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#131937 - 04/12/10 03:14 PM beginner questions for experienced backpackers!
skinnyskier2112 Offline
newbie

Registered: 01/21/10
Posts: 8
Loc: Minneapolis, MN
After taking my first few backpacking trips I am becoming more comfortable doing this but the trips have also raised new questions which I hadn't thought of until being out backpacking.

1. How do you get comfortable sleeping outside?
So far I have really enjoyed the hiking but sleeping has been the most troublesome part of my trips. On my most recent adventure i felt that my sleeping bag/pad were pretty comfortable but I woke up cold a bunch of times throughout the night. Temps dipped to ~ 28 and I was wearing a hat, gloves, thermal underwear top/bottom (synthetic) and a thin layer over that. My nose was particularly chilly. My bag is a 32degree bag (Marmot Arroyo). Any tips on being warm and comfortable?

2. How much clothes do you bring?

So far I have just done overnighters and I am trying to plan for a 2 night trip and a 6night trip. On my last overnighter I brought hiking shorts, shirt, socks (all synthetic). Thermal underwear,winter hat, gloves, extra socks, balaclava, extra shirt. How much more over this would I bring on a longer trip in spring conditions? Temps where i hike will be probably 30's to 40's at night and mid 50's to hi 60's during the day.

3. How do you deal with rain?
I havn't encountered rain yet on my trips and dealing with the rain is something I'd liek to think about. I own both a rain cover for my backpack and a poncho. I have an ok rain jacket but I have never really used it for hours in the rain. What system do you guys like better jacket/pack cover or poncho? Assuming it is raining is there an easy way to get a camp stove running or are there any tricks?

I'm sure I can think of a bunch more questions but let's start with just these three!

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#131940 - 04/12/10 03:50 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers! [Re: skinnyskier2112]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
1. Getting cold while sleeping: two questions back: What sleeping pad were you using, and what clothes were you wearing? Both will have an impact on keeping you warm, in addition to your bag.

It got about 5 degrees colder than your bag is rated, and Marmot bags tend to run pretty true to the rating - so it's reasonable to expect that you'd feel a bit chilly, probably from around2 to 6 a.m. or so.

However, if the chill seemed to be seeping up from below, rather than coming in around the bag, the culprit might be your sleeping pad. Each pad has a different R-value; MSR actually advertises their R-value; other pads will give a temperature rating. If it gets colder than the pad is rated, you'll feel cold seeping up. (That happened to me once with a BA Insulated Air Core pad, rated to about 20 degrees. It dropped to about 12, and sure enough, around 4 a.m., I could feel the cold underneath me.) The only good solution is usually to add a closed-cell foam pad under the regular pad, though I've also had some luck using one of those heavy duty "survival" style space blankets, with the shiny side facing up, as a ground cloth under my pad.

Finally, if you're going to push the limits of your bag and pad, you need to sleep in some warm clothes. I usually sleep in my long john top and bottom, and add a stocking cap, balaclava, liner gloves, and extra socks as needed. When I'm really trying to push it, I'll sleep in everything I've got - on the aforementioned 12 degree night, I slept in down pants, down hooded jacket, down mittens, and down booties over the long johns and balaclava, but I was using a 30-degree bag so I needed the extra insulation.

2. Clothing: for a 2-night trip, I'd have the same list as you, except no spare shirt and I'd add a down sweater-weight jacket (or fleece jacket.) I'd be wearing the shorts and shirt, and maybe the long underwear top and bottom if it was in the forties; I'd wear hats and gloves as necessary. The down/fleece would stay in my pack, and I'd have a spare pair of socks. I'd also bring a light windbreaker (Marmot Ion, Patagonia Houdini, or similar) which I'd wear as needed. My rain suit would provide me with a backup wind layer, some extra warmth, and my rain pants would work as long pants. For six days, I'd add another pair of socks and consider a change of shorts (or underwear) and that spare shirt.

3. The only good way I've found to deal with long, soaking rain is to get out of it as soon as possible: head back to the car, pitch a tent and wait it out, etc. No matter how good your rain gear is, if you walk in an all-day heavy rain, you'll end up wet.

As far as getting a stove running in the rain, I tend to find a drier spot (undercut shelter in a ledge, or maybe I'll pitch my tent fly only to make a snug little lunch shelter), and then start the stove as usual. If all else fails, I will very, very carefully cook in the tent vestibule, being very careful not to let the stove flare or let the stove or a hot pot get too close to the rain fly (which can melt if heated.)

