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Old 10-02-06, 12:49 PM   #1
Machka 
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Winter touring?

How many of you have done tours in the winter ... cycling with snow by the side of the road or on the road ... pitching the tent in snow ... spending the night in sub-freezing temps?

If you have, do you have any tips for others here (like me) who might be tempted to do something like that?


I've cycled in the snow and in some very cold temps. And I've camped in situations where the temperature dropped below freezing during the night. But I've never combined the two.
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Old 10-02-06, 01:56 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machka
How many of you have done tours in the winter ... cycling with snow by the side of the road or on the road ... pitching the tent in snow ... spending the night in sub-freezing temps?

If you have, do you have any tips for others here (like me) who might be tempted to do something like that?


I've cycled in the snow and in some very cold temps. And I've camped in situations where the temperature dropped below freezing during the night. But I've never combined the two.
We have done a lot of winter riding and riding from one spot to another (credit card baby!). So here are my quick recommendations for the riding part:

(1) Lake winter cycling boots with one or two pairs of socks on. They can be pricey, but Performance usually has them on sale for $200 and if you can wait for a 10-15% sale, you can save a lot of money. There are alternative makers of winter cycling shoes; but they are typically about the same price.

(2) Winter riding gloves with an extra lining underneath.

(3) Balaclava face mask/hood. Otherwise the cold air makes it difficult to breathe.

(4) Layers!

(5) Keep the cell phone charged. Not that we have ever needed it, but it isn't too hard to get stranded or hurt. This is the fastest way to get help. Moreover, you can call ahead such that your destination expects your arrival.

Some buddies get these little pads that heat up from a chemical reaction (they purchase them at REI) and insert them under their toes and in their gloves. They swear by them. We are going to bring them along in case of _really_ cold weather. But to date, the winter shoes with thick socks have always done the trick.

To summarize, our basic strategy has been to make sure that feet, hands, and head stay warm. We think that it is straightforward to keep the body and legs (which are working) warm. I think that there is enough writing on layers to omit a discussion here.


=-=-=-=-=-=

Hmmm, I think that I mis-read your original message. I failed to read that you had experience riding in the cold.
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Old 10-02-06, 02:16 PM   #3
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check out my friends site, they are biking the great divide, some of it off road, the rockies, the andes, etc.
one of the three members, Goat, doesn't wear shoes, don't ask me how he does it... but the pictures of him standing around in many feet of snow, not to mention biking through a snow storm barefoot, lol, quite hilarious.. i'd imagine most of us here would have all kinds of hi tech specialty materials covering our appendages

www.ridingthespine.com is the site
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Old 10-02-06, 04:02 PM   #4
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mukluks for camp, down coat, thick socks. candle lantern. two foam pads. two hats as well. windstopper helmet liner, for sure.

you'd DEFINETLY have to get comfortable with a camp stove, machka. camping in winter you need to be melting snow for water and cooking pretty much the whole time you are not riding or sleeping unless you are lucky enough to find running water. (rare)
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Old 10-12-06, 08:28 PM   #5
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Well, I've now camped at -7C. That's the coldest night I've had in a tent so far. The main thing I learned from that experience is that I need a down sleeping bag!!

Any suggestions for an itty-bitty, light down sleeping bag that won't cost a fortune?
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Old 10-13-06, 12:56 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machka
Well, I've now camped at -7C. That's the coldest night I've had in a tent so far. The main thing I learned from that experience is that I need a down sleeping bag!!

Any suggestions for an itty-bitty, light down sleeping bag that won't cost a fortune?
I have done some winter camping (mostly back country ski trips in the Rockies) and would recommend that you don't compromise on quality when purchasing a sleeping bag. In Alberta, there is a great company in Edmonton called Kluane Mountaineering which manufacturers excellent bags (http://www.kluane.ab.ca/). I still have the bag that I purchased from them in the '70s and have used it in a tent at -32C.
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Old 10-13-06, 01:54 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machka
Well, I've now camped at -7C. That's the coldest night I've had in a tent so far. The main thing I learned from that experience is that I need a down sleeping bag!!

