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#123538 - 11/08/09 07:58 PM Advice to winter backpacking newbie?
bmwrider Offline
member

Registered: 07/31/08
Posts: 94
Loc: Michigan, just N of detroit
What is your best advice for a first time winter backpacker.
I will start off here in michigan where its flat and the snow is not that deep.

I have done alot of backpacking and snowshoeing but never together, I know alot about layering and have an REI cirque 4 season tent, a bivy if I like, I own a 0 bag, gaitors and winter boots, along with good merino wool socks, I own 3 pair of MSR snowshoes, (work of an outdoor retailer)
I do plan to start out close to home on short overnight trips with less snow and toe warmers (not frostbite please)


Edited by bmwrider (11/09/09 12:31 PM)

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#123544 - 11/08/09 09:33 PM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: bmwrider]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
BMW...

there are things out there that can get you that you cannot yet imagine. Stepping through an apparently hard piece of snow near a cliff that actually is hanging over said cliff face is bad. Falling in a lake because you were stupid enough to go out on it to collect liquid water rather than melting snow. Getting lost because you can't find the trail.An unrealistic stove, inadequate fire lighting system, burning your tent down. Inadequate insulation under you, collapsed tarp tent, loosing a glove, getting your foot stuck in deep hard snow, falling into the deep hole under a fir tree, disapearing into deep powder after taking off your snow shoes for some reason.

Anyway it pays to consider every move carefully and to go with someone who knows the pitfalls.
Jim crazy

PS Camping in your back yard the first time is OK.


Edited by Jimshaw (11/09/09 11:49 PM)
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#123556 - 11/09/09 01:04 AM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: Jimshaw]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
My advice would be to go with an experienced winter camper. My first winter camping trip was with none other than Jim Shaw and I was very glad I was with him. My trip report on that little adventure may still be in the archives. Jim is right, winter camping doesn't have to be a death defying adventure, my trips sure aren't, but at the same time, things can happen in winter that either wouldn't happen in other seasons or the consequences are far more serious.

My other advice is to read up on winter camping. A good place to start is Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book, which is has a lot about winter camping and not just skiing. Cheap, informative and fun to read. Get it from Amazon.


Edited by TomD (11/09/09 01:05 AM)
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#123562 - 11/09/09 08:56 AM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: bmwrider]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2123
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Sounds like you have the gear or at least in the ballpark. Might also consider going on a nice weekend or when weather gets nicer in late Feb. or into March. Going with someone who is experienced would be nice, but not necessary. You can pick up good info here. I started on my own, close to home in nicer weather, mostly because I did not have most of the gear like a warm bag, just had to think about the situations that might come up, that way, when the toes get froze you will remember that. A fire is nice but not necessary.

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#123588 - 11/10/09 03:02 AM winter backpacking newbie?(Read this book!) [Re: hikerduane]
300winmag Offline
member

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
Buy and read this thin but crucial book:

"Allen & Mike's Backcountry Ski Book"
("Travelling & Camping Skills for a Winter Environment")

It's THE best book on winter camping I've ever read. At least 1/2 of the info is contained in Mike Clelland's cartoonish drawings and captions. Probably 80% of the info is on winter camping, the rest is on backcountry skiing. I recommend this book having taught winter survival to Army ROTC cadets in class and in the field.

But they do have another winter book:
"Allen & Mike's Really Cook Telemark Ski Book"

Eric
_________________________
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."

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#123634 - 11/11/09 12:38 AM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: bmwrider]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Be aware that Allen and Mike have to have a gimmick to sell their books. Do not rely on their advice only, especially about the universality of snow caves.

My first snowcamping trip was with the boy scouts in November in Illinois. A freak snow storm hit and there were 18 boys and one leader. I had the ONLY pair of gloves in camp and they were elcheapo cotton. The one leader had to drive to a phone to call for help evacuating us and it was hours before we left. Can you say cotton hoodie and levis?

As an adult I started driving to snow parks in the Sierras with a buddy. We would pull sleds and make two trips to a spot 200 yards from the truck, behind a stand of trees. It was never far to the truck, which was a good thing because we would go up when there were severe mountain storm warnings. We probably camped like that for ten years, taking short snowshoe and ski trips during the day. Never the less we did camp at altitude in winter storms and perfected cooking and camping in blizzards. We did learn the pitfalls, generally the wrong way. I did fall through a cornice, break through thin ice skiing to the edge of melted water in the middle of a lake rather than melting snow, and one night half a ton of snow fell from a tree and hit 3 feet behind us.

It seems pretty anal but you cannot be too careful in an unknown environment. TomD got very sick and weak and we had to evacuate a camp maybe three or four miles in at over 7,000 feet. Being nauseous and weak could cause extreme problems if you were too far in to retreat, or were alone. Another friend always pulled a muscle, generally from picking up a 60 pound pack. I was used to skiing with a 45 pound pack, but if it throws you down, it hurts a lot. I was pretty thrilled to get down to 30 pounds, but I only accomplished that by buying a Bibler tent, WM kodiak bag, Kelty white cloud, REI goretex shelled down bibs and a Marmot deep winter coat.

