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So I was backpacking up in Sequoia national park this past weekend and there is still a lot of snow. I following some ultralight gear lists, which were good, but I ran into problems with gear getting wet because of the snow. Specifically, my boots got pretty wet--even thought they are waterproof--and of course pants and socks, etc. Did not have snowshoes since we did not expect snow in mid-May. But even with snowshoes our boots would have become wet most likely.

On most ultralight gear lists--even for winter camping, I don't see mention for extra shoes or additonal clothes to wear while your gear is drying. So either people's stuff is not really getting wet when they camp in the snow, or the gear lists seem to be incomplete.

Any suggestions on augmentation to your ultralight gear list when you plan to be in snow or areas where your gear is going to get wet?

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    this part of the season is tricky, because the snow sticks to your shoes and melts, which is too much for a lot of "waterproof" shoes. In actual winter, you don't really get wet since the snow stays relatively dry. – njzk2 May 16 '16 at 17:52
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    Had you prepared for snow, you might have taken more waterproof shoes, possibly snowshoes, which would have mitigated the issue, and waterproof pants and/or gaiters. You wouldn't have got as wet as you describe. – njzk2 May 16 '16 at 17:54
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    This is totally unclear, both what your "ultralight gear list" is (there is no such definite list anyway). So basically you are asking what to do when trekking UL in snow, which is way too broad. – imsodin May 16 '16 at 19:45
  • @njzk2 Thanks for the info. Yeah, the wet snow was the biggest issue. I actually just re-waterproofed my shoes a couple of weeks prior, but the water still got in--and of course trying to dry them was a challenge because of fog. What kind of boots will handle this wet snow best? – krishnab May 16 '16 at 20:36
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    There isnt a list of gear, you have to get to your list of gear based on your experience, conditions and expected comfort, ultralight or not. – Erik vanDoren May 17 '16 at 12:42
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When you start packing lighter, usually it comes with smaller margins of error. It seems that it is typically your case here.

Basically, the first thing is to be more careful. It is a habit to take.

For example, when you couldn't find information about whether there was deep wet snow or not, the decision of not taking the snowshoes was maybe arguable.

Then, when you got to the wet part of your walk, you could have used your gaiters and your over-pants, which would have protected your pants, and a little your shoes.

As for which shoes work best, it is a complicated question. Winter shoes are too hot for that weather, and you'll sweat in them. Hiking boots could be too light for the constant contact of frozen water, and possibly not waterproof enough. I don't have a definite answer on this.

However, in many places where it snows a lot in winter, the melting period is not a period when you hike much. For one, because the conditions are unstable (it can be very nice, or freezing with snow), and also because the large amount of snow melting all at once creates a very muddy, unstable and fragile ground.

Here in Quebec, most parcs are closed for a few weeks during that period, to protect the trails.

  • Gaiters in conjunction with a boot that has a goretex liner would be my first solution. That gets you through anything with snow up to your knees, and really beyond that you should rethink your trip. Second solution would be gaiters with a boot that isn't goretex and wear goretex socks during any portion where your boot is wet. Works best with boots that dry fast. – furtive May 19 '16 at 21:27
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In my experience, this is just an all-around difficult situation. Your clothes/boots getting soaked is inevitable. Even with gaiters and the most advanced moisture wicking technology, hike a day in the snow and you'll be really wet. Here's why: even if you're avoiding post-holing with snow shoes, the act of hiking in snow will raise your heart rate and get you sweating. Aside from the effect of sweat, your body heat will (slowly) melt the snow/ice that gathers around your feet/snowshoe bindings. For me, 6 hours of strenuous snowshoe hiking in snow leaves me soaked from knees down and very wet beneath my vapor trap (e.g. Rain jacket).

So my answer? Keep your heart rate up and body warm (more or less) all day, and bring a change of bone dry clothes & socks you ONLY use when you stop at the end of the day. Hang up your wet clothes or put them in a double lines freezer bag to sleep with if it's freezing at night, and then put them back on in the morning (which is like the worst wake up ever ;)). I used to sleep with all my stuff, including boots, to keep them from freezing at night. After like 3 days, you're skin will get all shriveled and after 5 days I would usually find a shelter to dry my stuff, including my sleeping bag which would inevitably get soaked too.

Now that I'm writing this down, I'm wondering: Jesus, is there a better way to do this? This worked for me, but I wonder how this method would hold up without weekly shelter breaks. Anyone got a better technique?

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Mylar emergency blankets can be critical when minimizing gear - regardless of season or location. They are a good tool beyond just a first aid kit staple, inexpensive & lightweight, and can make life comfortable in a pinch or save a life in an emergency. .

See my answer here for more about drying out and staying warm.

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