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Winter wildcamping - any advice?

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 Ramblin dave 24 Feb 2016

I seem to have got involved in what might turn into a three night wildcamping trip in the highlands next month.

Given that there's a fair possibility of the weather being absolutely minging, has any one got any tips and advice for surviving - or even enjoying - it?

I've previously done longer trips in decent weather - which are fine - and overnight trips in crap weather - which is psychologically easy because you know when you put your wet gear back on on day two that you're going to be somewhere warm and dry that evening. But I'm not sure how I'd deal with getting cold and wet on day 1 and knowing that I've got another three days to go before I can get properly dried out...
Post edited at 18:25
 pec 24 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Don't take a down sleeping bag unless its definitely going to be well below freezing, it will turn into a soggy mess. A synthetic bag will still keep you warm and comfortable in the damp, if you haven't got a warm enough one add a fibre pile liner, you can then put wet clothes between the liner and outer bag and they will dry out overnight while you sleep.
 d_b 24 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Go for fast cooking food, with all boiling done outside the tent if the weather lets you. Expect condensation hell otherwise.

Skipping hot food entirely is possible of course, but you are likely to be glad of it.
 Roadrunner5 24 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Take bags for your feet. Try to get clothes damp and then sleep with them to at least warm them up if not dry.

Use a synthetic bag.

If its cold, think about fuel, sleep with your water in your bag.
 Glyno 24 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:
Take a 1 litre wide-mouthed Nalgene bottle.
...you don't want to have to leave your sleeping bag in the middle of the night

;-)
Post edited at 18:57
 d_b 24 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:
Wet boots are no joke in winter so don't forget to take gaiters.

Forgot mine once, broke through into a stream on day 1. It took over 10 minutes to thaw my way back into the boots the next morning and another 20 or 30 before the feeling came back enough for the hot aches to kick in. Not my best hill day.
Post edited at 19:03
 felt 24 Feb 2016
In reply to davidbeynon:

> Go for fast cooking food, with all boiling done outside the tent if the weather lets you. Expect condensation hell otherwise.

I'd suggest precisely the opposite, although I would always try to cook outside (rig up a lightweight tarp if it's raining/snowing). Go for food that will take a long time to prepare with multiple complex processes. Not only will this help to while away the longish hours of darkness (although it won't be Dec/Jan, when the slow food approach really reaps rewards); it will also do wonders for morale and taste fabulous. I'd certainly never spend less than a couple of hours preparing an evening meal on a winter trip, however far the walk-in was, and if you can get three or more stoves up and running you can actually eat pretty decently, bar the odd twig/stalk in your reduction.
 OwenM 24 Feb 2016
In reply to pec:

> Don't take a down sleeping bag unless its definitely going to be well below freezing, it will turn into a soggy mess.

Done many nights winter camping and always managed to keep my down bag dry, wouldn't use anything else.
 Anti-faff 24 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

The Sigg type water bottles are pretty handy in crappy weather for drying socks out quickly. If you fill one with warm water when you're making you're evening meal/brew you can put your socks over it and they dry out in minutes. Also works as a hot water bottle once they've dried, just put it down the bottom of your sleeping bag with socks over the top and it'll keep you toasty warm. I know it sounds ridiculous but it does work, I walked from Corrour Station to Ardtornish a couple of winters ago and I was really glad of having one with me.

I know they're heavy and take up a bit of room in your pack but try and take some chocolate biscuits and a flask. If you and your friends are flagging few things raise morale more effectively than a cup of something hot and a couple of dunkers!

Enjoy yourselves, I'm a bit envious. ;-)
 Deleted bagger 24 Feb 2016
In reply to OwenM:

> Done many nights winter camping and always managed to keep my down bag dry, wouldn't use anything else.

Me too. Not been a problem for at least forty years of winter camping.
 felt 24 Feb 2016
In reply to OwenM:

> Done many nights winter camping and always managed to keep my down bag dry, wouldn't use anything else.

