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Thread: Let's talk cold

  1. #51
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    This is my first post here on HF, but I've been backpacking for 17 years, and camping for 25. I feel like I have lots of experience, but I understand the need to balance the confidence that comes from experience with caution, especially when dealing with real cold. Living in the Southeast, I don't deal with much below 0*F, but I've been out several times in that -5*F to 5*F range (at high-for-the-east-coast altitude). It is definitely a challenge. That being said, I love the winter camping. The trails are sparsely populated, the landscape is beautiful, and I get to play in the snow. This is big having grown up in Alabama.

    Seeing as how we've pretty well covered the fact that the cold is deadly and nothing to be taken lightly, and since Cannibal was pretty vague with his title, does anyone mind if we also discuss the hammocking gear necessary for surviving a 0*F night?

    Here's what I've been thinking about lately:

    I promised myself that from April 2012 - April 2013 I would go on at least one four day backpacking trip per month. I have so far kept this promise, and will continue through the winter. I plan to hit some high elevation areas in TN/N.C. this winter (likely the Smokies and Shining Rock Wilderness) during January and February, so the chances that I might see temps near the 0*F range are decent. Would any of you consider hammocking in that scenario?

    Here's what I'd definitely take with me:
    -Homemade hammock/bugnet/silnylon tarp setup that gives full coverage for wind.
    -Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20*F down sleeping bag
    -Homemade, full-length, nearly full-wrap down underquilt good to about 20-30*F

    And here's the additional stuff I'd bring to assure survival in case it got bad:
    -Homemade hybrid down quilt/bag tested warm to 30*F for use as extra top insulation
    -Big Agnes Q-Core Insulated air mattress as extra bottom insulation
    -Soon to be made 3-layer Insultex insulated hammock sock

    Do you guys think this would make for a sufficiently warm setup if I encountered 0*F temperatures. I ask because I wonder if I even want to bother trying to stretch the hammock that low. I will be out in those temps regardless, but I just have to decide on tent or hammock. I've already sworn to myself that I'll never sleep in a tent again unless I'm above tree line. I'm considering giving it a shot. I truly think I'd have enough insulation, but I would almost certainly carry a tent just in case. If I started getting cold, I could get in the already setup tent, and I'd have a warm pad, and three layers of down (sleeping bag, quilt, underquilt) to layer on top of me.

    Thoughts?

  2. #52
    Senior Member Cannibal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zolen View Post
    Seeing as how we've pretty well covered the fact that the cold is deadly and nothing to be taken lightly, and since Cannibal was pretty vague with his title, does anyone mind if we also discuss the hammocking gear necessary for surviving a 0*F night?
    Title was vague on purpose.
    Any discussion about cold and hammocks is welcome and encouraged in this thread.

    Also, welcome to the posting side of HF!
    Trust nobody!

  3. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cannibal View Post
    Title was vague on purpose.
    Any discussion about cold and hammocks is welcome and encouraged in this thread.

    Also, welcome to the posting side of HF!
    Thanks! I'm glad to be here!

  4. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by MDSH View Post
    It's obvious to me that if I ever do snow camping a pulk would be involved to haul extra gear: insulation, clothes, food, and fuel.

    What are some good ones?

    Mike
    The kind of pulk you need depends to some extent on terrain, distance travelled , how many days you'll be out, and the kind of snow you will encounter. You can start out with a kids plastic sled,4-5 ft long but as you add milage and time to your trip generally your sled gets longer and of higher quality so it floats better and glides better, some of the best being a waxed toboggan or one made from UHMWPE or MWPE.

    Quote Originally Posted by MAD777 View Post
    It's true that I post in threads about ultralight techniques often. However, my ultralight tendencies disappear in geometric proportion to temperature drops. I still hate carrying weight, but I want to be able to carry on, period! I just hike shorter distances in winter, so by carrying heavier gear over shorter distance, I do the same amount of work. Plus, I find that the woods aren't crowded in winter, so I don't have to go far to "get away" and I want to have a reasonable bail out plan.

    The coldest I have ever felt when camping was right at freezing temperature. I've been camping at much lower temps, but never felt as cold because I was more prepared. So, I guess my point is that you will be as warm as you prepare for.

    I'll reiterate what others have said about food. No amount of insulation can warm you. Only food burning in your body can warm you. Insulation just keeps that from escaping. I eat hearty in general during winter but also eat cheese just before bed. It's like tinder for your internal fire.

