb was the "best of times and the worst of times" ..enjoy
Old Man River

Old Hiker
10-13-2012, 12:01
Thanks! I live in urban area so don't have much opportunity to hike, but I've been running 5k and climbing stairs with a twenty pound pack. Climbing stairs is a b****! But I assume the trail rarely gets as steep as the stairs, is it true?

Let's see - 500 miles before I slipped and had to stop:

Albert Mt.
Jacob's ladder
Smokies - pick anywhere.
Down to the NOC.
Up out of the NOC.

Just teasing - there are PLENTY of places as steep as if not steeper than stairs. The first 500 miles (for me) were HARD work. I just wish I had done MORE stairs. I'm in FL and all I had to work with were large retention pond banks and 3 flights of stairs.

2016 - starting a year out, LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of stairs. I'm going to go to downtown Tampa and beg a building manager or two for the use of their firestairs!!!

Get an old Companion and check out the elevation gains and losses. Granted, they sometimes are not as steep as they look because of switchbacks and/or gentle logging roads, but some are pretty steep for a while.

BrianLe
10-13-2012, 13:28
"Thanks Brian. What do you think of the smd skyscape trekker? It is a bit heavier than the Gatewood cape, but it has a floor and bug net. Also it is supported with two poles, therefore should be steadier under wind and snow?
I understand your point that it will be much easier to get shelter space earlier in the year. However, just in case I have to camp outside in February, what kind of shelter do you recommend? "

I think the Skyscape Trekker is a fine near-clone of the Lightheart Solo from what I've seen of it, and I was able to briefly kick the tires on one at ALDHA-West late last month (fun to hear Ron Moak talk there too, as well as Henry Shires and Grant Sible). I hiked the CDT in a Lightheart Solo last year and so spent a lot of nights in it. Unlike on the AT, I slept every night outdoors in the tent I carried. So it was well worth it. I know that the Lightheart Solo is a very good tent choice; I suspect that SMD's version of it is a fine choice too, just a good overall design for anyone who uses two trekking poles.

However, I would personally carry something significantly lighter for an early AT start given the idea that I would spend at least most nights in a (wooden) shelter. In fact I think I spent literally every night in shelters on the AT until I was well past the snow, i.e., at least into Virginia if not a lot farther --- don't recall for sure. To put this in context, however, I'm perfectly happy spending winter nights under a tarp rather than a tent. A tent is a little warmer, but for the weight I'd rather get my warmth in other ways, and one certainly doesn't need mesh to keep out bugs at that time of year.

I wouldn't worry about how strong an early-start shelter is under rain or snow. Most of the time wind isn't that big of an issue, site selection to avoid wind issues is pretty easy (and so often just automatically sorts itself out) on the AT. It's always possible you could get a dump of snow on you; the one time I had snow falling in any quantity it wasn't that heavy a load (light fluffy stuff that wafted right into the open sided shelter and covered everyone in it). If on a particular night you're concerned then set your alarm (on watch or smartphone or whatever) and wake periodically to knock off any accumulation. It is possible that you could be surprised by a hefty dump; even then, I think in most cases you'll be okay. Put another way, we're not talking about four season tents here anyway (that SMD tent definitely is not one), and frankly the difference between something like a Wild Oasis and a heavier 3-season tent isn't so great in terms of ability to handle snow load as to make it worth the weight. IMO anyway.

I'm certainly not suggesting a one-size-fits-all solution, just expressing my own bias towards a lighter and more minimally adequate shelter for an early start. Because it's pointless to carry a heavy version of something that you scarcely ever use. But it could be different for you, maybe you'll find yourself not sleeping in shelters for whatever reason. With few other hikers out there and weather conditions more of a challenge, sleeping in the shelters seemed like a no-brainer to me though!

cabbagehead
10-13-2012, 23:21
Get a stove that works in cold weather (not alcohol).

If you use alcohol, be sure to put the stove on an upside down can.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7ySI-WYe_Y

Moosky
10-14-2012, 00:40
Brian, one dumb question. If I bring a tart, for example, the Gatewood cape, do I need a tyvek as a floor?

Moosky
10-14-2012, 00:43
Cabbagehead, that's interesting. I guess the air in the can served as insulation between the stove and the ground. I wonder how fuel efficient is this method though.

Moosky
10-14-2012, 00:47
Let's see - 500 miles before I slipped and had to stop:

Albert Mt.
Jacob's ladder
Smokies - pick anywhere.
Down to the NOC.
Up out of the NOC.

Just teasing - there are PLENTY of places as steep as if not steeper than stairs. The first 500 miles (for me) were HARD work. I just wish I had done MORE stairs. I'm in FL and all I had to work with were large retention pond banks and 3 flights of stairs.

2016 - starting a year out, LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of stairs. I'm going to go to downtown Tampa and beg a building manager or two for the use of their firestairs!!!

Get an old Compani on and check out the elevation gains and losses. Granted, they sometimes are not as steep as they look because of switchbacks and/or gentle logging roads, but some are pretty steep for a while.

Thanks for the info! Guess I'll do as much stairs as I can to prepare. Never underestimate AT

Slo-go'en
10-14-2012, 11:52
Brian, one dumb question. If I bring a tart, for example, the Gatewood cape, do I need a tyvek as a floor?

