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Old 12-06-2016, 9:01 PM
Cyberion Cyberion is offline
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Default Third Backpacking Tripóto the snow

With so many great suggestions last time from you Calgunners, and a special hat tip to MJB for sharing his expertise, I was able to make a number of corrections and make some major gear improvements. It's been awhile.

For some background, I had a 1st and 2nd trip that I wrote about in the past, and many of your suggestions helped me make improvements along the way. Iíve linked to both of those previous trips below.
First trip:
http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s...d.php?t=919877
Second trip:
http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s....php?t=1126523

Now for the third


My son and I just returned from hiking on Mt. San Jacinto. The goal for day one was to hike to around 8,000 feet and set up camp. On day two, we were going to hike to the peak at around 10,000 feet before hiking down.
The weather report on the mountain showed highs in the mid 40s and lows in the mid 30s. No snow or rain in the forecast. But last-minute high wind advisories, with reports of wind gusts up to 80 miles an hour in certain mountain areas, might cause some serious problems for my new ultralight tent.
Some new gear to test.

New Gear-Lighter and smaller

Going clockwise from the left: my sleeping pad is the same one I used last time. Itís a bit bulky but it is light. I decide to take it again because the insulation factor is probably much better than a smaller inflatable one and I am a bit worried about the cold. The JetBoil is new and I havenít tested it on the mountain yet. Inside the compression sack is an Enlightened Revelation down quilt. Itís rated to 20 degrees. This replaces my huge sleeping bag. The ultralight 2-person tent from Big Agnes is new. And finally to hedge against colder than anticipated temperatures I thought it was cheap insurance to buy this sleeping bag liner which is supposed to add another 20į of warmth. I set up everything in the house in advance to practice just in case I had to set up in the dark on the mountain. Good thing I did.

So we start hiking at 5400 feet. My backpack is much lighter this time. Iím carrying 3 Liters of water with me and expect to find more. Weíll need to find more. I have the same water filter from last time and visually inspected it before I left on this trip. My son acquired the same unit so we have 2 of them. Iíve got a few power bars and we each have some Mountain House meals for food. Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate powders, and Ramen noodles for hot liquids and soup. Water and food Ė check.

I hadnít heard of much snowfall in the mountains so I was a bit surprised to see snow at the lower elevations. We would end up seeing a lot more of it.


Almost the entire hike was through the snow. My gear acquisitions were chosen to cover essentially 3 seasons here in California Ė spring, summer, and fall. Winter gear is a bit more specialized and I just donít have it. No crampons for the boots so weíll just have to be careful. On the way up, we encounter maybe 4 or 5 people coming down. Nobody going up. Those coming down from their day hikes said it was too icy and cold above 7,000 feet. I guess weíll find out.

Uphill in the snow, and my heart is pounding already. Our pace is dictated by how fast, or slow, I can move up the mountain. The phrase ďYouíre only as Strong as Your Weakest LinkĒ is often thought of in the context of physical differences. But out here, the phrase extends to also include the least capable piece of equipment or gear that anyone in your group possesses.

Last year I upgraded my boots and selected the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot. Iím very happy with them and have worn them quite a bit, but not yet hiking up a mountain. I was wearing one pair of wool socks and noticed very early on that the back of my heel already developed a blister. So I stopped and put on my other thicker pair of wool socks over the other sock.

We heard the wind howling all day but when we got to 7000 feet it was starting to hit us in the face. My son started complaining that his feet were frozen. He doesnít have the same boots and while I know his boots are water resistant, I have no idea what water resistant actually means. Itís pretty subjective isnít it? It doesnít matter now Ė his boots are drenched from walking in the snow. We take off his boots and his socks and feet are drenched. Temperatures are now dropping fast, the sun will set in 30 minutes, the wind is picking up, and we have over an hour to go.

Frostbite would not be good and the plan just changed. Weíre going to head into the woods immediately and set up camp and get him into his sleeping bag so he can warm up as soon as possible. There will be no hiking to the peak tomorrow. Heíll come to this same conclusion later on his own.

Iíve got a pair of cheap dry socks for carrying things but they are now on his feet. Then we wrap his feet in plastic garbage bags to keep the wet boots from immediately soaking his socks.

