Usually, I carry at least three pairs of gloves in winter. No glove serves every purpose on a winter backpacking trip. For that reason, I select a combination of different gloves to meet different requirements.
There are a lot of reasons to reduce pack weight, such as comfort, safety, speed, and pack durability. Studies have indicated that hikers with lighter backpacks are more likely to complete long journey goals and with fewer injuries. With a lighter backpack, you can more easily avoid back injuries as well as injuries from losing your balance. Many backpacks are only rated for 30–40 lbs carrying capacity, so the further you can reduce the weight, the less likely there will be a pack failure.
When I started out backpacking as a teenager, my first “stove” was a series of home-made paraffin burners (cardboard rolled into empty food cans and covered in wax). Eventually, I acquired an Optimus Svea stove which I really enjoyed. It sounded like a jet plane, but it worked well and was reliable. The simplicity of the design makes the Svea perhaps the most reliable liquid fuel backpacking stove. I eventually gave it away, but later in life when I returned to backpacking I decided on an MSR Whisperlite International, which is also a liquid fuel stove and the one that I still use.
Many backpackers have been using canister stoves for years with no problems. But once they venture into winter conditions, canister stoves can lose pressure, underperform, and fail. But how cold does it have to get to experience these problems? I’m going to explore that question as well as what to look for in canister stove systems for the best performance in cold weather. For the pros and cons of liquid fuel stoves see Why Use a Liquid Fuel Stove?
The Basic Concept of the Ten Essentials
The “ten essentials” is a common way of referring to items that one should always carry in the wilderness for an emergency. These are items that will help you cope with difficulties that could turn into life-threatening situations. For example, you can carry a compass and map to avoid getting lost, but also a headlamp, so you are able to see the compass and map if you require navigation at night or an altimeter if you are in a whiteout.
From late October to March a typical cold-weather backpacking trip in the Cascade Mountains can involve preparation for snow camping in temperatures ranging from 10 to 35º F with 5–25 mph winds. The gear shown here is for such a trip.
This post was updated on January 15, 2021.
You may have heard some controversy about the switch failing on the Pieps DSP Sport Avalanche Transceivers, especially when used incorrectly. There are now many videos showing the issues, such as this one. Pieps is a company owned by Black Diamond. I received a letter from REI (below) and have decided to post it here for anyone who may find it of interest. It includes an important Instagram safety video link (https://www.instagram.com/p/CGT6EzAlgLn/) from Pieps. If you’re using an older Pieps Transceiver, watch this video because it provides important use and inspection information about the devices that every user needs to know.
Here are 12 basic tips for having a warm night’s sleeping while sleeping out on the snow or ice.
1. Pick a sheltered campsite. Camp on the leeward side of ridges and mountains or near large boulders that break the wind. Avoid camping near water or in drainage areas where cold air collects. For me, views take priority, so generally, I don’t always pick the most sheltered site. To stay warm, I rely on other strategies (listed below).
If you want to really enjoy winter backpacking, one of the first skills you need to master is your water management. This is both about staying hydrated and staying warm. It may seem like a minor thing to have your water freeze in a plastic bottle, but if you allow this to happen, it is one of those small things that can spiral into big problems. You don’t want this to happen. So let’s start with the basic gear necessary for managing your water.