Yes, you will always want a floor of some kind, with tyvek a popular option. You will have times when you have to set up over wet ground and need something to put stuff on so it doesn't get wet or muddy.

mgspea00
10-14-2012, 16:02
Hat and gloves suggetsions for late feb, early March?

The Solemates
10-15-2012, 09:10
something that is windproof...

Josh Calhoun
10-15-2012, 11:50
moosky, whool does a great job of taking the moisture away from your skin. also take forever to try in cold temps. thats why i wear little clothes and hike hard. iv very comfy with running shorts and short sleeve in weather down to the teens.

Josh Calhoun
10-15-2012, 11:52
also i use a Big agnes UL Fly creek 2. super light. you can even go lighter with the 1 man. check them out

jeffmeh
10-15-2012, 12:20
Hat and gloves suggetsions for late feb, early March?

Possumdown gloves and eVent overmitts. You can use wool socks for extra insulation if required.

ChinMusic
10-15-2012, 12:25
Hat and gloves suggetsions for late feb, early March?

Head: Aside from my normal ball cap, I have a balaclava and a Buff. The balaclava and Buff give me a lot of options on what gets covered. I will prob bring two Buffs.
Hands: I go with a glove liner and a waterproof overmitt. Again, several options on how much I wear, either glove, mitt, or glove/mitt.

ChinMusic
10-15-2012, 12:27
Possumdown gloves and eVent overmitts. You can use wool socks for extra insulation if required.

You posted just before me. I also chose the possumdown gloves but will be going with Zpacks cuben overmitts. The socks are for emer.

I have a pair of Mountain Laurel eVent mitts but just cannot get the seam seal to work well. The seam seal always fails upon use in the field. I have given up. That is why I am going with the Zpacks version as it comes taped.

b.c.
10-15-2012, 12:53
Good thread. I did 13 days in Dec-Jan '09-'10 and 12 days in Dec-Jan '10-'11 in central PA. I want to go out this year too. I had a tough time with the weather but I'm getting it figured. One thing that troubles me is that my tent pole sections want to freeze together and I have to thaw them with my bare fingers. I'm afraid to use a candle because I don't want to distort the metal. Cold fingers makes for a lousy start in the AM. Any ideas?

BrianLe
10-16-2012, 11:13
"Yes, you will always want a floor of some kind, with tyvek a popular option. You will have times when you have to set up over wet ground and need something to put stuff on so it doesn't get wet or muddy. "

Definitely some sort of ground cloth, big enough for you and some "stuff" that you don't want to put in something like a yard waste bag overnight. I find tyvek a bit heavy for this, and so personally incline to polycro, via hardware store (those shrink-to-fit-with-blowdryer storm window plastic kits).

Someone else asked about "hat and gloves". I would first suggest that you eradicate the idea of "gloves" in favor of "mittens", though a thin liner glove can be pretty nice. But for really keeping your hands warm, I'd go with a good mitten. OR PL 400's are good. Better, but heavier are Dachstein wool mittens.
I do have eVent mitten shells, but for the amount of use actually needed for me at least, a couple of pairs of bread bags might be enough --- much cheaper in any event. Though the eVent shells have lasted better than I expected they would. I wouldn't worry about seam sealing them perfectly, as in my experience they're not going to be 100% waterproof anyway over the long haul, they're more for me about wind proofing and just helping to retain heat in general. To be clear, in more limited use they certainly will keep your inner mittens dry, but at least for a trekking pole user like me, there's no such thing as completely dry when conditions are wet over a long period. Pick a mitten that's warm when wet.

Hat (for warmth): there are of course multiple fine approaches here. What I really liked during the day was a sort of standard hiking (i.e. not cotton) baseball style hat, coupled with a set of earbags (google it, little units that clip directly to your ears to keep them warmer). At the start of the day or after a break, I would layer a polypro warm hat over all of that, then just pull it off and stick it in a pocket when it got warm. In general I found it helpful to start off walking with my core a little on the cool/cold side but compensate on my head and hands, removing the head and/or hand protection as I walked without having to stop to change clothing. Again, various solutions to this sort of thing, but this worked for me.
The other head warmth (okay, not a hat proper) that I suggest is something you can use to cover your nose at night --- at least mine gets painfully cold otherwise when all other parts of me are buried in the mummy bag. Either a full-on balaclava --- I like a fairly thin one that I can layer my polypro hat over --- or just a face mask.

scope
10-17-2012, 12:24
...I would have to say that the cold quickens your time, makes you go faster. In the nicer weather months you will like to sit around an unperma-frosted area and soak up a few rays, enjoy a shelter siesta, and take in the early spring flowers. in winter, you gotta move or freeze...

I would agree, BUT, when you're just hitting the trail and not completely trail savvy, the cold will sap you of some energy and will slow you down. It will also make you more inclined to sleep in rather than get up and hike bright and early. That latter point may be debatable depending on who you end up hiking with and how much you tent by yourself or sleep in shelters.


1. How cold does it get in the mountain in February? What temperature rating do I need for my sleeping bag? Is it ok if I have a higher temp bag plus a bag liner?

Can I get by with a 3-season tent? In particular, can I use the SMD Gatewood cape + Serenity NetTent combo?
How to cope with frozen water/water source?
Do I need snow shoes?
Does the mountains ever get impassable?
Anything else I should know?