Emergency Socks

Itís temporary until we can get to a camp site and set up. Once there, I will give him my 2nd pair of wool socks that Iím wearing. Although my boots are a little bit wet on the outside, they are dry inside. A blister on me is better than frostbite on him. His pants are cotton (bad) and they are now wet too. I didnít know how cold it would be so I packed a pair of 100% merino wool long underwear and Gore-Tex rain pants for extra lower layers. Once in his tent, heíll get all the wet stuff off and put on these layers.

We pick a spot next to some rocks which will buffer the wind. I select the most level spot for him and we put his tent up first. I had wondered about snow but didnít plan on setting up tents on top of it. The tent stakes simply would not hold in the snow. We tried digging down but that didnít work very well either because in some cases we were on top of other rock, roots, or whatever. I had some para cord in my bag and used it to tie the tent to nearby trees. With the wind gusts coming in, good thing I had this.


He stayed in his tent until he warmed up again and I continued to set up the rest of the camp and tied everything down. I finished setting up my tent in the dark. So except for his boots, the rest of our shelter is in pretty good shape. Then he tells me that his inflatable sleeping pad has a slow leak. Surprise surprise. This is bad news on the snow and we cannot locate where itís leaking. Time to eat first.

We are at about 7400 feet, the temperature is in the low 40s, itís dark and windy, and we need to boil water fast. So how will the JetBoil work? He has an MSR stove. How do they compare? I timed them.
Jet Boil. Took 6 minutes to get a rolling boil.
MSR stove. Took 3 minutes to get a rolling boil.
Now that youíve read that Ė forget it. I probably had twice as much water in mine and Iím not certain I had the gas open 100%. I had close to 3 cups of water Ė freezing cold water Ė and in 6 minutes I had enough for coffee and food. I did time the JetBoil earlier at 6700 feet and it took 3:20 minutes to get a rolling boil.
I think the MSR produces a larger flame and probably generates a bit more heat. But it is less fuel efficient.
They both worked great and heated the water to more than adequate temps for cooking and drinking.

After we ate and drank hot fluids, we decided to melt some snow and refill our water containers before bed. We melted the snow with the stove, and used the water filter to filter that water into our drinking bottle. We didnít boil the water because we didnít need to Ė just melted it so we could filter it. Water tasted pretty good.


Itís a good thing we had two filters. I inspected mine before I left but I didnít pump water through it because I didnít want to risk water leaking into my bag. Itís been over a year since I used it and I did clean it before I packed it away. I begin to pump melted snow into my water bladder, and out comes dark brown water from hell. Totally contaminates my drinking water. We keep pumping and more brown water comes out. I have no idea where this comes from but we donít dare drink it and we immediately decommission the filter and my water bladder. Note Ė make sure I pump water through the filter before I go next time. And as good practice, begin pumping water onto the ground to make sure itís clear before pumping into your current drinking supply. By the way, when I got home I pumped more than a gallon of water with some bleach through it and it was totally clear. Not sure what was in there but everything looks clean and it seems to work fine Ė now that Iím home! The other point worth mentioning was the potential of damaging the filter by allowing it to freeze. I had read that if your filter freezes, it may expand the pores in the filter. Not a good thing if youíre trying to filter out microorganisms. So just in case keep the filter in your tent where itís above freezing.

I had a terrible night of sleep Ė if you call it that. My tent was on a slope and my pad slid down against the side and bottom of the tent. We were in our tents around 8:30 PM and the snow was still soft underneath us. I figured I could just use my knees to pound on the snow to make a depression and then lay in that. I would struggle with this for hours. At 2:30 in the morning, I gave up and realized that the most important thing was not sleep. Keeping warm was the most important thing. I wish I wouldíve spent 10 minutes and dug a small sleeping trench in the snow before putting my tent on it. Wouldíve made a huge difference. What I didnít know was that the snow would freeze overnight and form a layer of ice over everything. I wondered why my knees were sore in the morning and realized I was trying to break ice with them for many hours. Brilliant. Hereís a picture from inside the tent.


And hereís a picture outside in the morning. That bush next to my tent would torment me all night long but in the morning I realized it was probably the only thing keeping me from sliding down the icy hill. And notice my blue protective tarp? How in the world does it fall out from underneath the tent during the night? It was staked in the snow on 4 sides and the tent placed on top of it when I set it up. The wind was howling for most of the night and maybe it ripped out the stakes. Oh well, it was only a dollar and my tent is fine.


