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FiresideChats
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PostThu Jan 16, 2020 9:09 pm 
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Question for the community: How do you camp on snow?

The context: I am upgrading my outdoor equipment and planning new activities for my public school outdoor course. I want to do an overnight on Baker with a day of sledding in the deeeep snow.

What I have now:
1. A bevy of 13 year olds
2. 3-season REI tents
3. 1/2 in. foam sleeping pads for everyone
4. Water filters
5. Backpacks for each kid.

What I need to know:
What gear is essential for camping on snow in a group setting?
The process - what do I need to learn and plan for to do this well?
Tips for fun or useful activities to keep everyone safe and maximize enjoyment.

Whatcha got? Thx

Phil
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Waterman
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PostThu Jan 16, 2020 9:51 pm 
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More foam pads will go along way towards a comfortable night.

Toss in a couple shovels.

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FiresideChats
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PostThu Jan 16, 2020 10:09 pm 
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Thanks. Duly noted.
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cascadetraverser
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PostThu Jan 16, 2020 10:57 pm 
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Pads and shovels are key; snow stakes for the tent are nice; proper footware to stay dry and warm in snow is important.  I have these special insulated lightweight booties I use. A nighttime light is good for the dark nights. Lots of socks and a couple pair of gloves.
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Randito
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PostFri Jan 17, 2020 1:47 am 
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FiresideChats wrote:
4. Water filters

You must protect filters from freezing as freezing typically ruins the filter and sometimes in ways that compromise their safety without obvious external damage.

Also, preparing campsites on snow in winter is a multi-step process.  The sites need to be packed out first on snowshoes and then on foot, but with a delay between to allow the snow to age harden.

Agree with multiple layers of foam pads.  Must be closed cell foam.

Biggest safety factor is carefully looking at the weather forecast and be ready to cancel  the trip  when heavy snow is forecast.

Back in the '70s before accurate forecasting  I did a snow camp during a heavy winter storm and we had to get up repeatedly during the night to dig out our 4 season 6 person tent (Logan Tent) from several feet of snow that fell overnight. Three season tents would have been much more problematic.  If more than several inches of snow are forecast three season tents are going be problematic in terms of keeping them dug out enough to prevent collapsing.  Also many three season tents use a lot of mosquito netting for the tent body,  that going to be cold and easily torn by any significant snow or wind load.

Good luck.
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PostFri Jan 17, 2020 9:20 am 
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If you're cooking on a camp or bp stove and the stove is going to sit directly on the snow, having some form of platform between it and the snow is key.  Especially for smaller bp stoves.  Doesn't need to be fancy - I've precut small, lightweight precut pieces of interior paneling that worked great.  Be creative.  Also, consider your stove fuel choice.  It's much easier to keep the fuel tank of liquid fuel stoves pressurized in cold temps.  If you use cannister stoves, keeping the cannisters slightly warm (NOT hot) will help maintain the stove performance.  Even allowing the cannisters to sit in a shallow pot (frisbee?) of water will work.  So will occasionally spooning hot water from the pot over the cannister.

I also always bring a sit pad.  You can buy "sleeping pad technology sit pads that work fine.  That's what I have now.  But my favorite from back in my youthful years were home-made squares of closed cell foam onto which we'd sew an elastic strap with some attachment (buckle, Velcro, etc.).  At camp you just strap this on and wear it around.  Then it's always there whenever you want to sit down.
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Schenk
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PostFri Jan 17, 2020 12:29 pm 
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If you can, take the youngsters on a shakedown/trial run, close to the cars and home.
That will show you a lot about what you want more of, what didn't work, and who in your entourage will need some extra help coping with snow camping.

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Brushwork
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PostFri Jan 17, 2020 7:34 pm 
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Some really good ideas here.  I would add trying an overnight yourself first, that will give you some experience.   Give yourself lots of time to set up camp, by having a short distance to hike/snowshoe the first time.  It may have been mentioned, but multiple gloves are really useful, they tend to get wet making camp. Some food thats easy to prepare, lots of treats...

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InFlight
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PostFri Jan 17, 2020 8:16 pm 
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Been snow camping with the Boy Scouts too many times...
Regular tent stakes dont work.  You can make homemade snow anchors, but its a lot of bother with a bunch of tents.

