When it’s consistently below 25 F, hang your exterior water bottle (the one not wrapped in insulation in your pack) upside down; be it in a belt holster, your side pocket, or on a shoulder strap. This keeps the thermal mass down on the threads and helps them not freeze up. Even with this technique, leaving just a few ounces undrunk is asking for trouble.
The fatbike has proven to be an invaluable mode of early-winter access. It’s pretty common to have conditions like I had on this last trip; too thin to ski, too deep to easily ride on conventional tires, and miles of terrain not so ideal for walking. It snowed 4-8 inches overnight, making the ride out quite a bit tougher. The abundant local fauna made use of my day-old track, including one fox who followed in it for over a mile. In one wind-blown section he lost it, and I could clearly see the big circle he made to find it again and continue on his way.
I was so enthused to see this rare-for-Glacier critter that I had to scramble to get out of range as it kept trotting towards me. A yell and clapping eventually got it to look up, and it skittered off into the trees after taking a while to decide what I was.
The Megalight with wood stove rig is the meow of the feline this time of year. It was dark and snowing hard by the time I had it pitched. In deference to conventional wisdom I cooked and ate dinner over in the designated area, hunched against the blizzard, before retreating inside and going to work processing my wood pile. This little wood stove can put off a lot of heat, but to do so it requires quality fuel. This runs counter to the fast and dirty way I make open fires. On this night all the wood was wet, dug out from under snow, and I only got good heat when I split the larger sticks before burning them. With the edges well sealed by snow I was able to dry socks and jackets and sit around spending a long night of contemplation in almost excessive comfort.
The photo above was taken the next morning, after 8 inches of overnight snow. The pitch looks odd because a good foot of fabric on each corner is buried flat. There was still plenty of room for two people and the stove, or me and my gear spread inefficiently. When I installed the midpanel guypoints I thought that additional ones on the side seams would be overkill. Given heavy enough snowloads, I no longer think that, and will be putting in four more (a bit lower than the midpanels) ASAP.
It wasn’t a severe trial (there were some cold hollows in the low teens the last morning), but the coyote ruff is fantastic. My other fashion innovations include liner gloves and deerskin gloves treated with nikwax (good for handling the stove, tough and cheap) and a synthetic overbag/poncho. Inspired by Joe’s use of it in his sleep system, as well as the HPG Mountain Serape, the idea is to have an addition to a down bag which protects from external moisture and takes up the burden of condensation. Down bags die on multi-day winter trips because the overnight dew point is inside the insulation, and getting that moisture out can be tricky. Synthetics (e.g. the 3 oz/yard primaloft I used) are less affected here. For multi-functionality, I wanted it to be usable during the day, ergo the head hole and mitten hooks. The additional dead air space and ability to easily put your arms inside is very nice. This one will be a winner.
It’s 88 inches long and 61 inches at the head. Half taper, meaning it stays 61 inches halfway down, then tapers to 44 inches at the feet. Shell fabric is calendered 1.1 oz ripstop from DIY Gear Supply, which is high quality stuff with a great DWR. Much cheaper than name-brand UL fabrics, and I wanted the improved durability found in >1 oz/yard ripstop. Olive green because it might get used hunting at some point. 23 oz all in.
Shoulder season is over, at last.