My son woke up at 5 AM and said he was cold. His sleeping pad was deflating about once per hour. Once deflated, he was lying too close to the snow. Itís impossible to stay warm without that insulation. Thereís a risk to these inflatable pads, even though they are more compact. Would be interested to know what you cold weather hikers use.

Well itís finally morning and my thermometer shows 38 degrees. My son thinks itís in the 20ís. I donít think so but 38į doesnít make sense either because there is ice everywhere. The water on the rocks is frozen and all the snow is covered in ice. But we have water boiling so it doesnít matter at this point. Weíll head down the mountain and head home in a few hours. Iím looking forward to crawling in my real bed when I get home. Neither one of us slept more than 20 minutes. Did we have a good time? You bet. But my motivation has always been a little different. Itís the only place I know where my sonís cell phone does not work.
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Old 12-06-2016, 9:36 PM
NATEWA NATEWA is offline
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Definitely a memorable experience.

I haven't done any snow camping in a long time. I probably would have hiked down below the snow line and set up my tent. When I did camp in the snow, we leveled off an area, compacted it by stepping in it, put down layers of plastic tarps (thin and opaque) and newspaper sandwiched in between for insulation.

Also, a large plastic garbage bag over the bottom and top of your sleeping bag will keep the heat in. Garbage bags are good when it rains, for dirty/wet clothes, etc.

Use your stove to heat water, pour into water bottles and put in the sleeping bag with you. Make sure they don't leak! Those instant hand warmers keep the toes and hands warm.

All equipment should be tested and checked before going out. Boots should be broken in. Appropriate socks (thin layer and then thick layer) should be put on and tried out while breaking in boots. Moleskin is great for blisters.

You survived and will be better prepared next time.

Not sure what type of sleeping pad your son had. I have several thermarests - never an issue. They make patch kits if it leaks.
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Old 12-06-2016, 9:47 PM
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For sleeping pads in the cold - one thin foam one and a thermarest. Some newspaper and plastic garbage bags.

First needs water filter. Pump out water before going to bed and being in the tent with you. Purchase an extra filter and put inside of a pot/lid to protect it from breaking. Bring pills in case the filters aren't working. A cheap coffee filter and sterilization pills with Gatorade will keep you hydrated and from getting a bug.

When I climbed Shasta, I don't remember how we staked down our tents. I believe the guide had special stakes and put a large rock over it. We had ropes going from each stake to the tent. There was a fear the wind would pick up the tent and send us down the mountain, especially if the door is facing the wind. When you unzip the door, the wind can lift the tent up and away.

Hope this helps.

Last edited by NATEWA; 12-06-2016 at 9:50 PM..
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Old 12-06-2016, 10:35 PM
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Originally Posted by NATEWA View Post
Not sure what type of sleeping pad your son had. I have several thermarests - never an issue. They make patch kits if it leaks.
Great tips. Thanks. He has a Thermarest and he left it with me to try to find the leak(s). I guess I need to look into adding the additional thin foam one.
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Old 12-07-2016, 12:28 PM
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I keep a roll of this stuff in my backpacking and camping gear. It will seal up small holes and even patches inflatable items such as inner tubes, air mattresses and water toys. It won't last forever but it should do the trick for a long weekend trip.

http://www.amazon.com/Gorilla-Clear-...r+gorilla+tape

I also keep about 15 feet of the black gorilla tape wrapped around a credit card in all my gear. it is great for last minute patches and I have even used it when the sole of my boot did a flappy-death number on me.

Your adventures are great. keep it up. your boy will remember it forever.
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Old 12-07-2016, 1:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Spec View Post
http://www.amazon.com/Gorilla-Clear-...r+gorilla+tape

Your adventures are great. keep it up. your boy will remember it forever.
Thanks & noted. I had similar stuff called Tenacious tape and we replaced his patch job with that tape. Turns out the problem was with finding the hole. I had a chance today to stick the pad in the bath tub and search for holes. Turns out he was half right on location. There was a pin hole that went all the way through the pad. He patched one side correctly but the other needed it too. I taped it up. Will see if that holds up.
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Old 12-07-2016, 2:28 PM
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Good times. Great father right there!