Should be consistently below freezing in the evening, close to 20 many nights, down in the teens some nights, with the possibility of getting close to zero some nights. This is about true for mid-March starters as well, but with the early start you not only have a longer time period of colder weather, but you'll hit some higher altitudes before any warming trend begins. A zero degree bag would be great, but I would say 15-20 degree bag minimum. I've always found liners to be more trouble than their worth, at least in terms of warmth, but might be a good idea to keep the bag clean and perhaps deal better with moisture. See my last points below (#5) regarding how you can most make the most of your "sleep system"...

1. I wouldn't worry too much about your shelter - lighter the better.
2. The streams should flow fine, and most springs will, too. Just pay attention to where the larger sources are and make sure not to rely on going too long without filling up. You'll evaporate a lot of sweat in the cold.
3. Don't need anything special for snow, although on rare occasions you may find that you have to wait things out for a short period, or just accept very slow-going.
4. Yes, but not for long. Skip a section if you need to, you can always come back to it. Having limits on when you need to finish and leaving at a less optimal time as a result means you need to throw any purist notions out the window.
5. Haven't heard anyone say much about making sure you know your sleeping system and how to make the most of it... its not just about where you bag is rated. Take it from a hammocker, underneath insulation is important, its just that tenters rarely realize how important it is and sort of take it for granted. Your bag doesn't insulate you on the bottom - your pad does. Cheap solution is a closed cell pad which does a better job blocking heat transfer - air pads will cool through the night (I can't take my Big Agnes insulated below 30 without issues). However, downmats are freakin' awesome! And freakin' heavy, too, but they will keep you warm more than anything else.

One other thing about the "system" is that its your body heat that makes or breaks it. You need to create the heat, and you need to not insulate the bag from your heat. ???-what? Means that if you wear too much clothing in the bag, your heat won't transfer into the bag. Keep in mind that the insulation in your sleeping bag blocks cold air by trapping warm air and slowing down the heat transfer process. I great way to create warmth as you're going to bed is put boiling (or as hot as you can stand) water in a bottle and place that between your thighs - which warms your blood through the artery that runs up your thigh. This raises your body temp, warms your bag, and provides for non-frozen water in the a.m.

Happy Trails!

Moosky
10-23-2012, 14:03
Thanks for all the replies! Random question: can a Nalgene bottle stand boiling water? I think gatorade bottle can't because it'll just melt away.

Karma13
10-23-2012, 14:07
A Nalgene can handle boiling water. I've got one I make hot chocolate in. (I'm drinking some now, in fact. It's delicious! :D)

But Gatorade bottles can, too. I believe somebody posted that in processing and sterilizing, the liquid is actually poured into the bottles at boiling temperatures.

colorado_rob
10-23-2012, 14:08
Thanks for all the replies! Random question: can a Nalgene bottle stand boiling water? I think gatorade bottle can't because it'll just melt away. Both bottles can, with the following caveats.

I use Gatorade bottles all the time, even in winter and pour boiling water into them. The bottoms do deform a bit when you do this, however. So I usually "temper" the bottle a bit by pouring an inch of cold water in first, then filling the rest of the way with hot water and the bottle does fine then. Experiment at home first to get comfortable with this.

One disclaimer: I do the above procedure in Colorado, always at altitudes above about 10K feet, where water boils at a lower temperature (maybe 195 or so?). Please experiment with this at sea level before doing this in the field.

magic_game03
10-23-2012, 17:24
you do take a chance with Gatorade bottles, they can burst under pressure. If you sleep with a warm bottle that's where you really get the problem.I usually carry just 1 Nalgene and the rest I do UL soda or Gatorade type bottles in Winter.

Moosky
10-23-2012, 17:35
Thanks a lot! Don't want to wet my bed with a bursted Gatorade bottle. I guess I'll go with Nalgene.

Moosky
10-23-2012, 18:24
Thanks again for all the advice! Great community!

I just realized my visa will expire in Feb 2014. Therefore NOBO seems to be quite difficult for me now (I'm planning to be Class of 2014). But, I should be able to do a SOBO.

I would really appreciate it if you can answer my questions about SOBO in the thread here. Thanks!

http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?88928-SOBO-Start-Time-and-General-Advice&p=1352350#post1352350

Oslohiker
12-08-2012, 19:43
Bladders are almost useless because the hose will freeze up and so will the water in the mouthpiece.

As a Norwegian, I am doing a lot of winter skiing and winter biking.

The trick with the hose is to blow the water back into the bladder after every time you drink. You should also have some kind of isolation on the hose AND the mouth piece.
If the bladder starts to freeze, you move the bladder inside your jacket.

The only showstopper for me when it comes to winter hiking is that the if the blazes are covered with snow and you can't find the trail, or the snow is so deep that it is impossible to move along the trail. White is not a good color for blazes in the winter.

Cold is not bad, it is good. This is because it keeps everything dry. It is just about keeping enough isolating layers on you, having enough fuel and food and a good four season tent. You have to have enough food to melt snow for drinking, and you need a lot of it.

You always have to bring clothes with you preparing for the worst possible conditions. That means a lot of wool layers. You can use those on all the layers except the outer most layer. Gore-tex in it self is worthless as an outer layer in general when it is freezing, but since you probably will encounter around freezing and above freezing conditions, that is still your best bet.