I'll never cook inside the tent, not ever, period. If it's raining hard at supper time, I'll consider eating tomorrow's lunch for supper, and stopping to cook today's supper for lunch tomorrow; then I don't have to light a stove at all, since I eat a cold lunch.

If I were knowlingly going out on a trip where it was going to rain for several days, especially with a group, I'd probably pack along an 8x10 or 10x10 silnylon tarp, and pitch it as a separate cooking fly. It also makes a nice place to sit with other hikers to pass the time.

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#131941 - 04/12/10 04:00 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers! [Re: skinnyskier2112]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Welcome to the forum. smile

1. Were you cold all over, or just in spots? Mostly above or down the bottom? What kind of pad? Did you eat/drink sufficiently before turning in? Putting on all layers when temps drop is also do-able - put on the jacket.

2. Most all trips I try to be prepared for temps from 25-35F at night. Elevation and wind chill/weather can combine to give me snow in the middle of summer. In a pinch putting everything on is enough to keep me warm sitting around camp. I take an extra pair of hiking socks, a pair of insulated booties or bulky wool socks for sleeping, a hat or (in lower temps) balaclava, a coolmax buff that doubles as an additional hat layer or neck gaiter, a light shirt for days in warm temps or a midweight base layer for hiking in cooler temps, a set of midweight base layer top and bottom for sleeping (if night temps are anticipated to be consistently in the mid to low 20s, this is an expedition weight set), nylon pants for hiking (I have zipoffs but never take the legs off - bugs and poison oak are occasional problems, sunburn is always an issue for me), a broad brim hat for sun, liner gloves for temps 35-45F, additional fleece gloves for lower (and waterproof ones for snow). For when I stop hiking, I take either a light down jacket or my Montbell Thermawrap (synthetic). When rain is possible I put in rain pants and rain shell, or the pants and a poncho, depending on destination. When it looks like a monsoon is imminent I stay home or go somewhere else. smile The best way to stay warm is not get cold, so it's all about the layers. Mix and match to suit the environment - wind and damp will make you feel colder than the ambient temps. When I don't take a rain shell I throw in a windbreaker - either will keep a howling wind from blowing away your body warmth. I frequently hike with the wicking shirt and windbreaker in 45-50F temps and find it's just perfect.

3. Rain tactics depends on the nature of the rain. A poncho if it isn't windy will keep the pack from getting soaked. I hiked with a shell/pack cover combo recently in a light rain, set up camp in the rain, changed into the dry sleeping clothes, then managed to dry the damp clothes by sleeping with them after a good wringing - but this only works if the night temp is not below freezing and you are not chilled yourself.

Stoves work okay in the rain. Many folks will add in a small tarp when the weather might turn, to set up over the kitchen area, or to set up then pitch the tent under it to keep the rain out. I sleep under a tarp regardless, in a bugnetted hammock or on the ground, so need no duplication in this area. I use a stove under the tarp when it's raining so I don't have to get wet - but generally the tarp is 6-8 feet off the ground with the hammock pitched so I can sit in it like a chair, so the flames never come close to the nylon while the stove is on.
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#131962 - 04/12/10 08:48 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: skinnyskier2112]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6764
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Sleeping system warmth: Where I backpack (high Cascades spring and fall, Rockies in summer) I have to be prepared for temps down to 20*F or a little lower. From your experience, it sounds as though you should be prepared for the mid-20's. I tried the bit about a 32* bag plus warm insulating clothing (some claim they can stretch the bag rating by 10*F) and it didn't work for me. I'd say you definitely need a warmer sleeping bag and a warmer pad! A lot of bags and pads are not accurately rated (the cheaper they are, the less accurate) or at least are rated for "warm" sleepers, of which I'm definitely not one. For those few bags sold in the US that are rated by the EU's standards, I'd want a bag and pad rated--comfort rating for women, lower than that for men--to 5*F lower than the lowest temperature I'd expect to encounter. Western Mountaineering bags are rated more conservatively; my 20* Ultralight has taken me to 15* comfortably with additional clothing. That 32* bag I mentioned above (Marmot Hydrogen) started getting cold for me at about 40* and, even with all my outer clothing on, I really suffered the night it went down to 25*. (That's when I sold it--on this forum--and got the WM Ultralight.) My pad (POE Ether Thermo 6) is rated to 15*. For me, it's OK down to about 25* but I'd want a supplemental CCF pad any lower than that. I tried the NeoAir last summer and fall, got cold in it without supplement below 40* and last fall shivered all night at 18*F (only underneath) on a NeoAir plus thin CCF pad. For the cold nose, a fleece (polypro fleece especially good because it doesn't absorb moisture) balaclava pulled up over the nose works great for me and keeps most of my breath moisture from getting into the sleeping bag. For some reason I need a hat inside my sleeping bag sooner than any other insulation!

