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#170877 - 10/23/12 10:50 PM some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
I'm pretty much at home in "the mountains" but when I visit a desert I am especially careful of every step and every cactus and stuff because I am out of place there and don't know what to expect.

So if you are venturing out into the snowy winter wonderlands, especially in mountains, I can offer some advice as to some pitfalls to be aware of, but I can't help you in a desert.

To start out, take a tent, preferably a winter tent, but most any tent that doesn't have a screen body (need a solid body) will do, especially if you are below tree-line and I do not suggest going above tree line at first. Set the tent up well in a spot where dead trees can't fall on it and stake and maybe anchor it with deadmen in the snow.

DO NOT SET YOUR TENT UP UNDER A BIG TREE. When you're sitting near a tree and suddenly a thousand pounds of snow hits 5 feet behind you, you will see that snow falling from trees can kill you.

Stay out of gullies and places that can be buried by avolanche or minor snow slides.

Learn about and stay off avolanche slopes. Generally any really cool looking bare spot with an angle of about 30 degrees.

If you put your boots in your vestibule, cover the tops so snow can't collect in them and likewise close any packs in the vestibule.

Be sure that you have a fire/water snow melting systems that is up to your needs.

Know how to melt snow - start with some liquid. I have written a long post somewhere on melting snow.

Beware of leaking fuel bottles.

And last but perhaps most important - stay off snow bridges over swift mountain streams (especially walking without snowshoes or skis). Falling through is a bad way to die.

Other thoughts and input???...

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

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#170878 - 10/23/12 11:14 PM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Jimshaw]
jbylake Offline
member

Registered: 09/15/12
Posts: 202
Loc: Northern KY USA
Good info. Some of your advice also certainly applies to us "low lander's".

Even in KY, heavy snows, or especially ice storms that can put enormous amounts of weight on trees, causing limbs, or nearly all of the tree to fall.

Lots of other good info in there too..

J.

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#170879 - 10/23/12 11:31 PM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: jbylake]
rockchucker22 Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 749
Loc: Eastern Sierras
Tempting as it may be that lake shore tends to hold the coldest air around, go up! Several hundred yards or more up a mountian provides better night temps. For winter hiking I also try to never sweat! Tough sometimes but critical if the situation gets tough.

Thanks great post!
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#170883 - 10/24/12 12:23 AM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Jimshaw]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6372
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Double caution about avalanches. Not only stay off those steep slopes, but be aware that the runout from an avalanche can go a long way, often across a steep-sided valley and partway up the other side. Cornices can be particularly hazardous--if you're on them, they break loose, and if you're under them, they can come down on you. For those in the Pacific NW, we have the Northwest Weather and Avalance Center, which provides avalanche forecasts and has some useful general info. Other areas have such centers, too. If you're going to travel in avalanche country (basically any place that isn't flat), check the forecast before you go and learn how to assess snow conditions while you're there (for which a shovel is needed). If there is any kind of winter camping or snow safety or avalanche safety class offered in your area, please take advantage of it. If you're in a group, each person should have a shovel, probe and avalanche transceiver and know how to use them. They are not a substitute for avalanche avoidance, but at least provide a small chance of getting people out. If you're alone, such gear (except the shovel, which has other uses) won't help, so stick to flat areas.

Holing up in tree wells can be fine in the Rockies, where there's dry, fluffy, light snow and less of it on the trees, but, as Jim says, it's highly dangerous with our soggy Northwest "cement" ready to come down on you. Falling into a tree well in deep snow is also not advisable; you may not get out!

Especially here in the Pacific NW, with our soggy snow and often rain even at higher altitudes, keeping dry is super important. Strip down to minimal layers, even just a base layer, while you're moving so you don't get sweaty. Sweat (which will freeze when you stop) can be just as dangerous as wet snow or rain. Take extra precautions at all times to keep your insulation dry. Extra dry clothing--at least a base layer--to wear inside your sleeping bag is a good idea.

Thank you, Jim, for reminding us of these winter safety issues. I took a really good snow class once (three hours' lecture and two days practicing up in the snow), but that was 25 years ago! Since I plan to get out at least a few times this winter (due to being laid up last summer), I need to review!


Edited by OregonMouse (10/24/12 12:26 AM)
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#170887 - 10/24/12 02:24 AM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Jimshaw]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Don't eat fish and chips in Merced before starting out on your first winter camping trip. (Jim saw the results of that first hand.) frown
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Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#170930 - 10/25/12 01:16 PM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: OregonMouse]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Mouse
The snow hole thingy is so dangerous some places that its good to bring up more. A hole is created under a tree by stopping the snow and the snow builds up around the tree. Camping under a fir tree is probably safe because sloughing snow will slide to the side and make the surrounding snow deeper. Now - how do you get out of the hole? Worse is snowboarders who land in a hole headfirst - they car suddenly in a survival situation. Trying to free yourself and can make you sink in further like quick sand.

