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Need an opinion for the winter sheltering for overnights


What is the best (including weight and volume) options for the winter sheltering in places like Sierras (Tahoe and Yosemite areas)? I like snowcave/ quinzee but it takes a while to build (especially the latter) and for safety reasons it is highly recommended that one is used by at least two people so I guess it is not an option for solo trips. 

The options I am considering are: bivy, MegaMed tent (I saw members of backcountry ski patrols use them) or plain 3-season tent. What are the prone and cons for these options?


10 Replies

Not something I have done but I hear good things about the Firstlight 2P as a lightweight winter shelter that is quick to erect.


how do you define "best"?  light weight, warmth, shelter from elements,??

What works during a relatively calm winter night could be life threatening during a raging storm.

I have spent lots of winter nights (around 0 F quite comfy in a bivvy sack, perhaps with a light tarp pitched as a leanto.  The bivvy sack adds 5-10 degrees of warmth to the rig.  A three season tent will work well until (when) you encounter a storm.  With snow and wind, you want one rated for four seasons, with good reviews.

My worst bivvy was on the San Francisco Peaks in late December.  Tried for a snow cave, but the snow was total powder and I had a snow hole instead.  Temps were around  minus 35 F.  No sleeping bag, just an extra sweater.  I did have a small stove, otherwise I might not be here today.  

It wasn't the best, but it was good enough.

Selecting a sheltered location can make a big difference.  Avoid the bottom of creeks and drainages and obviously windy places.  Asmall cave or rock shelter can be quite good.

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Thanks @hikermor 

What bivvy sack do you recommend for winter camping (I am thinking about backcountry ski trips with 1-2 overnights for starters)?




Try this (just one of several)   It-weighs one pound, 3 oz.

The heated tent is an interesting alternative.  To the poster who proposed this,  How much does it and associated items weigh?

Just shows there is more than one way to skin a cat...

Now for a heated discussion....



Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

One other thing.  Withbivvy sacks, go minimalist.  Stay away from those with poles and other frou=frou.  Those are basically tents, and incur additional weight.

Classical bivvys were developed to servee as minimalist  shields for technical climbers performing overnight and multi-day ascents.

Light is right (up to a point - It can bee downright silly if carried too far



Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Thanks, @hikermor 

The bivvy option is interesting, especially given the limited volume in my ski backpack. Definitely worth a try on a short-range trip within the reach of the parking lot if things start going sideways. If it adds 10-15 F of warmth rating, I think I might be good with 20F sack. I am a hot sleeper, an often need to actually cool down to fall asleep.




@Dmitry It's not the best option in regards to weight, but winter camping in a hot tent is awesome.  There make some really lite wood burning stoves that you can use as well.  If you pull your gear in using a sled, it's not as much of a factor.



Wow, never heard of these. 

I am looking at 4p version. It is not terribly expensive, on par with the 3-season tents of similar occupancy, although they are about 2 lbs heavier than a 4-season tents. But the perspective of having hot place might as well outweigh the weight (no pun intended).

Can these withstand a storm?




@Dmitry   HAHA!  Yes, the weight is worth it IMO.  Especially in the winter when the sun goes down early but you are not quite ready for bed.  Get the wood stove going and kick back with a book.  The heat is wonderful and you'll even find that it's not unheard of to open up the door to cool it off a bit.  Even on a cold day/night.  Keep in mind that there is no floor (can be purchased separately) but in the winter you can dig out a sitting area, pack down the snow, or just sit your bedding with a good mat on a groundcloth directly on the ground. 

I would actually prefer a tipi style tent (once it's all staked out) over my 4-season tent.  They hold up really well and shed the snow like a dream.  They wind really is not too much of a factor either as long is you have it set up well.

It's definitely a different way of camping than I have been familiar with in the past.  There's lots of YouTube videos out there on hottent camping to check out.  Make me ready for the first frost for sure.

Another brand to look at is  I'm sure there are plenty more in nylon type fabrics out there and you can definitely find a bunch in canvas if you are wanting something REALLY rugged (and heavy).