Clothing: You don't need an extra shirt but you do need an insulating layer! Fleece is fine--it is bulkier and heavier than something like Montbell's UL Thermawrap or UL Down Inner Parka (the latter warmer than the former for about the same weight), but is a lot less expensive, especially since you can often find it in thrift shops. While your hiking shirt/pants may get wet during the day, make sure your insulation layer and your base layer stay dry!

Which brings us to the third topic, rain: There are a number of techniques to keep yourself comfortable when it's wet, especially when it's wet and cold. Some need to be learned from experience, which you can best acquire by getting out in the rain in controlled conditions. In other words, pick a wet weekend to practice in your back yard. Then, either go car-camping in cold wet weather or backpack not more than a mile away from the trailhead, so if all else fails you can bail out before things turn bad. Remember, if you start shivering, it's time to bail out IMMEDIATELY--that's the first stage of hypothermia! If you live in a desert, at least practice in your back yard with the sprinklers on.

Rule 1 is to keep your insulation--that's your insulating clothing and your sleeping bag--dry no matter what. That means either using dry bags (stuff sack closures are not waterproof) or a waterproof pack liner (such as a trash compactor bag) with a waterproof closure (candy-cane closure usually works) checked daily for possible holes (that's why you carry duct tape, lol). Pack liners protect the outside of the pack but are useless in case of immersion or during long rains in which rain running down between your back and the pack soaks into the back side of the pack. Test your means of keeping insulation dry in the bathtub at home to be sure they really are waterproof. That also means not getting your insulating clothing sweaty--if you're sweating under your rain gear, you should not be wearing any insulating layers at all! Keep your insulating layer inside something waterproof and slip it on under your rain gear when you stop, removing it (and keeping it dry) when you start hiking again. That also means not wearing damp clothing inside your sleeping bag--I keep my base layer dry inside my pack, wear it at night and under the rain gear on cold wet mornings, and take it off before I take the tent down (last thing) and start hiking.

I far prefer a rain jacket and pants to a poncho because the latter doesn't keep my arms dry at best of times and when there's horizontal rain or wet grass/brush doesn't keep anything dry. If it's warm and wet, I just hike in my hiking shirt and pants (both quick-dry materials which will be dry from my body heat within 20 minutes if it stops raining) and let them get wet. If it's cold, I hike in full rain gear but with no insulating layer (if it's below freezing I might add a lightweight fleece vest under the rain jacket, plus hat and gloves plus rain mitts) except when I stop. If my hiking clothing hasn't dried by bedtime, it goes into a plastic bag in the bottom of my sleeping bag so that it won't get the sleeping bag insulation damp but at least will be warm (even if damp) when I put it on in the morning. The same is true for wet socks. I sleep in my base layer (kept dry) and have dry sleeping socks. BTW, I've found that merino wool socks feel a lot warmer and more comfortable when wet than do synthetics--that after years of resisting wool because the mere thought of it made me itch (merino wool doesn't).

Setting up camp: There are ways of setting up a double-wall American tent in the rain which require the inner tent to be set up first, generally by draping the fly over you and the inner tent while setting up the inner tent) to keep the inner tent from getting soaked before you get the fly up. Practice this technique many times at home first! Good luck! I far prefer a single-wall tent or a tarp to avoid this problem. Or you can get a European-made double wall tent or a Tarptent Scarp--for them the fly goes up first and you pitch the inner underneath the waterproof fly. Before you get this far, pick your tent site in a place that is not in a depression that will turn into a lake in heavy rain. (I learned this the hard way--same experience in which I learned that a soggy synthetic sleeping bag is just as useless as a soggy down bag.) Your shelter should be at the top of your pack (mine's in an outside pocket) so you can set it up while keeping the rest of your pack contents dry. Then move the pack inside and unpack it under cover. Do the reverse when packing up in the morning. Again, practice getting the shelter down without getting the inside of it wet!