Personaly I also use polypropylene mesh closest to my skin, both on my legs and my upper body. That gives me a dry feeling all the time.
http://www.brynje.no/shows/super_thermo_shirt_shoulderinlay/navy.jpg

I also use a technical garment that are normally used by cross-country skiers as my second layer. Craft and Swix are good brands, but there are also others. Other than that, I use wool layers. Somebody asked why wool is used. The answer to that is that is keeps its isolating probabilities even when wet. I think it's about 80% from when it's dry.

Keep your hands and feet dry. That is very important. Be a little bit cold on your hands than sweating (but never to cold). Actually you should have enough layers also here to keep it just perfect. When it comes to the shoes they should be warm enough, but you should also be able to adjust the temperature with different socks. Before you are going to bed brush off all the snow of your shoes and bring them inside your sleeping bag to dry them out. That also goes for every garment you that needs to dry out. Just don't have to many items inside so the sleeping bag gets to wet.

Use a wool beanie, not one made of down. Also use wool mittens, not down ones.

A down parka is great to put on when you are resting. Get one, and get a warm one. Take it of when you start to move again. Get an isolating sitting pad for resting, and rest frequently (winter conditions are more strenuous. You also got a heavy pack).

Use a down sleeping bag and a down sleeping pad, with a rating for the worst possible conditions you can encounter. My favorite down pad is Exped M9. You can also use a couple of down booties: http://www.westernmountaineering.com/index.cfm?section=products&page=Down-Garments&cat=Booties

A good winter tent is the Hilleberg soulo:
http://www.hilleberg.com/home/products/soulo/soulo.php

Be also aware that not every fuel works good in cold conditions. I either use Esbit or kerosene. A good stove for the latter is the MSR XGK EX. I would not use a pocket rocket.

ALWAYS have sunglasses and sunscreen with you when it is snow around. Snow blindness is a real threat. You also have greater chance for getting sun burned if the sun gets through.

Concider also a snow shovel. You can get some really light one these days. If something happens to your tent, a snow cave could be you only option. Take a course to learn how to build one. It is also good for knocking snow of your equipment. You can also use it to put snow on the edges of you tent to isolate it more. This is a good one: http://www.atkrace.it/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=18&Itemid=143&lang=en

Also have a set of crampons with you: http://www.kahtoola.com/microspikes.php

As long as you take the right precautions, winter conditions are nothing to fare, but if you skimp on the equipment to go light, you are playing with your life.

I have no experience with winter conditions on the AT, but these are my general winter condition advices.

magic_game03
12-08-2012, 21:45
As a Norwegian, I am doing a lot of winter skiing and winter biking.

The trick with the hose is to blow the water back into the bladder after every time you drink. You should also have some kind of isolation on the hose AND the mouth piece.
If the bladder starts to freeze, you move the bladder inside your jacket.

The only showstopper for me when it comes to winter hiking is that the if the blazes are covered with snow and you can't find the trail, or the snow is so deep that it is impossible to move along the trail. White is not a good color for blazes in the winter.


That's great Oslohiker that you understand the technique of how to do a blowback. Clap-clap-clap. Now let's examine your experience that you claim for this technique. You use this for skiing and biking, typically two sports that you begin in the morning and end at sundown. Not something that you do day-in and Day-out, 24-7 for months at a time. When you use a bladder in conditions that never get above 0 degrees for months at a time you will experience serious cold. And YES, you can just stick your hydration tube in your jacket and warm it up to loosen the ice. but it really, really, really sucks when you got to stop and unthaw a tube. it really, really, really sucks when you pump water into your bladder and it already has ice crystals in it, 'cause you know it's going to freeze up in the tube in a few minutes. AND it's really easy to say, "I use a bladder when I go out for a day of skiing and biking" and you start with hot water bladder. Thru-hiking and skiing or biking for a day trip are two different associations. If you've hiked for 3 months at a time and the temperature never got above 0 degrees (what, about -10 centigrade for you euros) AND you have used a bladder AND it never froze up then please get back to me, I'd love to know the special technique that you used to never let your tube freeze solid. But if you try to claim that by using the "blowback" you over came this dilemma than I'm gonna call you out on it.

