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Thread: Let's talk cold

  1. #21
    Needs more Hang time Catavarie's Avatar
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    I'm going to jump on the bandwagon and say test your gear in your backyard first.

    Don't have a backyard? Go to a friend or family member that does. Set up your rig and eat your dinner right there outside. Get a feel for what it is truly like in the woods from the safety of a backyard. Its one thing to spend all day out in the environment and go bed already chilled from being in the weather all day, and quite another to rush out of a warm house and tuck straight into the hammock.

    I was able to test my gear last winter on our coldest night (24F, yeah I know not really that cold for most people here) and I actually had too much insulation and had to strip a layer of fleece off when my back was suddenly cold due to the sweat.

    As Les Stroud says about deep winter, "You sweat, you die." Practice safely and stay dry.
    *Heaven best have trees, because I plan to lounge for eternity.

    Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement. - Mark Twain

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  2. #22
    Good write up brother. The best advice I can give anyone is always over pack with more thing to stay warm when in cold weather. I have yet to hang in really cold weather, but have slept in tents in single digits many times, its all about insulation and wind protection.On the ground its much easier being that you dont have air moving under you. People laugh when they see my USGI MSS monstrosity strapped to my pack. go ahead, but for 100 bucks Ill carry 8 pounds of sleep gear that will take be to -40* until I can afford hammock stuff.

    Jeremy
    Last edited by TheCoyote; 10-03-2012 at 21:24. Reason: Took some things out

  3. #23
    Senior Member Roche's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCoyote View Post
    People laugh when they see my USGI MSS monstrosity strapped to my pack.
    Best to be laughed at than prayed for.

  4. #24
    sargevining's Avatar
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    I live even further south than Caveman does, so I'll leave the cold weather hanging advice to others who have experience. But I will mention something that was taught to me in the military:

    When temperatures get below freezing, equipment that performs flawlessly at higher temps will develop problems, equipment which normally has small problems will become marginal, and equipment that is marginal will cease to function.

  5. #25
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    Great thread. And early enough that anyone who plans on winter hangs can make proper preparations now.

    I agree with food before turning in. Let the internal furnace do its thing. Also, pee before if you can. No sense heating that liquid up for no reason.

  6. #26
    Senior Member ringtail-THFKAfood's Avatar
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    ideas

    My comments are specific for places with deep snow. Snow is also insulation. I have winter camped at altitude with a guy that carries a 30 degree bag and sleeps in a snow shelter. The temperature in a snow shelter is right at freezing.

    Take a metal shovel. The metal shovel is a great stove base to make a cuppa. The shovel is used to make the snow shelter if all else fails. My emergency shelter for day skiing or snowshoeing is a 8'X10' silnylon tarp, a sierra saw (5.8 oz.) and a shovel. Might even need the shovel to dig out of an avalanche.

    Use vapor barriers as a part of your clothing system. The standard layering is much more forgiving, but the VB makes it possible to hike in down. VB requires much more layering up and down, but the extra effort is worth it for me. VB is not high tech/cost. A PVC rain suit from WalMart worn between the base layer and insulating layer works fine.

    Rotate gloves the same as socks. Wear one pair of liner gloves under shells and rotate with another pair that is drying. A third pair in a water proof bag should be stored in your pack. The shell gloves are essential to make a snow shelter. I like the mittens that convert to fingerless gloves, but that is just me.

    Sometimes you need to handle wet metal - snow shoe/ski bindings, tent poles, stove, etc. A pair of latex gloves that they will give you when you donate blood will protect your fingers from frost nip. The nerve damage on my fingers has healed, but I still have scarring from frost nip from clearing the ice on my ski bindings more than a decade ago. Did I ever tell you why I use 3 pin bindings rather than NNN-BC?

    Use a magnesium firestarter. Works wet and while wearing gloves. If you insist on using a disposable lighter at least carry it where is stays warm.

