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  1. #1
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    Default Winter and Darkness

    I've never backpacked in the early Winter. How do you deal with 12 hours or more of darkness? Can't imagine all that time in a tent.

  2. #2

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    I still walk as long as I would in the summer. Its just walking after dark. Nothing changes except wearing a head lamp.
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  3. #3
    Registered User Christoph's Avatar
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    Winter night hiking is pretty fun.
    - Trail name: Thumper

  4. #4

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    I find I do lot more campfires as I cannot tolerate 12 hours in a bag.

  5. #5
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    Netflix movie download. Hang phone from hammock ridgeline. Instant drive-in... er... hike-in.
    Lazarus

  6. #6

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    I don't have much trouble spending 12 hours in the bag, but rather not. While I love winter hiking, I hate winter camping so I only do day hikes theses days. Getting too old to put myself through that misery any more. Did enough of that in my youth and somehow managed to keep all my fingers and toes.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  7. #7
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    I'm generally not a fan of night-hiking unless necessary, so my 2 biggest things are waking up as early as possible to maximize daylight (waking up and packing up while it's still dark so you start walking at first light) and making more fires.
    travelin’ light

  8. #8
    Leonidas
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    Night hiking the same or near the same time as summer or just get in and go to sleep regardless. Spent a couple 11-12 hour bag nights the last trip I was on. Two to three of those were because I hiked until right before rain moved in, setup the tent and nothing to do but sleep. I prefer to save my battery for pics, navigation and video so I wasn't too interested in looking at electronics.
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  9. #9

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    A lot of it is where you do your winter camping. Winter camping down south is a lot different then in NH or Maine! I noticed most of the responses so far are from people who live in the south.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  10. #10

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    I get my best sleep of the whole year in winter.

    I usually only sleep 12 hours, even though there is about 14 hours of dark.

    I wake up a couple hours before daylight, roll over, brew coffee and enjoy the beginnings of a new day before packing up to walk.
    Stumpknocker
    Appalachian Trail is 27.0% complete.

  11. #11
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    Did a quick overnighter last weekend, so I have fresh memories to report.

    I hiked until dusk (which means, 5pm right now) with just enough daylight left to setup the camp.
    Then I slipped on my good down jacket and did a slow and long hike around the area, which was really great in the light of the half moon and the fresh snow cover.
    Then I started to make dinner and while soaking the dried food I started reading a bit (Kindle app on the phone).
    After dinner and cleanup it was just another hour of reading until 8pm, which is a great time for falling asleep.
    Had a fitful sleep until 6am, so I started to pack up inside the tent, which was ready done to break the tent at 6:30 and start hiking in the first daylight around 7am.
    I took my breakfast break two hours later at the summit in the first morning sun.
    Then hiked the whole day with just some short breaks until 5pm arriving back home.
    Was tired enough so I could have performed the same tasks for the evening again, with no time to be bored (but hey, back home I just slipped into the hot thub)

    Keep in mind that everything is much more tedious and takes up much more time in the cold of the winter.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    A lot of it is where you do your winter camping. Winter camping down south is a lot different then in NH or Maine! I noticed most of the responses so far are from people who live in the south.

    Good point ! I enjoy winter camping in Texas and Arkansas but I wouldn't where you live because it would be just too darn cold for me.
    If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

  13. #13
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    We love winter BPing here in CO, I look at the darkness as a chance to get caught up on sleep and reading! I have trouble sleeping a full 12 hours, but can certainly read for 2-3 then sleep for 9-10 or whatever.

    Just a point of interest: There is the same amount of darkness/daylight in the fall as there is in winter. Same thing for spring and summer (same total daylight in those two). When I found this out a few years ago, it was a real "aha !" moment.

    One little gem of a place to hike/backpack in the winter is the Grand Canyon. easy to get permits. Fantastic hiking in the dead of winter near the bottom, as the climate is very mild, and snow rarely makes it to the bottom or stays around long if it does.

    PLUS, phantom ranch has a cool little Happy hour thing going on.... If you're camping at the Bright Angel campground at Phantom, you can sack out at dark (4:30 or so), get back UP at 8pm, go to Happy Hour at the Canteen in Phantom, they serve soup, hot drinks and beer (maybe wine?) and snacks, people sit around and socialize, play games, etc, nice little respite on those long, dark nights in January at the bottom of the GC.

    We're 5 years running now with January BP trips into the GC. This next year, alas, we have to wait until early February. We'll suffer through that.