If there's a "sunbreak" (as they are called here in the Northwest) during the day, stop and take advantage of it by airing out your tent, sleeping bag and insulating clothing. Of course, be ready to get everything under cover again in a big hurry!

I've never had any problem with my canister stove; I either start it (carefully!) partly sheltered by my tent vestibule or (usually) crawl under a tree. You might want to be more careful with alcohol. Again, practice using it in the rain at home or while car-camping. It helps if you can wait for the rain to slow down to at least a drizzle before lighting the stove. Once the pan is on the stove, the flame is sheltered.

Do practice and test these techniques a number of times before you actually get out on the trail in the rain!


Edited by OregonMouse (04/12/10 08:51 PM)
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#131970 - 04/12/10 10:12 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers! [Re: skinnyskier2112]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By skinnyskier2112
After taking my first few backpacking trips I am becoming more comfortable doing this but the trips have also raised new questions which I hadn't thought of until being out backpacking.

1. How do you get comfortable sleeping outside?
So far I have really enjoyed the hiking but sleeping has been the most troublesome part of my trips. On my most recent adventure i felt that my sleeping bag/pad were pretty comfortable but I woke up cold a bunch of times throughout the night. Temps dipped to ~ 28 and I was wearing a hat, gloves, thermal underwear top/bottom (synthetic) and a thin layer over that. My nose was particularly chilly. My bag is a 32degree bag (Marmot Arroyo). Any tips on being warm and comfortable?


if that's 28, and you're in a 32 bag, you'll probably need clothing

1) wear more clothing to bed
2) bring a warmer bag
3) ensure you have an insulating hat or toque on. if you find your nose gets cold, a full face balaclava will help - I wear such a thing to bed in the wintertime.
4) EAT right before you go to bed. a good high calorie snack. a hunk of chocolate, or hot chocolate will help, not from the warmth but from some calories for your body to stay warm. In truly cold weather camping (not 28 F, you don't want to know) my pre-bedtime ritual is 3 or 4 walkers shortbread biscuits and a mug of hot chocolate - something I will never indulge myself with normally or I would weigh 400 pounds wink

Have a look at my gear list to see what I usually take. Note on my clothing - I am content to let my outerlayer get moist and put it on the next day if it's wet out. I keep a base layer dry to sleep in. same with socks. I take two sets, hike in one, sleep in other. if socks are wet in morning, I live with it and hike in 'em.
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#131981 - 04/12/10 11:24 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: skinnyskier2112]
ChrisFol Offline
member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 387
Loc: Denver, Colordo
1) You appear to be wearing plenty of layers in your sleep system that on paper should keep you warm at the temperature stated. So that would lead me to believe that you were getting cold from the ground and that your sleeping pad is not sufficient enough.

What sleeping pad are you using? Which shelter are you using?

2) Typical 4-5 day trips I will pack the following:

- Down vest
- Insulated bottoms (depending on forecast)
- Capilene 3 (for sleeping or providing addition warmth or to wear wile washing my first baselayer)
- Ankle socks (to sleep in or to wear while I wash/dry my hiking socks)
- Windshirt
- Raincoat
- Rain pants
- Warm hat
- Warm gloves

No 2nd pair of underwear and no heavy 2nd pair of hiking socks.

3) For rain I have two forms of protection. My windshirt and my rain coat-- I mainly use the former unless it is a heavy, prolonged downpour. The Marmot Ion is perfect for shedding those summer storms. I also have Golite Reed rain pants which for an extra 5.8oz I don't mind throwing in the pack.

As for pack protection, I use a trash compactor as a pack liner. Weighs 2.4oz-- much better protection and lighter than a pack cover.

Cooking in the rain-- use your tent vestibule. I only cook for dinner and thus in the evening I am at camp, with the tent or tarp set-up.


Edited by ChrisFol (04/12/10 11:25 PM)

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#131987 - 04/13/10 01:01 AM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: ChrisFol]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2095
Loc: Napa, CA
I'd add one more note about sleeping warm--close up your bag until just your nose peeks out of it. That's where most of the heat loss is--out the top opening of the bag.

