Author Topic: equipment & route  (Read 663 times)

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Offline kkway

equipment & route
« on: May 20, 2014, 01:08:00 pm »
I will be retiring in a few years, and I'm planning on riding around the US in one trip. I have been researching this for several years. So two questions. Would a sleeping bag rated to 15-20 degrees be sufficient for winter temperatures across AZ and NM and late spring temperatures in WA, ID, & MT? Also, I plan on starting the NT by May 31st in Seattle: is this too early or too late?

Offline staehpj1

Re: equipment & route
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2014, 01:45:41 pm »
Sleeping bag ratings can be sketchy and how much insulation folks need it pretty variable person to person, but I did the ST in February and March with a 45 F bag and was happy.  To put that into perspective that 45 F bag is warmer than a lot of 32 F bags I have used and I apparently put out heat like a furnace.  Lowest temperature I recorded on the trip was 18 F.  Quite a few nights there was frost on the tarp and bivy.

In WA, ID, and MT what temperature you see will depend to some extent on your route, and how high you camp.  Avoiding staying at higher elevations can help a lot.  I had a really cheap 32 F bag when I rode there in very late spring and was fine.  That bag wasn't as warm as my 45 F Mountain Hardwear Phantom and again I was fine.

As I said I am OK with my 45 F bag when folks I have camped with in good 32 F bags claim to be freezing though.  So if you sleep particularly cold or warm adjust for that.

Bottom line...  a 15-20 F bag is probably fine for those times and places for most folks.

« Last Edit: May 20, 2014, 02:48:32 pm by staehpj1 »

Offline indyfabz

Re: equipment & route
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2014, 02:46:46 pm »
Also, I plan on starting the NT by May 31st in Seattle: is this too early or too late?

I once did Seattle to the NT and then headed east twice. Both times I started around May 23. Don't see how May 31st could be too late, although I don't know what criteria you might have in mind. School will likely be  in session, so the crowds will liekly not have materialized. Plus, it will likely be cold and wet in the N. Cascades that early, deterring many visitors. It's only about a 4-5 day ride until you hit the mountains. Whether it's too early will likely depend on your tolerance for chilly, wet weather.

Here is some data on historic openng and closing dates of the N. Cascades Highway:

http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Passes/NorthCascades/closurehistory.htm

As you can see, a start date of May 31st will likely not put you there before the road has fully opened. However, that does not mean you won't run into some weather. In '99 I hit rain somewhere along the climb. By the time I got to the first pass, the rain had turned to snow, although it was not sticking to the road surface. The following year there were a few snow flurries on the way up, but nothing major. Both years it poured a cold rain between Bay View and Rockport, and it was generally chilly and damp until Winthrop. If that is not for you, you might want to start later. Between Winthrop and Tonasket, it's generally warm and dry. Republic, at the foot of Sherman Pass, was on the chilly side. Snow showers crossing Sherman Pass both years. The rest of the way to Glacier N.P. was often on the chillier side with some light rain on several  days. But by no means miserable.

When picking a starting date there is an additional consideration down the pipeline: The opening date of Logan Pass in Glacier. You never know what's going to be up with that, especcially if the road re-hab project is still going on. For example, this year the NPS has announced that the earliest you will be able to ride the full length will be June 20th, even if the road has been fully plowed. The likeley reason for this is that they want uninterrupted time to perform work on the road. It's a lot easier (and cheaper) to perform road work with no traffic. If there are things like eemergency repairs needed due to avalanche damage, as was the case when I was lats there in '09, the opening could be delayed even further.

As for sleeping bags, Staehphj1 prety much covered it. Some people sleep warmer than others, and, as far as I know, there is no one standard that measures warmth. I took an REI brand 32 synthetic bag and got by with it, although I remember being cold a few night depsite having a good deal of clothes on. My current 20 degree Cat's Meow has served me well in sub-freezing temperatures.

Offline John Nelson

Re: equipment & route
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2014, 03:21:33 pm »
May 31 is a reasonable time to start the NT from Seattle, although a week or two later will reduce your chances of wet weather. However, I would adjust my schedule so as to not get to Glacier NP before Going To The Sun Road opens. Depending on the route you take and your daily mileage, it will take you about two weeks to get to Glacier. So, for me personally, I wouldn't leave more than two weeks prior to June 20. Furthermore, if GTTS Road is still closed when you get there but looks to open soon, I'd sit there in Avalanche Campground and wait for it.