Any suggestions for an itty-bitty, light down sleeping bag that won't cost a fortune?
Campmor has some down bags that are made by (the chinese who make) north face, branded campmor. I have one of each temp rating. Campmor has been selling these bags for at least 7 years. The 20f bag actually weighs ~40 oz. or 2 lbs 8 oz. The 0f bag actually weighs ~4 lbs 2 oz. I recc. the heavy bag if its going to be consistently colder than freezing 32f/0c.

http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/st...ategory_rn=244

They're well made bags. They leak down slightly but I believe all down bags lose some feathers here and there.

If weight becomes your critical criteria, i suggest you look at bags made by western mountaineering and feathered friends. They are not inexpensive but they are nearly the best money can buy, used for serious mountaineering.

http://www.westernmountaineering.com/

http://www.featheredfriends.com/

Marmot makes some nice down bags too, i rank them midway between nf/campmor and wm/ff for quality/value. You can find deals on them on ebay (in the spring...).

You need a compression stuff sack to make that down bag itty-bitty. Something like this:

http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/st...berId=12500226

Down bags compress a lot. You can compress a winter weight bag to something like 7"x16". Outdoor Research makes (or made) a kickass waterproof stuff sack/compressor but i can't find the link. You are probably aware of this, but you really want to keep that down bag absolutely dry. Its useless when it gets wet.

Besides sleep gear, I recommend neoprene booties when it gets really cold. They fit over your shoes. Bike shoes are made to ventilate so they make poor winter footwear. Neoprene is not real heavy. In a pinch you can use walmart type plastic bags and duct tape as over-shoes (i have). They don't breathe and are one-use-only. Plus gives you that homeless look that makes folks keep a safe distance away.

Also gore windstopper fabric is excellent for gloves, hats and jackets. Its a porous polyurethane layer lamiinated to a base fabric. Windproof, warm, lightweight, breathes a little more than coated nylon. Outdoor Research makes some excellent windstopper hats and gloves.

Last edited by seeker333; 10-13-06 at 02:34 AM.
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Old 10-13-06, 03:00 AM   #8
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Couple of things came to mind:

- Heavy duty down bags for cold winter conditions (such as the -32C mentioned above) are big, bulky, heavy and cost serious money. If remotely possible, try to get a guesstimate on how warm you really need it to be. Then add another -5C to give yourself some margin and spend whatever is needed to get there.

- There are few things you can do to make the bag warmer. Use a good (inflatable) sleeping pad. Adding a liner inside the bag will help. Silk is the preferred material here, if you can justify the cost.

- If you're staying in tent for several really cold nights in a row, your main problem will be keeping your gear dry. Some people prefer taking their (wet) touring clothes inside the bag to dry during the night, some say that only results in slightly drier clothes, wet sleeping bag and a miserable night's sleep. A down bag is next to useless when wet and takes a long time to dry even with proper heating (which you won't have in a tent).

- As you have camped in -7C, odds are you have a reasonably warm bag already. One thing you might try is buying a large down bag rated to slightly lower temps and put your old bag inside the new one. You will not get the same insulation per weight ratio as with a good single winter bag, but the cost will be considerably less.

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Old 10-13-06, 03:08 AM   #9
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Oh yes, one more thing: melting snow with a camp stove will require a lot of extra fuel. But weight-wise it's still preferrable to hauling all the water with you. You just need to take that into account while considering the amount of fuel you carry with you. Also, propane fuelled stoves are not as reliable in cold weather as alcohol stoves. Solid fuel is ok as well, of course.

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Old 10-13-06, 04:00 AM   #10
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Once a week or as needed, go to a laundromat, wash all your clothing, and take full advantage of the dryer. Spending time in rough conditions is much easier with clean, DRY clothing.

If no laundromat, could also try finding a campground with laundry facilities.
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Old 10-13-06, 07:35 AM   #11
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spending a full week out of doors on a bike in the winter will be challenging indeed. i have done long, expedition length ski and snowshoe trips, and the learning curve required to get comfy living out of doors in the wintertime takes a couple of years to get up to speed on all the little tricks.

