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Thread: Lightweight in winter

  1. #1
    Goon
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    I'd be really interested in hearing thoughts from OM'ers about lightweight backpacking in winter. I've enjoyed several weekends this winter and my pack weight, including food and gas etc, has been about 17-20 lbs (7-9kg). Base weight is about 13/14 lbs.Typically I've carried a Laserlite Competitor tent, a three quarter length Thermarest, a 1k Valendre sleeping bag, a titanium gas stove and I've been using a Varga titanium pot/mug to cook in/drink from. (bought from Bob C's backpackinglight.co.uk - very good service). I've been lucky with the weather - only a little snow on the tops but generally cold ie down to freezing at night. Anyway I've been warm and comfortable and by being careful where I pitched the Competitor (don't think I'd like to use it on a really windy night) it's been fine.
    I've been amazed that even in winter in the Scottish highlands I can still travel pretty lightweight - in the past I've simply assumed I'd need heavier gear.
    I'd be interested to hear of others experience - anybody out there travelling light in winter?
    Incidentally I've just had two memorable days in the Flowerdale Forest just north of Torridon. Absolutely magic area - first time I've been there in winter.

  2. #2
    ‹bermensch Andy Howell's Avatar
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    Cameron,

    I've been inspired to have a real go at lightening the load, and am using the TGO CHallenge as an excuse to invest in some more light kit.

    In many ways I won't make many compromises for winter. I'll carry an Akto for piece of mind. I might wear Paramo gear (which will cut down layers), but I'll be wearing it. The basic weight of the pack won't change that much. I'll throw in a PHD down vest but this only weighs 300 odd grams anyway.

    The biggest extra weight in winter is with food I guess. But then in the summer I'm carrying more water - and there is nothing worse than that.

    Summer opens up the option of tarps - of which I'm thinking about carefully.

    But I don't see why winter walking has to be much heavier, although ice axes and crampons come at a price.

    BTW, I've just started using the Terrocs. First impressions are quite amazing. And you're right - descending is amazingly easy !!!

  3. #3
    Super Moderator Jon Doran's Avatar
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    Three words - 'warm sleeping bag'.

  4. #4
    ‹bermensch Andy Howell's Avatar
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    I use a Quantum 400 which has only been caught out once, at Xmas at -10. I could replace it with a Minimus bag but it would only save about 350 -400 grams.

  5. #5
    ‹bermensch Cruxster Man's Avatar
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    Three more words "Bomb proof tent" added to Jons 3 words of wisdom equals a good nights sleep whatever is happening outside!!!

    Do what i did...to shave 4kg off my pack would have cost in replacement items somewhere in the region of £800. So i took the £800 and spent 8 weekends in the lakes and snowdonia dragging myself with my heavy 17kg pack up and down and up and down couple until i felt alot better about the fact my heart wasn't about to explode out of my chest.

    Mind you i have just shaved off nearly 2kg with the new addition of a.......

    " bright RED "

    Crux X2 Bomb...Mmmmmm lurverly tent!!!!

    but that cost me 2 weekends worth of trips away. so unless you have the early stages of brittle bone or a serious joint problem try pushing yourself a bit harder and then harder still.

  6. #6
    ‹bermensch Peewiglet's Avatar
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    Hi there,

    I get my weekend winter backpacking kit into my 50L Atmos, currently, and it includes a 2.1L Dragonfly tent (not lightweight, I know, but it fits and I like the stablity of it) and the InsulMat Max-Thermo mattress. I also use a Marmot Hydrogen sleeping bag - light and compact - and the MSR titanium kettley thing (with Primus Micron stove) for all my cooking/drinking. I wear an Icebreaker base, a Liv Down smock (also bought from Bob - it's light and lovely and on special offer here) and a Paclite jacket, with Cascada trousers. I'll probably take my Fuera smock too, as it's light and small and can go over my waterproof.

    Totting up the numbers in the calculator, I think it comes to about 10kg plus food and water.

