Doggone Cold! Winter Gear List for Dogs

Winter on Mary's Rock

Here’s a list of the winter hiking and backpacking gear that M’s Seeing Eye Dog Edge used on our winter Appalachian Trail adventure in Virginia for New Year’s. This list includes the gear he used for climbing up to Mary’s Rock with wind-chills of -15℉, as well as the gear he used for his first winter overnight (with a record-breaking low of -2℉).

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Winter Backpacking Gear: Light Weight Gear for Temperatures < 32F/0C


The  extreme air temperatures on the summit of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire can range from the 40°s (F) to the -40°s (F) during the winter months.

Before I delve into the details of my winter backpacking gearlist, I want to start by defining ‘winter backpacking’. Although most people define winter backpacking as backpacking between the first day of winter and the first day of spring (eg,  December 21 to March 20), the definition of winter backpacking that I use to guide my gear decisions is more accurately reflected by the lowest temperatures (as well as snow/ice conditions) that I am expecting to encounter on my backpacking trip. The rough definitions of backpacking seasons that I use are:

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The Gear That Got Me Thru (PCT Gear List)


As I tracked down the gear that I actually carried on the PCT to weigh it and write up my final gear list, I tallied up the number of miles I’d carried each item with me… The miles added up quickly… in the last two years I’ve hiked ~5000 miles (AT 2013, PCT 2014 et al.) and some of my gear has been with me that entire time!!! (Edit: click here for my newest gearlist- CDT 2018 and >8000 miles)

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Strange Bedfellows (PCT Days 50-52)


So, what are the things that you don’t want to freeze overnight? I went through my list… I definitely didn’t want my water bottles to freeze overnight, so I put them inside my sleeping bag with me…. Hmmm…. Things with batteries don’t like to be frozen, so all of my electronic gidgets and gazmos got loaded into my sleeping bag with me…. hmmm… Frozen socks, nope, that wouldn’t be fun any fun, so I made room for my wet socks in my sleeping bag with me. My sleeping bag was starting to feel pretty crowded!

With temperatures well below freezing and snow coming down outside, the only place I knew that would stay above freezing that night was in my sleeping bag. It would trap my warmth and keep me and the privileged items I decided to sleep with from freezing.

I went through my checklist one more time… Electronics, water filter, water bottles, socks… I think those are the things I need to keep from freezing. Since they were all set, I snugged my hat over my ears and prepared to sleep…. Oh yeah, my gloves…. I wanted those to be warm and dry in the morning so they joined me in my sleeping bag too.

All cozy in my zero degree bag in my tent I drifted off to sleep. When I woke at around

5 am I looked over at my hiking boots… Yup, they were frozen solid. The tongue and laces stayed in place when I tugged on them. “Just one thing to do,” I sighed. “Put them in plastic bags and have them too join me in my sleeping bag.”

With electronics, water, water filter, socks, gloves, and now boots in my sleeping bag there was barely enough room for me! (Yes, I always sleep with the big knife in the sleeping bag so I’m not counting it separately here).

I’m looking forward to warmer temperatures when the only thing in my sleeping bag is me!


Thru-Hike Sleeping Bag Review: Marmot Hydrogen


I’ve been hiking and backpacking for all of my life, so as I prepared for my AT thru-hike I looked through all of my gear and tried to use things I already owned if I could. I started the trip with my 30F Marmot Hydrogen mummy sleeping bag with a 1/2 length zipper:

  • Weight: ~1 lb 12 oz
  • Shoulder Circumference: 64″, Hip, 60″, Foot 42″
  • Length: 6’6
  • Manufactured: 2002
  • Insulation Material: 800 power goose down
  • MSR: $269

I ended up carrying my 2002 Hydrogen with me from Georgia (May 8, 2013) to New Hampshire (September 1, 2013):

  • Durability (5/5): Wow, just wow! I’ve used this sleeping bag on backpacking trips every year since it was purchased in 2002 and had forgotten how old it was. It’s been to Switzerland, Iceland, Joshua Tree and many other places around the world and around the country. It looses a feather here and there, but has never developed any holes or tears in it, and it still has plenty of loft even after a decade of use.
  • Weight (5/5): No matter how light a sleeping bag is, it’s hard not to wish that it was even lighter, but at 1lb 12 oz, the Hydrogen is still one of the lightest 30F sleeping bags around.
  • Warmth (4/5): If the temperatures drop below 40 degrees I end up being cold in this sleeping bag. When I purchased the sleeping bag, I thought that a 30F bag would mean I could sleep comfortably in it at temperatures above 30 degrees, but nowadays when buying a sleeping bag you should check the EN 13537 test ratings if they are available, especially if you are a woman or a cold sleeper. The EN ratings are European standards that provide up to four different temperature ratings: an upper limit, a comfort limit, a lower limit, and an extreme rating. The highest temperature that won’t cause a typical man to sweat profusely in the bag is considered the upper limit, the temperature that a typical woman will be comfortable in the bag is the comfort limit,  the temperature that a standard man will be comfortable in the bag is the lower limit, and the lowest temperature that the bag will keep a standard woman from becoming hypothermic is the extreme rating. For the Marmot Hydrogen the EN comfort rating is 40F, the EN lower limit is 30F, and the EN rating is 2F. I always just figured that I was a cold sleeper but the EN rating for women is spot on for me (my dad has the same sleeping bag from the same year and says that he sleeps comfortably in his bag down to 31F).
  • Bulk (5/5): It compresses down to a very small volume, between 200 and 300 cc depending on which ultralight compression stuff sack I was using.
  • Spaciousness (5/5): One of the things that I love about the Marmot sleeping bags is they give you extra space (typically larger shoulder and hip circumferences). Even though I don’t have a large frame, I find that that extra space allows me to sleep comfortable on my side and allows me to toss and turn in it without strangling myself. The older model Hydrogen sleeping bags (like mine) have half zippers and the newer ones have full zippers. I didn’t have any trouble with the half zipper.

marmothydrogen2Overall I was very happy with my Marmot Hydrogen sleeping bag and slept comfortably in it through temperatures between 40 and 70 degrees. At higher temperatures I used my sleeping bag liner as a bottom sheet and the sleeping bag as a quilt, or I just used my sleeping bag liner alone. I briefly used the Sea to Summit Coolmax Liner (11.6 oz) because I already owned it, but I quickly traded it in for the 6’6 Western Mountaineering Whisper Liner (4 oz), which was much lighter. The Whisper Liner was soft, comfortable, and light and I carried it from Damascus, VA to Mount Katahdin in Maine. On nights that were colder than 40 degrees I wore my hat as well and my insulated jacket and insulated pants (I also always used a sleeping pad). Though I enjoyed my Marmot Hydrogen, it wasn’t warm enough for me as I headed into New Hampshire and Maine and the chillier months of September and October so I purchased a 2013 Marmot Lithium 0 degree bag for the last leg of my trip (to be reviewed in an upcoming post), which I managed to get a really good deal on.