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Winter Bikepacking in SD ends with Frost Bite

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Winter Bikepacking in SD ends with Frost Bite

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Old 02-21-19, 12:21 PM
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Winter Bikepacking in SD ends with Frost Bite

Apparently no amount of backpacking in sub-zero temperatures can prepare a person for bikepacking in sub-zero temperatures because this trip was hellish for me (if hell froze over). I made the decision to complete a 100 mile overnight trip in -5 weather. I thought it would be easy but I was definitely wrong.



On day one I left the small town of Hartford SD on a snow covered gravel road. By 5pm the sun was down and the gravel roads were getting hilly. It was so cold that most of the batteries on my electronics were dead except for my phone which I snuggled close to my chest to keep it warm. I chose to bike via moonlight because I did not want to waste any light battery that I may have needed in an emergency. As darkness took over I hit a steep low maintenance road that led down into a valley. I don't know how I didn't crash cuz it was covered in ice and snow drifts. I pedalled for two more hours in total darkness.

I made camp in the middle of an open field next to a dead tree. I was mentally destroyed from all the darkness and exposure. I became very stressed that I did not bring enough insulation to keep me warm through the night. When my stove gave nothing more than a faint sputter I decided two make a real fire.



I HATE making real fires because the sparks destroy clothes and smoke stinks. And I was drawing a lot of attention to myself considering I was supposed to be "stealth" camping in an open field.



I slept warm for most of the night although my feet were chilly by morning. Getting out of my sleeping bag was one of the hardest things I've had to do all year. The wind chill felt like it was tearing off my face and I could not pack anything because removing my gloves for even a few seconds made my hands hurt and go numb.



When I finally had camp packed up I threw a leg over my bike and started peddling. Headwinds, headwinds, and more headwinds. I stumbled upon an old abandoned farm house and decided to go on a micro adventure to check it out. Lots of kick-ass antiques and dilapidated walls filled the house. After forcing myself back outside into the wind I realized I would not be able to meet my 100 mile goal and make it home in time for family obligations so I hammered towards home. Those last 20 miles easily make the top 3 hardest rides I have ever pushed through. At one point I just got off my bike and started walking because I was so spent. But then I realized I was only prolonging the pain and hopped back on. When I finally reached home I plopped into a chair and just stared outside like a zombie. I made a video of this adventure and I hope you guys like it:


^^^Video^^^

The next day the skin on my nose was severely discolored at the point where my face mask ended. During the ride my nose hurt quite a lot but I thought it was because my helmet was pushing my glasses downward. I was wrong because the skin is now all wrinkly and starting to peel at one of the edges. I hope that it does not leave a scar because it is directly in the middle of my face!

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Old 02-21-19, 12:28 PM
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Wow!

Good luck with your nose.
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Old 02-21-19, 12:36 PM
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If the temperature was sub zero, then moving on a bike and with wind chill you felt substantially colder temps.
A very small one person tent adds surprising warmth. In my own winter camping, I've used several candles for heat which adds about 15 degrees F to the inside. Winter camping requires much more preparation and thought than summer camping so don't give up on it.
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Old 02-21-19, 12:58 PM
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I watched your video, and learned that we have different ideas about fire, what a kick-ass antique is, and how to go for a ride.
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Old 02-21-19, 01:20 PM
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What was wrong with the stove? Simply too cold?
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Old 02-21-19, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
What was wrong with the stove? Simply too cold?
Yup. Canisters loose pressure when it gets cold so people used to keep them in their sleeping bags to keep them warm. I bought a more modern canister that uses a gas mixture which works better in cold temps but it just wasn't enough for what I needed that night.
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Old 02-21-19, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by berner View Post
Winter camping requires much more preparation and thought than summer camping so don't give up on it.
Thank you!!! I have considered bringing a candle in the past but I dont think I could sleep with a candle inside my tent. I would be too nervous. Do you have any special tips to make it safer?
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Old 02-21-19, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by ljsense View Post
I watched your video, and learned that we have different ideas about fire, what a kick-ass antique is, and how to go for a ride.
What! That stove wasnt kick ass??? Haha. Fair enough. But what is your idea about fire that differs from mine? Bigger? Smaller? More organized?
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Old 02-21-19, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Refreshing View Post
What! That stove wasnt kick ass??? Haha. Fair enough. But what is your idea about fire that differs from mine? Bigger? Smaller? More organized?
I'd have lit everything that burned, and if it attracted someone to the scene, I'd ask them to get me the hell out of there.