  7. #7
    Ultra King BigDug's Avatar
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    Finally, a thread about camping in winter!

    ....And some interesting comments made.

    I camp all year round, and I've been out about once every two weeks so far this winter, mostly in the Highlands. On some of the colder nights it's been down to at least -10C, probably more. I can honestly say that I've really not had any problems by going "lighter" weight.

    I say "lighter" weight because my pack isn't quite as light as some others, about 9Kg excluding food. It's not really because I take more "stuff", it's because I can only afford to replace my existing kit slowly, with more lightweight gear.

    At the moment I'm using a Berghaus Freeflow 50, zro Trek tent, 3/4 length foam mat, M.E. Sleepwalker I bag, Coleman F1 stove, Snowpeak titanium pot, and a tin cup to have a dram or two to keep the cold out

    Probably the most useful bit of kit I have is a fleece balaclava. It's the best thing ever for keeping warm whilst sitting out on a frosty night. A hat doesn't do enough to stop the heatloss from your neck and face. It also stops a cold wind from blowing down your neck on the hilltops.

    I'm not quite sure why lightweight isn't more wide spread, but I do tend to agree with Cameron's points in Bob's podcast.... Lightweight camping is not just buying kit, it's a change of mind-set too.

    I have just spent two days near Rannoch Station camped beside a small loch doing a Corbett and two Munro's. On Sunday I had (almost) total cloud inversion on top of the the Munros, fantastic views over clouds to snow capped mountain tops for hundreds of miles around, and towards the end of the day blazing sunshine. If camping out means I get days like those then it's worth it!

  8. #8
    Goon Lost Sheep's Avatar
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    My base weight (before food and fuel and exluding ice axe/crampons) is around 7kg for winter. The main changes for winter are a warmer bag (PHD Minim 400), full length closed cell mat (warmer and considerably lighter than the self-inflating jobs), a hose-fed gas stove (to allow inverting the cylinder to give a liquid feed) and an insulating top (PHD Minimus pullover). And slightly heavier boots for kicking into snow and crampon use (Brasher Trailmasters).

    I'd second the comment on a balaclava - they make a huge difference to comfort levels not only during the day, but in the bag at night as well. Often a thin balaclava and gloves are the only changes to what I'd be wearing in summer.

    Lightweight is a state of mind - it takes a while to realise just how little in the way of clothing is actually needed to stay warm.

  9. #9
    Goon
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    Sounds fabulous! In the earlier days of the Backpackers Club the "backpacking season" was always considered to be October to April but I speak to so many hillwalkers nowadays who just don't want to camp in winter it's a bit depressing.
    I didn't say in my earlier post that I used a Gregory G-Pack to carry everything. As far as clothing is concerned this winter I've been wearing either a Paramo base layer or a Smartwood zipped collar base layer with a Lowe Alpine/Polartec soft shell. I have a pair of Lowe Alpine soft shell pants that I've worn every winter for a few years now. Smartwool socks have become pretty standard for me and this past weekend I used a new pair of Brasher boots - very light and comfortable. A few weeks ago, when it was snowier than it is now, I wore my Scarpa Manta boots - felt like I was walking with concrete blocks on my feet. Horrible!
    The sift shell I've been wearing - can't remember the name of the product - has been a revelation. It's warm enough for winter (but would be too warm the rest of the year) and is windproof/showerproof. Normally I'm a "layers" man but this soft shell has been very impressive. I'll find the name and let you know.
    Finally, I'm well aware that it's fine for a magazine editor to refine his gear list by using test gear supplied by manufacturers. I fully appreciate that gear is expensive and that it takes a lot of dosh to completely re-kit oneself with ultralight gear. While it helps a lot to go ultralight the important thing is just to get out there and do it - even if your kit is a bit on the heavy side. Whatever gear you own the vital thing is to know its capabilities and just enjoy using it. Gear is only a means to an end...

