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Seeking advice on hot-tent winter camping
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Author:  deepnet [ November 24th, 2013, 9:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Seeking advice on hot-tent winter camping

Hello Folks:

So, after years of mulling, I think this is the year that I get into proper hot-tent winter camping. I've canoe tripped as late as early November (canoeing, -3C), and hiking trips as early as late March in (-5C lows, with 3' of snow).

I've read lots online, here and at I still have some questions for you seasoned veterans:

- I'm leaning to a blended cavas/nylon tent with no floor:
- I've considered a Kifaru tipi, but after watching a video and reading up, I think the issues with snow load and condensation are not worth the weight savings. I did watch this video of a guy using this tent, and while he did fine with it, it looks cold, and worrying all night about snow load is not appealing!

- I'm a leaning to the Kifaru stoves though, as several people here claim it works fairly well, and the weight savings are phenominal (and, they pack down).
- The new oval stoves are 1/2 the weight, for the same heating capacity. Anyone have any experience with them, compared to the square ones?

- It appears this is a very subjective area for hot-tents, ranging from fur tree branches, plastic tarp, closed cell foam, burlap, Tyvex, or nothing!
- I do not want to use branches, as I'm likely to camp in Killarney in Jan/Feb, and the rules are clear (and I would not be comfortable anyway cutting live branches.)

Sleep system:
- I have good -12C down bags, and plan to put them in a summer bag, and use an inside liner as well.
- Using a foam mat or good reflective blanket under the pads seems like a good idea too?
- Or, are people super big fans of an emergency bivvy, like this: ... 10&q=bivvy

- It appears many people bring an ice auger or ice pick, and cut holes in the lake ice to fetch water? An ice auger seems much easier, although heavier?
- I have a gravity filter, which inside a hot-tent I assume it would work fine. I'm not fond of tablets. I guess in a hot-tent, simple water boiling vigorously would suffice, but I sure trust my water filters (gravity and pump).

- On this, it seems most popular to NOT bring in wood, as long as you camp off summer sites.
- Finding and cutting standing dead trees is work, but away from summer sites, seems basic enough (although time consuming).
- Do people bring any wood at all on their pulks, as a precaution?

- I've built a couple myself, from various online sources.
- I plan on using my backpack, and attaching the pulk to it.
- The packs would only carry a modest amount of weight (sleeping bags). Mainly there to attach pulks.

- I take it that using a butane latern light inside these tents is a bad idea (CO gas).
- Other than headlights, do people bring battery latterns for inside the tent?

- Do people generally plan to keep the stove going all night (assume low -15C temps), or give up and let it go out and freeze up?

- Here, it seems like there is again a lot of subjective choices.
- I have good waterproof hikers, but I think adding gaitors would be essential?
- I don't have snow boots with liners, which seem like a good idea?
- I do have snowshoes, and skis, so footwear is a little less of a worry.

- I love Killarney, and last year on a yurt trip with my son, I saw people sledding in for winter camping off George Lake (not in the campground). I'm inclined to do the same. Going that far north helps ensure more snow, and avoid 0C weather.
- But, having closer options (to southern Ontario) would be good. Algonquin, I suppose. Any crown land suggestions south of Killarney?

I think that's my questions for today! Thanks in advance to all for the advice and input.

Author:  RHaslam [ November 24th, 2013, 9:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Seeking advice on hot-tent winter camping

I'll comment on the things I know about. You can burn gas lights in your tent all night. Your stove is sucking in air like crazy, most winter tents have vents or lose doors that allow airflow. I have burned naptha gas and propane lanterns in canvas tents for years.

Don't haul in wood, unless you are camping close to your vehicle. Wood is pretty darn heavy if you plan on hauling any distance. A good saw and axe and an hour or two of working will get you through the night. If you plan n heating all night (many don't) you better have a good pile.

A backpack is going to be a pain in your back, and shoulders and everywhere else. You can make a simple harness to drag your sleds.

Water filters will freeze if the filter has water in it, thinking about when you drag in and out. Might take a while to thaw, and not sure if some filters will withstand freezing. An ice auger is awesome and fast, but a chisel is lighter and smaller. Unless you are going to ice fish, if there is an abundance of snow, why not just melt a bunch on your stove?

