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Backpacker Magazine – Fall Gear Guide 2009

Winter Camping: Gear & Clothing

Your complete guide to choosing, fitting, and using essential winter gear.

by: Kelly Bastone


 

 

SNOWSHOES

Binding Get rotating (or floating) bindings for deep powder. They pivot under the ball of your foot, which lets the tails fall away with each step–shedding excess snow and enabling you to kick steps into powder (but make it awkward to climb over obstacles or back up). For packed snow or forest travel, get fixed bindings. They bring the tails up with each step, permitting a more natural stride and easier maneuvering, but they also kick snow onto the backs of your legs (wear knee-high, waterproof gaiters).

Shape For deep, dry powder and open terrain, you want maximum flotation: Go for snowshoes with a large surface area (read: wider and longer). If the snow is packed or you'll be traveling through dense forest and brushy areas, look for smaller, more maneuverable shoes. The more tapered the tails, the easier it is to walk–but the less flotation you'll have.



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Tucc
Feb 08, 2012

(*Size) "Elbows should be bent to 90 degrees" - This is a great way to end up with poles that are too short!. Look at your equiptment and see how much height is added below your feet. AT skis, for example, might add 2" below your feet. Size poles with no footware using the 90 degree rule (holding BELOW the basket) and add on whatever height your equiptment adds below your feet. If your equiptment gives you 2" and your barefoot pole size (held BELOW the basket) is 50", get 52" poles...

Tucc
Feb 08, 2012

(*Size) "Elbows should be bent to 90 degrees" - This is a great way to end up with poles that are too short!. Look at your equiptment and see how much height is added below your feet. AT skis, for example, might add 2" below your feet. Size poles with no footware using the 90 degree rule (holding BELOW the basket) and add on whatever height your equiptment adds below your feet. If your equiptment gives you 2" and your barefoot pole size (held BELOW the basket) is 50", get 52" poles...

Tucc
Feb 08, 2012

Pole sizing suggestion is wrong - Zize poles by grabbing UNDER (not above) the basket while the pole is upside down. This negates the length of pole that will be inserted into the snow. Flipping the pole over and holding above the basket is no different than holding the pole upright!

Chuck
Feb 07, 2012

I am going to disagree with the statement about supplementing the temperature rating of a sleeping bag with clothes. I used to carry items that served one purpose. I learned better. The trick is to not have only one way to combine clothes and a sleeping bag to be comfortable. Always have a dry layer to put on before going to sleep. One of the most common sources of getting cold is to get cold air in around your neck. Take a tee shirt or other over-the-head garment and pull it over your head but leave it around the neck. This makes a great baffle to keep out cold air as you twist and turn at night. My personal problem with most sleeping bags is that they are too small. I have a 54 inch chest and arms and shoulders to match. The only reasonable weight bags that I have found are Sierra Designs "stretch" bags and even those have to be the long versions to get the required girth.

Chuck
Feb 07, 2012

I am going to disagree with the statement about supplementing the temperature rating of a sleeping bag with clothes. I used to carry items that served one purpose. I learned better. The trick is to not have only one way to combine clothes and a sleeping bag to be comfortable. Always have a dry layer to put on before going to sleep. One of the most common sources of getting cold is to get cold air in around your neck. Take a tee shirt or other over-the-head garment and pull it over your head but leave it around the neck. This makes a great baffle to keep out cold air as you twist and turn at night. My personal problem with most sleeping bags is that they are too small. I have a 54 inch chest and arms and shoulders to match. The only reasonable weight bags that I have found are Sierra Designs "stretch" bags and even those have to be the long versions to get the required girth.

Dr. G.
Feb 07, 2012

This article is grossly misleading about winter backpacking/camping. I define winter backpacking as cold weather backpacking because it rarely snows in the Southeastern United States during the winter months. Snow does not equate to winter backpacking. I use the same UL gear for winter backpacking as I do for the spring and fall except for my clothing and sleeping bag. I have never had the need for an ice pick, four season tent, snow shoes, or any other gear needed for snow.

Steve Cash.
Jan 15, 2010

Mike, regarding the midlayer question, in winter I will wear a fleece or wool sweater. But one midlayer that I almost always 'go-to' is a Pendleton wool shirt. It adds the perfect layer. It goes great year-round. Light-weight, breathable. Nearly indestructable, it will last for years. I've got some of my grandad's wool shirts and I use them all the time, but especially in the woods.

Ed
Jan 14, 2010

Sorry for my bad English writing. I hope you'll understeand it any way.

Don't forgett to cover you're head propperly.

Cody
Jan 13, 2010

I carry a waterproof breathable shell (Marmot's "Membrane"), between that and my baselayer I use a thick fleece (Patagonia's "Synchilla") I also take a midweight thermal top or thin fleece. I can use these layers in any combination or all together for whatever temperature I encounter. I try to stay away from softshells in the outdoor setting because they seem to snag a lot easier than a typical shell. It works for me, maybe it will help you.

