Winter Day Hiking Items: Scenario

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    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies


    You are leaving at 5 am, January 15, from a trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park on Snowshoes, elevation is 7,000 feet.

    Temperature is 14 °F and it’s snowing lightly with the chance for unstable weather throughout the day and fairly steady temperatures, decreasing to near zero as you climb up to a well frozen alpine like, which is your destination at 10,000 feet.

    You’re putting in about 15 miles today, half of that a lot of uphill through deep snow.

    It’s gonna be a long day and you don’t expect to be back til after dark.

    The trail is not marked.


    Whatcha gonna carry?

    What’s your contingency plan if all heck breaks loose with the weather and you are forced to spend the night out?

    Bob Nunnink


    You pose an interesting challenge and one I think will have a different answer for those depending upon their outdoor philosophy. I was just reading Alpine climbing: Techniques to take you higher by Mark Houston & Kathey Cosley. Excellent book on mountaineering that I got for Christmas. They bring up the quote of Yvon Chouinard. ” Leave most of the ten essentials and other impedimenta behind. Remember if you take bivouac gear equipment along, you will bivouac. The authors of this book emphasize the process of situational thinking and decision-making. Basically they argue against blindly following rules and protocols. The most important piece of equipment we can take into the wilderness is our judgment. That said here is my list. Not much different then your winter backpacking list

    Clothing Worn

    thin hat thermal headwear for active conditions thin PowerStretch balaclava 1.5 oz

    active shirt bicomponent wind shirt Rab V-Trail Top 12.0 oz

    underwear Patagonia capilene top & bottom

    active pants soft shell stretchwoven long pants Arc’Teryx Gamma MX 18.0 oz

    gloves windproof, insulated gloves Cloudveil Icefloe Gloves 5.0 oz

    snow socks ultralight thin, ski-style sock Smartwool Ultralight Ski Socks 4.0 oz

    gaiters breathable gaiters Outdoor Research Flex-Tex 4.5 oz

    boots insulated snow boots Baffin Tundra 48.0 oz

    Other Items Worn / Carried

    ski poles one piece, carbon fiber, with snow baskets Stix X1 with nordic handles & snow baskets 8.0 oz

    snowshoes large deck model for deep snow Northern Lites Backcountry 30″ 43.0 oz

    whistle pealess whistle on Spectra cord Fox 40 Mini Whistle, AirCore Plus lanyard 1.0 oz

    watch compass / altimeter watch highgear axis 1.3 oz

    Other Clothing

    storm jacket integral designs event rain jacket 9.5 oz

    insulating jacket synthetic high loft moonstone cirus ultralight 12.7 oz

    insulating pants synthetic high loft insulating pants with side-zips Integral Designs Denali Pants 20.0 oz

    warm hat wool beanie cap PossumDown Beanie 1.5 oz

    Extra socks smartwool ultra light ski 4 oz

    backpack ultimate direction speedemon circa 2001 22 oz

    Other Essentials

    maps 2.0 oz

    light LED headlamp, suitable for nightime navigation Petzel tikka plus 2.75 oz

    first aid minor wound care & meds assorted wound & blister care and medicines 2.0 oz

    firestarting emergency firestarting – waterproof Sparklite & firestarter in 4″x7″ Aloksak 1.0 oz

    sunglasses 100% UV blocking, plastic lenses/frames Julbo 1.0 oz

    sunscreen 100% UV blocking, waterproof, paste Dermatone 1.0 oz

    personal hygiene assorted toiletries toilet paper, alcohol hand gel, in 4″ x 7″ Aloksak 1.5 oz

    small foam sit pad 2 oz

    emergency blanket 3 oz

    food 16 oz

    water average carried 1 liter 48 oz

    total wieght all items worn & carried 20.08 lbs

    Jerold Swan


    I would add a GPS in case of whiteout, and I’d carry a heavier insulating jacket (in my case a Wild Things Belay jacket).

