Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Winter Camping Trip in planning stages...

My brother, a friend and I are trying to pinpoint a date to go winter camping.  We have elected to go somewhere along the Superior Hiking Trail, but not sure where yet.  I will be posting an update once we nail dates and location down.

Once again as I approach another trip, I am making gear list modifications.  My updated gear list can be found in the right-hand column.  The major modifications I have made are:

Sleeping System:
I Purchased a Jacks 'R' Better Sierra Sniveller Quilt.  This will be my goto quilt for most of my trips and should easily get me down to 25F by itself.  When combined with my BPL Cocoon Pro 60 Insulated Pants and insulated jacket/vest, it should take me down to 10-15F.  When called for, I will add my 45F poly fill quilt and use it as an overbag to give me another 15F+ of insulation.  I would like to test this sleep system out in my back yard in the coming weeks.  The great thing about this quilt is that it can be used as a Serape which is why I purchased the Sleeves Accessory.  Down to about 20F and maybe colder, this will eliminate the need to bring along an insulated jacket or vest.  This is a great way to reduce some weight.

I picked up a second-hand (unused) Titanium Goat Raven XL bivy which I am stoked about.  It was a little too small for the guy that I bought it from, so he was happy to pass it off.  The Titanium Goat website is outdated, but basically this is the long version as described with a full net hood and side zips added.  I will use this when camping with a tarp or any time it will be below freezing.  This will also be great to through in when going out for a long dayhike as an emergency shelter.  Here are a few links to this bivy if you are interested in seeing it in person.  Pic1, Pic2, Pic3  These pics were taken by William Puckett and posted in this forum.

I also purchased (at a great price!) an Oware 9x9 Pyramid Tarp made out of a heavy duty 200d urethane coated nylon.  This fabric is way overkill for me, but there is no way I could fork out $240 for a silnylon version much less $225 for a similar version to the one I have.  Oware had some special deals going at the time and I was able to pick this up for $50 (very slightly used).  The version I have also has a 1' skirt around the bottom along with some additional height.  This should shed snow extremely well!  It is not ultralight at 5 lb 10 oz, but if shared amongst 4 people, it is only 22.5 oz each.  That's actually really good for a heavy-duty 4 season shelter!

I am experimenting with a couple wood stove comments from J. Falk at  He has plans available on his website to make your own wood stoves.  I made both his compact wood stove and his bushwhacker wood gase stove.  I have not decided if I will be bringing both of these or just pick one and run with it.  I ultimately would like to go with using wood for all my cooking as it eliminates the need to bring along fuel of any kind.  The only thing I would bring is some goods to aid in fire-starting.  This is also something I will be experimenting with on this trip.  I am very confident in my fire-starting ability, I am just trying to find ways to speed up the process.  I will blog more about this another time.

On my last winter trip (10 years ago), I was far from being ultralight and would venture to guess I had close to 60-70 lbs of gear.  I had a Lowe Alpine Contour IV 90+15L backpack and a tobaggen that had gear on it.  Now that I think about it, it was probably much more than 70 lbs, maybe even approaching 100 lbs.  I weighed most of that gear just out of curiousity, so I should go back and add it up some time.

As posted, my base pack weight is 12 lbs 3 oz and the base pulk weight is 22 lbs 7 oz.  These really are not bad weights in themselves for winter camping, but if I could eliminate the hassle of the pulk, that would be nice.  On the flip side, if I can put all the weight in the pulk, it would save getting my back all sweaty which is inevitable for me. 

In reviewing my list posted in the right hand column, I could remove the following things from the list and drop significant weight:

1. Just use snowshoes and leave skis at home.  (-8 lbs 8 oz)  Is it realistic that we will be able to use the skis with much success on the SHT in terms of giving us that much of a speed advantage?  From my experience hiking it, probably not.  If we were going into the BWCA, it would be much more reasonable to bring skis and leave the snowshoes at home.  Skis would be great for going across lakes or open areas of which the SHT is neither.

2. Leave shovel at home.  (-1 lb 4 oz)  Can I use my snowshoes as a shovel if needed?  The shovel would really be for fun if we brought it, as it's not really a need.  I'm sure my brother will be using a pulk, so we can lash it to that if we want to bring it.

3. Leave Bushwhacker Stove at home (-8 oz).  I can always test this out on another trip or in my back yard.  The Compact Wood Stove will probably be the ticket for winter camping as constant feeding of the stove will be necessary when melting snow for water.  This is not as easy with the Bushwhacker Stove the way it is designed.  The Bushwhacker Stove will be a much more efficient stove for conditions when melting snow is not necessary.

What would this accomplish? The Pulk is no longer necessary...  Subtracting the weight of the Pulk and associated stuff sacks (~9 lbs) and it brings my base pack weight down to 19 lbs 11 oz. This is really pretty decent for a winter set-up! I will work on getting this gear list posted as this is probably the direction I will be heading...  I have posted this updated list in the right-hand column as well.

My ULA Ohm backpack is designed for weights less than 30 lbs, so it is my goal to stay well under that including consumables. This is easily manageable although I am more concerned about the bulk of the winter insulation and the pyramid tarp as this may fill up my pack quicker than I would like. I will have to check to see how full my pack gets with this gear set-up...

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