  10. #10
    ‹bermensch Bob C - backpackinglightdotcodotuk's Avatar
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    Too true. Even though I seem to have become buried in the stuff!

    My turning point came one -5C night on top of some Munro last May as I had to stop due to a slight miscalculation - map printers you understand not mine - and just crawled into my Hydrogen inside my Survival Zone on a foam mat with all my clothes on.

    Yes it was a tad nippy and with just the smallest bit of my nose (the bit with the holes) sticking out of the bivibag, I did lie there wondering just how cold it had to be to die! I slept fitfully of course and in the morning once I had pulled my boots off the ground with an ominous frozen and very loud 'crack', continued on my way wondering how I managed a few years ago, lumbering up and down with all this kit 'just in case'.

    Anyway, I still can't bring myself to leave the layers alone (which are now thinner layers), but all I add now for winter is my down smock and another Matt/Buff thingy or if it looks bad my fave Lowe Alpine mnt hat. Otherwise it is all the same stuffed into a framless Golite sack. True my soft boots don't do crampons, but there again in Wales I don't do much white stuff either.


  11. #11
    ‹bermensch Andy Howell's Avatar
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    For winter I now take (if cold and wet) a Paramo jacket, cascada trousers, a paramo base layer (for walking), a smartwool base layer for evenings and civilisation, two pairs of paramo briefs, two pairs of smartwool socks and a pair of Paramo stretch pants. If the weather is to be dry I would leave the cascadas behind. The stretch pants can be worn as a base layer in the sleeping bag if necessary. But if I'm wearing the Paramo the clothes stuff sack is very light and small. I supplement this with a down vest.

    In summer I would not have the jacket or the cascadas. I would rely on my Fuera smock. But when walking abroad I tend to carry other things that add real weight, like dictionaries and more than one walking guide. And that's before I've added water.

    As for shoes, I've become a convert to the Inov-8 Terrocs (subject to an extended test tomorrow). I perhaps would have still preferred my Scarpa SLs this Christmas in very soggy Snowdonia but even then my feet got wet. I'm beginning to think that I could rely on these little beauties all of the year round.

  12. #12
    ‹bermensch Peewiglet's Avatar
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    My kit is heavier than it has to be because I always take something for music (it was a minidisc, but I now take a lighter MP3 player as I have two with larger memories than before), a camera and a book.

    I'm going to try the Terrocs for backpacking, but I can't imagine them having enough grip on ice (I've never found any fell shoe to be grippy on rock), and I suspect that my feet would be very cold in them. Maybe not, though.

    This subject brings up the interesting subject of personal compromise, again. I could lose 1kg immediately if I took a lighter tent (I've got my eye on the ME ultralight thingy - have just forgotten the name), but I don't like the idea of having to be very careful in pitching the tent in case it blows down.

    It's the same with a mat. I can't sleep on a thin mattress: even T-Rests don't do it for me, and I can't imagine sleeping on a foam mattress (eek!) any more. Having said that, my luxury InsulMat Max-Thermo only weighs 624g, and it packs down very small, and I'd rather carry the extra 1.5kg involved in having a tent and mattress I have real confidence in than take something lighter that will spoil my trip.

    I've found that the one item of kit that's made the biggest difference to me is the Marmot sleeping bag. It's half the size and weight of the RAB I was carrying before.

    I love camping in the winter! Oot - that trip at Rannoch Moor sounds fantastic!

  13. #13
    ‹bermensch Andy Howell's Avatar
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    Yesterday I was walking on some pretty icy trails in the Terrocs. I felt a lot more comfortable in them - in the slippy conditions - than I would have with a Vibram sole unit.

  14. #14
    Ultra King BigDug's Avatar
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    I get the impression from reading OM and some people I've spoken to that we all go into the hills prepared for the "worst possible weather" conditions, or that the weather could get SO BAD we'd be dead within hours if we were caught out.

    IMHO, anyone who regulary camps/walks in winter has ALREAY experienced the "worst" of the weather. Yes, it may get slighly worse from time to time, but not THAT much! Most of the time it's cold, yes, but usually not *extreme* weather. Perhaps due to warmer winters, I don't know.

