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  1. #1
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    Winter Touring Help

    Hello all!

    I am planning a tour for this December over Christmas, leaving on Christmas Eve from Delaware and going into Maryland and back up into Delaware. It will be around 250 miles, five days, stealth camping most of the time with the exception of one night in a campground (still pending) and also maybe one night in a hotel just to treat myself.

    I am still green to touring I feel and have never done one in the winter time. What are somethings to consider? What did you have to change as far as your touring style goes with winter touring? I know I need warmer clothes and layers but what else might be good to consider?

    Any advice would be great.

    Thank you.
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    I do have a down quilt that I use thats rated for 30 degrees. Do you all find that the degree in temp is pretty true to the manufacturers spec?
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    It's the time to flip Hemispheres . go visit Argentina.

    stealth camping requires White Gear in the Snow. I'd Go from heated lodge to heated lodge in the winter.
    like SkiTouring.


    People sleep warmer or cooler than a generic rating as an individual physiology differs ..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 11-25-13 at 10:16 AM.

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    Be prepared to find a place to camp out earlier in the day. Remember nightfall shows up a lot earlier in the winter. Plan on fewer riding hours unless you're prepared to ride in the dark.

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    These are general comments on winter camping. I have not done winter bike touring but do ride my bike in the winter.

    When I have winter camped in Minnesota and the U P of Michigan in December, days were extremely short. Often set up camp when it was dark or getting dark. You will be further south with longer days, but still you are looking at some of the shortest days of the year. You will want reliable batteries. Keep your cell in a pocket inside your jacket to keep it and the batteries in it warm.

    Some on this forum have said that stoves that use a butane fuel mix work fine in teh cold, but I would not go anywhere that time of year without a liquid fuel stove. A butane cartridge, even in cold weather however can give you enough hot water for coffee in the morning if you start out with a warm canister. I have had my butane stove fuel canisters in my sleeping bag so that they are warm enough in the morning for coffee water. I am assuming you are not using restaurants for all your food. But if you are predominantly using restaurants, then maybe this is not an issue.

    If you have not winter camped before, you will have great frustration trying to get the solid water out of your water bottles the next morning - if they did not split which would cause even more frustration. If you have a good water bottle that will not leak a drop (like a Nalgene bottle), I have often taken a water bottle in my sleeping bag at night to keep it from freezing.

    Butane lighters do not work well in the cold, you may need to keep them in a pants pocket to keep them warm enough to work. I usually use a Zippo lighter fueled with white gas for camping. Matches are also good provided they do not get wet.

    I used to wear a rain cover on my helmet to cover the vents. And thin stocking cap. I eventually bought a winter helmet that is warm enough that it is also sold for skiing.

    Do you have ski gloves? A friend of mine that winter commutes has some weird looking gloves for biking that I do not know what they are called, but they look like ones that Commander Spock could wear while saying "live long and prosper".

    Have a positive attitude. When you pull out that Milky Way bar and find it is hard enough that it could break your teeth, you need to smile and say to yourself, one more lesson learned.
    Last edited by Tourist in MSN; 11-25-13 at 12:52 PM.

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    Make a packing list. Check it twice. Don't trespass or you may find a lump of coal in your pannier. Don't wash your naughty parts on public property or you may be breaking the wishbone with Bubba. Sleep outside tonoght to get into the spirit of things.
    Last edited by indyfabz; 11-25-13 at 11:18 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    Make a packing list. Check it twice. Don't trespass or you may find a lump of coal in your pannier. Don't wash your naughty parts on public property or you may be breaking the wishbone with Bubba. Sleep outside tonoght to get into the spirit of things.
    That Sir... just made me laugh.
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
    That Sir... just made me laugh.
    Which suggests you didn't get it.
    "I've wanted you to succeed, but watching you find excuse after excuse after excuse and then laugh it off as the loveable, quirky, chubby guy is getting old."--Ill.Clyde

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    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Isaac,

    You might want to look at a thread that is presenly ongoing in the forum. It discusses quilts vs. blankets for cold weather use: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...lanket-loadout

    There is a chance that you may encounter snow and below freezing conditions during that period. IMO, a 30F rated quilt would not be very comfortable in those conditions. For winter use, mountaineering and ski touring, we use sleeping bags rated at 0F. If we expect really cold conditions we might even use our -20F rated bags. I think a 30F rated quilt would be very inefficient at near freezing tempeatures. If you can, try out the quilt in a cold situation. It does not have to be for a long period to determine how well it will work. We always try new equipment in controlled situations before we use it for "real".