    I am too claustrophobia to use a sleeping bag hood effectively. Some combination of hat, hood and balaclava is very important for hammock sleepers.

    Carry two CCF pads - one as a sit pad and the other to stand on.

    I enjoy the night walks too much to consider a pee bottle - some people love them.

    Boots - Neos overshoes with tennis shoes work well.

    The only bottle I trust for a hot water bottle is Nalgene. GatorAde and PET bottle are cheaper and lighter for 3 season, but...

    Store your water bottle upside down - water freezes from the top down.

    When you store your water bottle in a snow drift you may need the shovel to find it in the morning.

    You may need your shovel to dig out your stakes.
    It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.
    - Mark Twain

  7. #27
    DuctTape's Avatar
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    Good post. As someone who also does significant cold weather hangs, I concur. I will post additional thoughts when I get home to my computer.

    Great posts already. Not much new I could add, so I will just tell my "story".

    I did not one day realize that I liked hammocking and immediately become a 4-season hanger. It was a lengthy process. I was not new to winter trips either. Having been winter camping my whole life, suffered through hypothermia (on my twelfth birthday) gotten early stages of frostbite (also as a kid) and lived through it all, I still took due diligence in making the transition from subzero ground sleeping to the hammock. Hanging in the teens or twenties was a slight learning curve, but with a few good ccf pads and learning from some of the early cold weather pioneers like Ray Garlington, Flyfisher, et al... I was hanging in the shoulder season quite regularly and comfortably. My experience with NY winters taught me that as the temp got close to zero and began its downward trend, everything changed. This wasn't just a little colder than the above temperatures. Stoves worked differently, the snow and ice behaved differently, you even think differently. The margin for error shrinks at an accelerated pace as the temp enters these stages. Like others, I tested my gear in incremental stages. I would watch the forecast and sleep in the backyard when the forecast called for a new low (for me). I wasn't trying to find the minimum gear I could get away with at this temp, I was trying out systems.

    At these temps, it isn't just about a pad, or a quilt, or a sock, or... it is how all the gear works together as a system. I was learning how the different pieces functioned in concert to be greater than the sum of their parts. As the winter wore on, I was alble to test systems at lower and lower temps to see how they worked together, their limitations, how different weather phenomena affected their performance. basically I was trying to cram my 30 years of winter ground camping experience into a shorter accelerated learning experience with hammock sleep systems.

    Also during that winter I ventured out into the real woods to test in "real life" situations. Like others, I had contingencies in place. My first time at single digits in the real woods, i chickened out and went to ground under my tarp. I don't recall being cold, but I was solo and a mile from my car. I just chickened out. Like I said before, there is little/no margin for error as the mercury drops. I feared falling alseep forever, even though I had already been lower in my backyard tests.

    Over time, I tested more and gained confidence in my system to become full time winter hammocking. However, I still was going to ground on extended trips when the forecast was significantly below zero. I was wary even though I knew my system and I could handle it. My first real test was in PA along the Allegnay Reservoir. We had hiked in a number of miles and it was cold. I didn't realize how cold until later. My buddies used jetboils, and they couldn't get them to work. One guy puked all night from something. A couple of the girls swore off ever winter camping again and I was warm and toasty in my claytor and heated water with my fancee feest stove (I think it was the first year zelph created it). Turns out the temp hit 11 below zero compounded with serious winds whipping over the reservoir. Handling that temp with that wind, taught me a lot.