    My point is... people carry so much stuff with them expecting the very worst, when really the very worst might not be half as bad as they think it might be.

    In previous years I have camped through unexpected blizzards, icy rain, strong winds etc., but I have never really come close to the point where I think that I am no longer safe.

    For me, thin layers have so far proven to be the most effective way of keeping warm. I currently use a pair of Montane Teras(?) all year round. In winter I wear a pair of HH long johns under them and they work really well, even in strong winds. My only concession to total "weight gain" during the colder months is that I wear a Berghaus windproof fleece whilst walking. It does NOT pack up tightly, and takes up loads of room in my pack, but it DOES make sitting out in the cold in an evening that much more enjoyable.

    In addition, I don't think I'll ever wear a pair of boots again unless it really is deep snow. I'm not quite at the sandle level, but trainers are definitely a big part of the future for hillwalking.




  15. #15
    Goon Count Brydie's Avatar
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    Some really interesting points here. What kickstarted me into going lightweight 3 years ago was buying my Marmot Helium. It made me realise you don't have to compromise by going lightweight and can actually have much more fun. My pack weight in winter including food, water, crampons and ice axe is about 8-9 kg so only a couple of kg heavier than during the warmer months. I have been out in some pretty bad weather but have never felt that I have been in a bad situation because of being lightweight. In fact, the more I think about it, being lightweight must help mentally and physically even more during the winter, and now I go out far more in the winter months than I used to, solely because I enjoy it much more now.

  16. #16
    Goon St  Rick's Avatar
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    Roond Aboot, How is your Marmot Helium shaping up in the longer term? I want to take mine out for some winter hiking but I'm sure the damn thing is not as cosy as it used to be.

    It has had a lot of use: every day on the AT for 5.5 months and a further 3 months of continuous wear in Australia last year. I still like it, but it has always shed feathers like an apple tree in autumn and, although it's only 2 years old and looks alright, I'm starting to think it might have gone from a winter to spring bag. I have always taken care of it.

    What do people think about how much how much use is too much and when to put a faithful old down bag out to grass?

  17. #17
    Goon Count Brydie's Avatar
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    Hi St Rick

    Well, my bag has had nothing like the use yours has had but it has still been used a fair amount. I find it plenty warm enough still even in temps down to -6/-7. The only time I have not found it warm enough was really down to the fact I was using a 3 season thermarest so not really the bag's fault. It is probably my favourite bit of kit - nothing like crawing into it after a long,cold day on the hills. Not sure how I am going to remedy my matress dilemma - think I will maybe go back to my old Karimat as I can't justify buying the full-on 4 season thermarest.

  18. #18
    Initiate DavidG's Avatar
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    I reckon I should join the backpackers club because I only ever backpack between September and May.

    Agree that the two staples are a warm sleeping bag and a strong tent. I would add a warm insulating jacket to that list.

    The only items that change between - say - January and May are my sleeping bag (adding about 300g) and thermarest (non lightweight adding about 150g at a guess). I also take along a down jacket when its cold (+ 400g), plus the usual warm over mits, insulated hat, etc.

    So I guess thats about a kilo difference between mid winter and late spring (ignoring ice axe and crampons)

  19. #19
    ‹bermensch Peewiglet's Avatar
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    Oot,

    If you're looking at mattresses then do take a look at the InsulMat Max-Thermo. I got mine online from Australia, and it took less than 2 weeks to arrive. It weighs only 673g, and packs up very small. It's quite luxurious, and amazingly warm and comfy for the weight and size.

    See here for where I got it. I think that it worked out at less than £40 for both the mattress and the postage. I wasn't asked to pay any sort of import duty.

  20. #20
    ‹bermensch Peewiglet's Avatar
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    p.s. 89 Australian dollars is about £37.80 in real money, so it probably was about £40 including postage (the postage was cheap).

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