And I only take one shirt and one pair of pants...at least for the first four days. yeah, they get dirty. So what.

And rain...I try to avoid be reading the weather forecast...and just wearing a light rainsuit over my regular clothers.
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#131988 - 04/13/10 02:41 AM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: balzaccom]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Although you can get plenty of great advice here, I'm going to suggest two things-get a copy of The Complete Walker by Colin Fletcher. It is considered the "Bible" of backpacking. Fletcher has passed away, but his co-writer carries on the tradition.

Join a hiking club or if you have an REI or similar store nearby, see if they offer free or low-cost classes. The Sierra Club may have classes. See if there is a chapter nearby (look on the Internet).

A comment on bag ratings. Unless the bag has the EN rating, I consider it suspect. Yours does, but the 30F rating is at the lower limit for comfort. Look at the rating chart, then look up your bag. It may not be warm enough for you. My bag is rated -5C (+23F), which is pretty accurate in my experience, but any colder, I wear my base layer, a fleece hat or balaclava, socks and light gloves.

http://marmot.com/product/content/en-tested


Edited by TomD (04/13/10 02:53 AM)
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#131994 - 04/13/10 07:22 AM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: TomD]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
I heartily second the motion of reading Fletcher & Rawlins' Complete Walker IV. I think there's even a piece in there called "A Sample Day in the Rain."

It's the only book on backpacking I've ever bought and kept after reading it. (I kept each of the first 3 versions until the next one came out, then passed them along to friends.)

Fletcher on backpacking is like Bruce Catton on the Civil War: there will always be newer, hipper writers, but there will never be a better writer on the subject.

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#131996 - 04/13/10 09:26 AM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: Glenn]
kbennett Offline
member

Registered: 10/27/03
Posts: 820
Loc: north carolina
Originally Posted By Glenn

It's the only book on backpacking I've ever bought and kept after reading it. (I kept each of the first 3 versions u


I have the First, Third, and Fourth editions. The Third edition was my introduction to backpacking. I memorized almost the entire book. Found the first edition in a used book store, and snatched it up. The advice is exceedingly sound, except for the details about gear, of course (things have changed a bit in 40+ years.)

The 4th edition with Rawlins is really very good. It can get a little choppy as they switch between the two writers, but the gear advice is excellent, and the how to and "why to" (mostly from Colin) is still a great read.

Buy the book, Grasshopper, and learn from the master.
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#131998 - 04/13/10 10:10 AM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: kbennett]
skinnyskier2112 Offline
newbie

Registered: 01/21/10
Posts: 8
Loc: Minneapolis, MN
Thanks for all the great responses! To answer those who were asking about what I was using for sleeping:

Bag: Marmot Arroyo
Pad: Thermarest Neoair
Tent: MSR Carbon Reflex 2

I didn't even think about the fact that the heat loss could come from below. I think though I would have been quite a bit warmer if I simply wore one heavier layer over my base and put the Balaclava on the whole night instead of after I woke up cold for the 3rd time or so. The temps got ~ 10 degrees colder than forecasted so I wasn't really expecting it!

On the matter of clothing I wore synthetic gear this past outing mainly for its quick drying abilities. Is polyester fine for hiking? I think investing in a light compactible down jacket may be a good idea if I continue having problems with the cold.

On longer trips, if you're hiking with other people, do you ever wash your hiking clothes? I'd be a little worried about being smelly if I brought 1 shirt.


Edited by skinnyskier2112 (04/13/10 10:19 AM)

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#132004 - 04/13/10 12:21 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: skinnyskier2112]
ChrisFol Offline
member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 387
Loc: Denver, Colordo
Originally Posted By skinnyskier2112
Thanks for all the great responses! To answer those who were asking about what I was using for sleeping:

Bag: Marmot Arroyo
Pad: Thermarest Neoair
Tent: MSR Carbon Reflex 2

I didn't even think about the fact that the heat loss could come from below. I think though I would have been quite a bit warmer if I simply wore one heavier layer over my base and put the Balaclava on the whole night instead of after I woke up cold for the 3rd time or so. The temps got ~ 10 degrees colder than forecasted so I wasn't really expecting it!

On the matter of clothing I wore synthetic gear this past outing mainly for its quick drying abilities. Is polyester fine for hiking? I think investing in a light compactible down jacket may be a good idea if I continue having problems with the cold.

