With winter almost upon us, I thought I would introduce
some cold weather appropriate equipment. As a lightweight gear enthusiast I have
found it hard to shave weight from my winter kit and definitely do not encourage
others to do so unless they are seasoned winter campers. Winter is unforgiving to
those who make even the most minor mistakes. Please experiment with lightweight
gear and techniques in the warmer seasons. Over the years my winter pack weight
has come down but it will never come close to the weight of my summer load.
Layering is essential with winter travel and this usually just involves adding a
puffy insulating layer to what you already carry. The bulk of these layers make
you less nimble to perform chores you would normally find quite easy in the summer.
People, who are handicapped by their layers, must have good equipment specifically
designed for this. An example of this would be a stove with a bigger valve handle
so a person can use it without having to de-glove.
On Using Canister Stoves in Freezing Weather
By Stephen Sharp
Until last winter, I had always taken a liquid fuel stove with me when I went winter
camping. I have had plenty of experience dealing with the poor performance of canister
stoves in cold conditions of the other seasons. I am fully aware that there are
ways to make those canister stoves function in freezing temperatures but I have
been usually encumbered enough that I have not been interested in having to jump
through hoops to coax a stove to work. Five years ago Coleman introduced the Peak
1 Exponent series of canister stoves and the outdoor community was spellbound over
the outstanding winter performance of them. How Coleman's unique stove and canister
design worked was at first a big secret and mystery.
My favorite winter stove now is the Coleman Xtreme. Like most canister stoves, it
is dead simple to use. With 14,000 BTU's at your disposal and great simmer control;
this stove can be used for melting snow quickly or actually cooking real food! The
Coleman Xtreme is built to be very durable and is therefore not as light (336g)
as some of the stand-alone burner models, which other companies have to offer. The
Xtreme stove is reasonably priced at ~ $55 Can. The Coleman Powermax fuel canisters
are proprietary with this stove and that means it's not only harder to find the
fuel, but it is usually more expensive than your industry standard Lindal valve
canister. On the plus side, there is very little dead space left over when a Powermax
canister is empty.
I don't happen to like the service or the poor attitude of the manager in one of
the few local stores (Altus Mountain Gear), who sell fuel for my stove, so I had
been looking for alternatives this year. Coleman has come to my rescue with the
newly released Powermax Canister Fuel Adapter, which allows a Lindal valve canister
to be used with the Exponent stoves and with the same performance.
The new adapter is hard to find and not available in Canada yet. I ordered one ($27
US) from Coleman and had to have it shipped to a friend in the US. Although the
adapter adds an additional 100g, I am happy to report that it works perfectly with
the stove and my worst brand of cold weather performing fuel canister.
Now back to the mystery of how Coleman's stove works. Coleman had put a fuel line/tube
into the bottom of the liquid filled part of their Powermax canisters that fed the
propane/butane mixture in a liquid form (rather than the usual gas form) directly
into their Exponent stoves. The fuel mixture not only vaporized into a gas in the
generator like a normal liquid fuel stove but also burned the fuel mixtures evenly
so that there was no leftover butane like there is with regularly operating canister
stoves. It didn't take long for some clever people in the climbing community to
figure it out. All they had to do was flip their standard Lindal fuel canisters
upside down and they got the exact same cold weather performance out of their stand-alone
stoves. This only works on stand-alone canister stove models with a generator. What
a coincidence that Coleman now sells an adapter that uses a standard canister, which
is upside down! I still highly recommend the Coleman Xtreme stove for winter camping.
Put a Lid on It!
By Stephen Sharp
When I feel the need to get puffy and start throwing on my insulating layer, I make
sure everything gets puffy including my head. I don't like hoods so my solution
is the Primalid from Integral Designs.
It's lightweight (50g), insulated with Primaloft Sport synthetic insulation, and
has a windproof Pertex material DWR shell. It's perfect for camp but like the rest
of the insulating layer, too hot for when you're on the move. The Primalid is not
cheap ~$40 CAN but well worth the price. Comfort is my number one priority in the
winter and this hat makes the grade. While many of the local stores sell Integral
Designs products, I have only found the Primalid in one, the biggest ID retailer
in BC, Mountain Magic in Surrey. You can also order one online from Integral Design's
Big Agnes Horse Thief Sleeping Bag with Big Agnes Mummy Insulated
Air Core Mattress
By Chuck Harrison
This bag is filled with 725 fill down, weighs approx 24 oz. and compresses easily
into a very compact package. The trick with BA bags is all of the down is in the
top and sides of the bag where it can fully loft and do its job. On the bottom where
down compresses to near zero insulation there is ... no down: simply a sleeve that
accommodates a mummy shaped pad. The pad does the entire insulating underneath.
The Horse Thief bag is pretty basic lacking a full hood. It does however have an
integrated down filled collar to keep out drafts:
The Insulated Air Core Mattress offers 2.5 inches of sinfully comfortable, insulated
comfort: The pad weighs in at 21 oz.
Because the bag takes off where the mattress leaves off, it is quite a roomy bag.
I can comfortably pull my knees up inside the thing.
The extra room can cause cold spaces when pushing the temperature limits of the
bag (particularly when sleeping on your side) but it also allows for layering up
inside the bag to extend its temperature range. I slept comfortably at - 5 by putting
on a down vest and a touque. For warm weather, there is a 3/4 length, 2-way zipper
to open things up.
For active sleepers this is a fabulous system as the bag always stays on top of
the mattress and never gets twisted up on the sleeper. For a combined pad and bag
weight of under 3 lbs. you get an incredibly comfortable bed that can handle temperatures
to zero C. Add some clothing and you can certainly extend the range below freezing.
I'm not aware of anyone selling either the BA bag or the BA insulated mummy mattress
locally. I picked up mine at REI.
I had plans to include a Bid Agnes sleeping bag in the sleeping bag issue but couldn't
find anyone who owned one at the time. Big Agnes is known for making bags with a
large girth, which is suitable for those of us who are bigger folks and/or for those
of us who like some extra room to layer up.
Does My Butt Look Phat in These?
By Stephen Sharp
Ok, I might not look pimp in them but my Mont-Bell U.L. (Ultra Light) Down Inner
Pants guarantee that I will have the hottest buns in camp this winter.
My XL pants (259g) are insulated with a 725 fill goose down and are shelled with
Mont-Bell's standard Ballistic Airlight nylon with DWR. I purchased mine on sale
for $100 CAN however they regularly sell for $145 CAN.
In an effort to save some much-needed space in my winter pack I have benched my
bulkier and heavier MEC Magma synthetic puffy pants for these Mont-Bell down inner
pants. I have only used these pants three times and not in the winter yet. They
are very warm! I would recommend that a light rain shell pant be worn over them
in the winter because the Ballistic Airlight material is fragile and not completely