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  1. #1
    Senior Member jbphilly's Avatar
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    Winter camping in Shendandoah Natl Park

    I just saw an old high school friend for the first time in a couple of months, and out of the blue he asked if I wanted to go hiking/camping in 2 weekends in Shenandoah National Park. I went to college right near there and love it, so I was in instantly. It'll be the weekend of December 9-11.

    Now, I'm hoping I'll be warm enough up there in the mountains! I know the climate around there can vary pretty drastically from day to day or even hour to hour, but I'm assuming that I should expect low temperatures in the 20s or so. So I'm hoping my gear is up to it.

    I've got a 20 degree sleeping bag right now (North Face Cat's Meow) which has served me well, although I'm pretty sure I've had a few cold nights in it when the temperature couldn't have been below freezing. For insulation I'm still using a CCF pad, but I'm probably going to get a thicker and wider one - my current one is probably fine for three-season use, but it's only 20" wide. My tarp is a pretty cheap thing but it'll keep water and some wind off - just hoping there aren't powerful gusts.

    What else should I know about winter hammocking especially in the mountains of Shenandoah NP? We will be car camping so if worse comes to worse, we can just bail back into the car, but I'd rather not. Any tips or advice? Is this a suicide mission?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Trooper's Avatar
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    You must have insulation under you. Your pad will work, but you may need extras to get some more with. Duct tape will make a normal pad the proper width. Do a search for Speer Pad Extender, SPE, or Segmented Pad Extender. Pads are so cheap you can take extras. Your sleeping bag should be fine as long as you don't expect it to do anything underneath you. Take a wool blanket or down throw for extra measure.

    A hot water bottle in the sleeping bag, usually next to your Femoral Artery, works wonders. I prefer a Platypus bag because it conforms to the body, but you can't warm it up as easily as a stainless water bottle.

    Eat well just before bed. Lots of soup, warm fluids, and fat. Stocking cap at night will help. Watch Shug's videos, especially the -17 degree hike, before you go.
    Last edited by Trooper; 11-27-2011 at 11:20.

  3. #3
    Senior Member jbphilly's Avatar
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    Yeah, I'm aware of the sleeping bag doing nothing under me...haven't had the money for a lighter TQ yet though.

    Would a wool blanket underneath me in the hammock do any good?

    Also, I just got a summer-quality insultex TQ - would putting that on top of my sleeping bag help keep some extra heat in?

    Finally, it seems to me I could stay warmer by wearing more clothes in the hammock, but I've heard that having too much or certain kinds of clothing is counterproductive. I.e, a windbreaker jacket, or something that keeps my body heat from filling the sleeping bag? Any truth to this?

  4. #4
    You can get a cheap space blanket and attace it to the underside of the hammock.
    At least it will hold the heat in and keep some of the wind out. You can even make a hammock sock out of two space blankets by duct tapeing them together making a tube then sliding it over your hammock and closing both ends. Make a 6-8" hole up by the head end and reinforce it with duct tape so you should not have condisation issues.. Just throw some cheAp solor lights on it and you will look like a UFO flying through the woods, but at least you will be warm...

  5. #5
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    some notes about winter camping in Shen - basically nothing is open in terms of front country camping,lodges, waysides, etc. (see http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisi...g-schedule.htm ) so all you have left is backcountry camping which generally means backpacking since you have to get away from Skyline Drive - regulation is 1/4 mile away but so long as you are completely out of sight from any road you will be OK - still means you will be hiking in a ways from your car - if you want a fire there are only a few backcountry sites where you can legally have a fire - basically the AT huts and some of the Byrds Nest shelters - also note the Skyline Drive is shut down at night during hunting season to cut down on poachers - only open from approx 8 AM to 5 PM - also if it even _looks_ like snow or freezing rain the drive will be closed

  6. #6
    Senior Member Trooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbphilly View Post
    Yeah, I'm aware of the sleeping bag doing nothing under me...haven't had the money for a lighter TQ yet though.

    Would a wool blanket underneath me in the hammock do any good?

    Also, I just got a summer-quality insultex TQ - would putting that on top of my sleeping bag help keep some extra heat in?

    Finally, it seems to me I could stay warmer by wearing more clothes in the hammock, but I've heard that having too much or certain kinds of clothing is counterproductive. I.e, a windbreaker jacket, or something that keeps my body heat from filling the sleeping bag? Any truth to this?
    What I would do is lay the blanket in the hammock and then crawl into it. This way you have blanket below you, sleeping bag around you, and the blanket over you. Hopefully you don't toss and turn much. The blanket inside the bag would be best, but likely uncomfortable and maybe impossible if you have a tight fitting bag.

    Since you are car camping, I'd take the IX TQ. If you have to hike as Hog on Ice says, you can make a decision at the trail head on what you really need based on the weather at that time. However, your buddy might already have a site reserved.

    I try to sleep in a base layer alone. My first trip in a hammock was a disaster because I knew I would be cold. I wore extra clothes, tried to use a space blanket, and it all failed. The problem wasn't that the warmth couldn't fill the insulation (which is a faulty argument), but instead I had condensation and sweating problems. Once you are wet it will be difficult to get warm. Extra layers work for me, but they must be breathable.

  7. #7
    Senior Member jbphilly's Avatar
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    Just got back from the trip. We survived! The temperatures were indeed down to below 20 - no exact number, but it was real *#@^$ cold.

    My insulation:

    20 degree sleeping bag (North Face Cat's Meow)
    Double-layer Insultex TQ (bought from Triptease on this forum...not sure who made it)
    Two CCF pads - the Ozark Trail one from Walmart, and a 20" wide one from EMS

    I was wearing three layers of pants, three pairs of wool socks, three shirts, two jackets, a hat, and had a balled-up shirt around my feet to create more air bubble between my feet and the sleeping bag/quilt.

    We had a blazing fire, so I was downright toasty when first falling asleep. Unfortunately, it went out by the small hours, and I spent around an hour awake trying to get everything shuffled around to keep me warm. My mouth and nostrils (the only part of me exposed) were still real cold, but I managed to fall asleep until sunrise. After all, I sure wasn't getting out of the hammock to rekindle the fire...

    Two of us were in hammocks hanging from the AT shelter (the Pass Mountain hut) and one sleeping on the shelter floor. I think I was the warmest, probably thanks to bringing such an overkill of gear. My hammock (one I made) wasn't the most comfortable, because I had a bad angle of hang - too much sag. But other than some issues with the pads sliding off the foot end, it was decently comfortable.

    Anyway, I'm pretty stoked that I managed to survive a night in sub-20 degree temperatures with a 20-degree sleeping bag - since I've been cold in that bag in warmer nights than that, and I always assume the ratings are somewhat optimistic. I think we could have done it just as well without the fire, but it sure made the first half of the night more pleasant.

  8. #8

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    That sounds like fun. I am looking forward to some winter get-aways.
    I love the unimproved works of God. - Horace Kephart

  9. #9
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    no hot water bottle? to me a hot water bottle is the prime reason to have a fire in winter

  10. #10
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    Insulation

    Try a car windshield sun reflector. I used one this weekend in North Carolina, low 30's. I have a modular military sleep system (green and black bag). I was almost too warm but it beats being cold.

    Charlie
    HH Exped.

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