On longer trips, if you're hiking with other people, do you ever wash your hiking clothes? I'd be a little worried about being smelly if I brought 1 shirt.


The NeoAir may be the cause of your cold nights. While others have said they can stay warm on theirs below freezing, others need another pad to use in conjunction with their NeoAir. I would suggest looking at a cheap ridgerest or a piece of z-lite to place under your NeoAir.

The problem with wearing one heavy layer, rather than multiple lighter layers is that you could very easily overheat and that is just as bad. You then take off the heavy layer and the cold saps your warm body moisture and leaves you cold.

I find the key is to know your own body-- put on a layer before you get cold and not after! Take off a layer before you become too warm and not after!

Synthetic clothing is fine. My favorite base layers are Capilene polyester. Down provides better warmth, is generally lighter and more compressible, but is often more expensive and is not something that is truly needed-- people have been keeping warm with fleece jackets and synthetic jackets such as primaloft work just as well, for a fraction of the cost.

As for being smelly-- meh, I only ever bring two shirts, so if I do need to wash one I have another to wear and it also serves double duty for creating additional insulation. For shorter trips, 4 days or less, I can get by with just one shirt, depending on the forecast.



Edited by ChrisFol (04/13/10 12:24 PM)

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#132005 - 04/13/10 12:29 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: skinnyskier2112]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
I think the pad was your problem, too. (I use a NeoAir, but haven't had it in really cold conditions yet. When I decide to try that for the first time, I'll definitely be car camping and have a heavier, warmer pad in the car.)

Some kind of insulated jacket would probably be a good thing in cooler weather. I've used two: a Patagonia down sweater and a Western Mountaineering Flash jacket. I like both equally well; the only difference between the two is that the Flash has a hood. (They now make the Patagonia in a hooded version.) A less expensive alternative would be something like the Patagonia micropuff, though it's also not as compressible.

As far as shirts: up to 4 days, I don't worry about it. Yes, I'll stink. But so will everyone else with me unless I'm traveling solo - in which case it doesn't matter. I don't wash the shirt, but I do wash me; usually, a sponge bath every other day, without soap, is enough to get the worst of the stink off. Over 4 days, I'll usually take a spare shirt and sometimes a spare pair of shorts.

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#132025 - 04/13/10 04:56 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: Glenn]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6764
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
In a lot of places with dusty trails, if you change clothes you'll be grubby again within an hour. Why bother? Everyone else out there stinks, too! I therefore don't worry about laundry, except for rinsing socks every day. And the only spare clothing I take is an extra pair or two of socks. My undies are quick-drying enough that I can go without for the short time it takes to dry them, or I can put them on damp and my body will dry them very quickly.

I sponge myself off (at least the critical areas) daily and I do keep my base layer (which I sleep in) clean and dry. If I wear the base layer outside the tent (usually on cold mornings), I keep it under my outer clothing and change out of it before I start hiking so I don't sweat in it.

An important note--even biodegradable soap kills aquatic life, and so do the residues of sunscreen and insect repellent left on your skin. Please rinse off at least 200 feet away from active or dormant water sources before swimming! Better yet, leave the soap at home!

I leave a package of moist towlettes and a change of clothing in my car at the trailhead to lessen the funk on my way home, at least if I'm going to be stopping at a restaurant or motel on the way.

EDIT (re being cold at night): The NeoAir is undoubtedly your problem. Either get an insulated air pad (those little baffles in the NeoAir that supposedly reflect your body heat back to you didn't work for me below 40*) or get a 1/3 to 1/2" thick CCF pad to use with the NeoAir when temps get below 35*. Having to use that supplemental CCF pad unfortunately eliminates any weight savings from that highly expensive and, IMHO, overrated piece of gear, which is why mine went back to REI.


Edited by OregonMouse (04/13/10 05:17 PM)
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#132028 - 04/13/10 05:38 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: OregonMouse]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
So far, I like the way the NeoAir sleeps - but all the sleeping so far has been in warm weather. I'm seriously thinking that the spare pad in the car, when I try the NeoAir in the cold, will be my tried and trusted Prolite 4 (I think they call it Prolite Plus now.) That pad has been under me in some 20-degree weather, with no problems whatsoever.

I like the NeoAir's additional comfort, and the half pound of weight it saves, but I am worried about cold-weather performance and long-term durability. At the first sign of trouble, I'm headed straight back to the Prolite 4.