Even hiking through a flatland forest has many snow dangers. You can step on a weak spot, like where a tree in close to the surface, drop 2 feet and find your feet hopelessly trapped.

Stepping next to a large rock with snow around it? The snow next to the rock will melt creating a trap. When you step on it, you drop in, and pack the snow around your boot instantly. I had to call my wife once to come over with her iceaxe to chop my boot out.

Walking through a flat land forest you take the little narrow bridges in the snow between trees and they can collapse. Backcountry skis provide a great deal of security as do snow shoes, but snowshoes bridge a shorter gap than skis.

Steep snow - without a hiking pole, ice axe, or self arrest device of some kind, if you fall on a slope and start to slide, it may impossible to stop before coming to a very fast stop.

Its best to not travel alone in the winter unless you stay on groomed trails, which is sort of a special case.

Its best to not go off trail too much in snowshoes either unless you are pretty savy about winter travel. Carry the "ten essentials" including an insulated pad to sit on.
Jim smile
ps TomD you did well. Sorry you remember the trip as one where you were miserable. cool
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#170958 - 10/26/12 12:09 AM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Jimshaw]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Jim, not all bad. Yes, I was miserable, but on the other hand, I got to meet you and Steve, get my first taste of winter camping, took a few nice photos and figured out I could so it, so all in all, not a bad start. I've been back there three more times, so that says it all.
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#170990 - 10/27/12 08:48 AM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Jimshaw]
DTape Offline
member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 654
Loc: Upstate NY
All of the warnings about wells and spruce traps, etc... are also true in the Adirondacks. We have many little streams which creates pockets under the snow as well. Probably true in the PNW too?
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#171034 - 10/28/12 11:07 PM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: DTape]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1719
Loc: Napa, CA
I particularly like the admonition about taking enough fire water...

Oh wait. Maybe I misread that...


Edited by balzaccom (10/28/12 11:08 PM)
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#171046 - 10/29/12 03:49 AM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: balzaccom]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Another thing about trees-in some places you may get storms that leave the trees covered with ice. I've seen some of that in Yosemite where it warms up, then freezes at night. Once the branches are loaded, you definitely want to be out of the way if the weight of the ice starts breaking off the smaller branches. Not what you want to hear in the middle of the night. Sierra cement is bad enough, but ice will be worse.
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#171067 - 10/29/12 01:31 PM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Jimshaw]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2123
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Good advice Jim.
Duane

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#171293 - 11/02/12 04:40 AM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Jimshaw]
Brotherbob12 Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 71
Loc: Sweden
Good advice, my best advice is to always keep yourself and your gear dry. Avoid to sweat.

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#171329 - 11/02/12 07:17 PM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Brotherbob12]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
brotherbob
Thanks for chiming in. Common Bob- you know more about winter snow than all of the rest of combined - give us some of the good stuff, like watch out for reindeer droppings on the trail grin or you know like - beware the purple aurora or something. smile
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#171355 - 11/03/12 09:14 AM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Jimshaw]
Brotherbob12 Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 71
Loc: Sweden
Originally Posted By Jimshaw
brotherbob
Common Bob- you know more about winter snow than all of the rest of combined - give us some of the good stuff, like watch out for reindeer droppings on the trail grin smile
Jim


Absolutely Jim, I actually know so much about winter traveling Santa Claus often asks me for advice grin

Ok seriously: Watch out for raindeer dropping it can get stuck in the ski wax.:D

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#171496 - 11/05/12 06:33 PM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Brotherbob12]
Brotherbob12 Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 71
Loc: Sweden
No I am no expert on winter camping. I learned a lot from this forum and I am learning every trip. I have not had any serious accidents but a few close calls. Here are some safety considerations.

To use the stove inside the tent could be dangerous but sometimes it has to be done. Especially in winter. Get familiar with the stove and learn to minimize flame.

If the fuel pump stop working in severe cold. Warm it up inside the parka and it might start working again.

If you use a inflatable pad also bring a cell foam pad in case of a puncture.

If the gloves, cotton anorak (or whatever you use) gets wet hang it outside over night (well secured) in the morning you can brush the frost of and it will be a lot more dry. This works best in cold and very dry climate.

Tie the gloves to the anorak in windy conditions.

If traveling on lakes or crossing rivers in spring consider dry suit. Pack in dry bags. If possible avoid risky crossings late afternoons.