Rifle
12-09-2012, 03:30
Three Thruís. Two of them I started on Feb Ď14th, the other on Dec 28th. It was cold and I love it that way. I highly recommend a 0 degree bag (down not synthetic!!!). Some tips. Everything freezes all the time. Bladders are almost useless because the hose will freeze up and so will the water in the mouthpiece. Itís very hard to clear the mouthpiece and if you mess with the mouthpiece too much it will not function properly. People will try to give you advice on how to use the bladders but if your out 24-7 you just canít stop every 5 minutes to thaw it out if you need water. You almost have to use Nalgenes because you are going to want to heat boiling water a lot to make coco or a bag warmer. Hot water bottles that go in the sleeping bag at night will be cold by morning (but usually not frozen). Use butane canisters and a good windscreen, alcohol doesnít burn well at that temp and white gas requires too much work. I used trail runners (shoes) with desert gaiters. All shoes (and boots) will freeze up every night, boots will be impossible to get on when frozen and trail runners are not easy to use either. You have to unlace them every night and stretch them out to prepare for morning. When you get up you will just have to fit your foot into the solid shoe and wear it for a few minutes till it thaws enough to wear and lace. I did use reserve bladders but they freeze up every night. Platypus is ok but the pour spout is too small for winter use because you cant get the ice out, camelbacks are better, as well are Nalgene wide mouths. Resupply is quite difficult. Nothing is open and hitching is iffy. Neels gap is open. Even though hostels are considered closed if you come across the owners they are cool and will take you in. There is rarely any roadside trail angels or magic. You hear a lot about hikers hitting some dirt road and there is some angel cooking up hotdogs and burgers, I didnít get my first dog till my 4th thru (first PCT hike in the main group). A lot of the gas station pit stops are closed for the off season, as well. Only the Big Meadows wayside in the Shannondoas (sp?) will be open. You will have two issues with getting water. First, in the south most of the springs will not be flowing. The Appalachians are very wet so there is water everywhere but it is surface water and often contaminated and very tannic while the springs are frozen and dry. In the north you come across quite a few ponds, here the water is covered by ice so thick you canít get to it with a tree ax, much less a climbers ice ax. You also have to hike all day. If you stop you freeze so you just keep going. Better views in the winter though, when itís not misty. You will fall a lot on the cold wet ground, rime iced logs and rocks, and micro spikes will not help you. The trail turns into small creeks while just beside the trail is semi-dry land but not traversable. Where the water makes small creeks in the trail then freezes up into ice chutes on very cold days, still micro spikes will not help. You just have to learn how to keep your footing and skate it. You can use a down sleeping bag but stay away from down clothes. You may be cold but you will also sweat a lot and sweaty-down does not mix well. You climb some crappy mountain like Groan (Roan) mt. and start sweating in your down. Then the temps plunge into the negatives, you are screwed-with no place to go and no help, then you die. After 6 Thruís Iíve know people who are no longer with us. Most of those who have passed are due to one condition, hypothermia. 2 of the last three times I ran a mountaineering group up to Shasta someone died that day. Not in my group, but we walked by them only meters away and we never even saw them buried in their snow cave. When you are up there, even in the sub 6,000 ft Appalachians, you are almost always alone.

Magic_game03, that's a lot of experience talking. Some really good stuff. I'm planning my Jan 1st, 2013 NOBO thru, and I couldn't be more stoked. Since you've started a thru on Dec. 28th, you've already walked the path I'm about to take. You mentioned resupplying being very difficult in the off season. How did you solve that problem? Is it unrealistic to expect that I can buy along the way? Do I need to buy everything in bulk and have it shipped to me in intervals? You also mentioned the frozen/unflowing water sources. What did you use for filtration? I have a sawyer gravity fed filter. I was thinking it would work as long as I stay intentional about keeping the bags and lines dried out at night and sleeping with the filter element in my 0 degree down bag. Any thoughts on that?

Rifle
12-09-2012, 04:17
I started at Springer on FEB 15th in both 2009 and 2010 >>
two more things to think about ...In Feb the days are short so you have less daylight which equals short miles every day ...and long nites ...12..14 hours in your tent every night can be quite boring ...
Also anything that has batteries have a problem working at the extreme cold temps ... you need to carry extra batteries

I slept with my stove fuel, my cell phone, batteries, water bottle and various other items in my sleeping bag to keep them from freezing...
Hiking in Feb was the "best of times and the worst of times" ..enjoy
Old Man River

Just curious, you said you slept with your stove fuel. What kind of fuel/stove were you using? I'm planning on using my Primus express canister stove with two 8 oz canisters (one for backup) for my Jan 1st 2013 NOBO thru. I'll be sleeping with the fuel, of course, and will have it tucked in my down jacket inside my pack during the day.

Oslohiker
12-09-2012, 05:09
That's great Oslohiker that you understand the technique of how to do a blowback. Clap-clap-clap. Now let's examine your experience that you claim for this technique. You use this for skiing and biking, typically two sports that you begin in the morning and end at sundown. Not something that you do day-in and Day-out, 24-7 for months at a time. When you use a bladder in conditions that never get above 0 degrees for months at a time you will experience serious cold. And YES, you can just stick your hydration tube in your jacket and warm it up to loosen the ice. but it really, really, really sucks when you got to stop and unthaw a tube. it really, really, really sucks when you pump water into your bladder and it already has ice crystals in it, 'cause you know it's going to freeze up in the tube in a few minutes. AND it's really easy to say, "I use a bladder when I go out for a day of skiing and biking" and you start with hot water bladder. Thru-hiking and skiing or biking for a day trip are two different associations. If you've hiked for 3 months at a time and the temperature never got above 0 degrees (what, about -10 centigrade for you euros) AND you have used a bladder AND it never froze up then please get back to me, I'd love to know the special technique that you used to never let your tube freeze solid. But if you try to claim that by using the "blowback" you over came this dilemma than I'm gonna call you out on it.

Hi, in the Easter, a fair part of all Norwegians are going up in the snowy mountains to ski, and many are out for several day. Most are off work for 11 days and use those days for skiing. "This is what we do in the Easter". Therefor, we have a lot of winter experience in skiing multiple days in Norway. And a few of us are using the Camelbak, including me. It is not a problem, as long as you keep the hose inside your jacket, or the whole system if it is really cold.

I don't think you know me, so don't pretend that you do. I have extensive winter experience. Among that I have been serving in the Norwegian military, being educated in winter warfare in Northern Norway. We had multiple days simulated warfare in temperatures under -40 F, being out with my platoon skiing with backpacks. In Norway we also have by law a minimum of 4 weeks of vacation, most have 5 or 6. Many (including me) are taking one or two of those weeks out in the wintertime to ski in the mountains. Although I have not used a camelbak all my life, and I thought it was a pain at first, I have used it extensively now, and I know what I am talking about.

