Pulk sled on the AT.
I took off Sunday for a few days on the AT with the pulk. It was a bit colder than expected but still a good time.
Pulk loaded and ready.
I have my EMR and USGI medium ALICE pack on the sled. For traction I used Micro spikes and Atlas snow shoe hiking poles. The waterproof insulated winter boots are mandatory. I used a Molle 1 vest and belt system for a pulk harness.
One of the advantages of a Molle belt/vest is pockets can be attached and offers easy access to gear such as my wide mouth Nalgene. I don’t much care for the Molle pack system but for this application it works very well.
There as a pile-o-gear in this camp and normally without a sled wouldn’t attempt to pack in so much. I intended to stay for a few days so the longer than normal setup time wasn’t a big issue. The sled is unpacked and starting to cut wood for the stove. Unfortunately there wasn’t that much dead fall or standing deadwood in the area. There was some heavy rain just before the cold snap and some of the wood was frozen. I paid for this an hour after taking the photo.
The wood was a bitch to get going as the stove was forced to boil out the water content and this reduced the total BTU output. Once going it was acceptable but still it was hard to get the tipi up to T-shirt temperatures.
The homemade robber should have been 100% cherry red but this was about it.
I took my Thermarest, Multi Mat and poncho liner for the hang out/cooking area as weight wasn’t an issue.
For a sleep system it was a -15ish fluffy down bag, Downmat 9DLX and EMS nylon ground cloth. Oh man that sleeping bag was warm.
1. Beans & Rice mix.
2. Packet of pepperoni, this is not the time for low calories.
3. Hot chocolate mix and marshmallows just for fun.
4. Trail bar.
5. High calorie cookie snack.
It cooked up good on the homemade wood stove.
For extra warmth and light I used a candle lantern. Normally avoid unvented flame inside a tent but this is the exception. All the same care should be taken. The lantern should be hung up rather than standing and some air intake for the flame should be taken into consideration in my view.
Breaking camp took some time due to the extra gear. The tipi has been fitted with a liner for reduced condensation and drafts.
Back country winter comfort and survival issues:
Here is a mostly frozen river.
My advice is to avoid this at all costs. We have all seen Man vs. Wild and watched Bear put himself in unnecessary danger messing around with crap like this but keep in mind that is pure entertainment within a controlled situation. If you go out on that and the ice gives way the river will suck you under. I guarantee death.
Here is something that has gotten the better of me in the past. Rather than melting snow I took water from frozen streams like this.
It‘s easy to slip and flop right though the ice. It has happened to me before and even a foot of water will soak a person more than you might expect. Don’t think there is any control once balance is lost. So take extra care when crossing or getting water from streams like these. Given the right set of circumstances even a little accident can put the hurt on.
Understanding why some areas can be colder than the weather forecast:
I expected temperatures to be around 5F in this area but it got colder. Why? I am no expert on the weather so the factors listed are based on field experience.
1. Snow and ice on the ground. This will reflect the sun’s warm and less heat is absorbed by the ground. There wasn’t a deep base but just the same I had snow cover.
2. Cold air mass. The area was under the influence of a large northern air mass on Sunday night. This let up some on Monday but was a factor for the bottom falling out Sunday.
3. No cloud cover. It was crystal clear Sunday night so any warmth that didn’t get reflected by the snow cover simply evaporated.
4. Local geology. A valley surrounded by hills.
Cold air settles into places like this as it drifts down the hills. During the day it’s colder and this doesn’t get any better at night. To add injury to insult often there is less direct sunlight.
Given that all four of these factors were met the temperatures dropped in this local area by more than forecasted. There are a few things that can be done to mitigate some of this but at times you just need to roll with it.
1. Get out of lower areas that the cold will settle into. I know it’s counterintuitive to think being a bit higher up can be warmer however this has been my experience.
2. Setup camp in a location that receives the most sunlight. The sun rises in the east and is in the south at mid day. Having the sun hit your camp in the AM and afternoon is a big help. Look for areas that shows greater snow melt such as dry rocks etc. Places that don’t get enough sunlight will often have more snow as even the correct orientation may not help if the light is blocked.
Winter camping tricks:
1. If using tent stakes on frozen ground don’t drive them in too deep. Leave a few inches exposed like this.
Often stakes will get frozen into the ground. To free them take a hatchet, hammer or whatever and give a few taps to drive them an inch more. This will break the ice.
2. Get a larger stuff sack for your shelter. Here is an old sleeping bag stuff sack that is sometimes used for my Tipi/liner combo.
Why? Most stuff sacks are hard enough in summer to work with as often people buy shelters based on weight and pack size so there is an incentive for manufactures to get the smallest sack possible. But once a shelter gets iced over from either weather or condensation it’s very hard to stuff into the small factory sack and gloved hands often lack the dexterity.
3. For the most part insulation of any sleep system is based on loft. There is no loft under a sleeping bag so get a ground pad. Many people ask if wearing a jacket inside the bag will increase its rating. Saying yes would seem like a no brainer but don’t be so sure. If the jacket is damp from the day this will come back to haunt you as even if it doesn’t feel wet or damp, in the cold sometimes this is harder to determine. As stated gear makers are looking to reduce weight and pack size. Some bags are tighter fitting as a result. Toss too much extra clothing items like a jacket and you risk compressing the insulation of both. My advice it is pack a bag rated lower than expected. My personal preference is for a hat, warm socks and sometimes a base layer.
Exped Multi Mat. This is not to be used as a ground pad alone for winter but makes a good insulated ground cover. http://www.rei.com/product/748726
UCO candle lantern. One of the few things that works better in the cold. http://candlelantern.com/
Paris expedition sled. A good sled made in the USA. The poles and attachment hardware are by Skipulk.http://www.rei.com/product/609482http://www.skipulk.com/
Atlas snow shoe hiking poles. These are made for Cabelas and at 29.99 hard to beat.http://www.cabelas.com/p-0022494.shtml
I am swamped with work and will have to stay in for the next few weeks.