UL Winter System

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    I have been creating a light system for wintering out the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. Mt. Washington, (6,000ft) is known for high winds and low temps (15F to -20F). I plan to spend weekends on overnight trips above the treeline in this region.

    Reading Ryan’s winter list certainly helped but like another user mentioned it is oriented mostly towards snow caves. What I would to ask all of you like is advice for a good, comfortable, versatile system with a freestanding tent above treeline.

    Is there anything you would sustitute or add? Anything that could serve multiple servings?

    I really would like to get in depth on this and also reduce the pack weight. Currently I’m at 19LB w/ food and water.

    Here it is:

    Base shirt (UPF) 7.8 Smartwool Lightweight zip-t
    Windshirt 3.0 Montane Aero Pullover
    Underwear 2.0 REI
    Midweight long johns 7.0 Capilene midweight
    Rain pants 12.1 EMS GTX Paclite full-zip
    Hat 1.8 OR Wind Pro
    Glove liners 0.9 Oldschool polypro
    Sock liner 1.0 FoxRive
    Socks 1.6 Wright Sock Double Sock
    Gaiters 2.3 eEVENT Shortie gaiters
    Boots 112.8 Koflach Degre w/ custom insoles

    WORN 9.5 LB

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Wool sweater 8.9 Possum Down wool sweater
    Shell 11.0 MontBell Peak Shell
    Down jacket 15.8 Millet Rescue Down jacket w/ hood
    Down jacket sack 0.3 Bozeman Mountain Works small sack
    Insulation pants 7.5 Patagonia R1

    Balaclava 1.5 REI Balaclava liner
    Ski mask 4.0 Scott Split Six with pouch
    Face mask 1.8 Seirus Combo Scarf
    Insul mitts 2.8 FoxRiver Ragg Mitt
    Shell mitt 3.0 OR Talus Mitts
    Sock liner 1.0 FoxRiver
    Socks 2.3 EMS Hiking socks
    Vapor barrier socks 0.0 Cut grocery bags in shape

    Backpack 34.8 Aether 45 customized
    Tent (with sack) 32.0 BD Firstlight (freestanding)
    Tent poles (no sack) 7.3 Fibraplex Poles
    Tent snow stakes (3 one is ice 3.0 SMC snow stakes or SMC T-anchors
    Sleeping bag 61.2 REI Sub Kilo Expedition -20F
    Sleeping bag sack 1.9 Custom compression sack
    Pad, full 12.0 PacOutdoor Insul Mtn 20 x 72 x 1.5″ (closed cell foam)
    Pad, light 1.9 Gossamer Gear Thinlight 19.5 x 57 x 1/8″

    Crampons 19.0 Grivel Air Tech Classic Lite w/ antibot plate
    Ice axe (also snow stake) 8.9 CAMP USA XLA 210 Ice Axe 60cm
    Headlamp (lithium batteries) 4.3 Streamlight Trident Headlamp (xenon and LED light)
    Camera, no strap 10.3 Canon PowerShot w/o cord A610 w/ lithium batteries
    Polarizing filter 1.8 Polarizer
    Misc in sack 1.4 First Aid Kit: sunscreen, Dr. Bronner’s in mini dropper bottle, mini toothbrush, Aqua Mira in mini bottles, tissues
    Pack liner 1.4 Gossamer Gear packliner (also used as ground cloth)
    Map 0.1 Cut-out from a larger map

    Water bottle (warm, placed nex 0.6 Poland Spring bottle 0.625oz or wide-mouth nalgene
    Water (source nearby) 16.0 water
    Fuel 6.8 Snow Peak Fuel good to 17F
    Spoon 0.3 Lexan spork
    Stove, windscreen 3.0 Snow Peak Giga Power titanium w/ piezo lighter
    Pot with foil lid/pan 3.3 Snow Peak Trek 700TI
    Sack, kitchen 0.3 Snow Peak 700 sack
    Food 14.0 Backpackers pantry freeze-dried Pad Thai (2)
    Electrolytes (1) + 1 in bottle 0.2 Emer’gen-C
    Clif Bar (2) + Probar (1) + 1 5.4 Luna, Clif bars and raisins

    PACK 19.4 LB

    Bill Fornshell
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern Texas

    I have done a couple of “guided” winter Mt Washington 3 day hikes. May do Mt Washington again between mid-Feb and late March. I have a friend in Hartford area that wants to do it.

    On the guided hike we carried heavy winter tents but stayed below tree-line each night. We also used the Perch the first night. They have/had? a tent platform but we were able to stay in the shelter.

    If I do it this winter it will be a 1 day up and back of Mt Washington as light as possible. We want to test some very high tech and very low tech UL gear. Trail runners with insulated full shoe gaiters, all VB gear socks, pants, shirt/jackets etc. I want to go for several days and go in to the Perch first night. Next day gear up with all UL gear and go toward Mt Washington and see how the gear works. If necessary bale-back to the Perch and get warm. That should say it all.

    The wind is the problem with the tent above tree-line. I am sure you know that. I would like to test one of the NEMO tents above tree line on a nice windy day.


    Ist assumption–you have Winter camping experience.
    2nd assumption–you have familiarity with some or all of your equipment choices.

    What is your primary mode of winter travel? Feet, snowshoes, skies? Some nice backcountry ski options in the Presidentials. Sounds as though you aspire to non-technical routes up some of the milder gullies and ridges? Are you travelling alone?

    You might want to use stronger poles than the Fibraplex’s. Uneven track record. Especially in high winds and snow loads.

    Some sort of back-up firestarting kit is mandatory.
    Don’t rely on that fragile piezo lighter on the Gigapower.

    Shovel is not an optional Winter accessory. At least carry a Snowclaw.