Sometimes I have to set the dinner table 7000 feet high just to get my way with my 16 year old
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Old 12-07-2016, 3:02 PM
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Just happen to come across this thread as I am unpacking my latest pair of La Sportiva Nepal EVO boots that came in the mail today... As you are learning, gear choice becomes critical as the temps drop. Pine limbs located around your tent site would make a good sleeping mat in a pinch
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Old 12-07-2016, 3:48 PM
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your thermometer may show 38 degrees, but with the wind..."Wind Chill" it can freeze everything, and it's much colder with wind chill.

I always take that in to account. If it's about 40 degrees, i usually subtract 10 degrees for windchill. and then pack accordingly.

gorilla tape or cheap harbor freight duct tape will work to seal your son's sleeping pad.

As for stakes, you can also, buy the nail sized stakes from harbor freight too, it's cheap, bring a hammer
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Old 12-07-2016, 5:12 PM
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I forgot to mention a trick I picked up in winter mountaineering class years ago.

Fill bags (small trash bags, large ziplock bags) with snow and/or rocks. Dig a hole and put bags in the hole and tie paracord to the bag (usually on the top of the bag and turn it over so the knot is on the bottom) cover bags with snow and pack it all down.

The bags act as an anchor and will hold the tent lines somewhat tight. It can be done in the sand as well for when you are desert camping.
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Old 12-12-2016, 11:35 PM
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Nice narrative and picts cyberion.

I always use both a closed cell and Thermorest because my back can't take anything less. Cotton is the death fabric when wet and freezing. Lotta good info and a great learning experience with your son. PAX
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Old 12-13-2016, 12:54 PM
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Like Spec noted above, use something large as an anchor below the snow line in place of stakes. We used to find rocks about the diameter of grapefruits, tie line around them, bury them about a foot down, then stomp the snow down on top of them in layers. Doubling up on the ground insulation is a must as well, especially if one of them is inflatable, as they always leak at the worst times.

The most important thing I learned about staying warm in the snow is to stay hydrated. I spent far too many nights as a kid chilled to the bone because I didn't drink enough that day. Dehydration leads to a cold, miserable, delirious night that you'll not soon forget. On the same note, it's worthwhile picking up a Sawyer squeeze filter as a backup to your main filter. They're about 20 bucks online, weigh next to nothing, and make for an excellent Plan-B.
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Old 12-13-2016, 8:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spec View Post
I forgot to mention a trick I picked up in winter mountaineering class years ago.

Fill bags (small trash bags, large ziplock bags) with snow and/or rocks. Dig a hole and put bags in the hole and tie paracord to the bag (usually on the top of the bag and turn it over so the knot is on the bottom) cover bags with snow and pack it all down.

The bags act as an anchor and will hold the tent lines somewhat tight. It can be done in the sand as well for when you are desert camping.
I missed the latest comments. Great tips. This will come in handy again. While I was lucky there were a few trees and bushes nearby, and just enough paracord to reach them, I did wonder what I'd do if there were no trees. Now I know.
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Old 12-13-2016, 8:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twotacocombo View Post
... On the same note, it's worthwhile picking up a Sawyer squeeze filter as a backup to your main filter. They're about 20 bucks online, weigh next to nothing, and make for an excellent Plan-B.
Thanks--bookmarked the filter.
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Old 12-13-2016, 11:16 PM
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Quote:
It’s the only place I know where my son’s cell phone does not work.
If you want a completely different kind of experience, try Death Valley. Best weather is in November. Don't have the heat of summer, the flash floods of winter, or the insects of spring. If you have a high clearance 4x4 with offroad truck tires, you can really get out there. His cell phone won't work there either.
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Old 12-14-2016, 9:17 AM
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Sounds like a learning experience. It took me years to compile my gear.
Winter Camping is a different beast, winter Backpacking is wrestling the beast.

Key to winter backpacking is proper equipment. A good 20 degree bag and proper sleeping pad is a MUST...a tent footprint is also important.

Always keep an extra pair of socks, heavy duty wool for winter camping. Boots should be waterproof, at least 5" and 400g of insulation...I prefer 800g and 8" boots...I like my Danner insulated High Ridge.