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#132033 - 04/13/10 08:14 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: Glenn]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
I'm one of those who has used the NeoAir into the 20F temps without an issue - warm and comfy even without the foam pad beneath.

I generally take a wide 1/4 inch evazote when I use the Neo - my general purpose for it is to use in the hammock or on the ground, the wider foam pad will block cold air flowing through the nylon of the hammock while I am actually laying on the Neo itself, partially inflated. But in one instance of a cold and sudden snowstorm blowing up while out car camping with others, I had to pull down the hammock setup and jump in a tent with someone due to the potential danger of dead branches blowing out of trees in high winds - I slept on just the Neo with only the tent bottom beneath it. We woke to snow and I was quite warm all night so it was very much a surprise.

I'd feel comfortable sleeping down to the low 30s without a foam pad on the NeoAir.
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#132065 - 04/14/10 02:12 AM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: skinnyskier2112]
billk Offline
member

Registered: 08/20/03
Posts: 1196
Loc: Portland, Oregon
Everyone else gave you good advice. About all I could add is that it takes a while to determine your personal needs. Myself, I get cold easily and would be miserable-going-on-hypothermic with the clothing some people find adequate. I always carry light long johns (zip-T for the top) and a down jacket, even in the middle of summer (Oregon Cascades, mostly).

Last August I spent a miserable 24-degree night in a Western Mountaineering Summerlite (optimistically rated 32 degrees).
Even with all my clothes on (except the down jacket, which I was using as a pillow) I was not warm enough.

The individual circumstance makes a difference, too. I can recall being slightly chilly at about 40 degrees in a 0-degree bag. I've slept in that same bag in the winter at 0 degrees and been, well, warm enough to sleep.

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#132082 - 04/14/10 11:13 AM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: skinnyskier2112]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By skinnyskier2112
I woke up cold a bunch of times throughout the night.


I didn't see it mentioned here so I'll bring it up:

Take some Hot Hands with you.

Toss a few of these in your sleeping bag about 10-20 minutes before you retire for the night. They still be putting off heat when you're ready to get up, and you can put them in your pockets to keep you warm until you get going for the day.

These are a great gear addition if your only going out for a few days.

I carry mine out with me, but I really don't see any reason why dumping the contents of the packets after they're used and only carrying out the packaging would be a problem.

Bill
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#132100 - 04/14/10 11:25 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: billk]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2865
Loc: California
Re:cold in sleeping bag.

1. The sleeping bag insulates, does not "heat" - you have to provide the heat - this means your body has to be warm when you get in. I have a hot meal or drink, take a 5-minute evining fast walk, strip down to light base layer, hop in and stuff extra clothing in the bag too. When I get the bag warm then I put on more clothes as the evening cools.

2. Once your bag is warm, keep drafts out. This means a draft collar for the temperatures you encountered. A draft collar lets you cinch around your neck even if you do not totally cinch up the hood. The zipper draft tube is important too. I always am warmer with the zipper to my front (I am a side sleeper).

3. As the night wears on, your body has to keep pumping out heat. This means enough food at night - be sure to get about a thrid of the meal as fat - fats last longer.

4. There is no insulation where your body compresses the bag. This is the ground heat loss problem. At a minimum take a 2-3 foot long z-rest piece and put under your shoulders and hips.

5. It is my experience that if you have to pee at night, it is best to quickly get out and do this. A full blader makes me cold.

6. I sleep in a fleece balaclava. It is amazing how much warmer I am with this little 3-oz. addition. I also have a detatchable down hood on my winter parka - I take this sometimes and it really adds about 5-degrees warmth.

7. Feet need to stay warm - start with no socks and put them on later if it gets cold. Like the down hood, a light pair of down booties helps a lot.

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#132363 - 04/19/10 11:40 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: wandering_daisy]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By wandering_daisy

5. It is my experience that if you have to pee at night, it is best to quickly get out and do this. A full blader makes me cold.


