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Winter Backpacking When There’s No Snow?


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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Winter Backpacking When There’s No Snow?

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  • #3686630
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    Companion forum thread to: Winter Backpacking When There’s No Snow?

    My shelter, sleep, clothing, water, and cook system for when temps drop but full-on winter snow and wind hasn’t yet arrived.

    #3686679
    Eugene Hollingsworth
    BPL Member

    @geneh_bpl

    Locale: Mid-Minnesota

    Assuming low temps about 20 deg f daytime and nights 15 deg f, I essentially use the same configuration, add 1 ccf pad, larger tyvek ground sheet, and struggle between heavier boots or cold feet: larger hiking boots and extra socks have no margins for me and I risk really cold feet.  Part of the difference might be environmental: the larger groundsheet protects from poison ivy: after the deer top it off and a couple nights of good frost it’s not always easy to notice the stems or vines. I like to keep my stuff on the clean white surface instead of damp dirt and stuff, though there’s a weight penalty.

    Two pair of gloves and liners for me: one pair I expect to get wet so I carry a pair that I make sure are always dry. Wet leather gloves I can wear and dry out at these temps, but not when sitting around.

     

    #3686838
    Yun Swanson
    BPL Member

    @yunwang0826yahoo-com-2

    What would Stephanie use for sleeping system, please? Women Sleep colder in general, just wondering how to keep warm as a very cold sleeper. Thank you so much!

    #3686965
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    Yun – Stephanie uses an Enlightened Equipment 20*F quilt in the summers, with temps down to about 35.

    For colder temps, we’ve been experimenting with two quilts inside a thin double bag used as an overbag. This way, we can adjust our inner quilts to our own comfort. We’re using a Nemo Tango overquilt, she’ll use the EE 20*F quilt, and I’ll use an EE 50*F quilt or Katabatic 40*F quilt.

    This is a nice system for both of us down to well below freezing.

    Otherwise, if we don’t have the overquilt, she has a 10*F Nunatak Alpinist – which is good for her down to around 20*F while wearing her clothing.

    She is a very cold sleeper.

    #3686977
    Greg Pehrson
    BPL Member

    @gregpehrson

    Locale: playa del caballo blanco

    I picked up a pair of the BPL co-branded RBH Ultralight Mitts last winter, and took them on an overnight trip here in New England where temps went below 0*F. I wore them over thin poly liner gloves. When I had them on, my hands were gloriously warm, but any time I removed them for camp chores, the moisture captured in the gloves hitting the cold air made them horribly cold in an instant. On previous winter trips I had used nitrile gloves under liner gloves under Dachstein mitts, with OR shell mitts over the top if necessary. I’ve used Warmlite VBL socks for years with great success, and have thought about getting a pair of their gloves to replace the nitrile for better against-the-skin feel. I thought the RBH mitts would be a simpler system, but my hands never got nearly as cold with my earlier system. I guess I could wear VBL gloves under my liners under the RBH mitts,  but it seems redundant to have two VBL layers.  I know people love their RBH mitts–what am I doing wrong? Thanks!

    #3687166
    Yun Swanson
    BPL Member

    @yunwang0826yahoo-com-2

    Thank you so much Ryan! 30F over quilt + 20F quilt + cuddler (or more insolation/clothing)= comfortable sleep on freezing nights for cold sleepers. I’ll take this advice and try the layering system on first car camping. Best wishes for your family!

    #3687179
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    Greg, I wear a VB liner system inside the RBH Mitts for subzero cold or subfreezing cold with high winds.

    Nitrile gloves inside a pair of (one-size oversized) thin (100 weight) fleece liners works great. Retains the dexterity you need for tasks like lighting a fire or tying a guyline without the flash off effect of rapid sweat evaporation.

    This is my ice climbing setup as well, I can pull off the mitt and let it dangle just long enough to set an anchor and clip without my hand freezing.

    #3687210
    Greg Pehrson
    BPL Member

    @gregpehrson

    Locale: playa del caballo blanco

    Awesome, Ryan, thanks very much for the explanation.

