Just read an article in National Geographic about camping out in Antartica. At night, as it was not attractive to get completely dressed to go to the loo, they peed into the bottle. Had to keep same bottle inside the bag otherwise it would freeze solid and that made it hard to empty. Heh. Also suggested a foolproof water bottle as it was really important to keep hydrated but you didn't want water accidents in your down bag. (Just guessing that applies to pee bottle too!) Really serious problems emerge when the days and nights were so cold. Equipment froze and broke, boots were especially a problem, and every bit of equipment needed to be exquisitely functional (cold-tested, stress tested) or you could die, freeze fingers or toes, or lose a limb.
I also watched a silly movie about a serious cold front hitting New Zealand and Australia. Froze everything in its path, especially surfers and swimmers. Only ones who survived were those had survival gear and who made it inside.
Luckily, not every mistake or weather problem in the 3-season backcountry is fatal. But perhaps we should treat every buying decision as if it were mission critical since we don't know when we could be stranded due to things beyond our control (e.g., rain, landslides, tsunami, or accidents). For that reason, I'm going to suggest reading comprehensive field tests on gear that include use well past the range of the gear is really important (e.g., bag 10C colder, pack 10-15lbs heavier than ratings, tent less subject to continuous heavy rain).
Friend of mine did the West Coast Trail under flood conditions of 4" of rain over 2 days and his tent was the only one that stayed dry. Not all of his raingear was functional and his boots were overwhelmed in the first 2 hours so having several pairs of dry socks became an issue. His team turned back at a river crossing as it was completely impassible. Having the ability to cook with your stove in your tent vestibule became an attractive option...as did the having that extra 8oz tarp for cooking.
It is nice to be the first folks at the campsite because we're smart, nimble, and early-rising backpackers but maybe it is also important that our gear choices reflect our age and abilities. That is, we don't have as much leeway for mistakes when we're 60 or 70 than when we're 20 or 30. Luckily, we're much more experienced in fixing gear screwups and more likely to be carrying that extra 4oz of duct tape on our poles! Thoughts?
Edited by wildthing (07/09/1203:10 PM)
Listen to the trees in the wind
I agree it is important to know the functional limits of ones gear. This knowledge allows one to pack appropriately within the expected variances for comfort and survival necessities.
I am often pushing the envelope for my gear. The sole purpose is understanding the functional limits to make informed choices for other more demanding trips. I also experiment with different combinations to know how certain items work together to extend the limits for potential emergencies.
Another aspect related to the limits of the gear is how to use said gear in ways very different from their intended use for unique emergency situations.
I think it's most important to know the limits of your gear to know when you need to be extra careful in using it, or when to bail out.
However, some of what you're talking about is also "experience" - anyone heading for WCT without a small tarp is asking to be uncomfortable
I am reminded very much of a rockwall trip a number of years ago. I was hammocking, packing a 30 litre pack with my blue foam on the outside, and had everything I figured I needed.
Hiking the same direction were two young guys with enormous packs, a bombproof tent, sausages, glass jars of peanut butter, etc.
On day three in numa, It's rainy and cold, I rig my hammock under my hammock tarp, then get out my siltarp and rig it over the campsite bench. I pull some avalanche debris that's dry and breakable from the stream and make a fire in the pit, and have my soup. I'm soon surrounded by the guys, and another group from the campsite who:
1) were hiding in their tents because they didn't have a tarp. 2) Couldn't make a fire because they "didn't have an axe or saw".
Oh well, they were at least pleasant company.
I think it's less about the gear itself, than about the knowledge of how to deal with unpleasant conditions without simply hiding and being miserable.
Hope the boys brought their sausages to share! I hear what you're saying, phat, about making the best of it. Note to self, sew that 5x7' siltarp that weighs 9oz.
I'm not yet into hammocking but just watched some video showing cold weather hammocking that made it look lots of fun with a snipe hammock and an underbag at freezing. Something to consider if weather poses a problem. Gives you somewhere to "hang out" in the nasty weather too. Also nice with bug net in the stinking hot weather.
Guess having field-tested gear that has multiple purposes is a big benefit and even bigger when weather goes wrong. Speaking of which, can you use an POE Elite sleeping pad in most hammocks? I see the snipe users were onto quilts and underbag setup from Jacks. I wasn't thinking of going that way, as I might want the Hennessy which has netting, but the snipe had some interesting features.
Listen to the trees in the wind
You can use the POE pad, however one reason people use the inflatable pads is to provide some comfort from the ground, insulation is secondary. Since a hammock already provides the comfort, one only needs the bottom insulation. The POE can be used, there are a few "tricks": 1. Use a double layer hammock to put the pad between and hold it in place. 2. do not inflate it all the way (some do and then lie on it in the hammock and release air to get to the desired fill level). 3. You will need insulation on the sides, especially at your shoulders. Small sections of ccf work, as does a large section placed perpendicular to your POE to wrap your core.
Even though the POE would work, it is lighter (and warmer) to get two el cheapo ccfs and make a "T" with them. Instead of me trying to describe it, look here: