Oct 31, 2005 at 9:18 am #1217039
I’d like to give it a try this winter. Probably in Ohio, WV, PA, VA or TN.
Dr. J and friends have documented plenty of information for camping in 100″ of snow up in the mountains. But what about low elevation winter hiking?
Less than a foot of snow on the ground (maybe none). Little chance for new accumulation over-night (storms are easily forecast), frozen ground, night temps in the single digits to mid-teens, windchill becomes an issue both day and night, chance of wet percipitation during the day (freezing rain or rain).
What sort of shelter would you take? The ground is frozen, so how do I stake it out? Hammer? Is down still an option for your bag? Jacket? Softshells for day?Nov 1, 2005 at 7:12 am #1344111
Since you folks don’t want to help, I’ll just start throwing things out. Let’s start with the shelter, as that’s my biggest concern right now…
I own 3 shelters, CatTarp 1.0, HH ULA and a homeamde 3+ person tarp tent.
Given the above conditions could I use the CatTarp? What about the wind? Would a sleeping bag shell (breathable bivy) help with the wind? Or should I invest into some sort of 3+ season free-standing shelter? How hard is it to pound stakes into mostly frozen ground?
Now what about a bag? I own a down quilt that has 2.5″ of loft. I have added a couple of straps to the back, so its probably very close to the Arc-X model in terms of functionality.
Should I switch to synthetic for such low temps?Nov 1, 2005 at 8:24 am #1344113
@pjLocale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
i’d like to be of help, but i don’t have much experience in this area. i was hoping some real pros might help you.
FWIW, on my very few short duration winter outings, i use an Integral Designs eVENT Unishelter (it’s a bivy shelter with an overhead sectioned hoop pole and weighs 31oz). Since i’ve only had it out in milder winter weather (i check the weather forecast), i typically don’t stake it out (other than the one stake to keep the head section erect & then sometimes i just tie it off to something), and i’m also usually sheltered by rocks or trees.
Sorry, i’m not familiar with your 3 shelters. However, since they are tarps, you could erect them, and then cover the edges with snow to seal them off from the wind. Just a thought. I’m thinking on my feet here and don’t really know what i’m talking about. I’ve never used a tarp in the winter. Maybe a real winter tarper will reply and tell you that my idea is idiotic? i don’t know. While it solves the wind problem, condensation (mostly frozen, i would imagine, based upon temp) is now an issue, i would imagine/guess. condensation in the bag is another matter…
Bag? I use either a WM Highlite (down), or a either a MtnHW or TNF synthetic bag. I need insulating clothes to keep warm into the mid-20’s (i’m a cold sleeper), but this is in keeping w/the L/UL philosophy.
I keep my water in my bag with me so that it doesn’t freeze overnight.
Tony, here’s a relatively naive and ignorant guess, on your last question: based upon what i’ve read in other Threads, i would think DURATION of the trek (i.e. # of night’s out), rather than TEMPS, might be(?) the driving factor in your choice of insulating mat’ls.
Please don’t “bank” on the info in this post. Like i said, i have very little experience in this area. So, take my advice w/a grain of salt.Nov 1, 2005 at 12:24 pm #1344121
Thanks for the input. I assume just about everything I read has a YMMV clause in it somewhere…
I know there are single walled pyramid shelters for winter (Alphamid, megamid), they are probably “better” tarps than what I currently own.
One thing I just realized I need to consider is that the days are quite short in the winter, so I need to have more “camp time” (reading? Gameboy? Just kidding…). I would think a pyramid tarp or a full tent would be a better option of “sitting around reading a book”, than a small tarp with a bivy.
The Alphamid is reasonably priced, but I’m not sure where to buy one as Oware has the “5 or more” clause on the Alphamid site.
Regarding the bag choice, again, I believe you are correct duration is a bit issue. 1-night in damp conditions isn’t going to void down, but 3 in a row might.
I’m think more like 1-2 max, with 3 night being the extreme case.Nov 1, 2005 at 12:41 pm #1344124
I’ll be camping this winter in the same state as you. I’ve never done any winter camping so my gear choices so far are based on reading I have done and I am sure will change after some experience.
I decided to buy a Black Diamond Firstlight. If you substitute the stakes, guylines, and poles with aftermarket titanium, spectra, and carbon fiber respectively, you get a fully enclosed tent that weights in at just over 2 pounds.
I’ll be parring that with a clothing system similar to that described in their winter checklist, although if daytime temps are expected to be above freezing, I’ll substitute the soft-shell with a hard-shell.
For sleeping bag I was planning on pairing an Arc-X with an summer weight synthetic bag I have and my parka. When the Cocoon-X comes out, I’ll go with an Arc-Cocoon-parka combination.Nov 1, 2005 at 2:39 pm #1344133
Sorry, I didn’t see your post until just now. I’ve done some winter camping in Ohio, and even been in some snow in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. Snow usually isn’t a significant issue – if it’s a foot or more, they’ll close the access roads and you’ll only be able to use the very civilized state park car campgrounds.
By the way, don’t overlook state parks. Those campgrounds are pretty well deserted, and you can hike all the trails without meeting anybody. I once saw 8 deer before 9AM, and walked through a flock of geese sleeping on the public beach in our local park. Sure, you have to camp in the public campground, right by your car, but you’ll be all alone. And, if this is your first foray into winter camping, having the car right there is a pretty good safety valve: stick that second sleeping pad, or warmer bag, or extra clothes – all the stuff you don’t think you’ll need, but aren’t sure about yet – in the car, where you can get it if you need it.
I use a tarp and bivy, and haven’t had any problems with snow or wind in Ohio or Kentucky. I’ve never had to use a double-thick pad to stay warm, though that might be something to consider. In fact, if it’s not going to rain or snow, I usually don’t bother with the tarp. (Camping behind some bushes or fir trees usually provides an adequate windbreak.)
I also use a down bag with no problems – of course, the bivy sack provides a lot of protection from moisture. I do take a great deal of care not to sleep in wet clothes or try to dry wet socks in that bag, though. Nor do I typically eat or drink while in the bag.
As far as the sitting around longer, I’ve never really had much of an issue there, either. I still hike about the same amount of time, and the only difference is that I end up setting up camp and cooking in the dark. I’ve always been one to turn in early, so it’s never been much question of how to fill the idle time. Besides, with a bivy, it’s awfully easy to stargaze till you fall asleep.
You’ll definitely want a balaclava or ski mask; even in a mummy bag, my face got chilly enough to wear one.
Of course, pay attention to your water bottles – don’t want them to freeze. I’ve found that it’s usually enough to put them in the bivy with you; they don’t always need to go inside the sleeping bag. (Sometimes I wrap it in my fleece top and use the whole thing as a pillow.)
Enjoy the trip. With the leaves off the trees, you get to see some views that you don’t have during the summer.Nov 1, 2005 at 7:36 pm #1344154
@pjLocale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
good post with a lot of useful practical info. thanks.Nov 2, 2005 at 6:25 am #1344186
What sort of Bivy do you use? Just a breathable bivy like the Vapr or something more waterproof? You are right about state parks in the winter. I’m thinking of using Tar Hollow (SP/SF). Plenty of trails and easy access to several campsites (giving me bail out options while I’m learning). I don’t think anyone uses the place in the summer let alone the winter.
I was looking at the Black Diamond tent last night (though I think it was the larger Firstlight??). How do you like the one you have? Any issues?
After talking to my local outfitter light night he said any 3-season tent would be find in Ohio (which is what I expected), but then I said what about going to Dolly Sods, WV. Well apparently they get quite a bit of snow (there are several ski resorts in the area), so now I’m leaning a bit more toward some sort of 4-season setup. Like the BD EPIC tents or one of the XXXmid shelters (Alpha, beta, mega, etc.). Seems like the XXXmids require quite a few stakes to setup, I’m a bit concerned about using stakes in frozen ground. Any one have experience with this aspect?Nov 2, 2005 at 6:33 am #1344187
I haven’t used the BD FirstLight yet (fyi, the larger one is the Lighthouse), so I can’t comment on it. But I do plan on using it up on Dolly Sods this winter. Checkout the BPL review on the FirstLight. They used it for a winter ski-trip to Yellowstone. I figure it should be good enough for Dolly Sods.
As far as stakes go, on Dolly Sods in the winter I expect a couple feet of snow, so I plan on using deadmen statkes like the MSR Blizzard Stakes. If there isn’t enough snow, them I’m sure I could get thin titanium stake in frozen ground (although I haven’t tried.)
P.S. If you find a good way to get up on Dolly Sods this winter, let me know. FS 19 is not passable and would be a long hike from the bottom (7 miles.) Read about a ski-lift from Timerline resort that takes you to the top of Cabin mountain, just outside of the Sods, but that is on the west side which would add to my travel time (coming from the East). I saw a post somewhere about a 45 minute hike up a road near Bear Rocks which is on the East side. Let me know if you find anything.Nov 2, 2005 at 6:44 am #1344188
I’m currently using an Integral Designs Salathe bivy, coupled with either a 5×8 or 8×10 ID Siltarp (depends on the weather forecast, and whether I’m alone or with a buddy.) I like it because it’s fully adjustable: it has a panel that opens to the waist, for easy entry. The panel is W/B material, and is fully backed by bug mesh (critical for the buggy summer weather.) This means I can start out fully ventilated (head to waist) by the mesh, then close the W/B panel as it gets cooler or wetter. This is a real plus for summer camping around here, when the heat and humidity remain in the 80’s until the wee hours of the morning. The sack weighs just under 2 pounds, so it’s a little heavy, perhaps, but the extra weight is justified for me by the versatility and bug protection.
Before this one, I used an REI Minimalist. It’s cheap, weighs 1 pound, and opens to the waist like the Salathe, but doesn’t have a mesh screen. (It has a mesh opening around the face, but not the upper body.) It worked great in the fall and winter, but tended to get a little hot in the summer. It was OK, but the Salathe is much, much better.
You’re right – Tar Hollow doesn’t get a lot of use. You may want to call them before you head out – there’s some trail closures in the state forest in the Athens area; I don’t know if any of the park trails are affected.
You might also consider Hocking Hills State Park for a winter trip. It’s beautiful scenery, along a 12-mile out-and-back trail – lots of waterfalls and rock shelters; some of the waterfalls even freeze solid in late winter. Downside: you’ll be camping in the public campground, but it will be pretty well deserted. (Let me know if you go there – I could probably be talked into meeting you there for a day or two!)Nov 2, 2005 at 7:14 am #1344189
Thanks for the updates. Good info about shelters, etc. I didn’t think about road closures at Dolly Sods, but I guess that makes sense.
I know FS75 is quite ugly in the fall, can’t imagine it in the winter. I would assume you can access the FS37 and hike into DS from the south. I wonder about FS80 on the West side? Isn’t FS80 the “top side” of some ski resort? I assume its open for access for lift maintenance, etc. Are snowshoes required? Or is the snow typically not all that deep (except for drifts)?
I haven’t spent much time looking for one myself, but do either of you know of a good online resourse (mailing list, forum, etc.) for WV hiking? I can find qutie a bit about 3-season hiking, but rarely 4-season stuff.Nov 2, 2005 at 7:57 am #1344191
If you want a good view of the various access methods to DS, checkout World Wind software (free very large download)
Use the “Place Finder” to search for “Dolly Sods”, once found, select it and change the altitude to 10 km. Select Go and close the search window. Turn on the USGS Digital Ortho layer and the Placenames layer. Maximize the window. Make sure the View->Vertical Exaggeration is set to 3.0 or 5.0.
You should see the Red Creek Campground “ring” on your right along FS75. Zoom back a bit and you’ll see a ski resort on the left. Rotate (hold down right mouse botton) until you are facing south (this will take a bit of practice). Zoom back a little more, you should see another ski resort to the south on Weiss Knob.
The one further North should provide easy access to Dolly Sods North along FS80, as you see the road run right along side one of the ski runs. The other ski resort to the south appears to give access to the SW corner of DS. I don’t see anyway to access DS on the East other than FS75.
If the USGS Icon with the red bar is flashing in the lower right corner, that means more data still needs to be downloaded to “improve” the picture. Wait for it to stop flashing before you move around a bit, otherwise the picture can get a bit blury.Nov 2, 2005 at 9:14 am #1344198
No, sorry – I don’t get into West Virginia. Is their Department of Natural Resources any help? If not, you might try contacting Ohio University’s outdoor recreation program (I assume they have one.) Since OU is located in Athens, they might take trips over into West Virginia since it’s so close. You might also try Hocking College – it’s a smaller state school in Nelsonville (just north of Athens), and I think they offer majors in outdoor management or similar, so they should have some folks who have information.Nov 2, 2005 at 6:49 pm #1344226
I was at Dolly Sods this past weekend doing the Northern Loop in the High Plains area. Conditions were a mixed bag. With the rain and snow previously, our time in the bog was spent walking through ankle deep water. South of Dobbin Grade, we were breaking trail in knee deep snow. Nights were in the 20s. Where we camped on Blackbird Knob Trail had minimal snow. I used my GoLite Lair 1 tarp and Vapr bivy. I wore my layers to sleep in my Big Agnes 35* down bag and was comfortable. I use this combination in most of my winter camping and have found it to work well. I typically do not have too much snow in my winter trips. I’m from OH but get out to WV, NC, GA, TN, KY, VA year round for my trips.Nov 2, 2005 at 6:59 pm #1344227
Dolly Sods does become pretty much impassable when the snow comes in. Have you considered Cranberry Wilderness in WV for a winter trip. It’s a good hike and alot more accessable in the winter.Nov 3, 2005 at 6:46 am #1344237
I did a weekend trip this summer to Cranberry. Its definatley more protected and probably accessible than Dolly Sods. I just like Dolly Sods better (there are views for one thing). But, if I’m going to get my butt kicked, maybe I’ll go elsewhere.
