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  1. #1
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    Default Winter Camping in the Snow?

    I have never camped in the snow and the local forecast for this weekend is 29f degrees all night and 4-6 inches of snow. I would like to test out my setup in the backyard. Looking for hints on an overnight in the snow so I don't have to bale part way through the night and go back into the house (if my wife doesn't lock me out).

    Warbonnet Ground Tarp
    Polycro groundcloth
    Z-Lite pad
    Nemo Tensor Insulated Pad
    Warbonnet 20deg. Quilt
    Borah Gear Bivy
    Wearing baselayers and a wool hat.





  2. #2

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    Everyone is so different its hard to give advice on things like this. I personally am a cold sleeper unfortunately. Thus when it is less than 40 degrees outside I go into super cold gear jumping down to a zero deg bag, and a down mat. Good thing is, you have a house key lol
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  3. #3
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    pitch the tarp so the sides are steep (some call that storm mode) and the edges low to the ground, so the snow will slide off rather than accumulate

    just be sure the edges don't get sealed to the ground - breathing isn't optional

  4. #4

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    All looks good except you'll probably need a pillow of some sort and you shouldn't need the bivy. Put the foam mat on TOP of the air mat. Also, Polycryo is super slippery on snow and I don't think it is necessary anyway.
    Last edited by cmoulder; 01-29-2021 at 15:16.
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

  5. #5
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    I'd keep the bivy, since you're using a tarp and quilt instead of a tent. The bivy will help keep the quilt close and cut down on drafts. It would be interesting to try with and without, but I'll wager the bivy will make a considerable/noticeable difference in comfort. Add a pillow for sure.

    I always put the foam on the bottom, in part to protect whatever inflatable I might be using, but I've seen many do the opposite.

    That's what backyard experiments are made for! I'm testing a bag this weekend, it's finally going to be cold enough (-5 to -15F) for a real test.

  6. #6

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    Good for you on back yard testing! Smart to find out what your gear can and can't do some place where you can safely bail, depending on your wife's mood I suppose

    Keep one of those iron oxide hand warmers in close reach is my favorite cold weather camping tip. If you wake up cold in the middle of the night fire it up and put it in between your layers on your abdomen. Too hot to be right on the skin, but warming up the torso has let me go back to sleep in some pretty ugly conditions. Asleep is the best way to deal with ugly conditions I find heh.

    Be safe and have fun out there in the "cold"
    “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready...”~Henry David Thoreau

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  7. #7
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    Hmm. Where to begin . . .
    1) I encourage you to make sure and leave at least one end of your tarp fairly open if not completely open for good ventilation, to be able to enjoy the weather, and reduce condensation. And, waking up with a little spindrift on your quilt and kinda fun.
    2) CCF on TOP of your inflatable is significantly warmer than the other way around, which is why cmoulder suggested it. And, unless you're laying on thorns, the increased safety for your inflatable is irrelevant.
    3) Go ahead and take the bivi into your shelter as back-up if you want, but I would not recommend using it unless you have to, as bivies aren't nearly as comfortable to sleep in as a quilt alone is to sleep under. AND, bivies tend to accumulate a lot of moisture (condensation) inside which can significantly reduce the loft and warmth of your quilt. Because of condensation, bivies also work much better for 1/2 the night than the whole night. So, I rarely use any of my bivies except when I am pushing the sleep system and I want them as a fallback if I get cold early in the morning as temps drop to their minimum. I also would use my bivy instead of a ground cloth, just lay it out flat under your pads (or stick your pads inside it (depending on how roomy it is). Then it is being useful and is close by if you decide to crawl inside it if you otherwise get cold.

    Good luck. Have fun. Take some bottles of hot water with you to throw under your quilt and hold between your legs at night to treat yourself to a preheated sleep system if you are inclined.
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  8. #8
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    And no cheating if you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you must stay outside no matter what !

  9. #9
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    There's snow camping and then there's snow camping.

    If the snow is relatively thin and you can reach the ground, nothing really changes other than the fact that you'll need to drive tent stakes into harder frozen earth. So, stouter pegs and something to drive them in might be required.

    If the snow is deep, things get a bit trickier. It's sort of like doing yoga on a waterbed as the snow moves around underneath your tent and it's hard to get your stakes into anything.

    In terms of establishing a base for your tent, the common trick is to pack the snow down using your boots, snowshoes or if you're lucky, your skis! Wait 20-30 minutes and the worked snow will harden up to point that you can move around on it without sinking in all the time.

    In terms of anchoring your tent/tarp, I find the easiest way is to stick your ski tail or ski pole deep into the snow, which is great if you ski camp. Otherwise, I like to find long stout sticks - say at least 1" thick about 2' long - and to bury them in trenches in the snow to create a deadman anchor. I attach extra long (6') tie out lines on my tarp/tent and go around the deadman once and then tie the loose end off on the tent guy out using a trucker's hitch, creating one giant loop of line that can be untied at the tent end. This way, you can just pull the line out of the snow when you break camp.

    This guy shows the basics in this video but I don't use his carabiner trick. I think the loop/trucker's hitch is easier.