    We were testing out a new emergency gear, tarp and bivy sacks, on this excursion.


    Good insulation is also essential between you and the ground/snow. Either a closed cell pad or a Thermarest pad work well.


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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    Which suggests you didn't get it.
    I got it. Still made me laugh.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
    If you can, try out the quilt in a cold situation.
    +1. That's why I suggested tonight. It's going to get down to around 29 in these parts tonight. Might as well find out what works and what doesn't work sooner rather than later.
    "I've wanted you to succeed, but watching you find excuse after excuse after excuse and then laugh it off as the loveable, quirky, chubby guy is getting old."--Ill.Clyde

  12. #12
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    What about the batteries for your CPAP machine? Are they going to work sufficiently in the cold?

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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    What about the batteries for your CPAP machine? Are they going to work sufficiently in the cold?
    Yes. The guy that owns the company hikes and tours in the winter time and I talked with him last week. Will work wonders.
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    What is the route you are planning?

    Bear in mind stealth camping gets a lot harder when there are no leaves on trees! You may want to reconsider that. Add in the general openness of Delaware and eastern Maryland (which is where I presume you'll be touring) and it gets even harder.

    Not to talk you out of camping, but you might try it in stages. First do a winter tour with indoor lodging, then if that goes well, do the next one camping. Off-season motels shouldn't be too expensive, especially along the coast (assuming they are open).
    Obviously, it all depends on the weather. I've biked in Delaware on several New Year's Days over the years and it's been surprisingly warm. Or not :-)

    For winter camping, I like to take two foam pads. One closed-cell that goes closest to the ground, and then a Thermarest on top of that. It's bulky to carry, though. To deal with the water freezing at night issue, I usually pour a bottle's worth into my cooking pot. That way, even it freezes, you can thaw it by just putting the pot on the stove for a while. And, as suggested, a bottle in the sleeping bag overnight works, too. I also have several foam "bottle parkas" sized for a 1L Nalgene. They do a pretty good job of keeping bottles from freezing. Also nice in that they keep hot water hot for a good bit of time. Make your tea of coffee in the morning and put it in one of those and you are good for a few hours. See http://www.outdoorresearch.com/en/wa...e-parka-1.html

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    Here's the replies to an email Chef sent me a little while ago before I saw his posting on the forum. I've added some more to this that I didn't put in the email I sent to him. Yes, I see the flames already glowing on the horizon that big forest fire is heading straight for me. Let the flame wars begin.

    I haven't did any winter touring yet. I'm not the best person to ask. With that in mind I will offer the standard thoughts...

    1. Be prepared for winter. Big time on the camping side. Even though you are further south than I am you may still find yourself in the middle of winter conditions for camping this year. I would definitely want a 0 degree bag at least to play it safe.

    1a. The stealth campsites probably won't be as plentiful as they are during the summer months. This is something I have been thinking about quite a bit. I'm so stuck in the mentality of basebal dugout anymore...I know they are pretty much useless during the winter months. The footsteps left in the snow are a BIG giveaway, which is the number one thing you don't want to do. Finding stealth sites could be a real challenge during the winter months. I know I have decided that if I get out and do any kind of winter trip this year...I've thought about it, I will end up heading straight for the Appalachian Trail and camp out at the trail crossings. That solves trying to hunt down relatively snow free spots to camp out. Most of the spots I have used in the past I wouldn't even want to try to use during the winter months.