I've been winter camping now for over 25 years, i started out sleeping in pine bough and snow shelters I made with a hatchet and a snowshovel when i was 12 years old. lots of trial and error since then!

Quote:
Originally Posted by juha
If you're staying in tent for several really cold nights in a row, your main problem will be keeping your gear dry. Some people prefer taking their (wet) touring clothes inside the bag to dry during the night, some say that only results in slightly drier clothes, wet sleeping bag and a miserable night's sleep. A down bag is next to useless when wet and takes a long time to dry even with proper heating (which you won't have in a tent).
technique to dry clothes in tent: using TWO foam pads (which i bring for insulation anyway- you can bring thinner pads if you bring two), layering your midlayers, shell, gloves, socks, etc, between the pads. two pads slightly offset towards your shoulders also gives you more 'toss and turn' comfort in the tent.

This adds crucial insulation value underneath you, keeps them from freezing at night in a corner in your tent and dries them out somewhat, to the extent is is comfortable to pull them on in the morning versus a ice sheathed parka and shell pants.

also, a little candle lantern provides an impressive amount of warmth inside a tent, you can dry out socks, etc on a clothesline strung higher than the candle lantern. keeping the lantern lower also heats more of the tent. tricky but doable. You DON'T want to set the tent on fire in the winter.

as a Canadian, I'm assuming you already have a good down coat, Machka? this will become your best friend around camp. maybe bring the down longjohn bottoms for sitting around in camp with. using a winter down coat to thaw your shoes in the morning if you don't bring them in the sleeping bag with you, while doing breakfast and melting water chores.

a GREAT layering piece for winter camping are the sleeveless, stretch polartec bibs with the drop seat. fabulous secret weapon for outdoor winter living.

Last edited by Bekologist; 10-13-06 at 07:43 AM.
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Old 10-13-06, 12:03 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by seeker333
Besides sleep gear, I recommend neoprene booties when it gets really cold. They fit over your shoes. Bike shoes are made to ventilate so they make poor winter footwear. Neoprene is not real heavy. In a pinch you can use walmart type plastic bags and duct tape as over-shoes (i have). They don't breathe and are one-use-only. Plus gives you that homeless look that makes folks keep a safe distance away.

Also gore windstopper fabric is excellent for gloves, hats and jackets. Its a porous polyurethane layer lamiinated to a base fabric. Windproof, warm, lightweight, breathes a little more than coated nylon. Outdoor Research makes some excellent windstopper hats and gloves.


I've got the cycling clothing! I've been cycling in the Canadian prairies year round for many years now. I'm already onto my second pair of neoprene booties because I wore out my first ones.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Bekologist
as a Canadian, I'm assuming you already have a good down coat, Machka? this will become your best friend around camp. maybe bring the down longjohn bottoms for sitting around in camp with. using a winter down coat to thaw your shoes in the morning if you don't bring them in the sleeping bag with you, while doing breakfast and melting water chores.

I used to have a great down coat that came right down to my mid-calves, but that was many years ago, and I haven't been able to afford one since then. But if I am going to seriously consider cycle-touring in the middle of winter, I think purchasing a down coat would be a very good idea! There have been some spring/fall tours where I wished I had one!
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Old 10-14-06, 12:34 PM   #13
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One thing not mentioned, somewhat controversial - vapor barrier liner for your bag.

Increases rating ~10f. Keeps bag from collecting moisture during periods of extended use.

Some of the ultralightweight backpacker crowd regularly sleep in their rainwear to save weight, close to same effect as using a vapor barrier liner. The practicality of this depends on the prevailing humidity and how much an individual perspires during sleep. I think this would work better in the western US, not so much in the east, in areas where nightime humidity is regularly 60%+.

http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/st...0226&langId=-1

re above link. 10 oz of down will get your more insulation than 10 oz of coated nylon. if you can afford it. but maybe this would be a cheap fix to your problem, far cheaper than a new bag.
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Old 10-14-06, 02:34 PM   #14
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for winter camping a silk liner for the sleeping bag is amazing.

