Jan 12, 2011

Winter camping - gear test

One thing that I want to do a lot of this summer is backpacking. Get some miles under my feet, climb some mountains, push my limits and enjoy the wilderness. But, I'm not going to wait until spring. Oh no; I'm starting now. Winter camping was a big part of my youth. As a Scout I used to build and sleep in snow shelters, hike and cook meals out in the wintery woods. It was a lot of fun because I learned the skills to do it both efficiently and safely.

So, January 21-23 I'll be joining 6 or 7 guys from www.backpacker.com to hike a tiny section of the Appalachian Trail. (“tiny” is an overstatement in this case. We're only hiking about 15 miles of the AT which is 2100+ miles long) As such I've bought some new gear. A new down mummy bag, for one. I got it on sale at Eastern Mountain Sports; its a down filled bag, rated to 20°F and stuffed with 750-fill goose down insulation (check it out here).

But, how do you know if the bag is really going to keep you warm? What's the only logical way to find out? Yep, why not test it? That's what I did last night. When the weather man said that NYC was going to get hit with another snow storm, Kawasaki made the decision to close it's doors today. So last night, I pitched my tent in the back alley, threw in my sleeping pads and mummy bag and got to it. The bag was amazingly warm. I slept in boxer shorts, wool socks, a light moisture-wicking fleece, and a balaclava. The snow really dumped on me throughout the night and I kept kicking the sides of the tent to remove the snow. By morning the sides had sagged quite a bit under the weight of the snow, but I was dry and warm nonetheless. When I unzipped the tent and looked outside, a foot of snow had fallen overnight.

7 comments:

Whitney Erin said...

It's not fair that you guys are getting so much snow! We haven't have fresh snow for about a month :( Maybe I should move to NYC...

Michael O'Hara said...

Whitney:

It may not be fair right now, but Alaska definitely has NY beat on overall snowfall. I so want to move to AK one day.

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

Hey Mike,
Which stove will you be packing for the trip?

Michael O'Hara said...

Hey RCT:

Not sure if I'll take my MSR Pocket Rocket or my woodgas stove. I've also been playing with an alcohol stove lately, so we'll see. I'll be sure to post a full report for sure.

stick13 said...

Nice man. Gotta love that backyard camping, I mean gear testing... By the way, isn't that pretty brave sleeping in the alley ways of NYC... Haha :) Anyway, congrats on the new gear, that is always fun. I love it. I actually ordered the StickPic tonight and can't wait for it to get here. (One of those little things I have been meaning to get just never remember until after I buy the big stuff...) Nice snow too...we finally got some. About 9.5 inches which is the most I can remember ever getting here. Unfortunately I had to stay at the hospital that night since i was on call so I didn't get to set up my tarp and wake up with a snowy tarp...huge bummer. SO, which part of the AT you hiking, and with who from Bper.com (if you don;t mind me asking). I hope you will take some of those great pictures and post them. Oh, and IMO, take the alky stove. They are so much fun. Plus it may be easier than finding wood for your wood burner and if you take the canister remember to sleep with the canister inside your new bag to keep it warm! Ok, I will go now! have fun.

Michael O'Hara said...

Hey Stick:

Too bad you didn't get to play in the snow; hope you get another chance to!

Check out the Northeast section of the backpacker.com forum. A bunch of us are going to meet up: Burner, Camper, Solowalker, Cybril, Rambler etc. We're going to do a very small section of the AT starting in Harriman State Park. We'll hike to West Mountain Shelter Friday night, then Fingerboard Shelter on Saturday and hike out on Sunday. Should be fun! Lots of snow!

GTS said...

Very cool!