A micro-trip to desert in the snow

Items to keep you alive in the event you must evacuate: discussions of basic Survival Kits commonly called "Bug Out Bags" or "Go Bags"

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the_alias
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A micro-trip to desert in the snow

Post by the_alias » Mon Jan 21, 2019 12:33 pm

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Harsh environments and harsh conditions often provide great testing ground to work out what equipment works and what doesn't. My lady friend decided this weekend she wanted to go camp in the Dune field at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Yup her suggestion to go out and camp in 8f temps in a huge sand pit. :clap:

I've camped in this dune field before in the summer with a bivi bag and minimal kit - the biggest problem is you have to bring all your own water. There is nothing in the dunes. As we were going in the cold we needed less water but I still packed comfortably more than we needed to cook and drink. Hydration at 9000ft in the extreme cold is something some people overlook and it is best not to.

Otherwise gear I brought in was cold weather prep - I only had my 40degree quilt but it is very fluffy and brought two costco down blankets. Combined with clothing like my Melly fleece, patagonia down jacket and some ECWS overlayers courtsey of RonnyRonin I felt pretty well prepared.

My only tent is a Alps Mountaineering, not UL but not crazy heavy - I schlepped this in as well and my pack with water and food came out around 43lbs I think.

The pack I used is a big old Osprey Made in Dolores from the late 90s - it is heavy but has great support. Recently I added a HillPeopleGear belt that has made it my go to for anything heavy and it performed very well.

Perhaps what surprised and cheered me the most on this trip was the fact that the sand was mostly frozen and compacted from snow. This meant movement was 100x easier than in summer. The initial climb in was much easier, hiking poles certainly required. Again knowledge of unique conditions can help you better - I was able to get away with my summer desert boots and yaktrak style grippy gear which was very useful.
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My companion however managed to forget her boots resulting in her having to ruin a pair of shoes:
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She's a trooper though and luckily the sand/snow was quite forgiving bar lacking grip.

We opted not to camp in the shade of a dune, it was simply too cold and we instead gambled on there being no wind as the forecast said. We got lucky and there was no wind!
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We were sealed up in the tent by 6pm as it was bitingly cold - in fact I came up with a rather ingenious solution for help make this tent warmer.

Inside I tied one of the Costco down blankets to the roof storage area and created a cave for where our heads lay - a nice microclimate that made the night a lot more comfortable.

Food wise we did instant mash and noodles plus salami, cheese, and plenty of chocolate.

Breakfast was oatmeal and cliff bars with more chocolate:
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We hiked around up to the tallest dune in North America the next morning - I took the steep route as my "yaktraks" and boots and pole allowed me to just shoot straight up. Again would have been impossible in summer. My companion had to take a less steep route:
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Lessons:
- Adjusting the tent to create a warmer microclimate was more effective than bundling blankets
- I need L merino underwear, M is too small :(
- Always bring a shield for your gas burner - this helped immensely.
- Never can have enough chocolate
- Beauty of this country makes temporary discomfort always worthwhile.
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Re: A micro-trip to desert in the snow

Post by JackBauer » Mon Jan 21, 2019 6:44 pm

Man what an awesome overnighter! Great pics, thanks for sharing.
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Re: A micro-trip to desert in the snow

Post by MegaWoodsWalker » Sat Jan 26, 2019 11:01 am

Kahtoola microspikes for the win! Thanks for posting your outing.

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