Gear Success in Snow & Low Temps
I just returned from my first cold weather test of my new gear. I was on the AT in North Georgia with 5 other dads and 14 boy scouts. I was the only hanger so needless to say, I was being observed. I was also the deeply experienced hiker; so if what I was doing didn't work and I had to dive into a tent with someone, I wasn't going to appear very experienced! My credentials were on the line.
By late afternoon of our first day, the temps had dropped into the 20's and everything was covered in snow. For a bunch of Alabama boys, we couldn't have been more thrilled. Snow at Christmas time is unheard of and hiking in it could be a once in a lifetime experience.
I've had a problem with the bottom of my hammock (and therefore my underquilt) dropping just under the edge of my tarp. In that position it just takes a little breeze and all the warmth in the underquilt is sucked away. For me, when that part of my body suddenly gets cold I wake up in shock. With temps going into the teens and a stiff wind, I was a little worried but I had a plan.
With shock cord guy-lines on the tarp (learned from the forum!) and tying the tarp lower on the trees than the hammock straps, the hammock AND the tarp lowered together when I laid down. Now with perfect coverage of the underquilt, my new MacCat Deluxe tarp in SpinUL was going to do the trick! As always, some fine tuning was needed in the middle of the night. God hadn't placed the trees so my tarp would be perfectly horizontal to the wind. The angle was only inches off but it made a difference. The back wall of the tarp was catching the wind, ballooning out like a sail and funneling the wind right through my bedroom.
I wound up crossing the guy-lines of the tarp in the leading end and pulling the trailing ends farther apart. That gave the floor plan a triangle shape and worked. No more bedroom breezes. The next night I pitched the ridge-line of the tarp a few inches lower than the ridge line of the hammock, on the wind side. (Really did that sentence make any sense?) This made the side of the tarp on the wind side longer. I pulled the wind side down sharply and raised the non-wind side. This provided lots of room on one side and gave me more of a view of the snow- covered forest. I didn't fully understand my genius till sunrise came, and I had the only view in town!
In bed I wore a wicking T-shirt and underwear, fleece thermals, shells and a cap and neck gator, but the real warmth was from my new Jacks R Better down. Recently I got their Mt. Washington 3 Short to use as a 3/4 length underquilt, their No Sniveller wearable quilt and down sleeves. I put the sleeves on my feet and calves. I put a small foam pad seat in the foot-box of the No Sniveller to help insulate my feet and draped the roomy quilt over myself. I was never cold or even chilly. I was warm. Very warm. Very comfortable.
In the mornings I always have the problem of when to change from my insulated night wear to my less insulated hiking wear. If I change too early I'll freeze in camp and if I wait too late I don't get packed up in time. Problem solved. Before getting out of my hammock I took off my thermals and put on my shorts, T-shirt and shells. Then put on my warm wearable quilt and down sleeves. Now in the windy low teens, I tended to camp duties and packed my gear and all the while I was actually getting hot.
In front of the Boy Scouts and their dads my reputation was intact. I looked like the experienced hiker that they wanted there to help and teach them.