    1b. When looking for possible stealth sites on Google Earth think about where the snow might be and how that is going to influence the difficulty of getting to the campsite. Where might snowplows pile up snow...how is that going to influence campsite choices.

    2. Plan your mileage to be lower. The days are shorter. Your speed is going to be slower due to the lack of leaves on the trees, the increased air density, etc. Right now most of the time I'm riding under 15 mph while during the summer I'm usually 17-18 mph. Over the course of 4-6 hours that can add up real fast. Think about giving yourself a little benefit and having lighting equipment on the bike.

    3. Don't put everything on that you have with you. Plan your number one objective throughout the day to be...

    DON'T REMOVE ANY CLOTHING.

    If you keep that in mind you will have dry clothing for the entire trip and that will allow you to be far safer and far more comfortable than otherwise.

    Putting on everything and than having to stop and remove clothing that is now damp to wet leads to having damp to wet clothing when you go to put it back on. More than likely you will be putting that clothing on a cold, damp body and that will suck the heat right out of you faster than you could ever imagine.

    If you stay dry in the first place you will be fine. Sweat is called evaporative cooling for a reason. It is designed to cool the body down, not keep the body warm. It's a sign your body is already too warm to start with and it needs to cool itself down. Why try to warm the body up and cool it down at the same time. Stop fighting the body and start dressing smartly. You want to be cold the first 10-15 minutes. Let your body heat warm you up...not the clothing. You are constantly generating body heat. 20-40% of the calories you consume go to propel you forward on the bike while 60-80% are wasted as heat. Your number one job is to get rid of the heat...

    Unless it's a day like yesterday, 15-20 degrees, wind 20-40 mph...I don't put anything on the head other than ear protection. I want the heat that is constantly being produced to have somewhere to go to escape. The two biggest areas for heat loss are the head and the torso(behind the shoulder blades on the back). As for the torso you really need something that gives wind protection on the front but leaves the back open to ventilate. I generally don't sweat much under the arms during the winter months...at least not that I notice. It's typically between the shoulder blades. Keep the hands and feet protected. You'll probably want the booties. Right now I'm typically wearing/experimenting with a long sleeve cotton tshirt and wind jacket. Unfortunately the wind jacket doesn't have pit zips on the back so it does hold the heat in to the body. So far down even at 20 degrees I've had no trouble. The tshirt has a bit longer sleeves than the polyester shirt I always wore the last two years. Up around 40 degrees it is almost too much and I stat sweating between the shoulder blades but down at 20 I stay nice and dry. Like I said in the email to Chef earlier, since early to mid-October I have been riding at least 100k everyday clear up until a bike accident I had back on Saturday. I had 37 straight days with at least 62.3 miles. I'm out riding all the time so I see what works...FOR ME. Everybody is different and I realize that but just remember rule number one of the outdoors...Don't let them see you sweat. Rule number two is simply, put more clothes on but never take anything off...you've already screwed up if you have to take anything off...you shouldn't have put it on in the first place.

    4. Remember when riding when its snowing...stay on the snow. Granted I'm not sure if that holds to wetter snow like I have a feeling you have down your way or not. I know the snow up here(you can't make a snowball, it falls apart the second you open your hand due to the lack of moisture in the snow up here) it's vital to stay on the snow and not on the wet road surface. Wherever hasn't been plowed thus far is where you want to stay.

    5. Don't make any quick moves while on the snow and even more so when on cold, wet pavement. Just like in a car your best moves are slow, gradual moves. Sudden jerking is a quick way to end up on the ground. Ease it over, don't pull it over.


    6. Make sure the state park is open/that you will be able to get access into the state park. You might be in for a surprise, it is after Columbus Day and pretty much all state parks have closed by now in most of the non-southern states.

    7. If the fingers/toes start to get cold/don't warm up initially try going inside for a while. Let everything warm up and then go back out on the bike. Typically for me once I do this I stay warm the rest of the day. I don't know why but it seems to work quite well. I really wish I could find an explanation for this one. It makes no sense at all.