    Hike comfortably cool so that you don't sweat! If you don't feel just a little cool, you're over dressed. Put on a jacket at all rest stops before you get cold. Bring extra clothes, especially socks & mittens. Use roll top dry bags; there is no room for error!

    Fantastic thread Cannibal!
    +1 on covering shorter distances in winter and managing your clothing layers in winter to reduce sweat.

    Other stuff
    - I'm not sold on the buddy system unless your both experienced. Other peoples ideas and lack of experience can be as much of a problem as anything.

    For those who are serious about playing in winter whether that means overnight, day trips, or week long trips a good resource of information is www.wintertrekking.com
    Most don't hang but there's lots of good info that is relevant as far as tools ,sleds, clothing etc.

    bill
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    “The measure of your life will not be in what you accumulate, but in what you give away.” ~Wayne Dyer

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  5. #55
    Senior Member Cannibal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbiraman View Post
    www.wintertrekking.com
    Most don't hang but there's lots of good info that is relevant as far as tools ,sleds, clothing etc.
    Tools is another thing to give some thought to in the process. Some of the staple tools we all carry may be impacted by the cold too! For all you lightweighters out there, how big is the knife you carry? Most of the time during moderate weather, all I carry on a standard hiking trip is a Gerber Shortcut. Absolutely love that thing! But when it's cold out, it is little more than a paperweight because my hands just can't manipulate it due to the cold, fingers that have broken too many times, and the gloves I'm wearing to protect those gnarled knuckles. So, I carry a much larger fixed blade knife when out in the cold because it is tons easier to grasp and use.

    I'm telling ya, cold weather is about the little things that make all the difference.
    Trust nobody!

  6. #56
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    I think I posted my winter tips before somewhere but can't find the link. So here they are again...

    Fingers get cold fast and don't work well in freezing temps. Keep em covered as much as possible. The less fiddling you do with knots and line the better. Rig your setup accordingly. Straps and buckles work better and are easier to manipulate with gloves on. Wet whoopies freeze and will not adjust easily. I wear wristies and wool mittens that pull back to transform into fingerless gloves.

    Cold feet are hard to warm up. Get good boots that will keep your feet warm when you are hanging out at camp. It's easy to keep warm when moving but standing around and the feet go cold. I use Baffin boots and bread bags as a vapor barrier. My feet are happy. Down booties are a nice luxury.

    The first few times camp close enough to your car so if it goes wrong you can have a fall back plan. Always have a fall back plan.

    Beware the winter snow scape. What looks snow covered and beautiful may actually be a covering of snow on top of a deep hole or creek. One false step and you fall in (don't ask how I know this)

    Get a big tarp with doors. Use a CRL for ease of setup and adjustment. One that you can pull down close to the ground to block wind and blowing snow. If it is snowing be sure to knock the snow build up off your tarp so it doesn't get overloaded.

    Bring a ccf pad even if you don't plan on using it. It can add warmth if you misjudged the temp. Use it as a sit pad. Worse case you could sleep on the snow in a cave or ditch if things got bad

    Bring a shovel. Lots of use too many to mention.

    Buy a hammock sock. One of the greatest inventions for winter hammocking IMO

    Bring a camp towel. You know one of those microfiber kinds. Good to dry you off if you get wet by falling into wet holes or to rid your hammock of unwanted condensation or snow that gets in your hammock and melts.

    Get a decent pair of snow shoes. Use poles that have a flip lock adjustment. The twist kind can freeze up and fail to adjust.

    Buy/build a pulk. Backpacking in snow is work.

    Get in shape. Everything is harder in winter.


    Last winter my snow hanging trips were close to the car (less then one hour) so I knew I could bail. This year the plan is go further. However without the backup plan of being able to bail out to the car I have decided that I need to haul a storm proven, Hot tent (Seek Outside Backcountry Shelter with Large Ti Stove). Not going to sleep in it, but will use it to warm up and hang out in (meals and such). Also none of my family members will camp in the snow with me unless I bring some assurances. If my hammock set up gets blown out because of a severe storm, I'm going to crawl in this:

    The shelter has been tested by users in 50mph winds and blizzards. (Not my picture)
    Last edited by Sidewinder; 10-04-2012 at 14:47.

  7. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldgringo View Post
    Don't know how it relates here, but in another thread about rain gear, several folks opined that being wet was just part of the game. I was surprised at what appeared to be a cavalier approach to moisture control...I'm obsessive about staying dry. Not a backpacker, so I'm sure my puzzle is missing a few pieces.