Wind Chill and night temperatures are not fun. For a big group either dig a big snow cave. Other options is dig down 3 feet, pile up snow on the sides ~ 5 clearance with blue tarp above (w/ one entrance).

Weve done igloos many times, it takes a lot of practice to be good at it (round and not conical). 

I really recommend a practice day outing to maybe build one igloo or small snow cave. Perhaps have them bring their overnight gear that they would use; as a way to perform a pack check. Extra dry sock and gloves!   The neoprene diving style gloves work well for snow construction.

In winter I prefer two foam pads, most air pads are too cold.  O degree bag in a bivy sack.  Dry layers, socks and hat.  I like to wear something with a hoodie.

Lots of the hand warmers.  I throw some in my boots overnight, one in the foot of the sleeping bag.

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Chief Joseph
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PostFri Jan 17, 2020 8:38 pm 
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cascadetraverser wrote:
proper footware to stay dry and warm in snow is important. I have these special insulated lightweight booties I use. A nighttime light is good for the dark nights. Lots of socks and a couple pair of gloves.

+1...I used to get sick many times after spending a day with wet and cold feet. I bought some thick, wool-synthetic socks that wick away and soak up moisture. I usually only wear them in Winter and they have served me well.

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FiresideChats
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PostSat Jan 18, 2020 12:09 am 
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Great stuff, everyone. It is appreciated. Of note, this would be a car camping exercise.

Two questions of many:

Question 1: How big can a snow cave be made in your experience? Ergo, if I put 5 human radiators in a snow cave, will it get drippy, especially if we do it right and it actually keeps people warm?

Question 2: Where would you recommend car-snow camping? I was thinking of the great sledding area at Picture Lake by the Baker Ski Area, but I haven't looked at the overnight rules (if any).
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Malachai Constant
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PostSat Jan 18, 2020 12:19 am 
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Pro tip: wait for spring for snow camping, unless you can amuse you and your partner in a tent 16 hrs from 4pm to 8am in the dark.

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"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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cdestroyer
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PostSat Jan 18, 2020 8:18 am 
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I have noted reading many of the sleeping bag/cold temp camping and I don't remember seeing anything about clothing when you sleep. I have always removed my clothes when I sleep in a sleeping bag in cold weather... The reason being is you are warm in the bag but you need something warm to put on when you get up and you can't if you slept in your clothes...And as for the camping experience with young teens, good luck.  trying to keep the complaining to a low growl, make sure everyone is willing to participate in your outdoor adventure and not coercised. give em all chores to do, keep em busy/dry/warm and interested.....
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Schroder
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PostSat Jan 18, 2020 9:23 am 
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I haven't seen snowshoes mentioned.  Or a snow saw for igloo building.

I used to take a scout troop up to Mt Baker every winter for their snow cave & igloo building.  It's wet & sweaty work and heavy duty raingear was useful during the building; a change of clothes essential afterward.  We always had one or two kids we had to get to a warmed up vehicle in the middle of the night so we didn't go far from the cars.

There used to be a wide plowed area a couple of switchbacks above the lodge on the highway where we'd park and go a couple of hundred feet to the west for this.

Regarding dripping - you have none if the walls are uniformly curved and smooth.
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the1mitch
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PostSat Jan 18, 2020 7:09 pm 
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Having been a scoutmaster, I agree with nearly all the advice given thus far. I would add bring an 8x10 or so tarp to set up as a cook shelter. One trick to remember is to keep the younguns moving. Having them dig out a cook shack with benches for sitting and shelves for cooking is a practical project that will also aid their sense of doingas opposed to having been along for the ride. As far as sleeping goes, I recommend socks that are a size too big, thin hoody, and a walk before bedtime. Put the flakeiest kid close to the tent door as he/she will will not sleep anyway. Have all of your party pee just before bedding down. A spare lantern for the cook zone is a winner. Best of all? Rig up a gear sled which can double in the program as a toboggan! We always had salami crackers and cheese right before our bedtime hike. It provides fuel and the walk warms you up. Have fun and remember that cotton is rotten!

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