    Bob Nunnink


    I agree forgot the gps. Just got the integral designs jacket for Christmas. Hoping to use it as my primary shell for hiking, climbing, mountaineering and mountain biking. I keep you updated.

    canyon steinzig
    BPL Member


    Locale: Nor Cal

    15 degrees and getting colder, hmm, the weather might turn bad.
    Marmot Dri Climb Windshirt
    Smart Wool Long underware
    MEC Microfiber BiB with full leg Zips
    Fleece Hat TNF with windstopper ear s
    TNF powershield gloves
    Smartwool Medium Socks
    OR Gaiters
    I don’t have any good cold weather boots that are hiking only, so I would probably take my Scarpa Alphas
    Trecking Polls with snow basket
    MSR Denali on my feet, although i would actually have skis
    Golite Jam pack I would have a small silnylon flat tarp
    alpine primus stove
    .8 oz pot I only have aluminum
    BRand new Princeton Tec head lamp, best ever
    half length z rest
    Golite Six Month Night
    Patagonia R1 shirt that can go over or under the windshirt, or be changed out if I get too wet for some reason
    I’ll leave the insulated pants at home on this trip as I really really hope to keep moving
    Snow shovel
    and ten essentials
    I would have my north face Propel sleeping bag in the car and would sehow couragous I was at 5 am. I would like to leave it but it the weather was crap I might grap it for an extra pound it could help, basically I see it as a replacement for the insulated pants but I think with more survival function
    I don’t know exactly how much tht all weigns but I think it’s light enough given my comfort level is not extreme.

    Kevin Lane
    BPL Member


    So I bought more of that reflectix insulation than I know what to do with. I wanted to bring a small sit pad with me on a winter day hike, so wound up putting it inside my pack to basically form a tuble. I put my food stuff on the bottom of the tube, with my poncho, and then the water bottles filled with hot water. Atop the water bottles went my insulated jacket. Temps were in the low teens. I had filled the water bottle up with hot tap water before I left. Five hours later, after hiking for 3.5 hours, the water was still pleasantly warm. I do not know what it would have been like without the reflectix stuff, but this seems to help. Plus, a nice pad to sit on

    Alan Garber


    The list looks good.
    I have two questions:
    1. Why do people bring a sit pad?
    I sit on my pack and use my skis (you can use your snowshoes) as a back rest.

    2. I can’t decide whether a UL sleeping bag (1lb) 40 deg or so or insulated pants make more sense–the former gives you more warmth in case of forced bivy but the latter helps for a rest stop……the sleeping bag is lighter than my pants–patagucci polarguard ones…….

    larry savage


    Locale: pacific northwest

    I would take a pack that had a decent storm collar if you needed it to bivy, in my case it would be a wild things andinista. I started using Intuition boot liners this winter, the alpine thermoflex, so they would come. Avalanche cord and a transciever, backcountry access dts. My old choiunard pole/probes..if it was a large group maybe wands. A couple of baggies of dried catfood.Skins, cut down. Spare headlamp/transciever batteries and sometimes frs radios, shovel/saw,duct tape.. a piece of old inner tube [to repair bindings], a couple of butane lighters, new skin and moleskin, zip ties.[I’m basically emptying my pack here in front of the computer], waterproof tape. This would go on top of my normal climbing kit.DAS parka, wind shell [goretex west of the cascade crest],gaiters.Extra hat,lt fleece top/bottom,liner gloves,socks vacuum sealed. I still carry glacier cream and sunblock,after burning the insides of my nostrils in the Andes. A pair of the disposible sunglasses the eye doctor gives you to get home with after they dilate your eyes. Now that I got all this spread out I’m going to do some cleaning

    Steven Scates MD
    BPL Member


    Would anyone have started with a shelter in their packs, i.e., a light tarp, bivy, etc.?

    I ask this as a sideways means of seeing what shelter you would bring if you thought there was a good chance of being caught for the night in these conditions.

    Thanks, steve

    larry savage


    Locale: pacific northwest

    In my case I’d dig a snow cave [or trench] into a drifted hill, put on my insulation, sit on the pad that doubles as the frame, tuck my legs into my pack, pull the storm collar up, and dig into yet another gourmet repast. I believe this started as a winter hike not a snow camping trip so my bivy would be reflect that actuality.
    Whatever has happened; whiteout, dangerous avalanche conditions, lost, accident or injury, lack of fitness, hypothermia … the best thing you can bring is you and your accumulated experience. I’ve turned around short of a goal and I’ve stayed home looking for some high pressure to settle the weather down and I’ve lost compadres at times when it should of been me.

