No, this isn't about T-bones. This is about anchoring in the winter white stuff. Let's face it, I am a newb when it comes to winter camping. The few times I have gone, I either just used my bivy, or the snow wasn't deep enough, and I just shoveled it to bare ground and used the dirt. So, I want to hear from the experts. What are the different techniques? What are the different gear choices. I bought a bunch of snow stakes last winter and never used them. Is that all there is?
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Loc: California (southern)
You often want to compact fluffy snow before you pitch your tent. Sometimes you have to improvise some sort of a buried deadman to make an anchor. Snow varies considerably in density and holding power.
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
No expert, just experienced. Assuming you have compacted the snow to make if firm (er), I like to use my SMC stakes or if those got left at home, a nice small limb poked thru the tie outs on the corners of the shelter, or buried deadman style using cord. This is not pc in Wilderness though using sticks broken off of trees. I pack the snow around any stake I use by stomping with my boot, leaving a litle or the stake above snow level so when ready to break camp, you have some of the stake sticking out to be able to stomp it down a little, thus breaking it loose hopefully from the ice that will have formed around the stake, locking it in place. After getting one free, you can use it to pull the other stakes out, using the above method. If expecting high winds, they have those snow pickets, used basically the same or for setting up a large shelter where you would need the extra holding power. Also, similar to staking on dirt, set the stakes at least at a 90 degee angle to the direction it will be pulled in. My 2 cents. Duane
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
No claim to be an expert either, but here are my suggestions-first, stomp down a platform for your tent. I have used skis or snowshoes for this. Otherwise, you are wasting your time trying to anchor it since it will sink in the soft snow and the anchors won't hold.
Second-freestanding or not freestanding? With a freestanding tent, unless you expect heavy weather, I wouldn't bother. Look at the pictures I posted a day or two ago in Jim's Snow Camping at Home thread of my tent in Yosemite. They are from two different trips. I think I staked it down on the trip where it is closed up, but not the other time-see the difference in the snow levels.
Stakes-assuming you need them for a non-freestanding tent, there are several choices. I have the SMC snow stakes you can get at REI. They work ok in compacted snow, but pull out easily in soft snow, so you may have to stomp them down. That makes them hard to pull out, but effective. SMC also makes snow flukes in a couple of sizes, but they are really expensive. http://www.rei.com/search?query=snow+stakes
That little bag you see on the REI site seems better suited for sand than snow-never used one.
Heavy weather-snow pickets (a really big snow stake, 18" or so long) or a deadman. This can be a tree branch buried in the snow horizontally with a piece of line running to the stake loop on the tent. If the weather is really bad and you aren't going anywhere, skis also work. At Yosemite one year, the snow was deep and soft and my skis would easily go in all the way to the bindings.
You could make your own pickets by going to Home Depot and getting some angled aluminum, then cutting it and drilling some holes in it. A simple project that can be done with hand tools-easier if you have a drill press and grinder, but still, not that hard.
Edited by TomD (11/28/1103:32 PM)
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
True OR - in the worst case scenario in the mountains, 4 skis, one at each corner is the best, or ice axes, but rarely are there 4 of them... There are snow stakes of many type, SMC type, drilled ones and long ones and short. You have to really pack the spot where the stake will go into the snow hard, which mean you will have to add considerable snow to that spot in order for it to be packed and at the same level as the rest of the snow. Often in hard snow, or in packed snow, most any kind of stake my do, and there are square shapes, 5 pointed etc etc and most would work except for those little summer stakes.
If you really need to stake out, and you lack the skis or ice axes or the snow is too shallow or loose, you will be tying out the corners of your tent. If its shallow, you might tie it to shrubs, or you use "deadmen". Often there are downed branches or other material laying around to use. You stomp a boot width wide trench about 6 inches deep in the snow going away from the tent in the direction that you wish to anchor it, for your anchor line, then you stomp another boot width trench maybe 2 feet long, perpendicular to the first and about one and a half to two feet from your tent such that the first trench intersects the second in the middle making a "T". Lay the cord from your tent across this trench and then lay your deadman material over the line and stomp it down into the trench, bury and stomp again. Now you have a cord going down into the snow, going under a buried deadman, and then it comes up to the loose end in your hand. Tie this loose end back onto the tent and tie with a tautline hitch, or if you have enough cord, loop it back through your tent stake out loop and then tie it with a couple half hitches on bites (looped back ends that can be pulled to lossen the knot), so they will pull easily back through the snow, to loosen when frozen.
When you leave you simply untie the tautline hitch or half hitches and pull and let the loose end of the cord be pulled back into the snow and free leaving the deadman in place and causing you no problems getting your tent free.
Or just bury the dead men and tie a knot to it and use your ice axe to chop them out after being frozen in - your choice. We used to use the screw stakes. You stomped them into hard snow and poured water over them to freeze into ice (by the way the IS the solidest way to stake out), then you could unscrew them when you left. I have carried thin pices of branchs 16 inches long, collected in the summer, to bury as deadmen and just leave them behind where I found them in the winter. (well approximately where I found them OK?)
There are also "snow pickets" and climbers deadmen made of aluminum, shaped like a shovel blade and having a strong metal loop through them to attach to. Ultimatley tents are tied out to carabiners driven into rocks around it, often with multiple guy out points being in the tie down system. Jim
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.