Nov 18, 2009 at 7:50 pm #1242284
I'm considering a Golite Shangri-la or similar shelter for winter snow camping.
I've never been winter camping, but I live in the Sierra, so it's time to start taking advantage.
So far I have wrapped my mind around snow stakes/ anchoring in theory, but how do floorless shelters work in snow?
How do the trekking polls not slowly sink, even slightly reducing the tension in the shelter.
I'm sure there's a simple answer, but I'm just trying to understand how using a pyramid shelter would work in the snow.
Thanks!Nov 18, 2009 at 9:27 pm #1546310
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> how do floorless shelters work in snow?
Not very well.
> How do the trekking polls not slowly sink,
They do sink.
But … experiment (close to home).
Edit: the above advice is for someone who is new to snow camping. If you are experienced, like some of the following posters, then it is all possible. Hence the suggestion to experiment – carefully.Nov 19, 2009 at 3:22 am #1546339
See, I have o disagree with Roger on this one, although I'm happy to concede that he has more experience than me.
I like my MegaLight a lot in the snow, if it's set up properly.
Anchor it to the ground, build an eight inch INTERNAL show wall, and it's great. Heaps of room for two, a palace for one, or adequate for three.
Dig a footwell for sitting to cook (use the snow for the internal wall), hang your light on the pole, pee into the bottom corner of the footwell in the middle of the night if you need to. I hate using a floored shelter in the snow any more.
A six inch disc of ply with a centre hole works well as a bottom support for your pole if you use lashed poles. If you use the supplied pole, you'll need a raised ring in the centre of the disc. Dual use as a cooking platform.Nov 19, 2009 at 4:39 am #1546348
You could use something flat underneath the pole to spread out the pressure a bit. Perhaps whatever non-heat conducting mat you bring to put under your stove to make sure it doesn't sink into the snow.
Also, they call the snow in the Sierra's 'cement' for a reason; it packs down pretty solid with some boot stomping.
Another method would be to string guyline between two trees and hang your tent off it. I did this last last with a Megalight. Retensioning is a bit more tedious than just extending your pole further, as you need to loosed, pull tight, retie.
Make sure you use either some kind of pole jack, or build a little snow platform for your pole to sit on so it's not fully extended. If your pole is fully extended to start, it's not possible to retension by extending it.Nov 19, 2009 at 11:16 am #1546471
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
The key is to stomp out a platform with your skis/showshoes, the go do something else for a bit. Get to work on the shelter once the snow has set up. For the pole area, pouring a little water into the snow beforehand makes it even more solid.Nov 19, 2009 at 3:18 pm #1546533
Thanks everybody. I was tempted by the Golite Shangri-la 2 or 3 on sale at the REI outlet, but I think I'll stick to picking up 0 degree sleeping bag and renting 4 season tents as a newbie to winter camping. That way I can learn winter backpacking basics first, then later add more complicated shelter techniques as I become more competent in the cold.Nov 19, 2009 at 3:27 pm #1546535
@rosierabbitLocale: Pacific Northwest
Greyson – one of the advantages I've found using a floorless tent on snow – I use a Gatewood Cape – is that I can dig a platform about a foot down and be below "ground level." The trench acts as an insulator. I've been much warmer doing that than setting a tent with a floor right on top of the snow. And as others have said, I use something under the pole to keep it from sinking, usually whatever is around, like a 3 or 4 inch piece of bark after stomping on the snow to firm it up.Nov 19, 2009 at 4:38 pm #1546548
I just bought a Shangri-La 3 for winter camping last night (I just couldn't resist a 29 oz shelter with room for 3 people).
The Shangri-La 3 has a loop at the top that you can tie a rope to and then suspend it with the help of an overhanging tree branch (unless you are above treeline).
As for the pole sinking, if there is enough snow that the pole would sink enough to compromise the pitch, then you'll likely have snowshoes with you. Snowshoes are great in camp for tent tie downs, but you could also place one under the pole to keep it from sinking.
I haven't purchased snow stakes for any of my shelters, and prefer more homemade/organic solutions. I've made my own snow bags out of sil-nylon that I packed with snow and then buried and I've also used grocery store bags (double bagged) the same way (just remember to take the bags with you). The latter only works if the wind won't be an issue, like in a heavily forested area; they weigh next to nothing and can still be recycled after you use them! Just be sure to bring extras. The 3rd stake solution is to bury a stick in the snow to act as a deadman anchor.