Depending on your definition, I DO NOT LAYER in winter. I wear my long underwear and shells and maybe a fleece jacket skiing, then don my down bibs and down coat in camp. My booties are big synthetic jobs from campmor with gaiters sewn to the top to make very warm soft mukluks.

Go slow, take way too much gear, stay near your car and do not set you tent up under trees, And take the hottest stove you can get.

Now I go solo most of the time, have about a 25 pound pack using the same bibs, coat, tent, and down air mattress. My new pack is also a Kelty spectra job, but its bigger and lighter, 6500 cubic inches. I use NO STUFF SACKS. Oh yes - balaclavas are wonderful and a pair of spare dry light "sleeping gloves" makes a bag cozier.

If you wear a down coat inside your sleeping bag, your hands will freeze because they are on the wrong side of the insulation from your body. Likewise sleeping in down pants isolates your legs from each other. put you down coat over you torso either inside or outside of the bag depending on how much room there is. Filling in extra room will make you warmer. Tying a cord around the bag just above your knees will make you a lot warmer, but an elastic band inside the bag works even better. My WM winter bag has two elastic band that got around it just inside the inner nylon layer - I put them there, and I think it adds ten degrees to the bags rating.

Jim crazy
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#123652 - 11/11/09 11:33 AM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: Jimshaw]
Zalman Offline
member

Registered: 10/25/09
Posts: 97
Loc: Olympic Peninsula, Washington,...
Originally Posted By Jimshaw
I was pretty thrilled to get down to 30 pounds, but I only accomplished that by buying a Bibler tent


Jim, you use an Eldorado? Do you carry the standard issue vestibule too?
_________________________
It's easy to be a holy man on top of a mountain.
-- Larry Darrell

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#123660 - 11/11/09 12:32 PM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: Jimshaw]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By Jimshaw
Be aware that Allen and Mike have to have a gimmick to sell their books. Do not rely on their advice only, especially about the universality of snow caves.


I'm going to totally agree with Jim here. Snow caves are a useful survival skill - something you do if you are stuck. Doing so generally makes you wet, takes time and effort and is imo generally silly.. Yes they can be warmer. they're also wetter.

You can also stay warm by gutting a moose and crawling inside. it doesn't mean it's something you want to plan on as your general shelter mechanism in the winter wink

Best advice I can give you. Take your car out in the deep cold - walk just out of sight of it, and camp. You have an instant bailout if you have trouble. A few trips like this and you will know what works for you, and what you want to ask us questions about - there is more than one way to do this (Jim and my winter rigs are quite a bit different, and yet quite a bit the same...) but really you need a bit of experience to ask the right questions.

Work your way up to about three nights out. if you tend to issues with bag condensation you won't notice until the second or third night.

_________________________
Any fool can be uncomfortable...
My 3 season gear list
Winter list.
Browse my pictures


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#123679 - 11/11/09 09:41 PM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: Jimshaw]
bmwrider Offline
member

Registered: 07/31/08
Posts: 94
Loc: Michigan, just N of detroit
Wow, I am enjoying these posts as well as learning from them does anyone else have any advice? thanks guys your words were amazingly helpful, I will take your advice there is a place only an hour away that is actually in the city but a very large nature park with miles of hiking so I will be very close to homes for the first few trips to play it safe and learn the right way. if you can think of anything else please post it thanks so much guys, you rock.


Edited by bmwrider (11/11/09 09:43 PM)

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#123687 - 11/12/09 12:45 AM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: bmwrider]
thecook Offline


Registered: 10/03/08
Posts: 541
Loc: Minnesota
There are lots of different ways to wintercamp. Jim goes light. Tom less so. Phat carries a small woodstove. There are websites devoted to people who go with canvas tents and big woodstoves in -30F temps. Figures out what you want to do and where. Is it high mountains? Open plains and lakes with serious wind chill? Do you deal with rain, snow, slush, and temps right around freezing in your area? Then what works in -30F, like cotton anaraks, could get you killed. I don't do high mountains in winter but have to deal with temps ranging from -15F to right just above freezing and the possiblity of river ice breaking up. I've done snow caves - they are fun if you aren't moving every day- igloos- same thing- 4 season tents,and canvans tents with woodstoves. It is all fun. Go close to your car to start and enjoy.


Edited by thecook (11/12/09 12:46 AM)
Edit Reason: can't type
_________________________
If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?

