Winter backpacking is cold, there’s no way around it, but you don’t have to freeze or be uncomfortable. With a little extra planning and equipment it can be an amazing experience.
For our purposes, that is backpacking with AFW, any 3 season tent will do. The reason is, we don’t go if bad weather is predicted. We prefer to stay in the shelters in the winter but carry tents just in case someone else is there. As long as you can stake your tent down securely, or tie it to surrounding trees or rocks, you’ll be fine. Of course, that means bringing a little extra light weight rope, like you would use for your bear bag.
This is where you cannot skimp. For winter backpacking you will need a zero degree or lower bag. However, if you have a 20-30 degree bag you can boost its rating by using a thicker fleece lining (not silk, it doesn’t boost the rating more than 5 degrees). You can also wear all your clothes to bed or even wear rain pants and jacket to maintain your heat. You can also use a lightweight summer bag (50 degrees) coupled with a 20 degree bag. (I have 2 for borrowing.)
I personally like down bags, they’re lighter for the same warmth. But down does have one major drawback for our purposes. If you turn over with your bag you will now have a cold spot where the down has been compressed under you. It will fluff up but until it does you will feel some cold. The answer is to roll in your bag.
Also, bringing the mega hand warmers to place in your bag definitely helps keep you warm. You can also boil water and place the hot water in your Nalgene in your bag.
This is the second thing you cannot skimp on. The cold ground will suck away all your warmth. You will need to bring 2 closed foam pads to sleep on. If you have an inflatable mat you will need your mat plus a closed foam pad. There are some pads with an R rating down to zero and below and they can be used alone.
Visit Adventures for Women for the complete list of backpacking essentials and tips.
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