Knee deep. Wow! Guess I better start looking at snow shoes.Nov 3, 2005 at 6:00 pm #1344270
Depending on where you are driving from (Columbus, OH for me) you can be to places with less chance of snow, but still cold, and with awesome views in the same (or relatively same) amount of time as Dolly Sods. If I do go someplace again that has had the snow that Dolly Sods had, I will have snow shoes. I have never tried them, but they would have been worth the weight to carry when they weren’t needed.Nov 3, 2005 at 6:08 pm #1344271
I’m not sure if you said where in OH you are from, but have you tried any of the following wilderness areas: Linville Gorge, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock, Citico Creek, Cohutta, Pisgah. Many of those places have even better views than Dolly Sods. Dolly Sods is about a 6.5 hour drive. All of those are within 7 – 8 hours, so not much farther. And over all, I think better views. And for the most part, less snow.
-steveNov 3, 2005 at 7:41 pm #1344281
Any more thoughts on access to Dolly Sods from the east during the winter?Nov 4, 2005 at 4:51 am #1344336
Matthew L.BPL Member
@gungadinLocale: Pittsburgh, PA
I am from PA and for those conditions that you mentioned I carry a Golite Hex 3 pyramid. Unless there is a lot of snow called for, this is my winter shelter. It is large enough to be fine for two people and their gear inside and would be pallatial for one. It weighs about 29 ounces if you use a trekking pole and extender for the middle pole and is still light if you use their included pole. I find it to be excellent for the weather. It is very sturdy in the wind and can be pitched quite low to the ground with stakes that I typically hammer in. Condensation forms but there is plenty enough room to not let it get on you. I never had a problem with it dripping on me or anything. I can’t say enough about it. I have used a down bag several times in this weather and would say that you would be fine for a few days but it depends on what the temp. and humidity are like, what shelter you are in, etc. It really goes on a case to case basis. You can always use a VBL to help protect the down more as well if it is very cold.
Unless it is very cold, I use a light (less than four oz.) windshirt with different versions of Patagonia Regulator fleece (R2, R1). I also carry a Patagonia Micropuff pullover for my stops and in camp. If the cold is crazy, I have a Feathered Friends Volant Down Jacket which is a real furnace. This seems to work very well for me.
Hope it helps.Nov 4, 2005 at 6:35 am #1344339
Thanks for the list. I, too, live in Columbus (Hilliard). I have a map for Pisgah, but haven’t even heard of the other places. Western PA has some nice places (several smallish SF areas) as well. Only 4 hours, or so from here. They are a bit too small for 3-season stuff (15 miles of trails or so each), but in the winter that could prove to be quite a trip.
Not sure about access from the east. I might be making a call to the MNF service at some point during the winter to get more info. I’ll post back what I hear.Nov 4, 2005 at 8:44 am #1344342
Matthew L.BPL Member
@gungadinLocale: Pittsburgh, PA
Check out the Allegheny National Forest in PA. It won’t be too far from you in that part of Ohio, and there are plenty of trails. The section of the North Country Trail that runs through it is 95 miles and is probably my favorite hiking spot. Just prepare for much colder weather than most other places in PA.Nov 4, 2005 at 3:46 pm #1344361
I assume you are talking about the Laneville trailhead, it’s in the SE part of Dolly Sods. (Bear Rocks is in the NE.) Any of the trailheads that I am aware of has miles of FS roads which are not plowed before you get to the trailhead.Nov 4, 2005 at 7:06 pm #1344368
Laneville is in the SW corner of the wilderness area, isn’t it? I hear you can access the Sods from there in the winter but then you have to cross Red Creek. Are the water level lower in the winter so that you can cross on rocks? I was there a couple weeks ago right after a storm and the water was waist deep. I haven’t been there in the winter. Does it freeze over?Nov 8, 2005 at 1:41 pm #1344657
@gfinley001Locale: SF Bay Area
I went the Laneville route to spend a night out in the Sods just before New Year last year. Although it was technically winter the conditions were about as benign as you could hope for. The road to Laneville is paved all the way to the Red Creek bridge (narrow and twisty, but since a number of people live on the road I’d guess it does get swept) but there was no snow when I was there.
There was ice on Red Creek but the creek is probably too wide and quick running to totally freeze over except in very cold conditions. We took our boots off, walked across the ice to the water’s edge, waded shin deep through the freezing water, and then put our boots on at the other side. Wasn’t too difficult because the water level was fairly low – I’d have second thoughts if the water level was knee high or higher.
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