Categories
Snow stake cords Tent setup Tent Stakes

How to stake a tent in snow without tying knots

This is just a quick tip to help you stake out your tent on snow. You may already be familiar with snow stakes and the deadman strategy for securing the stakes in soft snow. What I want to explain here is a method of setting up your stake cords so that you don’t have to tie any knots when you set up your tent. That is, the only tieing involved is done at home before you head out to the wilderness. Technically, you do need to tie one “knot,” a “girth hitch” to attach the cord to the stake, but this isn’t the kind of knot that requires much finger dexterity or time in cold conditions.

When you get ready to set up camp, you may be tied, it may be getting dark, and the weather may be cold and windy. You’ll want to set up your tent as quickly as possible. Tying knots with gloves on is not easy, so if you can avoid it, why not?

To eliminate this hassle, you can use the 2mm utility cord to prepare

Categories
Gear Buying Tips Gloves Sleeping bags Snowshoes Ultra-light gear Wag Bags Winter Backpacking Gear Winter Boots

Winter Backpacking Gear Buying Tips

With the right winter backpacking gear, you can be warm, dry, and comfortable snowshoeing or hanging around your camp in the snow.

These tips just concern winter gear basics and are not a full gear list for winter backpacking.

Boots

In the early winter season (fall) when rain is freezing and icing the trail and in late season (spring) especially, when the snow is packed down on the trail, micro-spikes add valuable traction.

Keeping your feet warm in PNW winter doesn’t require heavy Mukluks. Your 3-season boots might even work, but only if they are loose enough to allow for warmer socks and still have plenty of circulation. I usually use thin liner socks with heavy outer wool socks. If your socks create a tight boot fit, then your feet will be cold and you are better off getting another pair of boots for winter use. Circulation is the key to warmth. If you buy boots for winter, be sure to try them on wearing liner socks and thick wool outer socks (the thicker the better). Even with both pairs of socks on, the boots should not be tight. Look for boots that are waterproof, but breathe, and sturdy enough to use with snowshoes.

If you want to use your summer boots, but the fit is tight, try relacing them, starting about half way up. How you lace your boots is very important for correct winter fit. Even with boots made for wide feet you may need to skip the first bottom eye-rings to get the perfect loose winter fit. More here: https://winterbackpacking.com/how-to-keep-your-feet-warm/

Categories
Booties Safety Tips Sock liners Winter backpacking Winter Boots Wool insoles

How to keep your feet warm

winter booties
Some gear to keep your feet warm. No matter how wet or cold your boots may get during the hike, you want warm dry foot wear while in camp, at night, and during emergencies. In this photo (left to right): Thin smart-wool sock liners, thick wool socks, wool insoles for the booties, and down booties.

Truth 1: Circulation equals warmth.

Make sure your boots fit correctly. Not too loose or too tight. If your boots are too tight, blood circulation will be reduced causing your feet to become cold, especially when you are not moving. This often happens when hikers use their three-season hiking boots with thicker wool socks or layer socks with sock liners.

When you select hiking boots, the boots need to be slightly loose. Here are some tips for getting the right fitting winter boots:

Categories
Backpacking gear for snow Snowshoeing Snowshoes

Snowshoe tips

Use the right snowshoes for the terrain.

There are snowshoes for flat terrain, rolling terrain, and mountain terrain. For alpine terrain here in the Pacific Northwest, I use snowshoes designed for mountain terrain. How are mountain terrain snowshoes different?

Flat terrain snowshoes provide support but have little traction on the underside. This allows you to go faster on flat terrain but making them a potential high-speed death sled on mountains. Rolling terrain snowshoes have more traction, but only mountain terrain snowshoes have the added traction plus pop-up heel lifts that give your calves a break on steep terrain.

Categories
Backpacking Bear-proof canister Snow camping Ultra-light gear Winter backpacking Winter camping

Ultra-light Backpacking in Winter Conditions

Some Exceptions…

Most of my gear falls in the light to the ultra-light category. This is important especially in the winter because sleeping gear and warm clothes add to your pack weight. But I have a few not-so-ultra-light exceptions, some of which I’m going to discuss in this post: my hard-shell bear-proof food canister and my extra sleeping pad.

