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Planning on a winter in the woods

 
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Hi all, this is my first thread/post here.

I am planning on doing a winter trek now instead of the normal spring, summer, fall routine. I'm used to the cold air in the early spring and fall months for several nights/days, but now it's going to be an all day and night thing.

I've got my planning down packed as far as clothing, food, sleeping gear, and so forth. The only thing I don't got going, is which route I plan to do. I'm planning on going into Virginia to do this, I'm just caught between going a good distance into the woods, or hanging close to the Appalachian Trail in case something goes wrong(and I have a chance to get out).

I have outdoor survival skills that'll help me in the long run, but this winter journey is a new ball game for me.  I can build a sturdy shelter and have a fire going, all in a matter of 2 to 3 hours. But I do know winter can slow my progress down.

I'm guessing survival in the winter is almost the same as any other season, but you must take other precautions to make it successful. Is this logic about right?
 
pollinator
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I would say, stay close to the trail. If only because it is your 1st winter trip and then we also have the covid crazyness. The following year, sounds like a good time to go even further in the woods.
 
Raymond Vogel
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S Bengi wrote:I would say, stay close to the trail. If only because it is your 1st winter trip and then we also have the covid crazyness. The following year, sounds like a good time to go even further in the woods.



Yea, I've been leaning more that way, until I can at least get some winter experience under my belt. Thanks for the response!
 
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Hi Ray;  Welcome to Permies!
A winter backpack... 30 years ago I would of wanted to go.... now it doesn't sound like quite as much fun as it would of then!

So, food, you'll need bunches more than normal.  
It stays dark a very long time. Expect to start late and stop early if your moving.
Bring some kind of entertainment , kindle maybe?  And a way to charge it. Led lighting for your shelter....
Expect a shortage of dry wood. You'll spend a good part of your day collecting enough dry wood for that night.
Cold and wet ... you'll be that way a lot. Plan on storms arriving overnight, that you will not know are coming.
First Aid Kit! A good one.  Your the nurse, doctor and patient all in one hurting unit.  

Outstanding sunrises and sunsets...
No people , no covid, no politics,no bull shit.
Stunning views in a snow covered forest..
Time off from the internet/computer!
Time and a place to become at peace with yourself!

Hmmm maybe I should go!  
Oh wait cold dark and wet...
Think I'll camp at home.... we are off grid after all!

 
pollinator
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What about books, notebooks and a rescue alarm we call them Eburbs I think.
 
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How long of a hike in terms of  miles and time?  You only mention Virginia, will other states be involved?  Do you plan on having  base camp?  How do you intend to resupply?  If you do intend to resupply in town, consider this: you have one day of supplies left and major snowstorm hits.  Not only is movement limited, you are low on food, and the landscape has significantly changed.  Worse yet, what about a major rainstorm followed by a hard freeze? Makes sure you bring supplies that can start a fire in these conditions.

I did the AT with my wife many years ago.  If I remember, the trail in  VA is well defined.  So you have a sound strategy there. Decide now where your evacuation routes are.  You cannot have too many warm, dry, socks.  Be sure to bring enough cash and a credit card for a few warm dry nights in a motel if that storm does hit or if something else goes seriously wrong. Of course, your boots and sleeping bag are your two most important pieces of equipment. Choose wisely.
 
John F Dean
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Oh yes,  Welcome to Permies!
 
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I would stick to the safer trail as well and also be religious about watching the weather. Even on the AT you`re not going to have the usual network of intel since fewer people are out there, and with weather getting weirder and weirder you don't want to be caught somewhere with a big storm coming in. Not sure if where you are that means just using your cell phone or carrying a radio, but worth thinking about.
 
John F Dean
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As you are receiving all these suggestions as to what to take from everyone, including me, watch out for your pack weight.  I started out the AT with a 70 pound pack.  I dropped it to 50 within the first 100 miles. Ten years after that I never went out with more than 30 pounds.
 
pollinator
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Bring more socks.
 
pollinator
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All good advice!

I think it's going to be essential to stay dry.  Wet and cold is a disaster.  And have a contact, someone who (when they don't hear from you when you are supposed to check in) will send the rescue folks. Cell phone service is likely to be quite hit-or-miss; you might want to consider a satellite phone.  