I also have multiple days bike trips experience, Here is a picture of trip a friend of mine had a week ago in temperatures under -20 F. BTW, I was the first owner of a fatbike in Norway. The Hilleberg Una is also a good tent:

http://i189.photobucket.com/albums/z98/chalshus/DSCF7051.jpg

magic_game03
12-09-2012, 10:13
Nice tires!



I don't think you know me, so don't pretend that you do.
Hey Oslo, I don't know you! Means you don't know me either. Let's cut out all of the BS sarcasm and get to the point. My experience while hiking in temperatures that were subfreezing is that bladders are a problem. Yea, you can do a blowback but that doesn't change the fact that almost every piece of gear you have stays frozen, including the empty bladder tube. First time you suck cold water through a frozen tube it will freeze the water in the tube almost instantly. You could also recommend keeping the tube running through your jacket, but it will become uncomfortable very quickly. So instead of coming here with your greatness for living in Norway and trying to intimidate me that "I don't know you" and "your in the military." Why don't you back up your claim that the bladder will work fine for weeks at a time without freezing up, while trying to make 25-35 miles a day hiking, and tell us your technique!!!

kayak karl
12-09-2012, 10:46
this is a feb start NOBO thread. a bladder will work fine, but it would just be annoying to me. a guy i hiked with had insulation they use for the AC freon tubes in cars over his and he did just fine in jan and feb. if you even see zero for 3 days straight it would be rare.

Tom Murphy
12-09-2012, 11:13
Welcome to WhiteBlaze.

I have a plan for a late Feb start in '13

1. I will be taking a 15į bag. I will supplement that with a substantial down parka/sweater. I have used my parka with a 30į bag down to 20į without issue. I should be fine down to 10 but will pull off the trail for predicted temps below that.
2. 3-season tent will be fine. Again, I will pull off the trail for predictions of heavy snow. I will "get by" if I am caught.
3. Water sources will not be frozen, or at least I have not found them frozen from my winter section hikes.
4. No. If conditions are that bad, I am off the trail. I will have Microspikes.
5. Yes. Can happen in March too. Blowdowns are as much of an issue as snow at times. Again, I am preparted to pull off the trail.
6. There always is........

+1, this is a good perspective

So if you are unwilling to take adequate gear and provisions to cover the possibilities realize you may end up holding up in town if the eather doesn't cooperate.

The "Water sources will not be frozen" assumption may not prove to be true either.

magic_game03
12-09-2012, 11:35
Magic_game03, that's a lot of experience talking. Some really good stuff. I'm planning my Jan 1st, 2013 NOBO thru, and I couldn't be more stoked. Since you've started a thru on Dec. 28th, you've already walked the path I'm about to take. You mentioned resupplying being very difficult in the off season. How did you solve that problem? Is it unrealistic to expect that I can buy along the way? Do I need to buy everything in bulk and have it shipped to me in intervals? You also mentioned the frozen/unflowing water sources. What did you use for filtration? I have a sawyer gravity fed filter. I was thinking it would work as long as I stay intentional about keeping the bags and lines dried out at night and sleeping with the filter element in my 0 degree down bag. Any thoughts on that?

Rifle,
Food was always big on my list. I'd carry a lot of food, more than was often recommended as standard food loads for an AT thru-hiker. I would often leave town with 20lbs of food. I think I often ate about 4 meals a day with snacks in-between. Resupply is not hard at all, but you will have to do longer stretches in some areas. For example, a lot of thru's can go through the Shenandoah's and stop at the many waysides. Only one, Big Meadows in the middle of the park, will be open for an early thru. I am mostly against food drops because your appetite will change and most towns now have big grocery stores. This is an example of how I started. Springer to Hiawassee (70mi.) and i picked up stuff at Neels gap (I could have had a drop at Neels but I'm too cheap). Hiawassee has big food store. Hiawassee to Winding Stair (40mi.) and into Franklin for big food store, sent bump to Fontana Dam and ate AYCE at Shoney's. Franklin to Fontana Dam (55mi.) but stopped at NOC for some snacks. Fontana Dam to Newfound (40mi.) dropped in to Gatlinburg to get beer and a sub, left food stashed near trail. Newfound to Davenport (30mi.) Stopped at Standing Bear to get ride to store but we only went to gas station. Really-really-really wish I had a food drop here, worst resupply of my entire trip, thought I was going to starve before I got to Hot Springs. Davenport to Hotsprings (30 mi.) ...and so on. I'd say that you can get from Springer to Damascus very easy with only needing a drop at Fontana Dam and Standing Bear. And looking back, once you're on the PCT or CDT almost every section you do is 80-100 miles between stops so these are relatively small splits, 30-40mi., on the AT.

Water is the hardest obstacle to deal with at this time of year on the AT. I used a gravity filter in '04 and I loved it. But word of caution, there are going to be shelters you stop at and a water source near by. After dropping my load and getting comfortable I'd go to get some water at a source I'd used on one of my past thru's and nothing, it would be dry. After this happened a few times I learned to go check the source before I unpacked. Quite a few times I had to put on a headlamp and hike on into the night to get to the next shelter or camp that had flowing water. I can't stand bleach (not even one drop per liter), iodine can take up to 4 hours to treat 1 liter at those temperatures, filter pumps freeze up, boiling water for all your drinking is unfathomable, and there is always drinking your water strait, untreated. I own a Steripen, that's how I roll now.