Categories
Backpacking Snow camping Winter backpacking Winter camping

Backpacking in the Sublime Season

Solitude and Snow

With the right gear and knowledge (know the hazards), you can head out and experience the beauty of the wilderness without the crowds.

To stay cozy and safe, you’ll need to add some pounds to your pack, making your ultra-light strategies even more important. And, sometimes you’ll

Categories
Backpacking Snow camping Winter backpacking Winter camping

Winter Backpacking!

Ten things that make winter backpacking the best

Here are some reasons snow backpacking delivers a special and unique kind of backpacking bliss.

    1. Spectacular snow scenery.
    2. Solitude: There are fewer hikers in cold weather and fewer cars at the trailheads.
    3. Low-impact: When the snow is deep (2–6 feet or more) you can set up your tent almost anywhere without impacting the meadows.
    4. Fewer restrictions: Campsites and trails are buried deep under the snow. You can hike off-trail without damaging fragile vegetation. Areas that are restricted to permit holders are open in the winter and parts of the shoulder months of May and November.
    5. No bugs: The winter cold suppresses mosquitoes, flies, and other annoying bugs.
    6. Less sweat: The cool, usually dry air, helps minimize sweat.
    7. Less trail dust and mud. The bottom of your tent rarely gets dirty and the footprint (ground cloth) isn’t even needed.
    8. Bears are usually hibernating.
    9. Snow is more comfortable. It’s easier to have a level, smooth, and stick-free surface for your sleeping area. It is also cleaner. No dirt or mud on the bottom of your tent.
    10. Water is everywhere. You just have to melt it. In the winter there is no reason to carry a heavy load of water.
    11. Bonus point: Glissading.

Very few hiking experiences can compare to traveling across pristine snow under a blue sky.

Before you head out, be sure to read my short post about the dangers of winter backpacking.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. I’ll be updating this post periodically for correction, etc.

Also, please don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and leave comments below.

Categories
Avalanche dangers Snow dangers Winter backpacking Winter camping

Winter Backpacking Dangers

A few things that make winter backpacking dangerous

Snow camping and winter backpacking are great ways to experience the wilderness. In fact, nothing is as beautiful and enchanting as the wilderness in winter. But if you are new to the idea, here are a few reasons you shouldn’t just head out alone or unprepared. Be aware of the risks and take appropriate precautions. Below is a short beginner’s list of basic hazards and concerns that every winter backpacker should know.

  • Avalanches. Learn about avalanche dangers and then always check the avalanche forecast in your area before heading out. This is not something that can be fully learned in an afternoon or even in a few days of training.
avalanche danger
It takes time to learn about avalanche dangers, avi-gear, and precautions to take.
  • Snow conceals lethal dangers such as tree wells, rapidly moving streams, and deep crevasses that you can fall in, as well as heavy cornices that can collapse below you or bury you.
hidden dangers in the snow
A snowshoer uses an 8ft avalanche probe to search for the bottom of a hole in the snow. Moments earlier he suddenly found himself in this hole. He had fallen through the snow after several other hikers crossed the same spot with no trouble. Fortunately, he was able to suspend himself with his arms and gradually gain enough traction on the sides of the hole to force himself out. The snow had concealed a stream. The possibility of being washed away under deep snow in a cold stream is not something one wants to contemplate.
  • Winter weather—cold temperatures, reflected UV light, and wind conditions can create special hazards that require specific types of gear. In cold and snowy conditions you are at greater risk of hypothermia, frostbite, snow blindness, and snow immersion suffocation.
  • Navigation is more challenging. Trails, trail signs, and familiar landmarks are covered in snow increasing the risks of getting lost. Snow and clouds can create whiteouts obscuring directions.
winter navigation challenges
You can’t always count on the forecast to deliver on promises of clear weather. The mountains have their own ways of generating unexpected conditions. Your earlier footsteps can be quickly erased.
  • Help can be a long time coming. Depending on where you are, there are fewer people in the wilderness to find you or help you if something goes wrong. There is often no phone reception and even if you carry an emergency device a mountain rescue can take anywhere from 6 hours to several days depending on circumstances, location, and weather conditions.

Be sure to read my beginner’s safety tips list too.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. I’ll be updating this post periodically.

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and leave comments below.