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#123692 - 11/12/09 01:36 AM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: Zalman]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Zalman
Yes an old forest green Eldorado in fuzzy Toddtex. I generally only carry the vestibule if I have a friend along, not solo. I have enough practice getting in and out in blizzards. On one trip though with a buddy and the vestibule the winds were at 50 mph with snow. The ONLY way to cook was for my friend to be zipped inside the tent with me sitting in the snow outside the tent, and the coleman Xtreme going inside the vestibule, after shoveling snow around the edges of the vestibule. Oh yes it was -5 F and my normal winter gear kept me very warm although 10 above is more normal for the sierras.
Jim crazy
P.S. One of these days I gonna come up and camp with you. I love the pennisula and the Ho. I've camped up by hurricane ridge.
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#123696 - 11/12/09 03:24 AM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: bmwrider]
300winmag Offline
member

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
I stand by my recommendation for Mike and ALlen's book. Show me a better book on the subject for a newbie.

They describe snow caves & quinzhees for a reason. Those shelters are warm and great for a semi- permenant camp, but they do take most of a day to build unless ya find an ideal snowbank to burrow into.

Final advice tidbits:
1. Always take a partner until you KNOW your stuff.
2. Don't forget to pack an insulating piece (like 1/8" plywood painted with engine enamel) to go under your stove so it doesn't melt through the snow 3 ft. to the ground.
3. Put your zipped up parka over the foot of yer sleeping bag to keep yer feet warmer and melted frost from her tent wall from wetting the foot of yer bag.
4. Wear thin neoprene sox over thin poly liner sox to keep sweat from wetting yer boot insulation.
5. Try to find boots W/removable liners (i.e. felt packs) so you can bring the liners into your bag B/C frozen insulated boots in the morning are SO agonizing to warm up.

Have FUN!

Eric



_________________________
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."

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#123757 - 11/13/09 02:38 AM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: 300winmag]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I too recommend Allen & Mike, but Jim and Phat make very good points and know way more than I do. The only time I made a snow cave was on a mountaineering class and it took hours to carve one big enough for 7 of us. Plus we were cutting through ice layers as well, so it was a lot of work. Alone, no way unless it was an emergency.

Being by myself, I do carry more stuff than some people. I probably could leave some of it at home, but I like having it and my tent for example. is the only one I have right now, so it is what it is.

Jim mentioned me getting sick. I was pretty pathetic and had I been alone, I would have had to tough it out for a few days before heading back. If that happened now, I know enough to probably be okay and wouldn't worry that much about it except for feeling lousy.

More advice? Never go winter camping without a shovel, never. I have a Voile Mini; BD makes a cool design small shovel.
Bring extra gloves and mitts, glacier glasses or goggles.
Bring chocolate and energy bars for late night snacks. Eat some just before bed for fuel while sleeping. Keep a little baggy in your bag so your snacks aren't frozen solid.
If you wake up cold, eat something-makes a big difference. Hot tea or chocolate before bed is also a good idea.

Bring plenty of fuel for your stove. You will spend a fair amount just melting snow for water.

Keep a flashlight handy-I put one in one of the side pockets in my tent.
Put stuff in the same place each time so you know where it is when you need it.
Bring a small thermos of some kind. Mine will keep tea warm for about 6 hours or so.

Buy one of those cheap blue foam sleeping pads. I used one to make a cozy for my thermos and small pot and cut up a big piece to use as a sit pad. It is long enough to use like a chair by cutting into the snow, then placing it in place so I can lean back against it. It's not in these pics, but you can see the small pad.
http://www.backpacking.net/forum/ubbthre...true#Post111764


Edited by TomD (11/13/09 02:47 AM)
_________________________
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#123762 - 11/13/09 10:40 AM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: bmwrider]
bmwrider Offline
member

Registered: 07/31/08
Posts: 94
Loc: Michigan, just N of detroit
TomD I see you use an older coleman canister stove, I have used a jetboil in the winter and know the tricks to keep it warm but you have done more cold weather than I have ever had any trouble with the fuel? most use white gas and I do know the why just want to know what kind of trouble you may have had if any. (oh yeah I own a dragonfly and a nova)

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#123764 - 11/13/09 10:42 AM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: Jimshaw]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2123
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Jim, no way so far, can I get away with only 25 pounds for a winter o/n trip. In the small group I belong with at NorthCA Hiking, a Yahoo group, one young guy can not only carry a tent, bag, bear canister and firelog also, he does it using a pack the size of my summer pack. I just shake my head in amazement.

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#123770 - 11/13/09 11:31 AM Re: Advice to winter backpacking newbie? [Re: Jimshaw]
Zalman Offline
member

Registered: 10/25/09
Posts: 97
Loc: Olympic Peninsula, Washington,...
Originally Posted By Jimshaw
P.S. One of these days I gonna come up and camp with you. I love the pennisula and the Ho. I've camped up by hurricane ridge.


That'd be great, Jim. I suspect I'd enjoy your company and learn a thing or three in the process. I hear February is nice up at Hurricane Ridge ...
_________________________
It's easy to be a holy man on top of a mountain.
-- Larry Darrell

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