Last thing I wan't to talk about is the whole idea of putting stuff in your sleeping bag at night and properties of down. I hear tons of hikers say they put gear into their sleeping bags at night; water, fuel, boots, wet clothes and the list goes on. For me, I found sleeping with my gear to be uncomfortable and it made me colder. I have recognized a special unique property of down that some may or may not agree with; the closer down is to the body they warmer it is. So for example if you get into a down bag any you are wearing thermal underwear, you will not be as warm as if you got into the down sleeping bag naked. I use this technique; on very cold days I sleep naked in the bag, if it is warmer out and I start to sweat in the down bag I will put on thermals to get the down off my skin. This same technique does not work in synthetic bags. So here is the problem, if i put gear in my bag it separates me from my bag, thereby making me colder. So I don't like the idea of sleeping with my gear. [* note: there is a term in hiking called HYOH=hike your own hike. For all those people out there that stuff things in your sleeping bag... more power to you. I'm not suggesting you are wrong or have a bad idea, it just doesn't work for me. Rifle, if you are not already familiar with the AT you will learn that everybody here hikes differently. What works for some may fail for you and what fails for some may work for you. Hey, almost everything I ever learned came from some other hiker on the AT. I threw out what didn't work for me and I tweaked the rest.]

magic_game03
12-09-2012, 11:46
a bladder will work fine, but it would just be annoying to me.

..if you even see zero for 3 days straight it would be rare.

I'm confused, you say it will work fine but you admit it will be annoying. What will be annoying? If you admit it will be annoying are you not admitting that there is an issue? In my experience in fowl weather, if you have a consistent issue it tends to be a problem.

Also you say that it is rare to see three strait days of subzero. I'm not going to argue that point because 'rare' is an opinion. I will say that the real issue is subfreezing temperatures not subzero temperatures and those I will argue. In a February start you will experience more hours of the day at a subfreezing temperature then at a thawing temperature.

BrianLe
12-09-2012, 12:46
"The "Water sources will not be frozen" assumption may not prove to be true either. "

I had a late Feb start in 2010, and that was reckoned to be a relatively bad winter in the south as I understand it. I don't recall ever having issues with frozen water sources. To be clear, I don't mean to say this can't happen, but I wouldn't worry a lot about it. I brought chemicals, and used them when the water wasn't bubbling out of the ground directly.

I completely agree with magic_game03 about putting various stuff in the sleeping bag --- I don't like to do that either, which is why I didn't consider a filter --- didn't want to sleep with it, nor worry about it cracking due to water in the filter element freezing. Ditto the whole bladder and hose thing; I normally use a Platypus, but starting the AT I opted to use water bottles to start out. A light waist belt holster allowed me to still make it pretty easy to stay hydrated, not a big deal.
OTOH, I started the CDT in June of 2011 --- again a pretty high snow year --- and I brought my platypus and hose from the start and don't recall problems, just carefully blew out the hose before sleeping early on. But it got colder a few nights on the AT with a Feb start than it did anywhere on the CDT for me.

Oslohiker
12-09-2012, 13:30
"Back up"? I am sharing my experience and have stated my background. If you think it is uncomfortable, then don't use it. It is winter for 6 months in Norway every year and it is the only hydration system I use.

ChinMusic
12-09-2012, 13:50
I don't use bladder/tubes in the summer, so not using them in the winter is not something I think of too much. From my limited experience with bladder/tubes in winter backpacking is that as long as the water in the bladder does not freeze all is well. Liquid water will unfreeze the blown-out tube quickly.

If one likes bladder/tube, I don't see the issue. I prefer Gatorade bottles but I have to take care that they don't freeze solid too.

I feel more comfortable with a Gatorade bottle in my sleeping bag than a bladder/tube. IMO the risk of a leak is much less.

Before I get jumped......YMMV

kayak karl
12-09-2012, 14:41
i know the temps. you stated 3 months sub-zero few posts back.
i don't like bladders in cold or hot, but it can be done. no matter what, by the time you get to Neel most will have the freezing thing figured out. its common sense. like putting something in boots so they don't freeze. carrying water bottle upside down. put batteries in socks so they don't lose power. i know you hiked 15000 miles, but how many did it take to figure the freezing thing out :)

magic_game03
12-09-2012, 16:00
i know the temps. you stated 3 months sub-zero few posts back.
i don't like bladders in cold or hot, but it can be done. no matter what, by the time you get to Neel most will have the freezing thing figured out.

...but how many did it take to figure the freezing thing out :)

I'm still learning the freezing thing and I don't think I'll ever quite have it mastered. Sorry I take back the sub-zero thing, you're right. Also, you're correct in suggesting that people should just try it and learn (by Neels Gap). Hey better on the AT then the middle of no where in Montana.

TEXMAN
12-14-2012, 12:55
Just curious, you said you slept with your stove fuel. What kind of fuel/stove were you using? I'm planning on using my Primus express canister stove with two 8 oz canisters (one for backup) for my Jan 1st 2013 NOBO thru. I'll be sleeping with the fuel, of course, and will have it tucked in my down jacket inside my pack during the day.


