Nothing beats the sound of snow... I spend a butt-load of time commuting from Puyallup to Seattle everyday for work - drive sucks. Good thing is I get to catch up on some of the best podcasts out there. The reality is I only want to see Seattle from the top of some mountain peak as I listen to the sound of snow falling. Nothing drops my blood pressure more than that experience and I don't do it enough.
Winter's here and I want to plan a snow camping trip just to get out and decompress from my daily workload. I've got a few days coming up and there's no better time to take advantage of it. By putting this planning exercise to pen, the hope is to give you some insight on my Systems of Survival (SOS) and how I plan a trip. I call this planning my workflow and that flow will differ depending on the plan but what will not differ is making sure I've got my Systems of Survival covered.
To that end here is my snow camping prep as I patiently wait for more snow to stack up in the Cascades. The first question I ask myself is where am I going? For the sake of this rambling let's say... somewhere near Mt. Rainier on the southwest side just because it's easy for me to get to. A place like High Hut in the South District Ski Trails. This should provide me cover if I need it and some good views of the mountain if the weather is clear.
I know I want to go in on snowshoes so I need to pack accordingly. Is this an overnighter? I think yes. Am I going alone or taking someone with me? For the sake of safety I'll bring along a friend this time. Now I'm going to list out my mission goals.
1 Get home alive.
3 Create an awesome overnight winter campsite where I can chill; pardon the pun.
4 Test out gear for Advantage Survival and generate some good podcasting content you'll enjoy.
5 Eat well. Comfort food will be a priority on this trip.
6 Sleep warm. I'm testing out some winter hammock sleeping techniques. Risky I know but I have some innovative ideas.
7 Not overheat on the hike up or down by managing my Clothing System efficiently.
8 Practice fire building techniques on snow.
9 And 2 other things I can't remember right now.
Next up.....gear up. Time to pull out the big pack and my snow gear. If you're like me pack choice will be hard due to the fact I have too many. But I'll settle for the Mountain Hardware. It's proven and durable and should haul the load just fine. Snowshoes will be the tried and true MRS' Ascent and depending on the weather, snow condition, pack weight and my weight (yes I could stand to drop 10) I'll make the call whether to bring the float attachments. I always roll with my body recovery device... I mean my avalanche transceiver with whistle attached, my probe poles and a snow shovel all purchased thru Survival On The Snow. I will also take a small repair kit that will have an extra binding strap for the shoes, switch key for the transceiver, duct tape and so on.
Now it's time to dial in those Systems of Survival that I'll be taking up the hill. The above covered #13 Gear Carry & Gear Repair and #16 Backcountry Winter Travel. I wanted to get the big bulky stuff out of the way first. Now let's move to the top of the list.
Systems of Survival
1 Shelter: For this trip I'm going to go out on a limb and take my Hennessy Hammock Expedition Asym Classic. I know it's risky. I could freeze my bum off or get pummeled by chunks of snow falling off the tree branched but.... I'm going to try something new that should keep me nice and toasty and revolutionize winter Hammock camping for the masses. Ok, bold statement but it may spawn some new sleeping techniques to try. I do have a couple of backup plans, 1 snow cave, 2 snow trench tarp-top style. More on those shelters in a future rambling. Now that I'm all over the board listing out my SOS; a solid set of breathable rainwear top and bottoms (to be named later) will be my first line of defense in my shelter system. Lastly, a Grabber Outdoors Hooded All Weather Blanket as an emergency backup and maybe incorporated into #2 snow trench shelter.
2 Water: This trip is only an overnighter so I'm taking my water with me in a CamelBak 100oz Antidote Reservoir - if and when I need more I will melt snow in a water generator by the campfire and run it thru my McNett Aquamira Frontier Pro Ultralight Water Filter. Depending on temps I may sleep with the extra water and filter to keep it from freezing.
3 Fire: So I'm taken my tried and true standard fire kit. I don't expect any issue getting a fire started, the question is what type of fire will I construct? Depending on my camp location and hammock setup and what that looks like will be a driving factor in my overall warmth during the night.
4 Tools: I'm taking four tools on this trip and it's what I take on every trip. Oh yes! Silky Saw, the best in my opinion. Ka-Bar Large Heavy Bowie. I want a chopper because I know I'll be processing a fair amount of firewood for the night and morning. Next an EESE Izula for quick meat cutting and a Victorinox Swiss Army Dual Pro X for around camp tasks. My standard toolbox.
5 Communications & Signaling: iPhone with the Spot Connect App and my Spot Connect device. Part of me wants to leave it all at home but knowing what I know it wouldn't be very irresponsible of me plus it does help put my wife and kids at ease knowing that I'm doing OK. My kids think the custom "goodnight" messages are pretty cool too. For some other signaling capabilities my headlamp has strobe functions my compass has a mirror, one glow stick with 5' of bank-line wrapped around it so I can swing it around my head in a big-ass circle. That's it on this trip.
6 Navigation: Only taking a topographical map of the area in a Ziploc bag and my Brunton 15 TDCL Compass. As a backup my iPhone has GPS Topo apps and downloaded map tiles however I don't plan to use them. I know the area pretty well and I see no need to stray from the path. In the perfect world right? The Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx is staying home.
7 Lighting: Fenix HP10 7 Level 225 Lumen LED Headlamp. The best headlamp I've ever owned! I'll be sporting the red lens for early morning and night hiking to preserve my night vision. In camp I'm using a Fenix LD20 with the white cone attachment for lantern effect. Also a glow stick for backup.