Yes, quite. If you can't keep a sleeping bag dry I'd question your competence at doing anything more risky.
 abr1966 24 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

There are some amusing and informative videos on YouTube worth looking at! I'd say it all depends on the conditions....cold is better than rainy! I use a non down bag and basically go heavier with what I'm prepared to carry as some luxuries are worth it if the weather turns grim. Worth taking a few bits like good tape for emergency tent repairs....a dram or two and a book for the evening. I always take a tiny fm/lw radio which is a real treat!
In reply to Ramblin dave:
When doing more than one night in shitty weather I always take a spare set of base layers or light clothes and keep them in a dry bag or bin bag. Knowing that I'll have a dry warm set to wear while I'm chilling in my tent at night makes it a little bit easier to put the soggy day clothes on again in the mornings. Metal Sig bottles filled with boiling water with a sock over is also a great hot water bottle. Never get into sleeping bag cold (pressups and or hot drink first). Talcom powder for feet. But I really try and stay as dry as possible on multi day camps in winter and this means staying on top of your layering system. If wether and location allow, have a fire at night.. this literally can turn a miserable day upside down.

Enjoy!
Post edited at 20:18
 Mountain Llama 24 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

bacon lots of bacon

simples

 top cat 24 Feb 2016
In reply to felt:

> Yes, quite. If you can't keep a sleeping bag dry I'd question your competence at doing anything more risky.

Quite so. I've never used anything but down since 1979 and never had an issue, camping, bothies, snow holes.
 d_b 24 Feb 2016
In reply to felt:

So you only go out in good weather then.
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Hey there Dave, winter backpacking is great, with the hills so much more of a challenge and the rewards so much more too. My best advice is you have to be fastidious about your tent area. Don't charge into you tent after your toilet or you'll bring in loads of snow. If you're camping on snow have a wee base to sit your stove on. Don't get your boots wet through, if you do, sleep with them inside your bag, otherwise they'll be frozen and you'll have a day like davidbeynon above. For this reason I don't use down bags in winter unless it's for a one nighter. Not getting a sleep cos you're damp and wet is miserable. Lastly don't be ambitious with your route. When I was truly hill fit, capable of 50 mile days after each other, it took me 6 hours to walk from the Fords of A'an to Bob Scott's. When I arrived at Bob Scott's and a German lassie asked me to keep her warm, I declined, I was too knackered. There's a point, think about the bothies for your first trip, but there won't be German lassies in all of them or even the fabled Swedish women's beach volleyball team. All the best, let us know how you got on.

Tom
 aln 25 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Have something to do at night. It gets dark early.
 Roadrunner5 25 Feb 2016
In reply to top cat:

Well you are using bothies and snow holes..

I camped out in a 2-3 person tent at the weekend, very small one man tent, on a ledge, a few trees, frozen ground so no pegs. With some innovative use of the guy ropes off the trees I managed to fashion some sort of tent like structure from the tent. But in strong wind and freezing rain the condensation was pretty bad. I was warm but my bag did get damp.

It was good fun but I was glad to have a synthetic bag. To have been OK otherwise would have meant a much more expensive tent or not visiting that location.
 Roadrunner5 25 Feb 2016
In reply to Bishop:

Some of the new water bladders, nalgene, can take boiling water.

I'd just go out and camp though and learn the lessons. Its part of the fun.
James Jackson 25 Feb 2016
In reply to davidbeynon:
In the pack - dry bag.
When using for sleeping - bivvie bag (yes, inside the tent).