    8. Plan for long nights...your going to have them. Either plan to spend the evening in McDonalds or somewhere online and go out and set up camp when you are ready to go to bed or plan to have something with you that can occupy the long winter evenings.

    9. Test the quilt before you use it in the real world. Different people sleep differently, temp/comfort wise.

    10. Don't take batteries from a warm environment to a cold environment and use them. You will 'shock' discharge a battery VERY quickly. I learnt that lesson last year with the headlight. I was always keeping it inside the library/McDonalds with me while surfing online. I would put it on the bike and then head on towards home. I would get .5 mile from where I was surfing and bam, the light would go out. After a couple of times I come to realize what was happening. Keep the batteries cold. Keep them in the same temperature as the environment where you are going to be using them. They don't like to shocked by temperature changes. At least alkaline and nickel metal hydride don't like to be shocked.

    11 .Yeah, make sure your stove/lighter works in the cold.

    12. Yes, on sleeping with the water bottle. Sleeping with the water bottle can also help to keep you warm in the early part of the evening as well as keeping it from freezing overnight. Also, sleep with any lightly damp clothing. You can dry out the clothing by sleeping with the clothing(laying beside you) or by sleeping with it on.

    13. Don't freak out about layers, remember stay comfortable, not warm. You don't want to sweat.

    14. NO GLOVES. Pop top mittens. Preferably, wool. Generally look for ragged wool pop top mittens. It's what I wear when it get much below 40 degrees. Down to 40 I will wear fleece mittens. I only wear gloves during the summer months. When the hands start to get cold you can pull the fingers inside the mittens to form a fist with skin touching skin and warm the hands back up. You can pop the top of the mitten open to have full use of the fingers without having to take them off or having to have anything go slipping between the layers of the gloves. The pop top mittens keep the skin exposed under the pop top. You can also pump the hand...making a fist and opening it repeatedly to help warm up the hands. You can't pull the fingers inside gloves very easily. You lose too much dexterity and you also lose too much warmth using gloves. Stick with mittens. Pop top preferably.


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    One more thing I will add that will be interesting to see the replies to this suggesting.

    Take a spare bottle with you...something like a 40oz peanut butter jar. Take it bed with you. Use it for a piss bottle. That way the only thing that has to leave the sleeping bag/tent is a hand to dump the bottle out the door. Let the rest of the body stay in the bag and learn to use a bottle. You'll stay a lot warmer/more comfortable as a result.

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    Quote Originally Posted by briwasson View Post
    Not to talk you out of camping, but you might try it in stages. First do a winter tour with indoor lodging, then if that goes well, do the next one camping. Off-season motels shouldn't be too expensive, especially along the coast (assuming they are open).
    He could do a "trial run" of sorts. Belleplain State Forest in Woodbine, NJ is open all year. Just rolled an overnighter there on 11/16. In addition to normal campsites, there are heated shelters with room for a tent outside. Pitch the tent and seek shelter inside if it doesn't work out. From the Lindenwold PATCO station, you can get there in just over 50 miles, which is his planned daily average.
    "I've wanted you to succeed, but watching you find excuse after excuse after excuse and then laugh it off as the loveable, quirky, chubby guy is getting old."--Ill.Clyde

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    I forgot to mention above that in the cold I prefer ski goggles over glasses.

    I assume you have your tire situation figured out if you encounter ice.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
    I forgot to mention above that in the cold I prefer ski goggles over glasses.
    I hope my wife does not see this; or I'll have to quit giving her a hard time about it

    22 degrees


    Actually, it is a good idea.
    Last edited by Doug64; 11-25-13 at 04:02 PM.

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    re tires, I dont ride in the winter winter, but I do ride until December and start up as soon as the ice has gone and a rain or two washes all the salt off the road (they just started salting here, tons of it in some places...ugh).
    I dont get flats very often, but sure as heck wouldnt want to be dealing with one when its really cold, so I would suggest new tubes (no patches) and tires that are pretty tough. Like I said, it doesnt bother me in the least to fix a flat when its warm, but when its cold, dark and rainy/snowy, I would want to cover all those bases as best as I could to minimize any flat shenanigans.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
    I do have a down quilt that I use thats rated for 30 degrees. Do you all find that the degree in temp is pretty true to the manufacturers spec?
    No. Nowhere close!