I've winter camped, but that looked brutal. Brutal like feed your friend to the wood chipper brutal.
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Old 02-21-19, 03:11 PM
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Skip the candle. Although I now live down in the tropics of southern Wisconsin <insert chuckle>, I grew up in Minnesota and have winter camped in temps down to minus 36,

Steger and Schurke in their book described how eating a tablespoon of butter would keep you warmer than burning an equivalent amount of fat in a candle or lantern in a tent. I was not sure I spelled their names right so I put their names in google, found this link on their trip. I thought those guys were nuts until I read their book, then I knew that they were nuts.
https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/sp...rip-north-pole

Decades ago you could buy good candle lanterns in camp stores, we used them because a good one could put out good light. In the age of incandescent bulbs that burned up a lot of battery, a candle for light made sense. But now with LED headlamps that have good battery life, I have not used my old French candle lantern for decades.

Stove canisters, I carry a small plastic thing that is shaped like a small pan that I can put some warm water in, then set the canister in that. (Warm, not hot, too hot could be dangerous.) That way you can warm up the fuel to get your stove to function better when it is cold. If it is really cold, you might have to occasionally add warmer water to the dish. But really the best option is a liquid fuel stove when it gets that cold. The stoves that use coleman fuel (some call it white gas) are much better when below zero.

I would not go winter camping without a good liquid fuel camp stove. I prefer ones made by Optimus or Primus, but I have friends that prefer MSR. For serious cold weather I would use my Optimus 111B.

I am surprised you did not use ski goggles. I can't ride a bike when it is colder than freezing without googles.
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Old 02-21-19, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by ljsense View Post
I'd have lit everything that burned, and if it attracted someone to the scene, I'd ask them to get me the hell out of there.
I legitimately laughed out loud. Thank you for that.
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Old 02-21-19, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Skip the candle. Although I now live down in the tropics of southern Wisconsin <insert chuckle>, I grew up in Minnesota and have winter camped in temps down to minus 36,

Steger and Schurke in their book described how eating a tablespoon of butter would keep you warmer than burning an equivalent amount of fat in a candle or lantern in a tent. I was not sure I spelled their names right so I put their names in google, found this link on their trip. I thought those guys were nuts until I read their book, then I knew that they were nuts.
https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/sp...rip-north-pole

Decades ago you could buy good candle lanterns in camp stores, we used them because a good one could put out good light. In the age of incandescent bulbs that burned up a lot of battery, a candle for light made sense. But now with LED headlamps that have good battery life, I have not used my old French candle lantern for decades.

Stove canisters, I carry a small plastic thing that is shaped like a small pan that I can put some warm water in, then set the canister in that. (Warm, not hot, too hot could be dangerous.) That way you can warm up the fuel to get your stove to function better when it is cold. If it is really cold, you might have to occasionally add warmer water to the dish. But really the best option is a liquid fuel stove when it gets that cold. The stoves that use coleman fuel (some call it white gas) are much better when below zero.

I would not go winter camping without a good liquid fuel camp stove. I prefer ones made by Optimus or Primus, but I have friends that prefer MSR. For serious cold weather I would use my Optimus 111B.

I am surprised you did not use ski goggles. I can't ride a bike when it is colder than freezing without googles.
I am gonna be honest with you, I almost always ride with goggles below 10F but I left them behind because they can get cumbersome with my glasses. 5 miles in I regretted the decision and after that I kind of got used to it until the pain started on day two.

thanks for all of the tips! It makes me wonder if modern equipment isn't always the best solution. I might add that I lived in Minnesota for quite some time myself and my personal record is also near -40F when a friend and I camped in the cascade valley on top of the frozen river. But that was much easier because we expected it, had proper stoves, and proper insulation.