It stays dry; magic!
Post edited at 06:20
 felt 25 Feb 2016
In reply to davidbeynon:

No, see the tarp remark.
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Lots of good advice here already - I find a nalgene bottle with hot chocolate in it is a great hot water bottle and warm enough to drink in the morning. A tiny wee square of roll mat is good for your gas if your using a gas stove. Gas stoves with a lead to the gas allows you to heat the gas up a bit and give it a shake. Another vote for the down bag which lives inside my bivvy bag and dry bag in winter. Wearing wet clothes as long as poss to dry out but then having a dry Base layer in the tent. Seal socks are good to change into for the evening. If the weather is good for it camp high and enjoy the cloud inversion rather than waking up in a freezing cold glen. Down jacket for the evening. Enjoy......
 herblai 25 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Ground insulation: I use a self-inflating air mattress on top of an EVA closed foam layer.

Hot water bottle: wide mouth Naglene bottle.

To piss inside tent at night: an empty regular mineral/distilled water bottle

Tent waterproofing: impregnate the seams and/or fabric with waterproofing spray
pasbury 25 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Has anyone mentioned whisky yet?
 kathrync 25 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

In terms of keeping your sleeping bag dry, don't pull it up over your face while you are in it. It is amazing how damp your bag gets if you are breathing into it for a couple of nights in a row, even if it is not getting wet through any other source.

I am really bad for this because I hate sleeping without something over my face. I have taken to putting a buff over my face to try and keep myself from pulling the bag up over me in my sleep
 ScraggyGoat 25 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

To avoid your boots freezing take a light poly bag to put them in, and then wrap them in whatever clothing you are using as a pillow.

If using a gas stove either make a little jacket to insulate the canister from the cold ground/ air.

If really cold put both the canister and your water bottle in your sleeping bag overnight.

In the event you may camp on a deep base of snow, take some light poly bags to fill with snow and use as anchor instead of pegs, then bury them in the snow and attach guys / pegging points to them. Use axe and poles as well.

Try and always find a sheltered spot from the wind, and try to vent cooking condensation if you have to cook inside.

Should you have the luxury of being able to carry a small thermos, make it in the evening, then if cold in the night you have a hot drink to hand to warm yourself up, so you get back to sleep....till you need a pee...

If it gets above freezing and rains, try to stay warm by movement rather than layers, that way you only get a thermal or two wet.
 Guy Hurst 25 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Some good advice above, but I wouldn't bother trying to insulate your gas canister from its surroundings. The canister very quickly gets cold as the gas is used up, and its temperature will actually be lower than that of its surroundings, unless you're in the Arctic.
 malk 25 Feb 2016
In reply to felt:

> a long time to prepare with multiple complex processes. ...will also do wonders for morale and taste fabulous.

could be frustrating if the rest of the party is hungry tho? i don't see the requirement for 'multiple complex processes' just for the sake of it after a long day on the hill (remember them?;)
 Ramblin dave 25 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Some really good stuff here, thanks! I'll come back and reply in more detail when I'm not at work or busy.

I have to admit, I'd probably opt for just-add-water, no-washing-up dinner in a bag thing over a lengthy cooking process.

 Roadrunner5 25 Feb 2016
In reply to malk:
Agree, personally I want my hands inside gloves for as much as possible so have food as simple as possible. It's cheating but I'm a huge fan of hand warmers in my gloves, as a reynauds sufferer it's made cold days so much easier.
 Alan M 25 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:
Some good advice, I will add gloves and socks.

I have no issue putting damp clothes on in the morning in winter but damp/wet gloves and/or socks really drains my enthusiasm. I normally squeeze in to my pack one pair of socks for each day and 1 spare per. Same with gloves I don't really wear thick gloves prefer to wear a light pair for the walk in, 2 light pairs if standing around or climbing and then another light pair for the walk out etc. On a normal winters day in the hills I carry about 4 or 5 pairs of light(ish) gloves . It is not unknown for me to be carrying enough pairs of socks and gloves in my pack for a group outing. Like I say I am happy to wear a damp fleece or base layer or wet pants etc as my body warms them up quickly but wet gloves or socks.....too grim for me!!
Post edited at 14:22
 SenzuBean 25 Feb 2016
In reply to Glyno:

> Take a 1 litre wide-mouthed Nalgene bottle.