Be careful on lakes when there is water between ice and snow cover. The ice might be fine but you will risk getting wet.

Don't cross upstream of dams.

In the hard packed snow of spring use skis and pulk. In loose deep snow try to minimize weight and use a backpack. Use forest skis or snowshoes.

Do not get too excited skiing downhill. The pulk will hit you from behind if you fall. If you use a backpack it is very easy to loose balance and fall hard. Especially when the terrain is unfamiliar and the legs are tired after a long day. I think this is the major risk in winter long distance skiing.

Use lithium batteries in GPS and headlight.

When you get back to civilization, don't lick the lightpost. :-)

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#171995 - 11/16/12 12:14 AM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Brotherbob12]
Paul Offline
member

Registered: 09/30/02
Posts: 778
Loc: California
A few things I like to keep in mind for snow camping:

Never put your gloves/mittens down ANYWHERE except in the tent. Stuff them in the pack, in your pockets, or inside your jacket. Lost gloves can equal lost fingers. I also bring a spare pair of glove liners, mostly because I lost a liner glove once, but also because it is so easy to get your liner gloves wet.

Air out your sleeping bag every chance you get. Moisture will build up in the bag (unless you are using a VBL), so drying it at every opportunity helps to stay ahead of it.

Dry out your boots at every opportunity also.

Think ahead on clothing adjustments. Take off a layer before you start up that big hill; put it back on as soon as you stop instead of when you get cold. Careful management of layers will keep you dryer (less sweat). An awful lot of people seem to be worried about getting cold if they go snow camping - I always tell them I have more trouble staying cool while on the move. Staying warm in camp is easier.

Keep eating. Not only are you burning lots of calories by snowshoeing or skiing, but you burn more in cold weather anyway. I like to keep nibbling all day. and nice fatty dinners and bedtime snacks will help you sleep warm.

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#172034 - 11/16/12 06:03 PM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Jimshaw]
Cheetahwoka Offline
newbie

Registered: 08/06/10
Posts: 7
Loc: Sequoia NP, CA, USA
Who has used vapor barriers, ie plastic bags, over their bare feet, under their socks and boots, to keep boots dry while snow camping multiple days? Still haven't tried it, afraid of prune feet and blisters from soggy skin.

But last week I woke up in the tent with frozen boots that took hours to feel warm even while hiking-just from the moisture that came out of my feet the previous day or two hiking. I don't think they were damp inside because of the soggy snow, I think the gore-tex wasn't letting much sweat out (better than soaking through, though).

In any case damp boots are unavoidable, unless one wears plastic bags on their feet. Anyone prefer that for winter multi-day trips?

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#172036 - 11/16/12 08:07 PM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Cheetahwoka]
Heather-ak Offline
member

Registered: 07/11/10
Posts: 597
Loc: Fairbanks, AK
I often wear bunny boots for hiking and snowshoeing (and snow machining) and they are pretty much vapor barrior boots - I love them and they are WARM but your socks are wet - and they aren't recommended for all day daily wear for weeks on end because of feet issues (prune feet is the best of the issues.) I don't know where you are hiking, but I wouldn't do gore-tex boots in the winter here. Socks at least I can throw in my sleeping bag or in my jacket and they might dry out - wet boots are really not good... you could lose your toes and/or feet (Keep in mind it is -20F today here.)

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#172037 - 11/16/12 08:10 PM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Cheetahwoka]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I'm not big on VBLs. I know they work in very cold weather, but I've not had any problems in Yosemite at around 15F at the coldest. I don't seem to sweat that much and am not gone so long that my bag gets soaked, but for a longer trip in colder weather, they may be a good idea.

Heather-are you talking about these things-
http://www.armysurpluswarehouse.com/black-mickey-mouse-boot-with-valve.html
I saw this link on another site I belong to.

Here's a bunch on eBay-
http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=extreme+cold+weather+boots


Edited by TomD (11/16/12 08:15 PM)
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Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#172053 - 11/18/12 04:39 AM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Cheetahwoka]
Brotherbob12 Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 71
Loc: Sweden
Originally Posted By Cheetahwoka


In any case damp boots are unavoidable, unless one wears plastic bags on their feet. Anyone prefer that for winter multi-day trips?

I use VBL for my feet on longer trips.
Thin sock+plastic bag+heavier sock+plastic bag+ boot.
Works great insulation is always kept dry from perspiration or from getting wet from the outside. I am surprised that my feet are comfortable inside the plastic and no blisters either. If you wonder how it feels just try it out on a short trip.
For short trips I don't bother with it.

