Winter Backpacking When There’s No Snow?
Dec 1, 2020 at 12:09 am #3686630
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.Dec 1, 2020 at 10:07 am #3686679Eugene HollingsworthBPL Member
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.Dec 2, 2020 at 4:53 am #3686838Yun WangBPL Member
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!Dec 2, 2020 at 9:33 pm #3686965
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.Dec 3, 2020 at 3:46 am #3686977Greg PehrsonBPL Member
@gregpehrsonLocale: 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!Dec 3, 2020 at 7:00 pm #3687166Yun WangBPL Member
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!Dec 3, 2020 at 8:19 pm #3687179
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.Dec 4, 2020 at 2:34 am #3687210Greg PehrsonBPL Member
@gregpehrsonLocale: playa del caballo blanco
Awesome, Ryan, thanks very much for the explanation.Dec 4, 2020 at 8:47 am #3687234MojoRisenBPL Member
@mojorisenLocale: 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.Dec 4, 2020 at 9:31 am #3687244Tim GSpectator
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!Dec 4, 2020 at 10:28 am #3687255
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.Dec 4, 2020 at 10:37 am #3687259Tim GSpectator
Thanks, Ryan! Also, am I crazy or were you planning to do a winter backpacking masterclass at some point?Dec 4, 2020 at 11:03 am #3687263Chris KBPL Member
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?Dec 5, 2020 at 6:11 pm #3687426
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.Dec 6, 2020 at 7:43 am #3687474Steve ESpectator
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. SteveDec 6, 2020 at 9:09 am #3687484Steve HBPL Member
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.
ThanksDec 6, 2020 at 10:38 am #3687497James AugustineBPL Member
@chirodrLocale: Southern California
What are some examples of UL backpacks for winter? 55-75 liters? Justin Outdoors is using a Mountain Hardwear 75 liter – awful heavyDec 6, 2020 at 10:58 am #3687502
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.Dec 6, 2020 at 11:26 am #3687505Peter StairBPL Member
Fabulous content, as usual! Looking at your sleep system picture, how do you avoid a frozen nose or other part of your face?Dec 6, 2020 at 2:07 pm #3687518Dennis SteinBPL Member
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!Dec 6, 2020 at 3:13 pm #3687525Anthony HBPL Member
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 : (Dec 6, 2020 at 7:37 pm #3687569Ben PBPL Member
@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.Dec 6, 2020 at 7:51 pm #3687575
@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.Dec 6, 2020 at 8:48 pm #3687592Hanz BBPL Member
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.Dec 6, 2020 at 9:34 pm #3687600
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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