Winter Campout – After Action Report and Gear Review

The campout this past weekend was a lot of fun and I got to test a lot of my gear for a cold weather bugout.  As far as equipment goes I’ve got some winners and losers to talk about here. 

First – I went in ahead of everybody else leaving at noon time and as agreed went straight up the side of the mountain.  It’s not real technical, but it is a slog, especially with a 40 lb pack.  CIMG3615  I found a decent place to set up a couple of tents and, and after packing the tent sites down with my snowshoes waited for the other guys to get there.  They showed up about an hour later and we pitched the tents and with the help of my Sven Saw got some firewood ready for the evening.

After dinner – around 7:00 we hiked up to the summit – and met up with another guy who came up the opposite side of the mountain.  After we collected him we hiked back to the campsite and resumed our fire.  I love hiking at night and it was beautiful out.  Snow was falling and the wind was whipping it along pretty good, but it was a fairly light snow and we were able to hike without problem.

We got up Sunday morning around 7:30 and since I was the first one out of the bag I got the fire going.  The others got up at staggered times, then  after breakfast we packed up our gear and hiked out on a trail that was fairly close to the camp.  One of the guys checked the weather with one of his gizmos and said the temp that night dropped down to about 5 degrees, but I don’t think it really got that cold – probably more like 15 degrees F.

That’s a quick synopsis.  Anybody who’s done winter camping knows there’s a lot more to it then, “… we packed up our gear and hiked out…”  I don’t mention the freezing fingers while putting the sleeping bag in the stuff sack, or the time spent knocking snow off the tent before rolling it up small enough to fit in the pack, etc etc.  You get the idea.

All in all it was a great time and we’d all like to do it again soon.

Now, the gear review.

Stoves

Winner!

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The whisper lite stove from MSR rocks the house.  I use white gas in mine although you can run kerosene or unleaded auto fuel in it too.  I heated some water on this little guy last night and it melted the snow and boiled it in about ten minutes as I had to keep adding snow to melt.  This stove gets my highest rating of Rock Solid. 

The only thing you have to be very careful of is when you first light it it looks a little like the space shuttle being launched.  DO NOT use in or near your tent.

Loser

The Jetboil.  A couple of the guys brought this along and although it’s a great system for summer and fall it does not work well in cold temps.  The isobutane fuel needs to be warmed up and when it gets cold it stops producing heat.  I would not recommend this for a cold weather trip.  If anybody else out there has some experience with this please let me know what you think of it.

 

Sleeping Bag

I give my sleeping bag a passing grade of marginal.  It gets that because I lived to walk off the mountain, but I was a little chilly through the night.  Not outright cold, but close to the bottom of the comfortable zone.  I think I’ll be looking for a light-weight bag liner.

Gloves

I got a new pair of LL Bean gloves for Christmas and while they’re warm, one of the fingers has already started to rip a seam.  These might be good for an easy walk out on the trail – and they will keep your hands warm – but if you’ve got to do any real work I don’t think they’ll last long.  If you know of a good, warm pair of gloves that will stand up to hard camping use send me a link.  I’m in the market!

Saw

One piece of gear that I always carry with me is the Sven Saw.  It travels very compactly and unfolds so that it almost looks like a baby buck saw.  It will cut through a piece of four inch oak quickly and easily.

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If you don’t have one of these or have never tried one I would encourage you to do so.  Again, I’d like to hear if anybody has had a good experience with their saw.

Tent

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I borrowed a friend’s North Face four season tent and this also earns my Rock Solid rating.  The only downside is that it’s relatively heavy, but we offset that by dividing the tent up and carrying it in separate packs.  It was fairly warm inside when it was buttoned up and easy to set up and take down. 

Boots

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I love my Scarpa ice climbing/mountaineering plastic boots.  They’re outmoded these days and a little scuffed up, but I think it just adds character to them!  They are the warmest boots I’ve ever owned.  Downside:  the price.  Plastic boots are very expensive.

That’s about it.  I used other gear of course, but these are the things that stick out in my mind either good or bad. 

Below are some random pictures of the hike.

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Flattening an area for the tent (above)

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First Light

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Lake in the distance

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Breakfast