Know how to pitch your shelter:
- Be solid on this before your trip. It’s not rocket science. Anybody can pitch a tarp or pyramid shelter with just a bit of effort.
- Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. They are likely excellent.
- Setup your shelter in the backyard, or nearby park/playing field a few times before you go. If you are backpacking with a partner do this together. You should be able to easily pitch a tarp or pyramid shelter in 3 to 5 minutes.
- For a basic tarp, there’s no need to get fancy. An A-frame pitch between two trekking poles (or better, two trees) will work fine 95% of the time. In strong winds, pitch it lower to the ground and flatter.
- Orient your shelter to the expected wind direction. Orient tarps with the narrower/rear end low and into the wind, pyramid shelters/tents with the door facing away from the wind.
- In very strong winds, use the the additional tie-out points on your shelter.
- Use sturdy Y-stakes. They have great holding power, and you can pound them into rocky ground. Always carry 1-2 spare stakes and a few hanks of spare cord.
- Shelter cord adjusters can slip. Know a few basic knots and guyline management—a figure 8 loop at the end of a line, girth hitch and a trucker’s hitch for guyline tension adjustment.
Keep hiking when it’s cold:
- Moderate but consistent movement (it needn’t be at all tiring or strenuous) is the key to keeping warm when it’s really cold.
- Even walking 1 to 1.5 miles per hour should keep your internal, metabolic heater going, and keep your hands and feet warm. If you are getting tired you are going too fast!
- Minimize stops to essential needs, and don’t make them longer than necessary. You get cold quickly, and it takes a long time to warm up again. If you’re starting to chill it’s time to move.
- If you really need to stop for a longer time (over 5 minutes), try to do it in a warmer, more protected area and put on warm clothing (e.g. down jacket) as soon as you stop. Take your warm clothing off just before you start hiking again.
Clothing adjustments :
- Put on just enough clothing to keep you warm when moving. Overdressing, getting hot and then sweating out while backpacking ultralight is a great way to get wet and then really cold. It’s very easy to get clothing wet, but it takes a long time to dry it out in cold and damp weather. Wet clothing is cold clothing and unhappiness.
- Only add warmer clothing when you can no longer stay warm walking at a comfortable pace.
- Note: I have a lot of experience staying warm and comfortable into the 20’s F when hiking at my own pace, wearing just a 6 oz base layer, a 7 oz fleece shirt (mid-layer), a 2 oz fleece hat, and 2 oz gloves, even with some wind. [Although my warm down jacket comes out mightily fast at stops!]