A down duvet jacket and warm trousers for once you are of the bike, and a balaclava to keep the ears and head warm.

On the bike keep the extremities warm, toe warmers, overshoes and good gloves.

george
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Old 10-14-06, 05:59 PM   #15
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How about plane tickets to Southern Spain?

But if you can't afford that, and plan to try a winter tour anyway, here's my advice-- but I haven't done a winter tour in 20 years!

1. pack heavy-- most of the time I'm totally against this, but it's winter and your going to need extra gear.

2. Don't plan a whole lot of miles. Back in my teen years, I did a bunch of 3 day winter tours and I covered less than 70 miles total each trip. I'd ride the same route in 1 day in the summer, camp and ride home by noon. Riding a bike on icy roads isn't easy, there isn't much daylight, and the cold drains the energy out of you.

3. Have a back up plan ready if you need to bail. And don't be afraid to bail if the going gets really tough.
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Old 10-14-06, 08:10 PM   #16
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to avoid losing your body heat to the cold ground, why not lay down a space blanket between your tent and the ground?

i would imagine that it would reflect any body heat back up to you instead of the ground. of course, it might make some noise. but it would probably be quieter than if you put one over top of you.

you could also try cutting off two small pieces of the space blanket, and placing them inside your cycling shoes as to cover the holes for your cleats. you don't want to lose any warmth through there.
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Old 10-15-06, 03:18 PM   #17
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Machka:
The least expensive and best piece of winter camping equipment that I have used for fifteen years is the Fuzzy Stuff vapor barrier shirt and pants offered by Stephenson's Warmlite.

Worn against the skin for effectiveness they keep me incredibly warm and comfortable and feel like flannel pajamas while they keep my down bag and any clothing layers from collecting/ condensing body moisture. I am able to dry out damp/wet clothing layers also.

At $25 US for the shirt and $40 US for the pants they are a durable bargain. See the link below for the full explanation of how/why it works.

The Stephenson's vbl is like no other. Not a damp clammy sack only useful below zero F. I have made converts of determined skeptics who once given a trial use have ordered the set.

Set any knee jerk bias from past vbl experience aside for the moment and consider the benefits that I have encountered over 15 years of use: lighter sleeping bag choice possible;same with clothes; act as a personal clothes dryer; prevent dehydration in winter and cold conditions; keep your sleeping bag clean and dry; act as rain gear if you choose.

Finally, it is my survival bailout gear of choice for ocean kayaking in Alaska and the BC and while bike touring or hiking anywhere. My gear load for the Divide Ride was under 20# thanks in part to the vbl benefits.

I recommend that the skeptics just order the Fuzzy Stuff shirt and try it. You will not be disappointed but merely amazed as I have been over the years.

[I have no affiliation with Stephensons Warmlite except as a very satisfied customer.]

http://www.warmlite.com/vb.htm
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Old 10-19-06, 06:09 PM   #18
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I didn't have time to read the whole thread but here are a couple of tips. To keep from having to carry such a large down bag ( it will still be bigger than usual). Try combining the bag with down filled long johns from Cabella's and some down booties for the feet. Also, a thick down jacket. This adds a lot of warmth with the least amount of bulk.

Second, you will need a lot more insulation underneath. At least two 1/2 inch full length closed cell foam pads. Thermorests have better insulating properties except for the really super light weight ones. So you have the issue of large bag size to deal with. And more insulation underneath you which means larger and heavier sleeping pad. My advise, don't skimp on the sleeping pad because in the really cold weather it will determine wether you can stay warm at night or not as you loose a lot of heat to the ground and down will be nearly useless when compressed on the bottom of the bag. There is also the issue of water filter freezing with many types of elements so boiling drinking water is necessary unless you can buy it or fill at potable source.

Plan on having to carry at least twice the bulk or more for winter camping.