    Add a Vapor Barrier for your sleeping bag for more warmth and to help keep your insulation dry. VB clothing is more versatile than a liner bag because you can wear additional clothing over VB shirt and pants.

    Sorry I’m not getting your weight any lighter.


    The conditions that will be experienced are:
    A well-defined non-technical foot trail. Cramp-ons and ice axe are definitely necesary. Snowshoes not needed. Cairns are set along the trail. However whiteouts are common. The trail starts out from the base and reaches tree-line at around 4500 feet. From there it follows the ridge and avoids avalanche areas. Total one-way distance is about 10 miles.

    I have done winter camping in Presidentials for the past two years. What’s different this time, is over this past spring, summer and winter I discovered Ryan Jordan’s website and the UL philosophy. Since that time, I’ve read everything I could find here. I have gotten new gear and have tested it up to this point for a six months. It seems now that the system is finally starting to work. But a lot of tuning needs to be done.

    A few weeks ago, I have been out at 20-30F overnight on Mt.Washington with this system below the tree line. It was freezing rain in daytime and 20F at night with 25-50MPH wind gusts (wailing above the trees, sometime sneaking through). Because I was camping directly on snow, my biggest concern was the warmth of the sleeping bag and pad. When I woke up I was not cold from below and the sleeping bag was quite warm. That is 20F, not -5F though. The full sleeping pad I’m now using in conjunction with GG Thinlight seem to hold the heat in pretty well. Do you think I could switch to a 0F bag and sleep in the down jacket and fleece pants? Also, regarding the vapor barrier liner, do you think it’s worth using on a two-day trip? VB is something I have not used much and could use a few tips. Will your base layer clothing get clammy during the night due to VB? Do you use a liner or actual VB clothing?

    The fibraplex poles, did bow a bit. Do you think going to original factory poles is the way to go? What about investing in eVENT micro bivy and dropping the tent idea? Or should the bivy be completely sealable with a zipper like the South Col? I would really like your opinions on that. The bivy will tolerate the wind much better it seems and make it easier to set-up camp.

    The canister stove worked pretty well heating up the water in about 8 minutes at 5000 feet at 25F. Not sure how well it will work in lower temp and in higher winds. What I did is heated up the fuel tank under the jacket 30 minutes before pitching tent. With your advice, I will pack additional windproof matches to help start the ignition.

    As far as clothing, I have not yet been sweaty or cold or overheated while hiking and when in camp. Couple people suggested using softshell pants. I’m a little concerned about the wind coming through though.

    Also, do you recommend a shovel to dig out from the snow at night?

    I will travel in a group of four followed by a solo hike next time.

    What has your expereince been with Nemo tents? Is it the Bibler-like eVENT model? What are the VB pieces you are using? It is possible you will be going to Washington at the same time as my trip.

    Thank you for your comments.


    Also, in addition to the above questions, has anyone on this forum ever hiked New Hampshire’s Presidential Range in the winter with a comfortable, safe, yet light gear system?

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    > You might want to use stronger poles than the Fibraplex’s. Uneven track record. Especially in high winds and snow loads.

    This is with the FirstLight – right?
    I can udersatnd that some people might have had problems with the fibraplex CF poles, but I am willing to bet that they were not using guy lines.

    Some people have a totally idiotic desire to have a free-standing tent in winter conditions. That’s OK if you have 1″ water pipe as tent poles. Otherwise take and USE guy lines on all attachment points. With good large snow pegs.You may be surprised how much more stable the tent will be with good guys. And, they don’t weigh much at all!

    jack flanagan


    Assuming that you want to actually camp above tree line, please consider environmental impacts, at least before making it a regular practice. Camping below tree line is pretty much standard local practice in the Whites, though certainly not universally followed…

    If you are committed to camping in the alpine zone, the Mahoosucs offer an alternative that see lower density use. Access is possible from Berlin, NH.

    As far as the gear list goes, it looks safe to me with maybe a few caveats:
    I’d carry enough of the map to be able to see and evaluate escape routes. 0.1 once implies a pretty small picture.

    I’d bump up the size of your pot to at least 1 liter so that melting snow for water is a viable option. You just never know… Also it implies that you may be doing this solo. Nothing wrong with that, but in the weather that you can run into in the Prezzies over 48 – 72 hours, it certainly bumps up the risk factor.

    Go with wide mouth water bottles. The cap will freeze so tight on a poland spring bottle that you’ll need a vice-grip to get it off. Personally, I can’t bring myself to carry less than 1.5 l of water in winter. A pint seems like you may be low-balling hydration requirements, or over-confident about finding sources of open water.

    You might want to look at the recent threads about direct feed cartridge stoves.

    Hope that this is helpful and not overly critical. The one opportunity / situation that I’ve had to bivvy in the Whites in the winter (in pretty benign weather) was one of the most memorable nights I’ve ever spend in the mountains! Good luck.

    Gary Pikovsky
    BPL Member


    Locale: New Hampshire White Mountains

    The firstlight I’m using does have winter stakes. Right now they are just long titanium stakes with holes to help them freeze in the snow. Not sure if that’s the best way to go. Are there any other options like stuffing sacks with snow, or SMC snow anchors? Has anyone had experience using these?

    Also, I found that tying the firstlight poles at the top where they meet in a four way knot makes the tent a lot more stable in the wind since the poles don’t slide around.

    Gary Pikovsky
    BPL Member


    Locale: New Hampshire White Mountains

    Camping above the tree line is oriented when there is 2 or more feet of snow on the spot. Can you let me know a bit more about the Mahoosucs site?

    Wide-mouth bottle sounds like a good idea. I’ll definitely switch to that and add some more water. Does Platypus make wide-mouth flexible bottles btw?

    I tried looking up the thread about direct feed cartridge stoves and cannot find much.

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