    In my language, 30F is approx. 0C. I've found that a bag rated to 0C is probably good down to +10C ........ or maybe 0C for about an hour, but definitely not the whole night.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bikenh View Post
    One more thing I will add that will be interesting to see the replies to this suggesting.

    Take a spare bottle with you...something like a 40oz peanut butter jar. Take it bed with you. Use it for a piss bottle. That way the only thing that has to leave the sleeping bag/tent is a hand to dump the bottle out the door. Let the rest of the body stay in the bag and learn to use a bottle. You'll stay a lot warmer/more comfortable as a result.
    +1. Down south we call that the "P" jug.

  23. #23
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
    Do you have ski gloves? A friend of mine that winter commutes has some weird looking gloves for biking that I do not know what they are called, but they look like ones that Commander Spock could wear while saying "live long and prosper".
    They're called lobster mitts.

    To chefisaac, a few tips ...

    Hand Warmth -- Having done quite a bit of cycling in the winter, I would strongly recommend going with mini-gloves or similar as a base layer, and ski-mitts as the over-layer. That way, if something happens to the bicycle which needs adjusting, you can remove the over-mitts and still have some dexterity with the mini-gloves on.

    I would also recommend bringing at least two sets of the outdoor gear ... two sets of mini-gloves, two sets of over-mitts, two fleecy headbands, two neck-gaiters, two balaclavas ...

    Day 1, you're going to sweat and soak your first set, and you are not going to want to wear it on Day 2. So you dig out your dry set and wear that instead, hoping that your first set will dry by Day 3 when you need them. Keep alternating between the two sets. Oh, don't forget to turn the mitts inside out.


    Body Warmth -- At the end of the day, get out of your cycling attire and into something warm and cozy. You might want to bring polar fleece, down jackets, etc.

    Then take whatever you're going to wear cycling the next day, and put it in your sleeping bag. You'll sleep on it that night and make it warm.

    In the morning, change into your nice warm cycling attire.

    If you leave your cycling attire in the pannier out in the foyer of the tent, it will be cold, and very uncomfortable to put on.


    Extra Warmth While Sleeping -- Wear your warm and cozy polar fleece to bed ... don't forget good, thick wool socks, put a toque on your head, and you might even want to bring a pair of mini-gloves to sleep in.

    If you do want to bring your light-weight down quilt, I'd recommend bringing something in addition to it, such as another just like it.

    What is your mattress like? You'll want something good quality that insulates you from the ground.



    As you can see from just those three points, the bulk of the stuff you could bring on a winter tour is starting to add up. Are you able to carry all the extra gear?

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    I forgot to mention this above, what do you plan to put on your feet while cycling? While camping?

    Do you know the symptoms to look for in case of frostbite?

    Cycle shoes - I have a normal summer pair that are a larger size so that I can wear heavy wool socks. And I use a pair of toe covers to cover and seal off the venting mesh. This still is the part of me that gets coldest, even with heavy wool socks and toe covers. I have to be very careful that I do not step in a puddle, it only takes milliseconds for icy cold water to flow into the holes in the soles for cleat attachment hardware. If I was going to actually do winter touring where I would be many miles from a warm indoors, I would consider wearing normal hiking boots on platform pedals.

    Around the campsite - this is pretty basic stuff that if you do not know what to wear, maybe you should not try it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    No. Nowhere close!

    In my language, 30F is approx. 0C. I've found that a bag rated to 0C is probably good down to +10C ........ or maybe 0C for about an hour, but definitely not the whole night.
    +1
    My experience with cold ratings on sleeping bags is that it will keep you alive at that temperature, not comfortable. A 30-40F bag is a summer weight bag. Or at least summer in Minnesota.
    Quote Originally Posted by shipwreck View Post
    Sure it works in practice, but will it work in theory.

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