Are you getting in on the north shore hammock craze??? I feel like all of the campers I know from Minnesota/Wisco have converted to hammocks now.
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Old 02-21-19, 05:15 PM
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You must be one of the most optimistic people ever. Your description of the ride sounds as terrible as I'd expect from a winter bikepacking trip(I hate the cold). You now have frostbite. Yet in the video you sound like you're loving the whole trip. I would have been setting that old house on fire for warmth.
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Old 02-21-19, 05:15 PM
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well after saying that I think you are nuts (Ive commuted at those temps, but riding all day and sleeping....yowzer), my one suggestion is how a candle lantern can easily and safely strung inside a tent. Ive done so for decades. I have some string rigged up in the upper center of my tent, and my candle lantern is hooked onto the thin rope using a bit of coiled metal wire that I keep in the plastic bag with my lantern, extra candles and matches. Works great for taking the damp chill out of a tent, but would help a bit for warmth also, although that would depend on how much wind there is, and how much meshing is on tent.

ski googles, I cant believe you didnt take them.
I know folks winter camp, so its certainly doable, you just have to address the factors that need addressing, so if this is what turns your crank, go for it, with the adjusting of stuff, and it will become realistic and more comfortable.
good luck on skin on nose, you certainly dont want to screw around with frostbite. Ive never had anything to that level, so hope it just peels like sunburn and comes back properly.
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Old 02-21-19, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Refreshing View Post
I am gonna be honest with you, I almost always ride with goggles below 10F but I left them behind because they can get cumbersome with my glasses. 5 miles in I regretted the decision and after that I kind of got used to it until the pain started on day two.

thanks for all of the tips! It makes me wonder if modern equipment isn't always the best solution. I might add that I lived in Minnesota for quite some time myself and my personal record is also near -40F when a friend and I camped in the cascade valley on top of the frozen river. But that was much easier because we expected it, had proper stoves, and proper insulation.

Are you getting in on the north shore hammock craze??? I feel like all of the campers I know from Minnesota/Wisco have converted to hammocks now.
Yeah, if you are wearing glasses, some goggles are not really designed well for them. Below freezing I wear goggles. I got some safety glasses a couple months ago that so far I think will work well in the upper 30s and 40s, they have a partial seal around the edges of the lenses, but small vent holes. And 50s and above, wrap around glasses or sunglasses.

Some modern equipment is great, but things like stoves the more modern is often lighter but otherwise does not offer that much of an advantage. I busted a pair of wooden snowshoes in the boundary waters, the modern metal frames likely would not have broken the way that the wooden pair busted. Modern tents are much lighter than ones from even a few decades ago. I backpacked the Grand Canyon about five years ago, I used a 1970s vintage backpack although I own newer ones. Overall I think that it is mixed, some new stuff is great and some is not much of an improvement. During the polar vortex that we had a few weeks ago, I was wearing a down parka that I bought in the 1970s, it was perfect for the weather. I am sure you can buy a modern one that is as good, but it would cost a fortune.

I just read this a couple days ago, very good read on dressing for cold weather.
https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/2...g-polar-vortex

I think a hammock is a nice thing to lie in during an afternoon if you want to relax, maybe with a beer in hand. But sleeping in them, no. Tried it once decades ago. It was a hot evening, too hot to go into a sleeping bag but the bugs were thick so too buggy outside the sleeping bag. And I like to move around a bit, a hammock is not designed for that very well. I have met people that use them, but none of my friends use them for sleeping in.
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Old 02-22-19, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Refreshing View Post
Thank you!!! I have considered bringing a candle in the past but I dont think I could sleep with a candle inside my tent. I would be too nervous. Do you have any special tips to make it safer?
I don't light the candle until first thing in the morning as soon as I've crawled out of the sack. High fat additions to meals is a good idea. It works for Eskimos.

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Old 02-22-19, 11:04 AM
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I advised against the candle, but some here are suggesting one.

