Tag Archives: Winter Backpacking

Winter Backpacking Sleep System

Today I’ll review my winter backpacking sleep system. Your daytime shelter system consists of your clothes. Your nighttime system is a bit more complicated. It is important to think of both as “shelter systems.” A system isn’t just one thing, it is several components working together. A winter backpacking sleep system is a layered set of defenses designed to protect you from the environment.

winter backpacking sleep system
Black Diamond Firstlight Tent
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Black Diamond Firstlight – Long Term Review

The Black Diamond Firstlight is a two-person, self standing tent produced by Black Diamond. Its simple design makes it light and easy to pitch in adverse conditions. Steep walls allow it to shed snow like a champ and provide ample interior head space. This is my go-to tent for winter backpacking in deep snow or bad weather. I also use this tent for quick camps the night before a three-season backpacking trip so that I don’t have to unpack and repack my primary shelter.

Black Diamond Firstlight
Black Diamond Firstlight 2P Tent
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Winter Backpacking the Blackhead Range

In February 2021, I lead a small group up into the Catskill’s Blackhead Range. The purpose of our trip was to test some winter backpacking skills and equipment and to bag a few peaks. The first day, we hiked up to Lockwood Gap and set up camp before ascending Blackhead Mountain. The next morning hiked Blackdome and Thomas Cole mountains before returning to camp, packing up, and walking out to the car. It was a successful trip and we learned a lot.

Winter Backpacking
Black Dome in the Later Afternoon
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Winter backpacking gear list 2020

Have you considered your winter backpacking gear? With the pandemic going on and limited indoor options for entertainment, hundreds of thousands of Americans have taken to the outdoors. Now that winter is coming, are all the new comers going to head indoors, or continue to explore nature? I hope they pick the latter, so I’ve written this post to help them start putting together a complete winter backpacking gear list.

Winter Backpacking
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Winter Backpacking Rules

I’ve had close calls with hikers getting hypothermia, so I always insist on a few basic rules for winter backpacking. These rules should always be followed in order! They are based on your survival priorities: “You can survive for three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water, and three weeks without food.”

Fire at Governor Clement Shelter
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Vermont Appalachian Trail: US 4 to VT 103. Snow!

In late January 2020, I lead a group of six Argonauts from Hudson Valley Hikers to tackle the Vermont Winter for a weekend of backpacking. We traversed Kilington Mountain Southbound along the Appalachian Trail, and then descended into the wilderness lying to the south, finishing at VT Rt 103. Temperatures were consistently about 30 degrees F with some strong winds Saturday and occasionally snow flurries during the day and moderate freezing rain over night.

winter backpacking
Argonauts Ready for Winter Backpacking
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Massachusetts Appalachian Trail: Dalton to North Adams – A Snowy Slog!

Continuing in the theme of “misunderestimating” snow, we take a look back at March of 2019. We had planned a 23 mile hike from Dalton to North Adams in Massachusetts. Snow maps were sketchy, but from what we could tell there would be no more than 2 inches on the ground. The weather had different plans. Four to eight inches of fresh snow on this relatively unused section of the Appalachian Trail made route finding and forward progress difficult. Imagine trying to spot white blazes when every tree is covered with white snow!

Mt Greylock
Greylock in the Snow
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Appalachian Trail: Bennington to North Adams

In November of 2019, I took a group of Hudson Valley Hikers on a backpacking trip from Bennington, VT to North Adams, MA. We covered only 18.7 miles, but bridged a gap between two longer sections. Weather in November can be tricky. We call it shoulder season. Fall is over, but winter hasn’t quite started yet. You can get an odd combination of conditions. Over the last couple of years, we’ve learned to expect snow when hiking in Vermont or Massachusetts between November and March.

Vermont Massachusetts State Line
Our group stops for a photo at the Vermont / Massachusetts State Line. This is the southern end of the Vermont Long Trail.
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Hudson Valley Hikers

Hudson Valley Hikers

Over the last two years I have had the pleasure of hiking and hosting with Hudson Valley Hikers.  Among my friends at HVH are some of the kindest, most helpful, ambitious, knowledgeable and exciting people I have ever met.  Powered by HVH, I climbed dozens of the Northeasts toughest mountains, hiked more than 500 miles of the Appalachian trail, tubed down raging rivers, drank beer I’d never heard of, and been introduced to thoughts and ideas that are totally new to me.  This is the story about how a group of hikers has changed my life and how it might change yours. Continue reading Hudson Valley Hikers

Winter Backpacking – Backup Plan Implemented

A snowy winter backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.
A snowy winter backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.

When heading out into the wilderness, one must always plan ahead, study the route and weather predictions, carry the correct gear, and have a back-up plan. Perhaps these rules are never more true than when winter backpacking.  Knowing your the route, the weather, the abilities of your crew, how to properly use your gear and having some survival skills make a fun time out of a potentially dangerous situation. Continue reading Winter Backpacking – Backup Plan Implemented