One problem with a 15-20 degree bag is that it will be way too warm for a lot of your trip. I would prefer to go with a lighter bag and take a liner and sleep in my warm clothes when necessary. That gives you more latitude. But, as Pete says, it depends on your personal preferences and whether your greatest fear is being too cold or too hot. If you're circumnavigating the U.S., however, you better plan on being both.

Offline kkway

Re: equipment & route
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2014, 04:51:25 pm »
Thanks for the Info. My planned route out of Seattle is hwy 20 to hwy 2 which I will follow
around Glacier instead of going thru the Park.
 :'(

Offline tsteven4

Re: equipment & route
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2014, 07:10:57 pm »
I think you should reconsider, Logan Pass is not to be missed.  I would rate it as one of the top two roads in the U.S. I have ever ridden.

Offline JDFlood

Re: equipment & route
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2014, 12:04:13 am »
Good advice above. I think I started the Northern Tier about June1st and the passes in Glacier were just open. Got rained on on Rainy Pass.  The bag will be plenty warm for spring in the Northwest. I lived in AZ for 25 years. It can get to freezing or below in the Southwest in the winter. Seldom snow, but on the Plateau it can get colder. I usually subtract 10 degrees from a bags temperature to consider comfy. That is going to be a pretty warm bag in the summer. Can you send it back home and swap for a 50 degree bag for the summer. I have four bags. The lightest is one pound (the 50 degree bag) the 20 degree is a tad over 2 pounds. I really hate being hot... and a lot extra weight. Should be a great trip.

You do a lot of weekend trips and week trips for vacations now?

Offline John Nelson

Re: equipment & route
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2014, 12:10:32 am »
I think you should reconsider too. Riding over Logan Pass was the single most magnificent ride of my life. I might go all the way back to Glacier some day just to do it again.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: equipment & route
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2014, 06:13:30 am »
In regards to the sleeping bag.  Consider taking a stocking cap or balaclava to sleep in at night and cover your head.  It will help keep you warm at night.  Take a pair of wool socks too and wear them at night.  As others said, your bag will probably be too warm and hot by the time you get to the Midwest and East.

Offline staehpj1

Re: equipment & route
« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2014, 08:34:14 am »
Consider taking a stocking cap or balaclava to sleep in at night and cover your head.  It will help keep you warm at night.  Take a pair of wool socks too and wear them at night.  As others said, your bag will probably be too warm and hot by the time you get to the Midwest and East.

I agree on the socks.  Warm dry socks that you didn't wear during the day are a big help.  I never found I needed a cap for sleeping when using a sleeping bag with a proper hood, but it is often nice to have one while up and about.

Switching to a lighter bag in the Midwest is probably a good idea.  That said, you can use a bag over a pretty wide range.  As the temperature drops I progress as follows:
  • Sleep on top of the bag, or don't use it at all
  • If you carry a liner sleep in just that
  • Use the bag like a quilt with arms and legs hanging out as needed
  • Get inside the bag, but don't zip
  • Zip up
  • Use the hood
  • Close the hood tight (just a small opening to breathe) and wear extra socks
  • Add layers of clothing, either worn or piled on top of you
I often go through a good portion of those step in a single night in the mountains or desert.  With that approach I have been fine with my 17 oz bag from extreme heat down into the teens F.

I also think that doing the steps rather than being too warm early in the night helps.  If you climb into and zip up your bag and get sweaty you will be cold and damp later when the temperature drops.

Offline indyfabz

Re: equipment & route
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2014, 08:36:26 am »
I think you should consider three. Marias Pass (U.S. 2) is nothing to write home about, and it is long. Its also has truck and RV traffic. Did it E-W in '09. It simply doesn't compare to Logan Pass. Everything after the world's largest purple spoon is from the west side of GTS:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/davez2007/sets/72157620763740044/

If your concern is skipping the stretch in Alberta, there are other ways to get to Cut Bank from St. Mary. Again, I would not skip that. Waterton Village is a great place for a rest day. The town campsite is in a dramatic setting:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/davez2007/3675812975/in/set-72157620763740044

Also, don't know if you are just generalizing, but I would stick to the "official" route rather than getting on U.S. 2 as early as possible and sticking with that. You would miss some nice stretches such as MT 37 along the east shore of Lake Koocanusa. Le Clerc Rd. between Ione, WA and and Newport and MT 56 towards Libby, jut to name a few. Much less traffic than U.S. 2.

For my two trips out that way, I took a short ferry from Seattle and got on the Pacific Coast route north. Stayed at Kitsap, Fort Worden S.P. and then Bay View, which is on the Northern Tier route. Fort Worden was very nice. It's the former military base that was used in the film "An Officer and a Gentleman."