> ...you don't want to have to leave your sleeping bag in the middle of the night

> ;-)

What do you do with the mucky toilet paper?
 Ramblin dave 29 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Right, I said I'd be back, but things have been hectic lately.

Sleeping bags - I don't currently have a good synthetic sleeping bag, so I might have to see how I get on with a down bag plus being careful.
Cooking - I'm imagining that in bad weather it'll just be boiling water in the tent porch and freeze-dried meals. No washing up! (I've never actually cooked on a pocket rocket in a tent porch before - are those plastic legs for the gas canister are worth it?)
Clothes - I'd sort of imagined having "cold wet day clothes" and "dry tent thermals" and never the twain shall meet. That's roughly what I've done in bothies in the past and it seems to work there. Presumably the "wet clothes in the sleeping bag" trick doesn't work with a down bag!
I have considered the wide-necked nalgene bottle. It'll certainly be tempting if the weather's looking bad...
I'll be interested to see how the evenings pan out. The idea of getting in to a small tent with one or two other people and staying there for about fourteen hours does seem like a recipe for cabin fever, but presumably in bad weather it's the only sensible option.
Whisky - that goes without saying!
 JIMBO 29 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

> Cooking - I'm imagining that in bad weather it'll just be boiling water in the tent porch and freeze-dried meals. No washing up! (I've never actually cooked on a pocket rocket in a tent porch before - are those plastic legs for the gas canister are worth it?)

The MSR metal canister stand is much better than those plastic things... I love mine and it fits more makes of can.

> I have considered the wide-necked nalgene bottle. It'll certainly be tempting if the weather's looking bad...

I like my glow in the dark one... saves blinding yourself with a torch late at night.

Hope you have fun...
 malk 29 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

> Right, I said I'd be back, but things have been hectic lately.

> Sleeping bags - I don't currently have a good synthetic sleeping bag, so I might have to see how I get on with a down bag plus being careful.

your laughing with down..

> Cooking - I'm imagining that in bad weather it'll just be boiling water in the tent porch and freeze-dried meals. No washing up! (I've never actually cooked on a pocket rocket in a tent porch before - are those plastic legs for the gas canister are worth it?)

no need for freeze dried meals in any situation?
why not carry the weight of the water for rehydrating in the form of an onion, pepper, garlic etc and with a few seasonings etc for an altogether superior meal?

> Clothes - I'd sort of imagined having "cold wet day clothes" and "dry tent thermals" and never the twain shall meet. That's roughly what I've done in bothies in the past and it seems to work there. Presumably the "wet clothes in the sleeping bag" trick doesn't work with a down bag!

overthinking the issue?

> I'll be interested to see how the evenings pan out. The idea of getting in to a small tent with one or two other people and staying there for about fourteen hours does seem like a recipe for cabin fever, but presumably in bad weather it's the only sensible option.

cabin fever can be avoided by having your own tent..

> Whisky - that goes without saying!

or Rum;)

 Siward 29 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

I would:

Bring a candle (put it in the ground in your tent porch)

Eat quick food when you get in- soup and pasta bits or something, then cook a meal from scratch to take up time, whilst enjoying a bottle of red.

Bring a bottle of wine for night one and a tin mug so you can heat it up over aforesaid candle.

If not using a bivi bag put your (dry) waterproof over the foot of your sleeping bag.

Try not to knock the stove over- is there no possibility of getting something a bit more ground hugging?

 bigbobbyking 29 Feb 2016
In reply to Siward:


> If not using a bivi bag put your (dry) waterproof over the foot of your sleeping bag.

That's a good idea. I don't know why I didn't think of that to combat the "damp feet of tall man in cold tent" syndrome which I usually suffer from when camping in cool-cold weather...
 Bloodfire 29 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Having just done a winter wildcamp, the single most limiting factor for me was my thermarest prolite wasn't nearly warm enough. maybe a foam one underneath or a neoair would be better but with a down bag, down jacket and thermals, my body was toasty until I lay down.