Regardless of your shelter, I hope you like winter camping as much as I do!Nov 19, 2009 at 8:34 pm #1546615
I much prefer floorless shelters in the snow. I've used pyramids, a homemade dome, and and MSR twin peaks. Once you've stomped out a platform, I find that my ski poles don't sink into the snow much if at all – and since they are adjustable, I can just adjust them up if they do sink. I find I can get the Twin peaks drum-tight by adjusting the poles up after things have stretched out a bit. I sewed snow flaps to the bottom edge of my twin peaks, so I can pile snow on those to seal out the wind. works great. My dome has the same arrangement. Lots of people use a megamid in the snow, and dig down a foot or more for more headroom. you need a longer pole than the standard one for this – some folks use a couple avalanche probes as poles.Nov 19, 2009 at 8:52 pm #1546618
We'll I guess an advantage of living up here is the ability to experiment and practice…
Alright, I'm back thinking about a floorless shelter again (you guys aren't any good for my decision making disorder).
So on the Shangri-la 2 vs. 3, the 2 seems appealing for a smaller footprint and rectangular shape (just pull out the four corners then go in and put up the polls) vs. what seems like a more finicky shape of a hexagon. The 2 is also cheaper, which is no small consideration. But obviously the 3 has more room, and would seem to be less effected by changing wind directions.
What do you guys think?Nov 19, 2009 at 9:21 pm #1546624
How many people is a key question. The 2 is similar in size to my MSR twin Peaks – and that is snug for 2 with gear – but doable if you're looking to save weight on a long mileage ski tour. Spacious for one, and a smaller footprint so less work getting the site ready. also more solid in the wind in my opinion, due to the 2 poles and less surface area.
The 3 will have more room and be more comfy for 2 with gear and can squeeze 3 probably. So, if you're planning long spring ski tours by yourself or with one companion, and traveling light is of primary importance, go with the 2. If your planning more relaxed tours, and maybe deeper in the winter than spring (thus more time indoors and more chance of waiting out storms), or if you just like more room, get the 3 – or go lighter with a BD megalight or Oware pyramid or Mountain Laurel supermid.Nov 20, 2009 at 1:05 am #1546651
Another point to consider is the type of area you will be camping in. The Shangri-La 3 has a very large footprint that may limit your camping spots, such as in thick underbrush or heavily forested areas. As Paul said, it will also depend on how many people will be sharing it, but I can share with you how I decided on the 3-person version as my solo winter shelter:
1. In the winter, I spend a lot more time inside of my tarp (potentially from sunset ~5 pm until sunrise) and wanted the extra floor space and headroom of the 3 person version. The 2 person version is only 57" wide and the pole in the center cuts the width in half, making it too cramped for me. The additional headroom for the 3 person version also gives more flexibility in moving around, sitting up to read, etc.
2. If you were to suspend the top of the tarp from a tree, the Shangri-La 3 is simpler in that it only has one attachment point, compared to the 2 person version that has two attachment points.
3. There is enough room that I can invite others in to play cards, eat dinner, etc to pass the time between dinner and bedtime. I find that staying awake in camp until a reasonable bedtime is the hardest part of winter camping. The combination of the temperature dropping, your activity level dropping, and darkness make it difficult to stay awake during this time. Unless you can sleep for 14 hours straight, you'll need to keep yourself awake/entertained during this time.Nov 20, 2009 at 1:23 am #1546656
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> Unless you can sleep for 14 hours straight,
Walk (ski) hard all day, have a large hot dinner, have a nice comfy mat and bag … no problem!
CheersNov 20, 2009 at 4:03 am #1546661
Very true, Roger!Nov 20, 2009 at 6:00 am #1546674
@dondoLocale: Colorado Rockies
I went back and forth on this recently and ultimatey chose the 2 because of the smaller footprint and easier setup. At 21.6 oz. without the stakes my sample weighs considerably less than spec. Is it big enough? Using it by myself, it seems very spacious, but then again, I'm more accustomed to tiny solo shelters. Anyway, here's a picture (just scroll to the last photo) from a recent trip to give you an idea of the space.Nov 20, 2009 at 8:26 am #1546703
I had considered both and ultimately went with the three.
I purchased both to check out in the yard, I was concerned about the 2's ability to shed snow. The middle area between the 2 poles sagged in some form or fashion anyway I pitched it. I was concerned what might happen in a heavy snow fall. I will admit it might have been user error, but it made me keep the 3.
In retrospect the extra weight was worth the extra room as well.Nov 20, 2009 at 11:09 am #1546752
I had been meaning to put this together and finally got the thread posted. It's a pictorial review of some of my snow camping trips. Sort of a Snow Camping 101 for the first-timer or just for an amusement.
Regarding floorless 2 vs 3: unless you can dig down sufficiently, maybe 1-2', the sag with a 2-man is such that, with two people, odds are the snowload will push the wall sufficiently to risk transferring moisture to a sleep system.