Back in the days of incandescent bulbs and batteries that did not work well in cold, we often used candle lanterns in tents for light. I had (or maybe still have in storage) a French made one that hung, but could not sit on a flat surface. It had a spring loaded mechanism to push the candle up into the window part as it burned, worked quite well. Had a short chain at the top because you did not want a line that could melt or burn above it, I often used a large safety pin in the tent fabric (inner part of tent was breathable, not water proof) to hang the lantern from. Some lanterns that were sold decades ago had a wire handle instead of a chain.

I see that REI makes a similar one that looks like it can also stand on something flat. If you really think something like that would come in handy, get it and try it. But the top of the lantern can get hot, hot enough to melt nylon so do not let the top of it touch the tent. Perhaps add a bit of chain to hang it from, I think you can buy that kind of chain at a hardware store.
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Old 02-23-19, 09:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I advised against the candle, but some here are suggesting one.

Back in the days of incandescent bulbs and batteries that did not work well in cold, we often used candle lanterns in tents for light. I had (or maybe still have in storage) a French made one that hung, but could not sit on a flat surface. It had a spring loaded mechanism to push the candle up into the window part as it burned, worked quite well. Had a short chain at the top because you did not want a line that could melt or burn above it, I often used a large safety pin in the tent fabric (inner part of tent was breathable, not water proof) to hang the lantern from. Some lanterns that were sold decades ago had a wire handle instead of a chain.

I see that REI makes a similar one that looks like it can also stand on something flat. If you really think something like that would come in handy, get it and try it. But the top of the lantern can get hot, hot enough to melt nylon so do not let the top of it touch the tent. Perhaps add a bit of chain to hang it from, I think you can buy that kind of chain at a hardware store.
Thank you! That is some great tips. I think I would be comfortable trying this out as a way to warm the tent when I get out of the my sleeping bag in the morning like someone said above.... only one way to find out if it works!
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Old 02-23-19, 09:54 PM
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have you considered acquiring someone to snuggle with
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Old 02-24-19, 12:31 AM
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I’m glad I’m in South Texas I just have to worry about heat stroke and melting a friend of mine moved to San Antonio from Winnipeg and I ask how are you handling the heat? Reply was you don’t have to shovel heat and you won’t freeze to death attached to your mailbox.
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Old 02-24-19, 10:16 AM
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Got studded tires? Winter camping with out a tent? Yikes. I always go with a plan B and C, even for summer camping. Try this, do it again except in your yard at home. Tent, cook, sleep. Start there.
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Old 02-24-19, 11:16 AM
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this is the type of candle lantern that Ive used for decades hanging it with a bit of bendable wire, going from the attached handle on the lantern, to the permanently attached cord in the ceiling of the various tents we've had over the years. Same cord used to hang damp clothes at times.
Have banged into hanging lantern many times, but its never fallen, just swings. Must use common sense though, and yes, top of lantern can give you a good burn if you touch it. I use the two piece circular "light reflector" that attaches to these lanterns.

https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5027-9...le-Lantern-Kit
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Old 02-24-19, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Leebo View Post
Got studded tires? ... .
Studded tires are very slow, if you do not need studded tires they are best left at home. Yesterday they were quite slow for 20 miles riding near home (not touring). Photos are a few years old, but it is the same bike and tires I used yesterday.

First photo is where they are great, it was sheet ice after a frozen rain. But the second photo is conditions where they add nothing but slow you down. Sorry the photos are rotated, I fixed that on my computer but it became unfixed here.



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Old 02-24-19, 01:35 PM
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^^^ Uhh, studded tires keep me upright. You answered for the OP? Said he had ice and drifting snow. I have 4 pair of studded tires. Slow but upright is great for winter pedaling. YRMV.
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Old 02-24-19, 04:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Leebo View Post
^^^ Uhh, studded tires keep me upright. You answered for the OP? Said he had ice and drifting snow. I have 4 pair of studded tires. Slow but upright is great for winter pedaling. YRMV.
I was not answering for the OP, but I did not interpret his mention of drifting snow and ice as being any concern about slipping on ice.

Some people that have not used studded tires are unaware of the drawbacks, you obviously have extensive experience with studded tires.
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