Cody
Jan 13, 2010

I carry a waterproof breathable shell (Marmot's "Membrane"), between that and my baselayer I use a thick fleece (Patagonia's "Synchilla") I also take a midweight thermal top or thin fleece. I can use these layers in any combination or all together for whatever temperature I encounter. I try to stay away from softshells in the outdoor setting because they seem to snag a lot easier than a typical shell. It works for me, maybe it will help you.

Mike
Jan 13, 2010

everyone is always talking about shells. I don't understand what would be right to wear between my baselayer and shell. I looked at softshells and rain proof hard shells at REI. Do most people carry both ? They didn't look too comfortable to wear together. Can someone elaborate on all this ?

Jeff
Jan 07, 2010

DIY Tip #10 recommends putting a closed cell pad under your inflatable sleep pad. One of those silver car windshield reflectors works well, and it's smaller, cheaper and lighter.

chris schmitz
Jan 06, 2010

I snowshoe and winter camp in the boundary waters. The only boots i would recommend are mukluks. Much warmer than any other boot I've used. Perfect for travel on lakes or over tundra type conditions. I shy away from synthetic materials and wear wool as much as possible with an arctic anorak shell. Synthetic stuff is much less durable in the woods and less practical around campfires and stoves.

Eric Nelson
Jan 06, 2010

I'd have to agree with others about VBL socks. However, I think this only applies to very cold conditions. I hiked to the top of a Colorado (5 miles 5000 feet of elev. change up and down) peak last week with temps in the low 20s and teens and just wore a pair of Merino wool socks. My feet were just right. Now if I were stopping for several hours and standing around I'd put on dry socks and maybe some down booties.
As for gloves, I just do the toddler method and string a 3mm cord through my sleeves and tie them to my gloves with a rewoven figure 8.

Robert
Jan 06, 2010

I saw a Nat Geo show once where a trapper skinned a beaver which had just been removed from the water. He put it into the snow, shook it around and worked some snow into it... presto! The snow had so little moisture that it sucked out the water.

Ric
Jan 05, 2010

I thank Jopado for the freeze dry method. I use an '83 travel trailer a lot. It has been sub-freezing in northeastern PA for the last week (global warming my "Al Gore".) I have insulated the door edges. But putting damp articles to seal the windows works very well as does electric heaters and a -20 bag. The condensation actually helps seal the window. nyrefugee2000@yahoo.com Ric

Ralph
Jan 05, 2010

I've got a Bibler Fitzroy and have never had a problem with condensation on the inside. Typically leave the front door open about an inch (with vestibule on) and the inside stays nice and warm with no condensation. The only condensation I've had is on the vestibule.

Eric B.
Dec 25, 2009

Whan winter camping you MUST use a VBL (Vapro Barrier Liner) for your feet, even with military "Mickey Mouse" boots, to keep them dry. And, if at all possible, try to wear some kind of double boot, i.e. a boot with a removable insulating liner. This is so you can remove the liner and put it in your sleeping bag so you'll have warm feet when fixing breakfast and breaking camp. Nothing in winter camping is as aggravating as painfully cold feet in the morning.

Most plastic Telemark boots have removable liners. The classic "double boot" is a feltpack. But these felt liners must be kept dry with a VBL sock.

At night take your empty boot shells and telescope one top inside the other to keep out blowing snow. Place them in the vestibule.

Personally I prefer thin neoprene diver's socks that I've seam sealed. I use thin polypro liner sox inside them and change them out every night with clean ones. The VBL socks get turned inside out and put in your bag to dry overnight.

Follow this routine and you'll have warm feet every morning.

Tent frost
Dec 25, 2009

I've found that if I spray the inside of my winter tent fly with Techtron DWR spray frost will shake off much easier in the morning. This also applies to the lower (waterproofed) inside tent walls.

To keep this inside "wall frost" from being melted by the warmth of the foot of my sleeping bag (& dampening it) I zip up my GTX mountain parka, pull the sleeves inside, cinch down the hood and put the foot of my sleeping bag inside the parka. This also gives a few more degrees of warmth to your foot and lower leg area. I call it my "1/4 bivy".

Dann
Dec 22, 2009

In addition to hanging "stuff" to freeze dry, drying works better if, after the "stuff" freezes and the ice appears that you shake it off, outside preferably, as the ice shakes off the water you are trying to get rid of, which is now ice, goes too.

Rob
Dec 18, 2009

Everyone talks about limiting condensation and improving air flow in the tent, but no one really talks about how. If you open too much of the tent openings you get cold, too few and you're hiking with an extra three pounds of ice in your pack. How about a winter time article on that?

jopado
Dec 09, 2009

Nobody mentioned "freeze drying". It's a technique still used by some of the old timers here in Alaska.
Generally, the colder the temp...the lower the humidity. If you hang something out in sub-zero weather the moisture will quickly form ice crystals which will evaporate. This will work even if the article sopping wet...it'll just take a few days...or maybe a week...or longer.

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