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hip belts Load lifter strap Pack capacity Pack color Tips for selecting a winter backpack ultra-light backpacks for winter

Tips for Selecting a Winter Backpack

Ultra-light gear is what makes winter backpacking possible. In the past people needed heavy gear to stay warm and that required pulling a sled or polk. The gear was too heavy and bulky to put it all in a backpack. Those days are gone, especially in mild winter temperatures such as are common in the Pacific Northwest. Today it is possible for a 2–3 day winter backpack to weigh between 25–35 pounds (12–16 kg). Everything can fir in a 60-liter pack and the pack itself can weigh as little as two pounds or less. Many ultra-light backpacks in the 2–2.5 lbs range are strong enough and large enough to carry all that you need.

winter backpacking in snowshoes
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backpack sizes Backpacking Gear Lists Backpacks compressing gear Gear hierarchy How to pack a winter backpack pack bladders pack lids pack rain covers Safety Tips stuff sacks

Safety Tips for Packing a Winter Backpack

When packing a winter backpack, safety is an important consideration. In winter, how you pack matters more than any other time of the year. For example, when you reach the crest of a ridge and encounter a severe wind chill, your rain jacket and gloves need to be at the top of your pack or easily accessible. This post reviews safety considerations and general packing methods.

winter backpacking safety
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Backpacking Ecliptic Fermi Paradox Great Galaxy of Andromeda Milky Way Navigation Northstar Star Gazing Stargazing Uncategorized Winter nights

Embrace the Winter Night

Discover the beauty of the night

Getting out at night in the quiet is one of the high points of the winter backpacking experience. The snow reflects the moonlight and the winter nighttime landscape becomes radiant. When the moon is gone, the Milky Way arches across the sky. Most of the seemingly endless number of stars are merely the ones visible to us within our galaxy. You will find that the night can provide some of our deepest and most memorable wilderness experiences.

winter landscape at night

The more you go out at night the more you will fall in love with the experience.

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Foot warmth Four Rules of Foot Warmth Layering while hiking Liner socks Merino Wool socks Outer socks Uncategorized

What are the Best Socks for Winter Backpacking?

No one likes cold feet. To keep my feet warm I use a variety of socks depending on the weather conditions. Recently the retailer I used for wool socks dropped the ones I liked and so the search for new options began. Here are a few options that I think work well: The REI Merino Wool Expedition Crew socks, the Wigwam Merino Woodland socks, and the J.B. Fields Icelandic socks. All are good, but my main preferences are the REI Merino wool liner and either the Wigwam Merino Woodland socks or the –40ºC Islandic socks from Canada depending on expected temperatures.

I do not use hand warmers or any type of heating system that relies on batteries. I think these methods are unnecessary and unreliable. I want a system that is long lasting and dependable.

I use a 2-sock method to keep my feet warm. I use this method even on some summer trips. This method increases comfort and warmth and reduces the chances of blisters. It consist of a thin liner sock covered with a thick outer cushioning sock. Together, both need to allow the foot to flex and wiggle in the boot.

The two-sock layer method. Thin Merino wool liner socks (black) compared to the thickness of an outer layer wool cushion socks.

For the best results, the fit, thickness, and materials of the socks has to align with the season conditions and what I call the basic Four Rules of Foot Warmth

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5-day summer meal plan Baked Falafel Chili Crisp Corn Chowder and Vermicelli Couscous and sun-dried tomatoes Dried Bean Curd Dried foods Kuku Sabzi Muhamamara Recipes for Summer Backpacking

Summer Backpacking Meal Ideas

Looking for backpacking meal ideas? I was recently invited to hike a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which required putting together a 5-day meal plan. I’m sharing my meal plan here because some hikers are looking for ideas and because some of these options are also suitable for winter backpacking. 

5-day backpacking meal loadout
5-day backpacking meal loadout
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Backpacking Gear Lists Car Gear Circumstantial and Miscellaneous gear Cooking Supplies Mosquito Net Tent Mosquito net tents Snow Camping Summer Backpacking Gear List Ten Essentials The Big Three Uncategorized

What’s in my Summer Backpack

Some hikers ask me, “Do I hike in the summer?” Yes. Despite my focus on winter backpacking and my dislike of the bugs and hot weather, I try to get out year-round, even in the summer and early fall when there is minimal or no snow. The goal is to camp on snow whenever possible even in July and sometimes in August. This usually means going farther and higher up, but it allows our group to experience some excellent views. It also provides a comfortable clean surface and allows us to leave no trace where we stay.

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Backpacks Gossamer Mariposa 60 Backpack Ultra-light Gear

Gossamer Mariposa 60 Backpack Review

The Mariposa 60 backpack is Gossamer Gear’s bestseller. Here are my thoughts and first impressions. With a 35-pound weight and 60-liter capacity, it passes the bar for winter backpacking. It has a removable internal frame, 7 pockets, a comfortable hip-belt and shoulder straps, and weighs only around 2 pounds. You have a choice between small, medium, and large and you can configure the hip belt size as needed.

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Backpacks Outdoor Vitals Shadowlight backpack Ultra-light backpacks for winter backpacking Ultra-light backpacks under 2 lbs

Outdoor Vitals Shadowlight™ Ultralight Backpack Review

In my ongoing quest to find the best ultra-light backpack for winter backpacking, I recently tried Outdoor Vitals’ Shadowlight™ Ultralight Backpack. This is my first impression.

Most ultralight packs are designed for light loads and 3-season thru-hikers. In recent years larger size ultra-light packs have become available. The challenge is finding ones that are adaptable to winter backpacking requirements, such as a 30–35 pound weight limit, 50–60 liters of capacity, and the ability to put all liquids, a closed-cell pad, an ice ax, and snowshoes on the exterior. The Shadowlight Ultralight Backpack is one such option.

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Backpacks Granite Gear Crown 3 backpack Granite Gear Leopard 58 AC Ultralight backpacks for winter Uncategorized

Granite Gear Crown3 Backpack Review

One of the best ways to lower the amount of weight you are carrying in winter is to get an ultralight backpack. Years ago when I set out to find a light winter backpack, I settled on the Granite Gear Leopard A.C. 58. Up until now, it was my gold standard. It was built with Granite Gear’s award-winning “AC” (AirCurrent) suspension, made with durable 100- and 210-denier high-tenacity Cordura nylon, and has a 58 liter/40-lb. capacity. At around 3 pounds (lid removed) it allowed me to keep my total winter pack weight at around 28 pounds, or 32 pounds with snowshoes attached (both base weight + consumables). It worked so well that when my pack began to show signs of wear, I resisted the newer Granite Gear packs and instead picked up a second-hand Leopard that I kept around as a backup. 

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4-Season Tents Bivy sacks Minimalist 4-Season tent Samaya Radical 1 tent Solo tents Tents Ultra-light Dyneema tents

The Samaya Radical1: First Impressions

The French outdoor gear company Samaya sent me one of their groundbreaking ultra-light Radical 1 tents to try out. This is a minimalist 4-season solo tent.

I don’t review gear that I wouldn’t myself use, and there are not many tents I would even consider, but this one meets many important criteria, so I agreed. I took it out to the Mount Baker area, which gets an annual average of around 16 meters of snow. This was a short trip in deep snow conditions and almost constant snowfall. The persistent snowfall wasn’t our expectation. We assumed the clouds and snowfall would clear in the morning as forecast but that never happened. It was an enjoyable trip anyway.