That said, I'm sold on floorless and would recommend it to anyone, including the initiate.Nov 20, 2009 at 2:45 pm #1546803
Thanks so much for the input everyone, the blog and snow camping photos will really be helpful.
Clearly a consideration will be what kind of campsites will be available, something I don't know, not having gone yet. I'd assume in the Sierra there would be many open spots, like in the summer, but perhaps I should get some first hand experience before making a selection.
Now it just needs to keep snowing so I can get a trip in before the REI sale on Golite stuff ends.Nov 20, 2009 at 6:00 pm #1546847
As far as campsites go, in general you have more choice in the snow, since you can create a level site instead of having to find one. So size of shelter is not an issue, other than it being more work to create a larger level space. Here's a shot of my twin peaks on the snow:
Nov 21, 2009 at 11:48 am #1547009
@romandialLocale: packrafting NZ
On Denali, a snowy place, these style tents are standard cook shelters.
To keep the pole from sinking they use a ski basket on the pole. Other folks use their shovel as a base.
Contrary to what seems to be the conventional wisdom, single pole shelters are most stable and drift the least in wind.
As for anchors, I like skis and ice axes, but if you don't have those and the snow is deep, bury snowfilled stuff sacks or stock-purchased snow anchors. if the snow is shallow, that's the worst. Too shallow for good anchors, too frozen for stakes. Then the technique in the Parcour de Wild video of burying a stick in a trench looks good.
Anyway, I like the option of being able to get snow from inside the shelter, not worry about spills or tent fires and peeing is easy.
I think the floorless pyramid style of tents are the BEST choice for winter camping.
You don't have to worry about bringing snow in, or frosting up. It's lighter and puts you closer to the environment you have come to experience.
As for sleeping near snow, snow caves and igloos have been around a long time for good reason.Nov 21, 2009 at 1:06 pm #1547018
>these style tents are standard cook shelters.
But it appears, (from photos and trip accounts), that heavy NF and MH domes are the commonly used shelters for sleeping in places like Denali. Do you have an opinion on why pyramids aren't used as commonly for sleeping. Would you or have you used a pyramid in places like Denali? Do you think that sod clothe/snow flaps are useful/necessary or frustrating? Do you see a value in wall ties, and where do you think that they are best placed. In pictures of historical polar expeditions, it appears that the wall and hip seam ties are roughly a third of the way "up" the ground to peak distance. Newer designs, half way up seems common.
Do you use a bivy/bag cover when using a pyramid during mid winter conditions? Is convection or moisture a bigger problem in mid winter mid life?
Sorry about the list but when opportunity knocks… Thanks for your insight.Nov 21, 2009 at 4:43 pm #1547066
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
Last weekend I did a <24 hr snowshoe trip, brought my Trailstar but not stakes because I assumed burying sticks in the snow would be easy. However, the best site I found was sheltered and only had about 10" of very light, dry snow. The sticks didn't hold up well when tensioned.
To solve this, I buried the stick in as much snow as I could, aggressively tamped with a shovel. Then I pi**ed on the snow and let it freeze up for 20 minutes before tensioning the stakes.
Worked like a charm.Nov 22, 2009 at 1:53 pm #1547210
@robertm2sLocale: Lake Tahoe
Roman Dial wrote:
“I think the floorless pyramid style of tents are the BEST choice for winter camping.”
Roman, I’m assuming there is an implied exception for places like the 17,200-foot High Camp on Denali. Geodesic dome tents can more easily be hidden behind high snow-block anti-wind walls, assuming the pyramids are placed on top of snow walls, as is done when used as tops for kitchens / eating areas. (In 1912, Robert Falcon Scott died in a wind-resistant pyramidal tent, so a very heavy pyramid can withstand just about anything. However, I'm guessing that a geodesic dome provides more interior space pound for pound.)Nov 23, 2009 at 2:03 am #1547315
@derekoakLocale: North of England
I have not experience of Denali but I am making a cuben mid so I have thought about tie outs. The centre of a triangular pyramid side is 1/3 of the way up, the centre of a rectangular ridge tent side will be halfway up. To get an outward pull on a low tie out, only a short guy is needed. To get an outward pull halfway up needs a longer guy. It is therefore more difficult in confined spaces.Nov 23, 2009 at 7:25 am #1547336
My first thought on replying was to suggest a conventional winter tent for your first winter trip.. I don't have any good reason though.
Instead I'll ask a question for those more experienced than I using single wall shelters:
With a single wall sylnylon pyramid do you get a lot of frost snowing down when the wind shakes the tent?
I've spend hundreds of winter nights in double wall tents in the Sierra. With my double wall pyramid there's very little frost inside even though we normally cooked inside.
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