8 Outdoor Clothing: In addition to the rainwear mentioned above clothing management is a goal on this trip. It's one of the things that is hard for me to manage consistently. Not sure why, maybe I'm not planning my burn rate very well. I tend to be a little random in my energy usage. Anyway, layering is the key and having the ability to vent is another factor in my clothing choices. Let's start with my base layer. Synthetic underwear. Over that a thin set of two piece Cabela's Hollow-Core Heat Base Layer. This layer has been proven on many search and rescue missions. Next, I've become a huge fan of a Polartec® 200 Fleece one piece medium layer. Top looks like a vest and the whole thing fits snug against the body. It has zips all over the thing. Legs, butt and front. Knees are reinforced and it's warm, a very nice piece of kit. I'll have either a wool or fleece jacket that has some type of wind stopping technology. Pants will be a synthetic hiking type, rain bottoms or both. Now all of this is subject to adjustment depending on weather conditions. That's the hard part and I will get it figured out once I'm at the trail head. Whatever I decide on I know I'll have my Outdoor Research Expedition Crocodile® gaiters on. If weather is good they'll go over my hiking pants if it snowing they'll slide under my rain pants for the shingling effect. Feet and hands; I like smart wool type socks and only one layer. I will have Gore-Tex® boots not sure which ones yet but the boots will be insulated. For my hands I'll need to layer there too by starting off with a Burton Gore-Tex® Glove with a fleece liner glove. At camp I'm using a lightly oiled leather glove for the firewood possessing. OK time to cover the head with a fleece skullcap from Mountain Hardware. If the weather turns I'll use the hood attached to my rain jacket over that and I sleep with that hat on as well. I know clothing is a very complicated system and very individualized. There are so many types and styles to consider. One thing that I won't have with me is anything that's cotton. Extra stuff in my pack will be a down jacket for camp warmth, one extra pair of smart wool socks and a neck gator. I will also have two survival gear items I'll show off soon.
9 Security: Beretta 9mm. Why? Cuz I can. Mainly for Zombie protection or rouge puddy-tats. Not sure if Sasquatch will gimme me any guff. Also back in the tool department that Ka-Bar Large Heavy Bowie can be a wicked implement.
10 First-Aid: A very lightweight basic kit with one Israeli Battle Dressing. Nothing crazy here, it's about risk management for me.
12 Cooking & Food: As one of my mission goals comfort food will be a priority. Now I know what your thinking so stop. I'm bringing some marinated stakes and bakers for the camp fire. I'm saving pack weight by not packing the refrigerator. This is after all a recreational trip for me. That's dinner. Lunch will be Mountain House. Trail food will be my own gorp mix. Breakfast, Mountain House. Yes I need coffee. Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Colombian Medium Roast. Not a huge Starbucks fanboy but find me a good alternative.
My cooking kit will consist of a campfire, a MSR Pocket Rocket Stove for boiling water fast. A one cup aluminum pot that I have no idea where I got it. I hate sporks so a spoon for me please. If your wondering how I'm going to cut the steak... I'm eating it like a Neanderthal, potato too. Oh, I almost forgot, a 8"x 8"x1/4" piece of plywood as a flat base for my stove to sit on, this will keep it from melting into the snow.
14 Power Management: A Goal Zero Guide 10 4AA Battery Recharger with 4 Sanyo Eneloop AA batteries. Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA 8x Batteries the 4 Pack and a USB plug for my iPhone to charge it up if needed.
15 Sleep Systems: Well I've alluded to the fact that I'm hammock camping and the details I'll share with you after the trip in part 2 or a podcast. I am taking a Hennessy Hammock Expedition Asym Classic, an inflatable matters pad and a 20 degree synthetic filled sleeping bag.
17 Personnel Hygiene: Hand sanitizer but I will need to be careful using this in freezing conditions. I don't want any cold injuries. Other items include a toothbrush and toilet paper.
18 Riding Gear: Not taking a snowmobile or tracked ATV on this trip so no need for riding gear.
Before leaving I'll put together a detailed trip plan for my wife and a copy of the exact map we'll have with us. I'll update my Spot profile on the website adding my tag-a-longs info and test the Spot Connect. I usually rotate the lithium batteries out to my headlamp and put new lithium's in the Spot. I do the same with my transceiver. Researching weather and avalanche conditions is next on the list. This will be the deciding factor on whether the trip is a go-no-go.
So my plan is get to the insertion point early, at about daybreak. That sounds tactical... I love this time of the morning anyway and weather permitting it should make for an awesome sunrise in the wilderness. The drive in will be about an hour and a half from my house where I'll meet my tag-a-long, load up and head out.
At the trail head we'll get our clothing, boots and snowshoes on, do a pack check to make sure we have our SOS, secure the truck and hit the trail. We're going in about 3 miles and in the snow this will be slow going - that's OK, we're in no hurry. I really want to not overheat so managing my pit-zips and other zips, layering system will be a key goal of mine. I think it's critical not to sweat in cold conditions for obvious reasons. The cool thing is if we don't make it to our intended destination it's not a big deal we can camp anywhere along the way and be just fine.
This is getting long winded so I think I'll stop for now. Stay tuned for Part 2 and I hope my diatribe helps you plan your next trip and find the sound of snow.