    Greg Vaillancourt


    Locale: Utah

    I’ll bring some extra caution.

    I’m normally a meathead and I’ll get focused on the objective and keep going for it no matter what. Wanna see some blister photos to prove it? :)

    Winter conditions make me a lot more cautious. Maybe turning 40 has helped me accept that sometimes turning back is the smarter choice. This was a dayhike/snowshoe trip where returning after dark was the plan. If the weather goes down the tubes I’m bagging the original plan.

    That being said a 40 degree synthetic sleeping bag and a silnylon tarp/ bivy should go a long way in helping you survive if another scenario happens…INJURY.

    Scott Ashdown


    Locale: United Kingdom

    In addition to all the types of gear that has already been listed, I nearly always take a candle when I back pack. If trouble arose, I could always hunker down and pull my poncho around me and lite the candle, holding it inside. It would hopefully trap enough heat to stay alive. Of course building a good old fire near by would be better, but if that’s not possible, the candle and a means of trapping the heat comes a close second.

    Ethan A.
    BPL Member


    Locale: SF Bay Area & New England

    Thanks for posting this list. Helpful as I get more into winter hiking and backpacking. I couldn’t find the Baffin Tundra. Do you have a link to the model? I’m looking for a winter boot with insulation to about -20-25F and a nylon shank for support. I find many winter boots don’t have a supportive shank.

    larry savage


    Locale: pacific northwest

    I pretty sure zappos handles the baffin line.

    Mike M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Montana

    yes this is an old thread :), but the scenario I think is fairly typical for a lot of our snowshoe outings and winter is right around the corner

    the trail is unmarked so a good map/compass are a given, I'd also throw in my small Foretrex and a UTM grid (map pre-gridded)

    chance of arriving after dark means a good headlamp (and extra batteries)

    several (redundant) fire starting bits, including a couple of wetfire tinders- (my personal favorite for wet/challenging conditions)
    knife (around neck w/ whistle)
    small aluminum snow shovel
    repair kit (to include snowshoe repair)
    small Esbit stove, couple of Esbit tabs, 450 mug/lid, short spork
    toilet paper/alcohol gel (doubles as fire source)
    GG 1/8" thinlight pad- to sit on, but also as ground insulation
    AMK Thermolite bivy
    AMK heatsheet
    yank of Spectra
    2 six hour beeswax candles
    4 chemical handwarmers
    pack liner

    if forced to spend the night out (dread the thought!), I'm thinking small debris shelter covered w/ snow- I'd use the heatsheet over the ridgepole/side poles to keep moisture somewhat at bay and start layering on top of it- lots of debris, then lots of snow, fill the pack liner with snow for my "door", lay the thinlight down (on top of as much debris as possible) and get into the bivy w/ all the clothes I have- light the candle every once in awhile

    clothing I might be a little under prepped

    clothing worn
    light merino beanie
    light merino gloves
    zipped Merino 2 top
    R1 tights
    wool socks
    Merrell Thermo 6 boots (they're lightly insulated)

    clothing carried
    Houdini windshirt
    MB stretch windpants
    Patagonia down sweater
    MB UL down pants
    wool mittens
    over mitts
    extra wool socks


    usually a pretty generous lunch (instant soup, mini pitas, salami, cheese, fruit)
    6 Mojo bars (eat a couple, couple as extras)
    freeze-dried supper for one (strictly a extra)
    several Gatorade packets (couple as extras)

    all in a Talon 22 w/ a 100 oz Platy Insulator (and a .5 liter platy for gatorade)

    what say you?


    James holden
    BPL Member


    i think thats too much for a dayhike

    assuming your normal items what id consider essential myself is

    1. total bombproof way of starting a fire + metal cup … pj soaked cotten balls and bic+matches
    2. thick puffy hooded jacket that you use for stops anyways … im talking like 6+ oz of 800 fill or equivalent synthetic/down combo
    3. blizzard survival bag or equivalent (light bag + barrier)

    with a snow trench, branches and cover im pretty sure youll survive

    Michael B


    Locale: Vermont

    I am sure I bring less then I should, but finding that edge is one of the main points of this site. Now that I may often have one of my kids with me, the issues get even more difficult.