    And, y'all stay out of my grass!
    Being wet is sometimes unavoidable while in transit, whether it is backpacking or paddling. They key is to be able to get dry immediately when one stops for the day (or for an extended period of time). earlier, i mentioned my hypothermic twelfth birthday. The temp was in the forties and was rainy. We were just standing around. deadly combination there. Even when the mecury is well below zero, physical activity will make you sweat. One needs dry clothes to change to at camp and those wet ones will likely not dry at all unless you get a real good fire going.

  8. #58
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    cannibal, well said.there has been some very good advice brought up here.the thing i think most important in any cold weather pastime is knowing how to and haveing the means to getting a big fire started.a fire will save your life when all else fails.your gear gets wet or is inadequete to start with a fire will keep you warm all night.your bailout of getting in a car and going home suddenly goes wrong because the car will not start(below zero is also hard on car batterys),a fire will keep you warm and alive till morning.a fire will thaw out and dry gear making it functional again.a fire will raise your spirits,and cook you some food.
    i camp almost every weekend all winter .it gets cold up here in michigans u.p.i am rarely uncomfortable.in camp i allways have a fire going big enough to warm and dry me.before i hit the hammock i have a full bundle of tinder prepared and kept in a dry spot where it will not get covered in snow.i also have enough wood ready to get the fire roaring.i do this just in case i get up cold and i am in trouble i do not have to wander around looking for these things my fire will be roaring in minutes.
    lighters,ferro rod, matches,whatever you prefer know how to use them in all conditions.be able to get to them,and do not try to shave ounces here.bring lots of matches,two lighters.do not carry those tiny bics when it is cold they do not work well and worse when your hands are cold they do not work tiny lighters well,and those little lighters really hurt cold hands.
    diyin to hang

  9. #59
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    Lots of great advice so far in this thread. I can't improve on it much.

    I love deep cold camping, but it is not a forgiving activity. Uncomfortable is inconvenient, loss of body parts or death is a bit worse

    Cold weather travel, and camping are really skills that need lots of practice. And usually if you want to do something you need way more time and bigger everything to get a handle on it. My winter gear is WAY different than what I use in the summer.
    Most white gas, or pressure stoves WILL fail at some point, so have a backup. at -26f last winter, alcohol did not vaporize well, if not kept close to your body, but if you dropped 3 lighted stick matches into the Triangia burner, it would light.
    Don't even count on a Bic lighter, matches and ferro rods will work when everything else fails. As Lonetracker stated, Learn to build a fire, fast, and have all of the fixins ready even if you do not plan to.
    Practice doing all of your camp setups with MITTENS on. make your setup work with mittens, change it for mittens. In winter I use straps and Elephant trunks, in summer, whoopie slings.
    Never remove your glove liners, which are worn inside of the mittens. Sometime I wear gloves but usually only during travel and not in camp.
    Do not sweat, EVER! Anticipate activity levels remove or add layers before you really need to, stay comfortably cool. This also goes for sleeping gear, you may not need everything you brought at 0f, so don't pile it all on.
    Eat and drink a lot. I usually carry all of my food for at least one day, and 2 wide mouth pint bottles for water, snow, inside of my parka in a Zribs pack or pouch to keep from freezing and to get me to eat and drink often. I use a lot of fortified oatmeal no bake cookies, raisens, and nuts added. cut into blocks and individually wrapped, they never freeze solid so can be eaten with no extra effort, Fruitcake also works very well.
    As noted by Mbiram, www.wintertrekking.com is another great resource.
    It is desired to have any body moisture go to the outside and be frozen off as frost. To do that most nylons will not work real well. Wool or fleece allow moisture to pass and freeze off. In deep cold even a bugnet at night will frost on the inside, making quite a mess. Most nylon hammock socks I have seen do the same thing. A Cotton, tight weave material, sock will freeze the moisture on the outside rather than inside and allow it to be brushed off, but it does not work that way at above 20f.
    You have to practice to learn, anticipate, what the results will be in different conditions, and use the info to make life comfortable.
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  10. #60

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    For those who are serious about playing in winter whether that means overnight, day trips, or week long trips a good resource of information is www.wintertrekking.com
    Most don't hang but there's lots of good info that is relevant as far as tools ,sleds, clothing etc.
    Wow, that is a great resource. I live in the Sierra mountains and occasionally go out for snow days. But I really don't know anything about how to properly layer up my clothing and what should be in which layer and so on. The clothing articles on that site are really useful. Thank you for the link.

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