The pee bottle is also useful as are snacks and plenty of spare headtorch batteries or a tent lantern that doesn't compromise your headtorch.
 Phil Anderson 29 Feb 2016
In reply to Bloodfire:

> ... a tent lantern that doesn't compromise your headtorch.

Wind-up lanterns are great for having a bit of light in the tent, and you don't have to carry batteries, or worry about them going flat if you fall asleep with the light still on.
 Roadrunner5 29 Feb 2016
In reply to Bloodfire:

I've a big agness air bed, a pain to blow up, but very light, pack down, and very warm and comfy. I think they are better than a thermarest.
 Street 29 Feb 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

I swear by my Exped Downmat 7UL for winter camping and I use a Synmat 7UL for summer. So much more comfy than anything else in my opinion.
 Billhook 02 Mar 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

I've always managed to dry wet socks by keeping them on my feet or simply keeping them in the bag with me. They've always ended up dry and of course, warm to put on in the morning.

Something often overlooked in winter. Boredom.

Unless you've got a friend whom you know is happy to chat away all evening then you may get bored.

Winter nights in a tent are cold, unexciting (unless you have an epic) and exceedingly looooooooong. Take something you can listen to the radio/music on, access the internet, watch videos/podcasts etc., etc., Or, take a book to read!
 felt 02 Mar 2016
In reply to Dave Perry:

> Something often overlooked in winter. Boredom.

See above: "Go for food that will take a long time to prepare with multiple complex processes. Not only will this help to while away the longish hours of darkness..."
In reply to Dave Perry:

> I've always managed to dry wet socks by keeping them on my feet or simply keeping them in the bag with me. They've always ended up dry and of course, warm to put on in the morning.

I'm never sure about this type of advice. I've spent many cold nights trying to dry clothes in the sleeping bag, often ending up with warm damp clothes and a warmish dampish sleeping bag/liner. On one unforgettable occasion I went to sleep in wet socks to try to dry them out - the result was wrinkled very soft skin that blistered quickly, I ended up wearing bandages rather than socks!
cap'nChino 02 Mar 2016
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

> To avoid your boots freezing take a light poly bag to put them in, and then wrap them in whatever clothing you are using as a pillow.

Cannot recommend something like this enough. My first trip out camping in snow on top of a mountain resulted in me losing a toe nail because I foolishly left my boots outside overnight. They were frozen solid and didn't full thaw out even by the time I arrived back at car hours later.
In reply to cap'nChino:

Depends a bit on how cold it is. If potential for boots to freeze inside tent then I'd always go for the option of leaving them in a position where you can get your feet into them and lace the boots up, once boots start to warm up then tighten laces (warming feet up first if necessary). Much better than a squashed pair of frozen boots.
ultrabumbly 02 Mar 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Take a bottle to pee in to save getting up. You may well drink a few brews before bed to pass time and end up busting at 3am. Sticking the pee bottle in your boots helps to stop them freezing if it is that cold. Take some light bags, e.g. pedal bin liners to pop the boots in so they don't get other kit wet. no need to seal the bag, you just don't want them oozing onto sleeping kit.

You can stick your water bottle in a boot if it might freeze inside the tent. Turning it upside down means any ice will form at the base and so not block the opening.

Take a sit mat sized piece of CCF. This will be useful for standing mugs etc on the cold floor or if you need to kneel to get in and out of the tent/bivi whatever. If you are using a remote canister stove then sticking the canister on the mat helps. Place mugs on the floor inside the shelter at your peril

IME Don't take any wet kit into your bag if out for multiple days. instead take minimal dry stuff to sleep in. Socks especially, your feet will thank you for. If it is absolutely drenched then sticking it in a dry bag on top of your sleeping bag will warm it some in the morning to the point you can then take it inside the bag. If it is only a bit wet it will dry some like this with the top open while outside the sleeping bag.