    #3687234
    MojoRisen
    BPL Member

    @mojorisen

    Locale: I’m a pilot. Almost anywhere!

    Hmmm. MH ghost whisper 20 mummy with enlighten equipment 35 synthetic quilt over. I like burritos! I can sleep down -8 so far with no additional layers inside the bag. Gossamer gear 1/8in pad with the therm. Uber light on top. Depending on altitude I will take a tarptent notch Li with high wall interior or my Simond alpine Makalu 2p. Both light n easy setup. Depends on the forecast of wind and snow. Makalu is a great wind n dry snow tent but tends to wet out on lower elevations. Both -1.5 lbs. Tarptent gives me the option of not using the interior if I want to semi cowboy up. Boots are Oboz Bridger, add some additional leather treatment and ur good to go. I’m still experimenting with alcohol vs the extra wt of the canister. I currently use a rum runner flat travel bag to store my alcohol fuel and can carry it inside my coat as I am setting up camp to warm the fuel. I can also store it inside my DCF dry bag inside my sleeping bag for am cooking. The can is a pain while sleeping and the wt cost is also a concern. But I digress, that is the sleep part anyways.

    #3687244
    Tim G
    BPL Member

    @gorthon

    Ryan, can you please expand on the “Gore-Tex sock”?  I live in Minnesota and the only thing keeping me from winter backpacking is cold feet!  Thanks!

    #3687255
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    Tim – For really cold days, I use Rocky Gore-tex socks as a semi-permeable vapor barrier, usually over a pretty thick hiking sock, inside a shoe that’s sized one size larger and also waterproof. Change into dry wool socks once I get to camp.

    I don’t mind damp feet in the winter, but I’m not a fan of cold feet, hence the semi-permeable membranes in my footwear. They retain moisture, but also warmth.

    #3687259
    Tim G
    BPL Member

    @gorthon

    Thanks, Ryan!  Also, am I crazy or were you planning to do a winter backpacking masterclass at some point?

    #3687263
    Chris K
    BPL Member

    @cmkannen-2-2

    Piggybacking on that last question, @ryan, so you have the sock insulation against your foot, then essentially two membranes “side by side” in subsequent layers? I believe I’ve also read others going wpb or vbl layer > sock > wpb shoe.

    Easy enough to try both, just curious.

    It seems like the insulated boot vs. uninsulated shoe/boot + layers is akin to the sleeping bag vs. quilt choice. More flexibility and personal preference with the layered approach, vs. maybe more simplicity with an insulated boot? New school vs. old school?

    #3687426
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    With Goretex socks, I prefer the Goretex layer to be outside the sock. Yes, so the two waterproof membranes (the sock and the inside of the shoe) are next to each other – which I like. The layers slide against each other better, which is nice for friction resistance when I’m off-trail.

    Also, when I do have to wade a creek where some water may get into my shoe (due to a leak in the shoe, or a deeper stream crossing), or trudge through deep snow drifts, the goretex sock protects my insulating sock from getting wet.

    #3687474
    Steve E
    Spectator

    @steve8

    Fantastic content, Ryan, as usual. I learned a lot. Almost made me want to go winter backpacking. But then I had another cup of coffee and got over it. Steve

    #3687484
    Steve H
    BPL Member

    @doughslap

    Ryan, I noticed the micro-spikes in the video.  Any recommendation’s, getting ready for a 4 day/3 night  trip in the Smokey Mtns. and something like you had on your shoes could be needed.

    Thanks

    #3687497
    James Augustine
    BPL Member

    @chirodr

    Locale: Southern California

    What are some examples of UL backpacks for winter? 55-75 liters? Justin Outdoors is using a Mountain Hardwear 75 liter – awful heavy

    #3687502
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    The spikes in the video are Kahtoola Microspikes, which I’ve used and worn for several years. They always felt a little heavy/overbuilt to me.

    Now, I’m testing the new Black Diamond spikes (Distance, Access, Blitz). The Distance Spikes, in particular, are very nice – snug without the over-toe strap that can be irritating on trail shoes. And lighter than the Kathoolas.