For water purification I have a Platypus and Sawyer mini as a backup. Always carry a backup.




I would ditch the third 3 L bladder. All it does is add to your weight...3 Liters of water weighs 6.6 lbs. 6.6 lbs represents a lot of equipment. Maybe a heavier better insulated sleeping pad...a good trade-off.

Fire...Do you have your campfire permit? First thing I would have done is start a fire to dry and warm your son.

When Backpacking in winter I also bring along an entrenchment tool. It's good to dig fire pits, poo pits and to clear the snow away so you are sleeping on dirt. It also has an edge that cuts small branches and chops.


I also like the Thermarest Dream Air mattress. It might be a little heavier and bulkier. It has a foam pad, air pad and cover...and an R-6 rating. Definitely worth the extra weight.
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Old 12-14-2016, 3:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glockman19 View Post
Key to winter backpacking is proper equipment.

For water purification I have a Platypus and Sawyer mini as a backup. Always carry a backup.

Fire...Do you have your campfire permit? First thing I would have done is start a fire to dry and warm your son.

When Backpacking in winter I also bring along an entrenchment tool. It's good to dig fire pits, poo pits and to clear the snow away so you are sleeping on dirt. It also has an edge that cuts small branches and chops.
No fires allowed in San Jacinto-at least none that I'm aware of. Would have been a lot more fun if we could. Now if life or limb were in jeopardy certainly there would have been a fire. Noted the recurring theme of water filter backups. And I should review entrenchment tools but I'm a bit reluctant since I've been fighting the past few years with reducing carry weight. I chose the caveman method of using dead tree branches as digging tools. Not ideal but I didn't have to carry them. And my son will be easy to Christmas shop for this year. Boots at the top of Santa's list.

Speaking of starting fires, and wondering if this may have had an impact on the no fire rules, there was an old TV show called ďI Shouldnít Be Alive.Ē In one of those episodes a guy and his girlfriend get lost on San Jacinto Mountain and wander for 4 days. After discovering the body of another dead hiker, and to the point of desperation, the guy starts a tree on fire to get attention. That fire quickly spreads. It served its purpose because they were rescued. (I couldnít find the whole show on YouTube but I did find an excerpt from the show.)
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Old 12-14-2016, 5:04 PM
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You are right about the filter freezing problem. Membrane filters like Sawers can freeze. It doesn't enlarge the pores, it rips the membranes. A ripped membrane makes the filter useless. But if you keep them in a jacket pocket or somewhere less exposed to freezing they are fine.
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Old 12-14-2016, 5:40 PM
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This is the plastic Sheeting I use

https://www.amazon.com/Duck-281506-1.../dp/B002GKC2GW

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Old 12-14-2016, 5:40 PM
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Buy some heat sheets

You can make vest, gloves, & boot liners out of them fairly easy.
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Old 12-14-2016, 5:58 PM
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Snow/Sand Stake for tent/tarp

http://www.omcgear.com/msr-blizzard-...KcIaAvsf8P8HAQ
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Old 12-14-2016, 9:06 PM
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And where do you put this? Under the tent, or in the tent? That stuff is pretty thin isn't it?
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Old 12-14-2016, 9:27 PM
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Wow, I love it! I just did some mud camping in the rain with my boys. We had a ton of rain but we had the tent tarped so we stayed dry. I kept thinking about how we would do it in the snow. Nothing like getting outdoors with the people you love. Good times. Thanks for the info and inspiration.
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Old 12-14-2016, 9:54 PM
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Quote:
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But my motivation has always been a little different. Itís the only place I know where my sonís cell phone does not work.
Ha!

Regardless, sounds like a fun adventure.
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Old 12-15-2016, 6:58 AM
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Quote:
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And where do you put this? Under the tent, or in the tent? That stuff is pretty thin isn't it?
As I said in another post between two layers of tyvek sheeting. Then put your sleeping pad on top of that.
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Old 12-15-2016, 8:16 AM
Cyberion Cyberion is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvenSoul View Post
As I said in another post between two layers of tyvek sheeting. Then put your sleeping pad on top of that.
Ah...got it. Seems light enough to keep in the bag for unexpected snow or cold temps.
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