Categories
Backpacking Safety Tips Snow camping Snowshoeing Winter backpacking Winter Backpacking Safety Winter camping

Winter Backpacking Safety

A few safety tips

This is a concise list of safety tips for beginners who want to start winter backpacking.

  1. Avoid traveling alone. Hike in a group when possible and keep in eyesight of each other. If you think you may get separated, consider using walkie-talkies.
  2. Learn about snow. Start with short snowshoe day-hikes. Learn about the seasonal differences in snow conditions, from deep early season fresh snow to late-season consolidated snow. Learn how snow changes not just over the course of the season but of the day and how these changes affect travel speeds and gear requirements. Get to know which conditions require micro-spikes, crampons, snowshoes, and ice axes. Learn how to layer clothing and what levels of insulation are needed for different temperature ranges. Being too hot—overheating and sweating—or being too cold can both lead to hypothermia.
  3. Give greater attention to trail navigation. Know how to orient a map, use a compass, and spot reliable natural markers. Consider bringing a GPS, but don’t be reliant on electronic devices or batteries which may fail, especially in cold weather. Don’t depend on clear visibility, or expect exposed trails, or footprints in the snow for directions. Both wind and fresh snowfall can obscure your tracks quickly. Learn more about trip planning here: Trip Planning.
  4. Carry appropriate gear suited for the conditions and weather. Make sure you have the appropriate type of snowshoes for the terrain, the necessary sleeping bag and sleeping pad ratings, a tent that sheds snow, etc. Bring essentials such as first aid, headlamp, extra food and water, rain gear, etc. Have a gear checklist and do a visual inspection before leaving home. Avoid cotton clothing because it doesn’t wick moisture away from your skin making it harder for your body to retain warmth. Always be prepared for conditions colder than anticipated. It is good to have a sleeping bag that is 10–20 degrees warmer than what you expect. If you’re just out for a day hike, carry emergency shelter in your day pack.
  5. Expect to get wet and be prepared to deal with it if it happens. Even though it is winter, you will likely sweat a lot while hiking. Always be able to change into dry clothing. Snowmelt can cause your boots and gloves to get wet. Wear gaiters to reduce snowmelt getting into your boots. Bring extra socks and gloves to replace wet ones. Carry rain gear even on clear days because the snow melting in the trees above can create rain showers in the forest that quickly soak your pack and clothing. Protect your sleeping bag, base layers, down jackets, and extra clothing with dry sacks inside your backpack.
  6. Attend avalanche classes. Learn how to identify risks. There are often free classes available, such as those hosted by REI.
  7. Check weather and avalanche forecasts before leaving. If things look worse than anticipated, know when to turn around.
  8. Carry avalanche safety gear. Bring a transceiver/beacon, probe, and shovel and know how to use this gear when traveling in areas with avalanche risks. Practice beacon recovery with friends.
  9. Be prepared for wind. Check the wind forecast and carry wind protection, such as rain pants and jacket, goggles, balaclava, and extra gloves. Learn more about winter winds here: Preparing for Winter Winds.
  10. Bring UV protection. From January to July, UV reflection from the snow intensifies and can cause severe sunburns and snow blindness. Bring category 4 sunglasses (Glacier Glasses) to protect your eyes. Bring sunscreen and be able to cover exposed skin. Even the bottom of your nose and lips can get blistered from UV exposure on the snow.
  11. Learn how to avoid common snow dangers such as tree wells, snow bridges, cornices, and crevasses.
  12. Carry a stove and multiple fire-starting devices. Don’t rely on fires for warmth. Collecting wood and starting a fire in deep snow is difficult and often counter-productive because you expend valuable time and energy and often get wet in the process. It is also environmentally unsound in high elevation alpine areas. A stove is a faster and far more reliable way to generate warmth, resupply water, and heat food. Tents, sleeping bags, and jackets don’t create warmth, they preserve it. Your warmth comes from within your own body. The first rule of staying warm is to not lose body heat. While hiking you will wear fewer layers of clothing to avoid sweating, but once you stop moving you must layer up quickly to avoid core heat loss from your body. Once you lose warmth it is hard to recover it. Avoid staying in the wind without wind protection and sufficient layers. Being able to use a stove to create hot water bottles and heat food is important to generating, sustaining, and recovering warmth.