Keeping Dry

One of the biggest challenges when walking in winter can be keeping your gear dry. Sweat, condensation, rain and breathing all add moisture to your environment so how do you go about keeping your gear as dry as possible.

Sweat.

Sweat is produced from you body trying to cool itself, so the easiest way is not to sweat in the first place. This is not always practical though when moving up hills with a laden pack. The first tip here is to follow the layering principle covered in Winter Clothing Explained this process enables you moderate your temperature.

You also sweat overnight when using a sleeping bag that is to warm for the conditions you are in. In a down sleeping bag this sweat adds moisture to the down inside you bag lowering its effectiveness. A simple way is to unzip your bag to regulate your temperature and prevent the build up of moisture. Also whilst sleeping breathe out of your bag, that means that even if fully zipped up and drawn in your mouth should be positioned in the opening so the moisture in your breath is not blown into your bag. When you can turn you sleeping bag inside out and lay in the sun to dry the bag.

When I arrive at camp one of the first things I do is to change into a dry set of clothes that has been set aside specifically for sleeping and place the damp clothes either out to dry if its sunny or into a waterproof dry bag such as the Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Dry Sac ready to place into the bottom of my sleeping bag at night to prevent from freezing so I can wear them again the next day.

Condensation.

The simple act of breathing overnight can lead to moisture building up on the inside your tent, which if your not careful can be shaken onto your sleeping bag and other possessions. The first step is to ensure you have plenty of ventilation in your tent to allow this moisture to escape, open the vents of your tent and position the tent when setting up to make the most of the prevailing winds. If possible position the tent under the cover of trees or something similar (look out for dead wood overhead first) this gives you some additional shelter from the cold and dew point.

I always take a sponge to soak up the condensation that does form on the tent inner overnight.

Rain, Snow and Precipitation in general.

Firstly here the easiest way not to get into trouble with the elements is not to be exposed to them, if you don’t have the gear to manage do not go out.

A waterproof shell is your best friend here, both pants and a jacket will keep the worst of the elements off of you. Your gear will need some protection too, there’s no point arriving dry only to pull out a wet tent and sleeping bag. So use a pack liner, yes rain covers are good but should not replace a pack liner inside your pack. You can use both if you wish, I will carry a pack liner if I am using a bivvy bay that way I can cover the harness overnight.

When setting up camp look at the prevailing winds and set up your tent so that snow, rain or anything in between is not going to be blown into the tent each time you open the door. Make sure the tent is tight and not sagging this prevents the fly from touching the inner and transferring moisture.

There you have a few basic tips that should keep you drier on your next outing. remember if in doubt turn back and have a beer at the pub.

Leave No Trace

Minimizing you impact.

When we go for a walk it often assumed that we aren’t doing any damage to the areas we walk in. When in fact we can do quite a bit of damage to sensitive environments without even knowing it.

Leave No Trace is an internationally recognized way of reducing Continue reading

Planning your Adventure

This is perhaps one of my favorite parts of any adventure (aside from doing it). The planning phase can be quite fun. Pulling out the maps, looking at photos, asking people questions or even better Continue reading

Setting up camp in winter

Continuing the winter theme from yesterday’s post I will move on to camping in winter. There are a few simple things that can make camping in winter a great experience.

Firstly keeping everything dry is a major part of surviving and enjoying the winter experience. Your pack should have a waterproof liner something similar to heavy duty garbage bag will do the job although you Continue reading

Winter Clothing Explained

The wilds of winter are setting in and for many walkers this spells the end of the walking season or a move to coastal walks to escape the cold, snow and wet conditions of the Tasmanian alpine areas.

However, with careful consideration and planning Continue reading

So you want to start bushwalking.

Recently a friend of mine has been interested in coming walking with me and it got me thinking of what’s needed to start walking on overnight hikes and you know what, if you are going with someone who does a fair bit there isn’t much.

The first thing to remember that in areas known for being a bit on the unpredictable side that cotton is out and synthetic materials are in. For most people these Continue reading

Guide to buying a pack

Have you ever seen walkers struggling along, constantly adjusting their packs, taking it off at every opportunity or with agonising pack sores. All these ailments can be easily avoided by making sure you get your pack fitted correctly.

1. Know what you want from your pack.
There is no point in buying a pack for one task and trying to make it work for another. One thing I have seen is people walking a with travel packs. Travel packs are designed for travel specifically, if you want a pack to go hiking and traveling my recommendation is to buy a hiking pack and use it traveling not the other way around. Hiking packs generally have better harnesses as the don’t need to pack away, they are generally lighter as they don’t need all the bells and whistles such as suit straps, hidden pockets and the like. They are also more durable and transfer weight to the harness better.

2. Pack volume.
Personally I have the luxury or having a couple of packs my smaller 65ltr pack I use for light walking trips and mountaineering and the larger 85ltr pack I used for search and rescue and I use for extended trips or trips to the highlands in winter where I need a bit of extra gear.
Now I know most people won’t have two packs to try to think what you will be taking, ask the staff at the store if you can fill it with gear and get an idea.

3. Pack fitting.
This is the crucial part, lots of shops will sell you a pack off the shelf, take your money and bundle it up for you to take home and explore. Ask for a fitting, if they don’t know how I suggest doing a road runner and getting your behind out of the shop after all your spending a considerable sum of money.
A pack fitting should focus on getting the back length right, the waist strap and the shoulder straps. Get the staff to add some weight to the pack before doing all this so it can be adjusted as if you were ready to head off. Get all the straps loosened and place the pack on your back, adjust the hip belt so the padding is sitting half on and half off your hip bone and do it up tight. Next adjust the shoulder straps, there should not be a gap between your shoulder and the strap if there is loosen the strap and bring the back length down and repeat until the shoulder strap follows the curve of your shoulders. You may even need to find a smaller back length pack to achieve this. Now to allow a range of motion for your head the bar on the back of the pack should be no higher than your ear lobes so you can look up at that awesome waterfall.
If there is anything else you need to look at in the shop keep wearing the pack so you can get a feel for wearing it and it’s comfort. Jump, twist, tie your shoes, walk up and down their stairs perform swan lake if you like but make sure it doesn’t hurt.

4. Material and cosmetics.
I mention this last because I’d rather wear an ugly well fitting pack over a pretty, back tearing, piece of fine art.
Sure it can be important, but if you want to walk for ages without seeing a Chiro fit is key.

Things to look for

-hydration pouch, can you fit a hydration system in the pack.
They have their pros and cons, generally there is a slot for the tube to come out. Handy when your thirsty, a great spot to get your gear wet if you have to float your pack over a river and aren’t using a liner.

– separate compartments.
Great if you want to get at your sleeping bag quickly.
Not so good as another water ingress point, if your using a pack liner you can’t get into the separate area anyway. Extra weight from the zipper.

– crampon pad, ice axe loops.
Great if your going mountaineering.
Extra weight if your not.

– material.
This can be a confusing area too, myself I prefer the heavier fabrics coated in a DWR to make it water resistant. As in rough terrain they don’t snag as much and won’t rip if they do.
Lighter fabrics are good if you don’t plan on going anywhere to hard or head to open country or above the tree line.