I use a jetboil with canisters

O M River

Slo-go'en
12-14-2012, 13:32
You don't have to sleep with your fuel. However, if you use canisters, you might need to warm it up some just before using it. When the can starts to get empty, the presure goes down and if it's cold, it goes down even more.

Warming up the canister can get you a few more meals out it before you need a new one. If it's real cold, you'll never be able to use all the fuel in the canister, which is one reason white gas has been the fuel of choice for cold weather camping.

Snowleopard
12-14-2012, 15:45
Oslohiker, the Norwegian perspective is interesting. I hope you get to hike here sometime. Some of what you write applies more to the AT in the north in winter than in the south. Few people have enough winter experience to thru-hike in the north in mid winter, but many people do it in the south. In the mountains of the southern AT the weather can be severe, but the worst of the cold and snow don't last months, perhaps just for days.



Cold is not bad, it is good. This is because it keeps everything dry. It is just about keeping enough isolating layers on you, having enough fuel and food and a good four season tent. You have to have enough food to melt snow for drinking, and you need a lot of it. I'd rather hike at temperatures well below freezing tha temps near or above freezing. Someone was recently rescued from the southern mountains after a heavy snowstorm. He did not have enough fuel, food or warm enough sleeping bag or warm enough clothes. Normal conditions in the south will not be constant below freezing temperatures, so getting clothes and shoes followed by freezing is common.



Concider also a snow shovel. This is rarely worth carrying in the south on the AT. Snow caves are possible most of the time in the south. It's not a bad idea to carry one in the north in a heavy snow winter.

Snowleopard
12-14-2012, 15:47
That should read: Snow caves are ​NOT possible most of the time in the south.

firesign
12-30-2012, 16:49
As a Norwegian, I am doing a lot of winter skiing and winter biking.

The trick with the hose is to blow the water back into the bladder after every time you drink. You should also have some kind of isolation on the hose AND the mouth piece.
If the bladder starts to freeze, you move the bladder inside your jacket.

The only showstopper for me when it comes to winter hiking is that the if the blazes are covered with snow and you can't find the trail, or the snow is so deep that it is impossible to move along the trail. White is not a good color for blazes in the winter.

Cold is not bad, it is good. This is because it keeps everything dry. It is just about keeping enough isolating layers on you, having enough fuel and food and a good four season tent. You have to have enough food to melt snow for drinking, and you need a lot of it.

You always have to bring clothes with you preparing for the worst possible conditions. That means a lot of wool layers. You can use those on all the layers except the outer most layer. Gore-tex in it self is worthless as an outer layer in general when it is freezing, but since you probably will encounter around freezing and above freezing conditions, that is still your best bet.

Personaly I also use polypropylene mesh closest to my skin, both on my legs and my upper body. That gives me a dry feeling all the time.
http://www.brynje.no/shows/super_thermo_shirt_shoulderinlay/navy.jpg

I also use a technical garment that are normally used by cross-country skiers as my second layer. Craft and Swix are good brands, but there are also others. Other than that, I use wool layers. Somebody asked why wool is used. The answer to that is that is keeps its isolating probabilities even when wet. I think it's about 80% from when it's dry.

Keep your hands and feet dry. That is very important. Be a little bit cold on your hands than sweating (but never to cold). Actually you should have enough layers also here to keep it just perfect. When it comes to the shoes they should be warm enough, but you should also be able to adjust the temperature with different socks. Before you are going to bed brush off all the snow of your shoes and bring them inside your sleeping bag to dry them out. That also goes for every garment you that needs to dry out. Just don't have to many items inside so the sleeping bag gets to wet.

Use a wool beanie, not one made of down. Also use wool mittens, not down ones.

A down parka is great to put on when you are resting. Get one, and get a warm one. Take it of when you start to move again. Get an isolating sitting pad for resting, and rest frequently (winter conditions are more strenuous. You also got a heavy pack).

Use a down sleeping bag and a down sleeping pad, with a rating for the worst possible conditions you can encounter. My favorite down pad is Exped M9. You can also use a couple of down booties: http://www.westernmountaineering.com/index.cfm?section=products&page=Down-Garments&cat=Booties

A good winter tent is the Hilleberg soulo:
http://www.hilleberg.com/home/products/soulo/soulo.php

Be also aware that not every fuel works good in cold conditions. I either use Esbit or kerosene. A good stove for the latter is the MSR XGK EX. I would not use a pocket rocket.

ALWAYS have sunglasses and sunscreen with you when it is snow around. Snow blindness is a real threat. You also have greater chance for getting sun burned if the sun gets through.

Concider also a snow shovel. You can get some really light one these days. If something happens to your tent, a snow cave could be you only option. Take a course to learn how to build one. It is also good for knocking snow of your equipment. You can also use it to put snow on the edges of you tent to isolate it more. This is a good one: http://www.atkrace.it/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=18&Itemid=143&lang=en

Also have a set of crampons with you: http://www.kahtoola.com/microspikes.php

As long as you take the right precautions, winter conditions are nothing to fare, but if you skimp on the equipment to go light, you are playing with your life.

I have no experience with winter conditions on the AT, but these are my general winter condition advices.


Read with great interest, excellent thread. To put it another way, if it was -20c and I had concerns about my safety - I would would rather be taking advice from you. The Norwegians have forgotten more about how to survive during cold weather activities than the majority of contributors on this site.

FS