    Note: don't tension your tarp/tent until the snow has work hardened, just like the base. Again, takes about 30 minutes to set up.

    https://youtu.be/EKFNwe4ca3A

  10. #10
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    You can also use small plastic grocery bags. Get your site ready as already explained and fill the bags with snow and tie one at each stake point.

  11. #11

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    I've camped down to -20 in the Adirondacks and in Montana... Half the battle is insulating yourself from the ground, the other half is high quality goose down, rated much lower than the temp you may face. The ratings on bags is the temp at which you will suffer.
    For real cold I add merino wool head to toe. Sleep with down booties on, long johns, and a balaclava. And of course you want to stay out of the wind (since I see you use a tarp). For very cold nights I would use a tent. Sleep in dry clothing that you don't hike in, so it's not sweaty wet.
    Having said all that, 28f should not be much of a challenge. Sounds like fun!
    Last edited by RockDoc; 01-29-2021 at 18:27.

  12. #12

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    29F and 4-6 inches of snow sounds like a slush storm to me. It will be heavy, wet snow. And if it's a bit windy out, that complicates the problem with snow blowing in under the tarp, or straight in. So without doubt use the bivy. Nothing is going to breath much in that kind of weather. Too warm, too damp.

    I'd rather sleep out at 0 with dry air then at 29 with wet air. Hum, currently 1 degree out. Nope, I'm sleeping inside
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  13. #13
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    Doing overnighters in winter quite frequently, I would recommend some things (or emphasize what others aready stated):

    - Put one layer between the snow and your pad thats bigger tha the pad but smaller than the tarp, in order to keep all your stuff free of snow.
    I'm using tents exclusively, so I'm having this layer. Don't know how policryo would work.

    - To get an anchor for the tent/tarp, usually I push the skierpoles handle-down as deep as possible into the snow, then tie the chord around the pole, then lay a skier or a snowshoe crosswise atop and add lots of snow and compress it, to build something like a "dead man".
    A dead man is the best anchor you can have.

    - I get easily cold on my bald head, so I always wear a balaclava, and sometimes add a woolen hat.
    The balaclava also helps to keep the sleeping bag clean.

    - I'm an older guy and especially when its very cold I need a nightbreak one or two times, so I have a nightbottle handy to not have to get out into the cold.
    This is another point that may need some training to be done right.

    - For real winter camping, one of the issues I never found a good solution for is the shoes. After a whole day of hiking in the snow they will be damp or wet in the evening and given freezing weather they will be frozen in the morning.
    You may put them inside the sleeping bag, but then your bag will be more damp in the morning, another issue you have to deal with.

    Have fun!

  14. #14
    Garlic
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    All great advice above. Here's a photo of my favorite snow camp:
    DSCN0697edit.jpg

    Tarptent Contrail with a CCF pad doubled up with a layer of Reflectix and a 0F bag. Overnight single digit temps. In Crater Lake NP in February, on a 31 mile, two-day ski tour around the lake.
    "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

  15. #15
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    - For real winter camping, one of the issues I never found a good solution for is the shoes. After a whole day of hiking in the snow they will be damp or wet in the evening and given freezing weather they will be frozen in the morning.
    I bring a trash bag for things like boots that I want to keep in the sleeping bag.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadeye View Post
    I bring a trash bag for things like boots that I want to keep in the sleeping bag.
    Ain't got room in my bag for boots. For an overnight, a hand warmer packet in each boot would do the trick.
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  17. #17
    Garlic
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    I put the boots under my knees outside the bag.

  18. #18
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    @garlic08:
    Great pic!
    31miles of deep snow like this looks like some hard work.

    Using a plastic bag for the boots would keep them above freezing, but not let them dry out.
    Next thing I'll try is to use a car gas stove, fill two bottles with hot water and place the bottles inside the boots.

  19. #19
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    For overnights in deep cold, I wear bread bags between my liner socks and wool socks during the day. Keeps the boots dry from sweat so the don't turn to ice in the night.

    I don't wear the bags on my feet in camp so that my toes can recover.

  20. #20
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    27-29f all night, 6” of dry snow, wind in the teens. Gear worked great with the added advice above. Stayed Warm and Dry all night.

    Set up tarp with just a skiff of snow on the grass. Dutchwear line tensioners were helpful in the cold. Had to repitch a second time (before it started snowing) to get recommended steep sides which turned out to be critical as it snowed all night. The doors on my tarp don’t zip shut so I got some ventilation and a nominal amount of spindrift. Limited condensation in the tarp and it froze on the inside surface.

    Was glad I had the bivy and no condensation issues with it. Kept spindrift snow off my bag. Also helped eliminate any drafts with the quilt. Was warm all night in the 20f degree quilt wearing thin base layers and socks. Used my puffy jacket inside a stuff sack for a pillow (backup if I got cold). Two pads worked well although I need to add a few dots of silicone to eliminate some slipping, but the bivy kept everything well confined.

    Used the pee bottle instead of the house key. Wife did let me in the house this morning for coffee and then sent me out to shovel the driveway. Built confidence in my gear choices and gained knowledge from doing. Still plenty to learn but the backyard and nearby trails are perfect training grounds.

    THANKS for all the great advice.
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