    #3687505
    Peter Stair
    BPL Member

    @pcstair

    Fabulous content, as usual! Looking at your sleep system picture, how do you avoid a frozen nose or other part of your face?

    #3687518
    Dennis Stein
    BPL Member

    @dstein

    How would you decide between the REI Minimalist GTX Mittens and the rbh Ultralight Mitt? I know there is a big price difference, but other than that, what is the difference in how well they perform or their features? Thanks!

    #3687525
    Anthony H
    BPL Member

    @aharlow

    Hey Ryan I was wondering if you ever have tried the NRS HydroSkin 0.5 Wet Socks?  I have a pair and actually love them.  I don’t mind wet feet but having cold wet feet is a different story.  These do a great job holding in heat even when my feet are constantly wet from snow and water crossings.  I was pretty impressed how well these kept my feet relatively warm in almost freezing water.  They also dry out pretty quickly around the fire….. just not too close.  Neoprene and high heat = Bad.  Sometimes you learn things the hard way : (

    #3687569
    Ben P
    BPL Member

    @sylvasig

    @doughslap we are going to be in the Smokies this coming weekend. NFG – Max Patch. I spoke with the backcountry office today and they said there was still upwards of 8” of snow on ridge. Expecting more snow early this week. I bought a new set of spikes today. Yaktrax diamond were the recommended set at REI.

    #3687575
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    @dstein I use the VB mitts only in extreme cold – teens F and lower. Otherwise your hands get too sweaty in them.


    @aharlow
    yes for day hikes, but I’ve struggled trying to dry them out on multi-day trips. maybe that isn’t even a requirement, given the goal which is to entrap sweat.


    @sylvasig
    the diamond’s are designed to keep your feet from laterally moving around on ice; they lose this shear resistance in snow, which is where microspikes come in; you’ll find a “boundary” between an icy/packed/level trail and a snowy/packed/incline where spikes will vastly outperform the diamoonds.

    #3687592
    Hanz B
    BPL Member

    @tundra-thrasher-ouch-man-2

    @cmkannen-2

    I’m obsessed with cold weather foot techniques. I fully support the rocky sock, I’ve even used it with non wpb altras going straight up in a foot of snow at 10-12k feet without issues of wetness and I had dryer foot gear then my booted guide and co climbers in the mornings.  But to your question above:

    I experimented with the rocky sock inside and outside of the insulating sock on one occasion for a 15 mile day in the 30f – 40f range in the porkies. Lots of mud too. While not as cold as this article, my one foot with the insulating sock inside the rocky sock was fine. The one with the gortex sock inside the insulated sock looked like a prune and developed a couple areas of redness that later would become blisters. IMO that experiment was enough to never turn back.

    two other points: I would add that at cold temps a smear of a heavy layer of hiker goo / balm really helps. I have no data on this , but balm smeared feet leave me with a dryer socks in colder temps at the end of the day. Perhaps the balm gets worked into the sock leaving less room for moisture and aids in the transfer out of the rocky sock?. I don’t really know.

    Second point: those neoprene socks  – 5mm thick and up – have some incredible secondary value even though they aren’t ideal for actually moving in. I love them as a cold weather slipper around camp luxury item. Protects the ankle and you can put a felt shoe insert in the bottom for warmth – you end up with 4-6 oz pair of winter camp slippers for chores and fire time and if you are still cold they’ll still fit right into your boots. Of course one can argue down booties have a better weight to warmth ratio, but that’s only true when laying down I think.  the cheaper ones on Amazon actually dry out a bit faster then the expensive rei ones.


    @ryan
    did you end up continuing to find good use-case scenarios for those  German mesh base layers at these temps? Also – those distance spikes look super awesome. But do you think they would stay on the square fronts of the lone peak trail runners? That front fastener looks pointer.

    #3687600
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    Love the idea of using a felt insole inside a neoprene sock for camp shoes. Gonna have to try that.

    Yes, I wear my Brynje base layer (merino) under my Smartwool hoody all winter long. I’m already several weeks into this system in 2020 :)

    I love that on unseasonally warm days I can wear the mesh under a windshirt and have a pretty comfortable system as well. Love Brynje.

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