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How should I set up a two-layer dome tent for 2/4 people in deep snow (waist height)? Do I need some additional equipment (snow shovel)? Insulation under the floor (further than the sleeping pads)?

Research:
Anchor the tent in the snow, using plastic bags

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This question makes me realize that I've never camped in snow at all, much less deep snow. Time to get farther north! –  Russell Steen Sep 17 '12 at 13:10
    
Unfortunately I will not be able to accept and answer before snow falls and I go try it, to see if lying on the snow is colder than lying on cold ground. –  Vorac Sep 29 '12 at 7:20

3 Answers 3

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Last weekend after a snow storm in Quebec I camped in the conditions you describe. Around 1 meter of snow, -12°C/10°F during the day -24°C/-11°F during the night.

Make a layer of spruce branches ~15 cm/6 inch or more. Also, use a closed-cell foam pad plus an inflatable pad. I slept in US Army bivy sack, US Army cold-weather sleeping bag. This set-up will keep you reasonably warm. To keep you comfortably warm, sleep dressed in many layers, wear balaclava and a lot of socks, otherwise your feet will get really cold. Exercise before going to bed. You might want to put some heat packs in your socks.

Use a snow shovel to dig a hole for your fire about 2.5 meters/8 feet in diameter, plus a place to sit and sleep. Otherwise your fire will melt a hole and all the warmth will radiate up.

Bring a pee bottle. It's not fun to go in the dark cold forest and then try to get back to a cold bed.

Do not underestimate the amount of wood you will need and time it takes to gather it. Chop a couple of big dead trees and split a few logs to make a nice fire. Bring an axe and a foldable saw. Put a bright lanyard on every piece of equipment.

Also use large snow shoes, you will have to carry a lot of weight, if you don't, you will not get far.

Don't go alone. Bring some medical supplies to treat small wounds. If you bring alcohol, don't bother with beer, bring something stronger. Otherwise bring some hot chocolate, it is easer to clean then tea.

Winter camping is easy and fun once you find the way to do it.

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I suddenly have a lot more respect for Quebec. Is it still fun? Really? –  theJollySin Feb 12 '13 at 6:18
    
Yes it is. Me and my friends try to backpack and sometimes we stay overnite, every 2 weeks in winter. We do it less often in summer because of mosquitoes. –  Iouri Goussev Feb 12 '13 at 21:58
    
The techniques described in this answer would have a huge impact on the natural environment. –  Ben Crowell Aug 17 at 16:41

I usually stomp the area with snowshoes until it's reasonably packed, and that's good enough. If it's windy and very cold I may dig down 3-4 feet for protection from the wind. (If you're in the mountains you should have a snow shovel for safety.)

A thicker sleeping pad (or two pads) will definitely keep you warmer. When you pack up in the morning, you can usually see an indention in the snow where you slept -- your valuable body heat melts the snow under your sleeping bag.

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A snow shovel will make your life a lot easier, yes - it gives you the option to dig out snow to use as a windbreak, and to lower the tent a little into the snow, reducing the wind.

Digging down a little also lets you reach more packed snow, which makes it easier to provide a flat surface.

You shouldn't need any extra insulation under the floor - although if temperatures are reasonably warm (not far under freezing) you may want to use a good groundsheet as you may melt some of the snow directly underneath you and you don't want that soaking in to the tent.

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I disagree with your insulation comment. I would highly recommend double-insulation. A closed-cell foam pad under an inflatable therma-rest type is essential to keeping warm in snow. –  LBell Sep 23 '12 at 6:31
    
I guess this does depend on what sleeping pads the OP is using... –  Rory Alsop Sep 23 '12 at 9:19
    
I would recommend being down in the snow, at least to some degree, for insulation purposes AND using a good insulation pad like what @LBell recommends above, those two combined would work well in high wind, cold situations. edit: just noticed xpda said something similar. :P –  studiohack Sep 29 '12 at 18:55

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