It's easy to lose pegs in snow, take a couple of varied extras and have some bright tat or some other marking on them.

Develop a discipline for which pocket(s) you put gloves in while not wearing them and always zip it.
Zoro 02 Mar 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:
Tea, biscuits(lots), a good book!
 Dave the Rave 02 Mar 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Has anyone tried the 'full Buffalo' approach? By this I mean salopettes, special 6 shirt, overcoat, and both winter inner and outer sleeping bags?
The principle may be good in that it maintains warmth when wet, and that you could 'dry/warm' your kit between the bags.
My mate whisky Dave used to get a lot of flak for not changing into dry kit when in the tent, but used to disappear into a prima loft bag in his Buff special six and salopettes, with only a bottle of whisky poking out of his sleeping bag hood. He would appear an hour later pretty dry in search of the food I was making.
ultrabumbly 03 Mar 2016
In reply to Bloodfire:

> Having just done a winter wildcamp, the single most limiting factor for me was my thermarest prolite wasn't nearly warm enough. maybe a foam one underneath or a neoair would be better but with a down bag, down jacket and thermals, my body was toasty until I lay down.

I use the same short prolite I use in summer but I supplement it with light ccf underneath(vaude make a light tapered evazote mat @120g). I've been happily snug down to -8 with this combo and it is also one that is usable should the mat turn out to leak(mine has seen tonnes of abuse without a problem but I would worry some with only a full on inflatable). When the leg section has been a little cool I put some other gear under my calves if it is dry or fold the mat over and curl up a little.


 malk 05 Mar 2016
In reply to felt:

> See above: "Go for food that will take a long time to prepare with multiple complex processes. Not only will this help to while away the longish hours of darkness..."

see above- minions getting hungry..
 Bish 05 Mar 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Take a pair of socks for each day. Rotate a pair at the end of the day as you settle down. Dont dry aocka on your feet as this can lead to nasty problems over a couple of days. Wet socks against the skin somewhere either over night or the next day will dry out and isnt too unpleasant once warmed by body heat. I tuck mine into my waistline against my thighs for a couple of hrs in the morning whilst moving so they can dry out.

Be disciplined with clothing layers during the day as drying lots of layers isnt easy. You want the minimum amount of layers on while moving to stay comfortable.

Use a bothy for at least 1 night for a more comfortable and enjoyable evening esp if the weather has been typically scottish.
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Take a ton of socks.

Dry socks are king.

 SenzuBean 08 Mar 2016
In reply to Ramblin dave:

I have read most of the thread - but didn't see anything about about clearing the snow under where the tent will be pitched. I believe it's a good idea, as otherwise you'll melt yourself into a wet puddle during the night. But wondered is this always true (i.e. if it's very cold, or very deep snow, are you better to sleep on top of the snow?).
 More-On 08 Mar 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

All depends on how good your sleeping mat is. If you've got a nice warm one/several layered it's normally not worth the effort, but if you only have a thin pad then be prepared to end up in a snow 'coffin' if you don't.
oggiegb 08 Mar 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

If it's deep snow, I'd stamp it down to compact as much as possible, put a groundsheet / plastic bivi bag under the tent for extra insulation.
And as More-On says use a winter rated/ thick sleeping mat. Make sure your stove is on something insulated otherwise it'll disappear into a deep pit in the snow.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast though (specially if camping low), I've camped on a lovely snow scene then had a warm southerly overnight, everything melted and the tent collapsed on me.
You can use plastic bags filled with snow / rocks / walking poles / ice axes instead of pegs.

You could clear the snow with a shovel (shovels are great in winter) and use the cleared snow as a windbreak .
The ground is often frozen, steel pegs are more solid than aluminium.
As other people say, Whisky and a pee bottle (doubles as a hot water bottle too) are top tips but don't get them mixed up ;-)



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