Winter Weather Shakedown
Howdy Y’all! Since this is my first post I should probably introduce myself and my dog Jetta for those who don’t know us (so everyone right?) but you are just going to have to be patient and check back later because right now I want to talk about the weather. Yes you heard that right, I’m going to start this off by talking about the weather. Last Saturday in East Tennessee the weathermen and women were calling for partly cloudy skies, a low of 18 degrees, and 0% chance of rain. What does this mean for most people? It’s a great night to stay in and watch a movie, read a book, or given that it was Valentines Day Eve, make love on a bearskin rug in front of a roaring fire with glasses of Champaign. What did this mean for me? It was the weekend AND perfect weather for a winter gear shakedown!
Winter is almost over right?
Wrong. I will be starting my Northbound thru hike of the Appalachian Trail on March 6th and anyone who thinks this is not a winter start is kidding themselves. Maybe it has something to do with my Texan blood, but I start to get chilly when the mercury drops below 80. Every time someone asks me if I’m scared of bears, or bugs, or serial killers, or being alone, or wolves, or zombies, or flesh eating bacteria or any of the other irrational dangers people think I will encounter while thru hiking the AT I think to myself “No. I’m afraid of being cold!”.
Staying warm, hopefully…
Our last shakedown was on Max Patch in November and the low dropped to the mid 20’s. Jetta and I were both pretty cold and got less sleep than we would have liked. I made some adjustments to our gear, mainly better gloves for me and a sleeping pad for Jetta, and decided to have another go. For some reason no one would agree to come sleep outside with us in the frigid temps so we decided not to leave the safety of our own back yard, or rather the back of our apartment, lest we freeze out in the wilderness.
So what do I have planned to avoid mild discomfort or more importantly hypothermia? On cold nights, which for me will probably be every night for the first couple months, I can eat a fatty snack before getting in my sleeping bag to help fuel my internal furnace as I sleep. I can do something aerobic like going down a hill to get water, doing jumping jacks, or hanging a bear bag (I really hope my aim improves) to get my blood pumping before getting in my sleeping bag for the night. Aside from these strategies, I will be depending heavily on my gear to keep me warm and cozy. I will have a dry set of camp clothes that will be reserved for camp only. These consist of Stoic wool briefs, Icebreaker 200 leggings, Patagonia Capeliene 3 ¼ zip top, Acorn fleece socks and Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket.
If this is not enough I can add gloves, buff, balaclava, hiking clothes, rain gear and boiling water in my bladder (water bladder not urinary bladder) for added warmth. I will be using a Zpacks 20 degree down bag, Cocoon Silk bag liner, and Big Agnes Insulated Q Core SL sleeping pad. Finally my Tarptent Double Rainbow which will afford protection from wind and rain or snow.
What about the Mutt?
Jetta and I have about the same level of cold tolerance, but she is more difficult to shop for since Z packs doesn’t make sleeping bags in her size and she is not a fan of air mattresses. She has a cut down section of a Thermarest Z Lite Sol, a Kurgo Loft Jacket, a Turtle Fur neck warmer, and Pawks dog socks and baby leg warmers from Amazon.
Well I won’t die in 18 degree weather with low humidity. In fact, I won’t even be too cold (except my nose). I will however have a very bad nights sleep anywhere along the AT that has a dozen AC units kicking on and off all night. Jetta won’t die either, but she was a little shivery in the wee hours of the morning. Her sleep pad definitely made her more comfy than our last shakedown, but she needs more. I’m going to look into some type of lightweight down or fleece blanket or a second coat for her.
Keep an eye out for an official introduction post coming soon! Also more detailed posts about our gear and my Appalachian Trials (the book) inspired lists of why I’m hiking the AT.
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