It’s January, and Alaska can be a rough place to sleep outside during this time of year. Temperatures can easily be down below zero F, even into the minus 30’s and 40’s, or colder. So sleeping outside is not to be taken lightly.
Bring a good sleeping bag. A REALLY good sleeping bag. If you predict temperatures of zero (F), I’d go with a sleeping bag rated to minus 20 degrees F. I prefer a down sleeping bag over synthetic bags, but the key is a high quality, and well rated bag. If you have a good synthetic fill sleeping bag, use that. It’ll be heavier, and less compatible, but you can deal with that. You don’t want to have to deal with being cold.
Your bag is your last refuge against the cold. Don’t skimp on it. Bring “more” sleeping bag than you think you need. I do like the goretex or similar shells for winter bags, and highly recommend them.
Bring a good sleeping pad. A REALLY good sleeping pad. Jake, above, is using (well, half using) an Exped Sim Comfort 10 LW, which I highly recommend if you’re not packing it into the backcountry. If you need to haul it (snowshoeing, skiing, backpacking, go with an Exped Downmat 7 or even the Downmat 9). An insulated pad insulates you against the cold snow underneath, where even the best sleeping bag won’t offer much protection – once you lie down in the bag and compress the insulation underneath you (be it down or synthetic), it offers little insulating value. So a high quality insulated pad makes a huge difference. You want it to be about an inch or more thick.
Although it’s not generally needed with a high quality sleeping pad like this, I often like to throw a hard cell foam pad under the inflatable. It adds a little extra insulation, but mostly a little protection against a leak or anything. It’ll definitely ad to the life of your sleeping pad. Unlike Jake, above, don’t slide off the sleeping pad. You’ll get cold. 🙂
Well, one more reason its because it’s been upgraded, modified and changed, twice now in fact, so I thought I’d touch on a couple of things about the newer version of this tent, the Skyledge 2 DP.
Firstly, it has a new name. The DP is short for ‘Dry Pitch’. Meaning it’s possible to set the rainfly section of the tent up first, and then add the inner part of the tent afterward; a handy feature in the rain, for sure. The Mountain Hardwear bio reads “DryPitch™ fly-first pitching lets you set up the tent in the rain and stay dry”, which I think is a little misleading. You will still get wet. The inner part of your tent will stay somewhat drier .. but rarely will it remain completely dry. Still, it’s a handy feature that I’m glad to see Mountain Hardwear working on. Continue reading…
I thought we’d start of the fun this year with a quick photo from a place I’ll be headed to next week; Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. A week snowshoeing, skiing, sitting by the fire, watching out at night for some northern lights, enjoying good company, good food and a nice warm fire sounds like a GREAT way to start the new year. Continue reading…
I am just now back from a trip to the arctic looking for the northern lights; 4 of us went north of Fairbanks, to the Brooks Range, and spent a dark, cold week rambling around the mountains, enjoying what is ordinarily an incredible place; in the winter, a unique and somewhat amazing experience.
The northern lights themselves dropped by for a visit each night; we were indeed fortunate. We had cloudy skies for part of just one night, and all the moonlight anyone might ever hope for to light up the foregrounds. In the arctic, the moon doesn’t really pass ‘overhead’, but circles around the sky, so though it’s not high in the sky, it stays out for quite a while.
We were also lucky with the weather; there was just enough wind around (particularly higher in the mountains) to keep things from getting too cold. Weird, huh? Wind (generally) keeps things warmer in the winter. On our final day, there was not the slightest breath of air, and the temperature dropped a lot .. hitting minus 40 right as we departed for the drive south. For the duration of our trip it had been (mostly) in the 0 to minus 20 range; Fahrenheit, of course).
Photography in the cold, at night, can be a challenge, but we were all well prepared, and managed to make some keeper images. I’ll write another post later about tips and ideas to alleviate some of the problems folks run into in such conditions. For now, I gotta catch up on some sleep.
Just finished photographing bald eagles, and I’ll be heading back up north to this area next week, again loping for the northern lights. Should be a gaggle of fun.
This was one of the most memorable nights I’ve had shooting the northern lights, in the middle of nowhere off the Dalton Highway, in minus 30 degree temperatures, wind blowing like crazy, and we had an absolute blast! You haven’t lived until you’ve stumbled around in the dark in the snow in the wind in the cold trying to take pictures.
For what it might be worth, I shot this photo at ISO 2000, f1.4, and a shutter speed of 5 seconds, with a 24mm lens.
I only have a space or 2 left yet for next March on the Aurora borealis photo tours, so drop me a note if you’re interested in coming along. I can’t guarantee we’ll see a display like this one, but we’ll do our best to be in the right spot if it happens!
Here’s an image I took of a guest one morning on our Bremner – Tebay Trek this August. John was sitting quietly before breakfast, on this rock by his tent, and I had grabbed my camera to shoot some landscapes when I saw him here.
The fog in the valley below was amazing; so thick it looked like you could walk across it. Then as silently as it had appeared before dawn, it simply vanished and the entire valley scene opened up. We had a grand, but tough, day’s hike ahead of us, and ended up doing in one day most of what I would typically do here in 2 days.
This is a tough hike, and I don’t recommend it to people lightly; a guide from another outfitter leading his clients made it about 3 days into the hike and turned around, as he felt they weren’t going to make it out in the allotted time. It definitely helps to know the area better, and avoid the brush and the gnar.
It also helps to have such grand weather. This trek has always been good to me, weather wise, so far I don’t think I’ve had anything burlier than a hail storm the day we flew in, and a light rain/snow the next morning. Other than that, I’ve always had good weather here.
For strong intermediate to advanced backpackers, for sure. And definitely give yourself a good 10 days on this route. It’s a “bit of a mission”, as my friend Gabby from New Zealand would say. 🙂
Just back from the arctic and another fantastic experience photographing polar bears. More images to come. This was our last or 2nd last day, and a coupe of the young bears really went to town giving us a great show. Everyone came away with some fantastic photos of the bears playing and wrestling, it was pretty awesome. This photo is one of my favorites from the action.
Getting ready for the bald eagles in Haines, so I’ll try to post something “eagle-ish” before too long. And watch out for a new video coming your way!
If you like the photo, please show some love with a comment below, or at least a little ‘Facebook’ share or like. Thanks all.
I just got back from 10 days in the arctic, photographing polar bears. Amazing creatures to watch and be around. We were lucky to have a few opportunities with mothers and their cubs (mostly 2 year olds). This particular afternoon we found a young sow and her cubs of the year (born this past January) and they were about as cute as cute gets. Great fun and everyone had a blast watching them.
I’ve got about a thousand things to do right now, so I’ll try to get around to editing some images and posting something more over the weekend or early next week, but for now, hopefully you’ll enjoy this cute little polar bear cub.
Just in from a few weeks in Katmai National Park where we had an amazing time with the bears and a whole lot more. Some incredible situations.
This one we were lucky enough to have these 2 adult male brown bears decide to play and wrestle away the day .. for nearly 30 minutes we watched, photographed and videoed the action. Good times indeed!
I’m heading to the arctic for polar bears. Catch ya soon,