    Since this is likely an emergency when something has gone wrong, I am not sure how realistic a snow cave or debris shelter would be. We have lots of trees in Vt, but looking around on the mountains in the snow, there is a lot less obvious cover than one may think, particularly if you had a broken leg or other serious injury. Making a fire may also be challenging.

    I pretty much never bring insulated pants or a sleeping bag. I just can't get my head around laying down in a trench in the snow for the night, it seems way too exposed. So for the past few years, I have been bringing my poncho tarp, figuring that would let me rig a shelter, plus maybe a mylar or thermolite bivy sack, plus an insulated jacket. I can never decide on the esbit stove, so that is in or out, and a candle often makes it in.

    But all this leads me to say that the bothy bag concept seems like the best and most robust option, better than bivy sack, a tarp, a debris shelter or a snow tench. It can shelter someone injured, multiple people can share, it provides protection from the elements, and would allow a change to regroup and renavigate, and fix gear, like having to fix bindings, etc. So I don't have one, but really am talking myself into making that purchase and giving it a try. I had never seen the link to the ones at Brooks Range before today, so that now gives a real choice vs the terra nova options.

    James holden
    BPL Member


    you can make one out of plastic sheets and tape … … i recommend that before buying one to make sure it works for you

    bothies are meant to be destroyed anyways … lol

    Mike M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Montana

    as I never wear (well maybe once) my down pants during day hikes- I've thought about ditching them in favor of a very light bag- something like the MB Thermal Sheet- but that comes at the expense of weight and volume over the pants- you'd still want a bivy and some insulation under; the thinlight at ~ 2 oz and rolled tight to the size of a Pringles can has proved very useful

    where I hike your never too terribly far from treeline and usually plenty of materials for a debris shelter- a debris shelter is very efficient, but it does take a fair amount of time to construct vs a trench

    my down sweater could definitely be "beefed up" (a hood would help)- it's plenty for resting/lunch, etc, but for a forced overnight could be better- this would also come at the expense of weight and volume though

    firestarting- I probably could get by w/ less, but everything is small/light and this a place where I feel redundancy is not redundant :)

    Diplomatic Mike


    Locale: Under a bush in Scotland

    I always carry a Blizzard Bag on day hikes. Especially if one of my kids come along. It could mean the difference between like and death if someone becomes disabled, and you have to leave them to seek help.

    James holden
    BPL Member


    my down sweater could definitely be "beefed up" (a hood would help)- it's plenty for resting/lunch, etc, but for a forced overnight could be better- this would also come at the expense of weight and volume though

    jackets with more down are so light these days anyways, and down does compress a lot more

    id definitely want a hood … should yo go hypothermic the head is a major area of heat loss … unless you can insulate it effectively yr deader than a do do

    my minimum for anything below freezing is the equivalent of a MB alpine light parka

    a bit too much is better than a bit too little for winter

    Mike M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Montana

    ^ agreed- I'll need to bite the bullet and get something more substantial for winter

    the "blizzard bag" looks an awful like the AMK Thermolite bivy- wonder if there are any substantial differences????

    Diplomatic Mike


    Locale: Under a bush in Scotland

    The Blizzard Bag is double walled with baffles, Mike. No idea what the AMK bag is. The UK Special Forces have used the Blizzard Bag.

    James holden
    BPL Member


    you can do a search for blizzard bags here

    i believe the richard indicated the tested 8 TOGs warmth is the equivalent of a 40F bag

    it's about the size of a VCR tape vacuum packed, weights ~350 g and i believe is used by some militaries and SARs

    basically a combined 40F bag and WP bivy

    when u buy a jacket … remeber that you can layer yr PG sweater with it …

    i use a westcomb kokanee (used to use an ex light, or an arteyx atom lt primaloft in very wet cond) with an OR Chaos primaloft belay jacket on top to give me good wet and cold resistance

    the outer syn jacket is used all the time at stops or even hiking if its super cold… the inner down/syn when it gets very cold or in emergencies … if the outer syn is damp i can still put the inner down under it as moisture would radiate outwards, down stays pretty dry

    Mike M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Montana

    looks like the blizzard bag might be a little warmer- the AMK is rated to 50 degrees (it's waterproof as well), but weighs in at half the weight ~ 185 grams

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