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#172057 - 11/18/12 12:36 PM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Brotherbob12]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
I guess my feet don't sweat much as I have never had the dreaded morning frozen boots. I just pull my boots on and go - however I noted that the Canadian campers always carry spare dry liners for their PAC boots.

I do carry 3 plastic grocery shopping bags. Garbage goes into one and the other two are for emergency. You can pull them over your feet, maybe between 2 pairs of socks, to be warmer or in case of a leak. They can also be used for over non-goretex shelled gloves to keep your gloves dry and fingers warm - or as a hat?

Winter camping has 2 modes - moving and resting. Moving you must stay dry and a bit cool - vent your clothes and strip down - wear clothes designed for aerobic activity. In camp you may put on warmer layers and down or other insulation that might absorb moisture if you were moving.

I ski/backpack wearing long underwear, a fleece jacket, and goretex shells. If I had a huge shell jacket it would also go over a cheap down jacket without a waterproof shell, but I prefer a snug fitting technical ski jacket to ski in and I pull on a huge goretex shelled down winter coat when I get to camp (and goretex shelled down bibs).

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

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#172380 - 11/26/12 07:27 PM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: TomD]
Heather-ak Offline
member

Registered: 07/11/10
Posts: 597
Loc: Fairbanks, AK
Mine are the white version which are the -40F, I belive the black version are only -20F.

Love them - look stupid and dorky but WARM. Only thing better would be a pair of mutluks, but they are expensive and not water proof (overflow can be a major issue.)

edit:
I stand corrected -60F
http://www.armysurpluswarehouse.com/white-mickey-mouse-or-bunny-boot-with-valve.html


Edited by Heather-ak (11/26/12 07:30 PM)
Edit Reason: correcting and adding link

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#172393 - 11/27/12 08:46 AM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Brotherbob12]
skcreidc Offline
member

Registered: 08/16/10
Posts: 1590
Loc: San Diego CA
Between Brotherbob12, Jim, and Paul, there is a nice list of "things to be aware of" here. (btw, I love Paul's TR's! Hopefully he will post another up after his next ski tour) I'll just add one more. We used to snowshoe backpack up at Mt. Lassen when I was a kid. One time I was out on my own away from camp poking around without snowshoes in the trees and in a slight swale. I could hear water flowing...like a stream. I was standing there like an idiot thinking hard about the sound when it dawned on me that I was standing on the stream. As I quickly turned and move away from the area, one foot went thru but I was able to lay down and crawl away from the area. I should have moved more slowly from the area. Lucky I didn't weigh much at the time.

So my tip is to stop and listen to the sounds of the area. Its one way to help avoid problem areas. In my very limited experience in snow, it is usually very quiet.


So now a question; I am able to mitigate sweating in snow by layering ... for the most part. My feet still sweat a lot and in the morning I have frozen boots. My old solution was to put the boots in a bag and toss them in the bottom of my sleeping bag. As I grew this became less and less comfortable, and currently I am hoping to avoid this situation on multiple night trips. It seems like liners are the easiest (and Best?) solution. So the solution would be buy a pair of boots with liners and carry a spare pair to rotate out with? I'm going to be swimming in plastic bags with just a thin pair of socks between the plastic and my feet.

Chris


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#172416 - 11/28/12 10:19 AM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: skcreidc]
Brotherbob12 Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 71
Loc: Sweden
Originally Posted By skcreidc

So now a question; I am able to mitigate sweating in snow by layering ... for the most part. My feet still sweat a lot and in the morning I have frozen boots. My old solution was to put the boots in a bag and toss them in the bottom of my sleeping bag. As I grew this became less and less comfortable, and currently I am hoping to avoid this situation on multiple night trips. It seems like liners are the easiest (and Best?) solution. So the solution would be buy a pair of boots with liners and carry a spare pair to rotate out with? I'm going to be swimming in plastic bags with just a thin pair of socks between the plastic and my feet.


Using a boot with a liner and rotating with a spare is a good idea. I think it will work fine. I wish my XC ski boot had a liner so I had that choice. The vb is not as bad as it sounds though.

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#172425 - 11/28/12 12:57 PM Re: some stuff to watch out for winter snow camping [Re: Brotherbob12]
skcreidc Offline
member

Registered: 08/16/10
Posts: 1590
Loc: San Diego CA
Thanks for the feedback Brotherbob. I've been leaning towards getting the boots. The good news is that they will last quite a few years with me, unlike my regular boots. I've actually done the bags, but I sweat soooo much my feet get punished too much for a longer trip. It's fine for overnight though; but then having frozen boots just one morning isn't too bad either.

Chris

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