  14. #14
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    Default Winter and Darkness

    Where's Tipi? This thread was made for him and a good hunker down story
    You can walk in another person's shoes, but only with your feet

  15. #15
    Garlic
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    My first winter camps were on the winter solstice for several years running in the North Cascades. Those were long nights, over 15 hours, though generally not bitter cold. That was back when I carried a book and a candle lantern. I saw it as a good way to catch up on sleep. I've never had a problem with 14 hours or more in a tent.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  16. #16
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    Winter for me represents a chance to decrease the miles and focus on camp more. Plus, I hate setting up camp in the dark even in summer. So shorter miles, ideally a fire, and a chance to relax.
    While searching for that unknown edge in life, never forget to look home. For the greatest edge you can find in life is to stand in the protective shadow of those who love you.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn View Post
    I've never backpacked in the early Winter. How do you deal with 12 hours or more of darkness? Can't imagine all that time in a tent.
    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    A lot of it is where you do your winter camping. Winter camping down south is a lot different then in NH or Maine! I noticed most of the responses so far are from people who live in the south.
    Only 12 hours of darkness? In New England it's more like 16 hours of darkness. Which, along with the weather, is why for the most part there just aren't a lot of people backpacking overnight in New England in the winter. It's as simple as that - most people, even hikers, just don't. There just aren't that many people who enjoy killing hours and hours huddling around a fire, cooking in the dark, reading in their tent, etc. in 0° temperatures. Sure, there are few, and some are here on WB, that love going off into the NH mountains in winter, but they are the exception, not the norm. Given that you are camping down below the ridges and/or in the trees, the amount of daylight north of the VT border means some really short days. There's only about 8 hours of usable light in the woods within a months time around the winter solstice, and it's pretty dim for the first and last of those hours, and especially so on the north side of a ridge where you might actually see the sun from 9 to 3). You need lots of heavier gear - winter tent, sub-zero rated bag, heavy clothing, boots, more food and fuel, etc.

    Beyond the lack of light, once into January, it can be bitterly cold in the New England mountains. Overnight temps in the mountains usually cycle on a 3 day pattern - the "warm" single digits overnights for a few days, then -20°F or even colder (I've seen close to -40° a couple of times) for a few nights. Daytime temps often get into the teens or even 20's, but the windchill factor comes into play if your in an exposed area (like much of the AT in NH).

    The warmest days in winter are usually when a warm front moves through, bringing rain with temps in the 30's and possible even 40's. We usually get a couple of "winter thaws" - but they are often the worst time to hike. Wet and 30°'s, with icy trails, and wet gear are much worse than cold and dry. The clear days of course come with the cold fronts, so while the sun may be out, the temperatures can be pretty cold and often they come with a strong north/northwest wind out of interior Canada. Which is why day hiking and then retreating back home or to a cabin with a warm fire is more the norm for most folks, even avid hikers, who live up here.

    An overnight or weekend in a good weather window can be a lot of fun. But you have to pick your weather windows and enjoy that kind of solitude as well. Sometimes you'll meet up with other overnight hikers, but it isn't a given. Beyond that, there are also hikes/parties in the woods (solstice parties are an example). But typically winter group hikes are only a couple of miles in, carrying lots of food and refreshments, etc. And the time is passed socializing and partying as they are more social events with a hike thrown in (to get there) than they are hikes. But again, you have to pick your timing wisely - hiking into in the New England mountains in the wrong weather isn't usually a fun experience.

  18. #18

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    I went a couple of times to the High Peaks area of the Adirondacks in NY in early February. We base camped and dayhiked from a lean to. We had great time the first year, the next year we got there and there were announcements that effective January 1st no campfires year round in the High Peaks. With -10 to -20 at night somewhat routine the lack of good campfire for a four or five hours after dark is not pleasant. We had plenty of fuel so we did not freeze but that was the last winter trip to the ADKs.

    We used to take the local scouts in the whites for winter trips. The We would start out with about 6' of snow but but the time they left on Sunday morning the firepit was down to bare ground and about 30 feet in diameter.

  19. #19

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    In the Whites, you don't have to camp in the snow if you don't want, but it will cost you. Carter notch hut and Zeland are available (but you have to sleep in the unheated bunk room at Carter). Plus there is my old winter home, the Gray Knob cabin on Mt Adams. It's kept somewhat warm, but don't excect it to be much more then 40. Still better the 10 below!

    In Maine, the AMC has a newish network of huts designed for cross country ski touring. Might have to try that out someday.

    Up here at the 42nd parallel, it gets light late and dark early this time of year. Not quite the enternal darkness a bit farther north, but significant. March is a better time to go out. Much more daylight, much milder temps and the snow pack is at it's peak.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    I still walk as long as I would in the summer. Its just walking after dark. Nothing changes except wearing a head lamp.
    Mostly this. 12 hrs in a bag or tent my restless leg syndrome starts acting up. Although it' late fall just got back 2 hrs ago from a Bartram Tr thru. One night I hiked until 1 a.m. Another night 2 a.m. Two nights I hiked past 10 p.m. Couple of days I started late one day not until 10:30 a.m and another day 10 a.m. Saw no one other than two at Rabun Bald.

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