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Winter Backpacking 2013


Well, I decided to take an overnight trip (very short hike) mainly to get out of the house and to test my gear against the winter cold. It was fun and it did get very cold... It must have been around single digits at the coldest part of the night since my thermometer read 10° well after the sun came up. It was primarily to see how warm I could stay with my gear and how my cook system held up to melting snow the whole time.

Gear List

  • Osprey 80 L pack (didnt need 80L, but its the pack I have)
  • KOPPEN t20 sleeping bag
  • REI PASSAGE 2 tent (footprint and fly only to test)
  • REI Minimalist Bivvy
  • SnowPeak Trek 900 & 600 cook system w/ spork
  • SnowPeak GigaPower stove w/ windshield
  • Warming layers ("waffle" style long johns, "waffle" style thermal shirt, fleece, beanie, and waterproof shell)
  • Extra socks
  • 1 large JetBoil fuel can
  • The Usual (First Aid kit, headlamp, cordage, emergency fire starting gear, etc...)

Trip Report

We got to the camp around 1:00PM and started to set up. I just brought my REI Passage 2 tent fly and the footprint (not the actual tent), REI minimalist bivy sack, and my sleeping bag for the shelter side of things. This was kind of a spur of the moment trip in an area I am very familiar with, but I wanted to test certain things (like how cold it gets in the footprint/fly tent setup in winter). I also wanted to see how the Trek pots held up to melting snow constantly.

I love the SnowPeak products and especially their titanium cookware. Most metals used for cooking pots do not like to be heated without water in them and titanium is more vulnerable than stainless steel for instance. Applying heat to a dry titanium pot will warp and oxidize it very quickly. Because of this, I wasn't sure how the titanium pot would do in the time between when heat is applied and when the snow had melted enough to create some water. As it turned out the Snow Peak titanium pot did well and there were no obvious signs of warping, so that was good to know. I did, however, start the heat on a low-medium setting until some water formed at the bottom just to make sure – then I turned it up to a higher setting (I did the same thing using a camp fire later – started by putting the pot with snow next to the fire then when water formed I scooped some coals to the edge of the fire and put the pot directly on them)

My sister brought her Trekmates cook system out for a test drive too. It works sort of like an MRE heater with a magnesium pouch; you add water to to create the heat. It has a plastic tray for the heater pouch and water and then a stainless steel tray that fits inside and is where you put your food. The plastic lid clamps onto it and traps in the heat generated. Now this may breed skepticism for those of us that look at flame as the only backcountry cooking option, but there are some interesting benefits. Instead of hauling pressurized cans of fuel or tanks of white gas you can haul small pouches of magnesium. You can cook in your vestibule with no worries of melting holes in your tent. No more building wind blocks for your stove/flame system. While I am not ready to ditch my stove and canister setup I do see this as a viable option. The draw backs are really limited to boiling of water and melting snow. You would not want to use this option to boil water for safe drinking or for melting snow as it would require too many heat packs. It's a trade off.

After the camp was setup we melted some snow and made some tea. Then we went and gathered as much firewood as we thought we'd want for the evening. It was a bit cold, but not so bad when you were moving around. When we had fnished getting fuel we started a fire by a tall flat faced rock in the hopes that some of that heat would be reflected back at us. We each only brought a few packs of raman noodles and some snacks, since we werent going very far, which we got into after the fire was going. The Trekmates cooksystem worked great and cooked raman with a "fire and forget" type of convenience and the Trek 900 worked perfectly as always. It's always nice to have warm food outside in the cold.

Once we had eaten, enjoyed the evening, and let the fire burn out we tossed some snow on it before getting ready for bed. I went over to my tent and started getting situated. The new snow boots I was testing out were awesome as well: Merrells. The inner warming liner is removable and while can be a little annoying getting the boots on or off the liners are amazing to keep on while you sleep. I had no problems keeping my feet warm with those things on. I was acceptably warm with my sleep system as well, though my face did get a bit cold (my sleeping bag is a cheapo and doesn't wrap around your face as well as it should).

The morning revealed how cold it really was. Getting out and dressed is something you get over with quickly during winter camping. When I investigated my sleeping bag and bivvy sack I saw that a layer of ice had formed inside the bivvy sack from condensation. My sleeping bag however was completely dry and not affected. It was time for some good ol' instant coffee. I started the stove melting snow and tried to stay warm as it was a lot colder than I thought it would be. It was mainly my finger tips that were cold from taking off my gloves in order to regain dexterity for small tasks. We had our coffee and breakfast and finally it started to warm up a little bit. Now it was easy to be comfortable and we started breaking down camp. When we made it back to the truck I checked the therometer and it read 10° at this point in the morning. I'm guessing it was somewhere around 0° that night.

It was a short trip, but a good time and nice to test the gear out. I will be getting a single wall 4 season tent eventually, but everything else seems to be adequate. My bag isn't really rated for those temperatures, but it's proven to be warm enough especially if I sleep with some warming layers on. Click here for all the pictures from the trip.

Take care,

December 29th, 2013

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Please contribute, share your story or comments with us!
Hey Sami, that's great you were able to make it out there - even if you didn't get your photo fix. It's a great place, so make sure to return next season.
name: bigwhitefish.com June 17th, 2015 @ 02:53:53 AM Flag
Thank you! This is the first year we've made it there with snow! It was super super cold and windy, so I didn't get nearly as many phtoos as I would have liked...but it's not like it's never going to snow again :-)
name: Sami April 9th, 2015 @ 06:05:57 AM Flag
name: me October 9th, 2014 @ 09:03:37 PM Flag

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