I still think the credit card approach is better for winter touring. Then all you have to carry is one large bedroll with a thick down bag, pad and bivy sack for emergencies. And a stuff sack with your down jacket and extra clothes.

Last edited by Hezz; 10-19-06 at 06:19 PM.
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Old 10-24-06, 08:15 PM   #19
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Here is a cool website to check out for winter riding:

http://www.icebike.org/

I use the Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106 studded tires for winter commuting because hitting ice for me has always ended badly. The studded tires work and for me have been worth it despite the added rolling resistance. Don't forget when you put your foot down, your shoes don't have studs.
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Old 10-25-06, 04:09 AM   #20
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For winter biking, I'd do away with cooking. You could save lots of weight and chores, and have quick hot meal in cozy dining room. You can also eat dry food and fruits occasionally.
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Old 10-25-06, 07:44 AM   #21
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no, the best thing while winter camping is tons of hot drinks. a stove is a virtual requirement for winter camping. you don't start a morning out in freezing weather without hot food and drinks.


been camping in snow for a long time..... no stove is a fools game.
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Old 10-25-06, 10:02 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by wheelin
For winter biking, I'd do away with cooking. You could save lots of weight and chores, and have quick hot meal in cozy dining room. You can also eat dry food and fruits occasionally.
That is, if your restaurant/cafe/dining room is just around the corner from your campsite.

Of course, the whole winter touring thing can be solved by leaving all the camping gear at home and going credit card light...
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Old 10-25-06, 02:10 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bekologist
no, the best thing while winter camping is tons of hot drinks. a stove is a virtual requirement for winter camping. you don't start a morning out in freezing weather without hot food and drinks.


been camping in snow for a long time..... no stove is a fools game.
Different stroke for different folk. By the time I finish setting up camp, I'd have relieved myself for a good long sleep. It's a pain to get out of bag in the middle of the night in freezing weather to relieve youself after tons of hot drink lol. And cleaning up cooking utensils is a big burden if you don't have hot water. Incidentally, the thread topic is about winter touring, so I think enjoyable biking is top priority, and camping is secondary. May be it's just me, but I prefer to spend more time on the bike than cooking and cleaning up. BTW I get along fine with energy or granola bars till I find a warm restuarant.
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Old 10-25-06, 03:48 PM   #24
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Quote:
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And cleaning up cooking utensils is a big burden if you don't have hot water.
I very rarely use hot water to wash up utensils, and a minimal amout of cold, irrespective of the weather. Mind you, it pays to know how to cook without catching food on the bottom of the pots.
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Old 10-27-06, 05:53 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machka
Well, I've now camped at -7C. That's the coldest night I've had in a tent so far. The main thing I learned from that experience is that I need a down sleeping bag!!

Any suggestions for an itty-bitty, light down sleeping bag that won't cost a fortune?
machka, unfortunately, itty-bitty & light down bags = cost a fortune. luckily, that's only when you actually shell out the money. although i only use it as a loaner now, i've got a winter down bag that i bought in the '70's that's still more than servicable. i paid the astronomical sum of something like $80 or $90 i think. comes out to less than $3 per year. i've had 3-season and winter bags from rei & northface, but now i go exclusively with feathered friends bags. in simple terms, it's like the difference between a custom bike and a walmart bike. western mountaineering also has a very high reputation, although i don't have any personal experience with their bags.

synthetic bags will lose quite a bit of loft and start leaving you cold after 4 or 5 years with average use, maybe 3 years with extensive use and using compression straps. you'll be losing money in the (not so) long run.

someone suggested using a space blanket to reflect heat back to you, but it'll actually do diddly squat. if you want to sleep on top of snow and ice, you need a thick layer of insulation, no two ways about it. there's no way to avoid bulk on this one. the lightest option is mec's thickest evazote pad. if you want to go thinner, take all your clothes out and sleep on top of them too.

oh, and by the way, after having skidded out on icy patches more than a few times on one trip, i now limit my winter trips to only a few days when i can be sure there won't be any new snow coming.
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