Get out? In the cold? How Barbaric.. That's like... living in the days before man invented wide mouth pepsi or gatorade bottles with a stripe of yellow tape on them... wink
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#132371 - 04/20/10 01:42 AM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: phat]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6764
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Uh, phat, you should know that the pee bottle is unfortunately usable only by the male sex....
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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#132413 - 04/20/10 07:15 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: OregonMouse]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
However cook pots are gender neutral.
Jim
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#132416 - 04/20/10 07:50 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: Jimshaw]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
Jim: if we're ever lucky enough to go camping together, I volunteer to do all the cooking - with my own gear! shocked

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#132640 - 04/24/10 08:07 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers! [Re: skinnyskier2112]
sabre11004 Offline
member

Registered: 05/05/07
Posts: 513
Loc: Tennessee
First of all if you have a 30 degree bag and it dips to 28 degrees, you are not going to stay comfortable...period. A 30 degree rated bag is actually around a 45- 50 degree bag. What these ratings are is a temperature that you can "survive in", at that temperature and that's all. Not that you will be comfortable in it. If I were to hike in areas that were consistently 20-30 degrees at night I would go for a 0 degree bag. That way you could be comfortable at 30 degrees and just not survive.
The sleeping part I think is just a story of being most of the time so exhausted to do any thing but sleep. If I were to walk, say 2- 3 miles per day and then set up camp, I probably would not sleep much either. I am usually so worn out by the time that I get to where I am going that that's all that I can think about is sleep. The clothes that you bring will again depend on the temps. If you are going to consistently be in freezing temps, I would always bring clothes to sleep in. I guess the reason that I take care of the "temps" so much is that there are two things that can ruin your hiking trip and that is heat and cold. Either can make you absolutely miserable, during the day or at night. Rain is just something that you have to learn to deal with and I would think that every one deals with it differently. The way that I dealt with it at first, is that I would just walk in the rain like it wasn't raining. It's a little difficult at first, but well worth the training if you ever have to trek very far in a down pour, and it will get to the point on an occasion, that you will just want to stop and get under something for a few minutes and just continue when it all lets up. I have walked in some pretty heavy rains but I usually have a hat, rain jacket (something very light) and a pair of water proof rain pants. I go that prepared because when I am out on the trail there is one thing that I can't tolerate, and that is to be soaking wet. It just makes you miserable ....sabre11004..
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#132643 - 04/24/10 08:28 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: Glenn]
sabre11004 Offline
member

Registered: 05/05/07
Posts: 513
Loc: Tennessee
I tried the neo-air and not only did it not keep me warm (20 degrees) it makes so much noise when you move on it I just couldn't deal with it. I gave mine away after about 2 or 3 uses...sabre11004...
_________________________
The first step that you take will be one of those that get you there 1!!!!!

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#132645 - 04/24/10 08:35 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: OregonMouse]
sabre11004 Offline
member

Registered: 05/05/07
Posts: 513
Loc: Tennessee
They do make portables for women too !!!!!sabre11004...
_________________________
The first step that you take will be one of those that get you there 1!!!!!

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#132954 - 04/29/10 08:53 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: kbennett]
willhike4food Offline
newbie

Registered: 04/29/10
Posts: 13
Loc: southern cal
heat up some water and fill your water bottles and put them by your feet!

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#133191 - 05/04/10 01:03 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: ChrisFol]
dianeh Offline
newbie

Registered: 05/03/10
Posts: 4
Loc: Fort Collins, CO
If you use your tent vestibule to cook, aren't you permeating your tent with food smells, i.e bear attractant?

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#133192 - 05/04/10 01:12 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: dianeh]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By dianeh
If you use your tent vestibule to cook, aren't you permeating your tent with food smells, i.e bear attractant?


Some of us don't cook in the strictest sense of the term. I cook at home, dehydrate, and boil water on the trail. So no, your tent doesn't necessarily smell like food.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#133196 - 05/04/10 03:31 PM Re: beginner questions for experienced backpackers [Re: dianeh]
ChrisFol Offline
member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 387
Loc: Denver, Colordo
Originally Posted By dianeh
If you use your tent vestibule to cook, aren't you permeating your tent with food smells, i.e bear attractant?


Lori pretty much answered your question. When I "cook" all I am doing is boiling water, pouring it into a freezer bag and letting it hydrate. Smells are generally minimal.

FWIW if I didn't have to "cook" in the vestibule I wouldn't. On the rare occasions that I do take an actual tent then I will just pitch the rain fly or even the ground sheet as a make-shift shelter, cook my meal, eat and then continue hiking for a few more miles. In nicer weather I won't even bother pitching anything.

The only time I cook in a vestibule is when I simply backpack in and set-up camp for X amount of days.

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