Getting around in the snow/ice of winter is so much harder.  Snowshoes and microspikes are important.  You're in for broken bones if you're traveling on ice without cleats.  Yaktrax are great for around town on ice, but in the woods you need to step it up a bit.  As others have mentioned, keeping warm will require more calories.  And hot food makes a huge difference.  

I'm jealous.  I wish I had done this, when I was younger.  Not so likely now.  
 
John F Dean
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Anne

Great point!!!    A thermos needs to be considered.....maybe as a replacement for one water bottle.  There could be a real advantage to a mid day hot drink without having a fire.
 
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I love winter camping. Am in Canada, so maybe my idea of it is different than yours (-5 to -20 C). I refuse to do it when the temperatures hover near zero (freezing) though, that is when i get chilled.  Colder or warmer are fine.

Extra socks, extra light shoes to wear while boots dry over a fire, extra fire starting materials. Don't wear too tight socks that your feet cant move.  
Propane doesnt work well in the freezing cold-uses up the propellant too fast, so the canister feels full but the stove wont start, get a white gas stove if you can, water takes longer to boil, snow takes forever, bring more fuel than usual, you will need it. No matter what you do - a good winter kit will  weigh a lot more and be a lot bulkier than summer. My summer kit is maybe 30 L, my winter kit overflows my 70L pack.  I dont use a hiking stick in summer, but in winter a hiking stick or ski pole is invaluable for traversing icy ground . In the summer, i have a lot of cold meals, in winter, i need my hot tea, hot soup, hot oatmeal, etc.
A foam including mattess pad to insulate from the ground, and a reflective groundsheet are wonderful. I do a double layered insulated thermarest and cheap CCf pad combo for winter.
Definitely a thermos. Watch water intake - you dont feel thirsty from the heat, so dehydration is a risk. And watch sweating - change into clean sleeping clothes or nothing- even the slight sweat of the day will make you freeze overnight.

Hot pads (the iron chemical ones) are gold . They have saved friends from frost bite when gloves got wet or boots got wet (obviously use with care,  and not after frost bite begins). Also amazing attached to the feet to sleep on a cold night, or plastered to the shoulder blades to sleep with.  Magical. But dont use them in your boots in the snow unless you have to, they will melt the snow and get your boots wet.

Down bags are great - unless they get wet. I usually carry a light fleece blanket too. A dry hat for sleeping in and a daytime hat for hanging out. Layers. Constantly stripping and adding to keep from sweating or becoming cold - once you get cold, its very difficult to rewarm.
 
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I would suggest picking a couple of shelters along the AT & using those as base camps. Several in Shenandoah Nat'l Park are within 1/2 mile or so of the Blue Ridge Parkway, although that closes during heavy snows. It would still be available to walk into town if it became necessary. There are several parking locations along the road. It's worth considering carrying an emergency locator beacon. The AT blazes are white & virtually impossible to see in snow. The trail itself can be difficult to see in snow. There are many side trails to explore. Beware of heavy ice bringing huge tree limbs down on top of you. No fun at all. Microspikes are probably more useful than snowshoes there. Be aware that everything is harder & takes longer in severe winter. It's also more crucial to not make a bad mistake. Have fun but be safe!  
 
Catie George
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Oh  ... and gloves. If there is snow, they WILL get wet. I have never yet carried enough pairs. I like several pairs of cheap knit gloves to cut the chill of the wind when hiking without letting me overheat, and as liners for other gloves, they dry pretty fast. A wool glove (maintains warmth when damp) , a lightly insulated glove, and a ridiculously warm and fluffy ski mitt for the evening that i keep bone dry by wearing the little tiny gloves inside. I also carry wool glove liners.  The only thing i would shave from my kit are the lightly insulated gloves, and even those get a lot of use before they get wet and refuse to dry.

I really really want fur lined mitts or sealskin mitts, but have been too cheap and they are so beautiful i would have a hard time wearing them camping. But thats what the innu and Innuit people i know wear, and they really are the best.
 
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I think the main point is you need to survive. YEAH!!! surviving is the most important thing in going through season.
 
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