    Over the next years I was regularly doing subzero trips however never getting to twenty below just. That would change just this last year. This trip was supposed to be with a buddy. But he bailed due to the forecast calling for subzero (he is a ground sleeper, but doesn;t care for the bitter cold). So it was me on a solo. The hike in was bright and sunny but in the single digits. The snow squeaked underfoot. I was smart and even put on sunscreen to protect my face from the reflected sun off the snow. Made it to camp along a small pond. There was a leanto at this pond which was part of my contingency plan. My wife was left with complete itinerary as well. After eating dinner in the dark and a few hours of campfire tv, there wasn't much to do except lie down in the hammock. So I did. There was a thermometer mounted on the back of the leanto, and just before I layed down, I took a peek and it was already well below zero. Curious as too how fast water would freeze at this temp I left a nalgene full of water out, but under my tarp. Cannibal spoke of the cold affecting one's mind. What could be the big deal right. At my midnight natures call, I glanced at the thermometer and it was below negative 20. I didn't look to closely as i wanted to get back into my hammock. In the AM, as the sun came up I was putting on my boots which I had next to the now solid nalgene. I didn't realize the night before I had to now carry a frozen quart up a hill and 3 miles back to my car. In my quest to watch water freeze, I also forgot to put my damp boots into my hammock with me. Forward thinking becomes limited and errors of thought can easily become deadly decisions. Fortunately having to carry a few unnecessary pounds of ice would not be life-threatening. But frozen boots were seriously cold. The thermometer was reading 22 below zero at this point, so that is what my feet were now experiencing. Knowing the only way these boots were going to warm up before my feet froze (literally) was to get blood flowing fast. All packed up and hiking with a few extra pounds of water I made my way back to my car. I did have to stop a few times to take off my boots and rub on my feet to counter the frozen boots. It took a mile and half before I generated enough heat in the boots to be safe. I was hiking with just a base-layer a hat and gloves at this point. When I stopped for a moment, I could see the steam rising off me. Back at the car. I reflected on my errors of judgement and was glad my standard operating procedure for solo winter trips eliminates some trekking options which failure to make the right decision could be real bad. Eating at a local diner, the local weather was still reporting 15 below zero at 11am. As was stated by others, do not underestimate how the cold affects ones ability to think. Routines and good habits become necessities in the ultra-cold due to diminished capacity. Start and continue those habits even when the weather doesn't require them, because when it does, you may not be able to remember them.
    Last edited by DuctTape; 10-04-2012 at 16:06. Reason: add story

  8. #28
    gargoyle's Avatar
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    Testing at home is good to a point.
    Your gear is probably still warm from the house, and so are you. If you and your gear have been chilled to the bone all day, its a diferent story.

    Temps rise and fall differently in different parts of the country. Daytime temps can be warm (40-50*) and get down below freezing only for a few hours at night. Then there is the sub-freezing all day cold, say in the teens. Gear (and you) perform differently at these temps.

  9. #29
    SnrMoment's Avatar
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    Having lived in Minnesota for 40 years, then moving to Montana to get warm, this is valuable information, both as an education if you don't know this already and as a reminder because we don't always pay attention to the environs.

    One of the better books on the subject I ever read was "Keeping Warm." The author's name escapes me and I gave my copy away to someone who really needed a quick education on the subject (lifetime Florida native off to see Yellowstone & Glacier).

    I will continue to try to track this book down.
    Love is blind. Marriage is an eye opener.

  10. #30
    UrsaMajor1887's Avatar
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    I won't trust my gear until I have repeatable backyard data and confidence. Next, I move to a park for some car camping allowing me give it a try with a handy bail-out option. Next, into the woods with friends who have experience; never solo. I also look at historic data for the area I am headed to. I plan for the lows. When in the White Mountains in July I carry what I need to be happy at 20*F for a reason. So I am venting at 55-65*F or just sleeping in my Capline on my UQ. I would rather be warm and letting heat out than shivering.

    Your insulation does not generate heat, it only retains heat. The better it retains, the warmer it will be. Get in a 0*F sleeping bag when you are wet and shivering and you will be wet and shivering. I do everything I can to not get cold and/or wet in the first place. People have died at 40*F from hypothermia. Your chance of hypothermia significantly increases as you age as well.

    Know the symptoms and take action when you feel the chill. Know your gear and yourself.

    Be safe!
    "When you see something wobble, push it."
    - Unknown

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