Never underestimate the importance of good boots. My experience has been boots with liners are king. Your feet are going to sweat no matter what. Liners can be taken out, hung on your ridge and dried for the next day. Unless you are travelling pre-packed trails, snowshoes and skis will not do much to protect you from being covered in snow. If you are breaking trail, you are going deep.

Author:  Bill P [ November 25th, 2013, 8:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Seeking advice on hot-tent winter camping

I will chime in on your tent. It sounds like want to go as light as possible and travel a bit and not base camp all the time. A snowtrekker tent would be the best option for you. At deepfreeze the people with snowtrekkers have their tent set up before we even have poles cut. In Killarney unless you bring in poles which are heavy it will be time consuming to find poles. The rest of your kit sounds alright but I would put every thing on a sled, pulk and take boots with liners.

Author:  RHaslam [ November 25th, 2013, 8:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Seeking advice on hot-tent winter camping

Ya, I'm with Bill on the snow trekker. My buddy has a big one, and it sets up very fast. We used a prospector style for years, it was OK for base camping, but would be a pain for extended travel, what with pole cutting at each site.

Author:  gunnelbob [ November 25th, 2013, 3:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Seeking advice on hot-tent winter camping

On Location, while Killarney is pretty in summer and winter you really dont have to go that far to enjoy winter camping. First you arent competing for sites so there are thousands of lakes south of Killarney ( Id also hate to have to drive the 637 after a snowstorm). What you do need is a winter access road that will be plowed and aim your campsite within 3-8 km Max from the car, depending on depth of snow pulling on a sled is slow going especially on even slightly hilly terrain. A parkinglot in a marina is ideal. Also quite a few "cottage" lakes have considerable crown land so aim for those points..Cottage lakes also attract snowmobilers, so while the noise isnt attractive they will provide you with a groomed lake trail that will ease access.

And as a final note so many things can go "wrong" on a winter trip so to ease into it you might want to start in a car campground such as Mew lake in algonquin where they also provide wood and you can trade stories and ideas from fellow winter neighbours.

Finally , there are two major rail lines that run through southern Ontario. Last year I winter camped halfway between both of those lines. In winter sound travels far. Look to see if you are close to a noisy hiway or near a rail line and well as overlay snowmobile routes which are busy on weekends.

and finally dont get too remote...coming back to a dead car battery and no cell access could become deadly...consider Deep Freeze would learn a lot !

Author:  deepnet [ November 25th, 2013, 11:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Seeking advice on hot-tent winter camping

Thanks folks for the advice. A few more questions:

- Is it common to dig down to ground for the tent, if there is not a ton of snow? Bad idea?

- What do you do for a thunderbox in the winter? I was thinking of bringing a plastic bucket with the bottom cut out, and removing snow to ground away from camp. Very different from crown land camping in summer, where "squat and go" is straight forward.

- The Snowtrekker company sells a heavy duty tarp tarp that seems pretty good as a floor material (and bottom sleeping pad layer)... thought?

- As to melting snow as a water source, my understanding that that was far from recommended (burns, need a lot of snow to get enough water.) Sounds like some folks here have indeed used snow as a primary water source, without treatment (just boil)?

- Any one big into bringing a cot to sleep on? They are heavy, and I was not inclined to bother (just use suitable layers underneath, and a good exped).



Author:  ravinerat [ January 5th, 2014, 4:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Seeking advice on hot-tent winter camping

I have a Snowtrekker and love it. Really depends what your going to be doing for winter camping as to what tent you get. I too looked at all manufactures. I didn't like the tipi style as they only give you sufficient room by the floor. In my tent you can stand comfortable, sit comfortable and move around. I have a 9x11.5 and if there are others sleeping in it we divide it up for hauling.

I don't use a floor but some times we use boughs to stop the slipperiness. Taking boughs isn't going to hurt the forest. Think what the logging company do in the first 1/2 hour of work. If car camping or hauling with a snowmobile I take a cot. It's all about comfort for me. If we are hauling in with toboggans I usually build a snow bed. Quite comfortable.

We collect dead wood and use a swede saw and a hatchet/axe to split. The tent is comfortable for socializing and you can dry all your gear out.

We do both melt snow or gather water from lakes. Much easier to Auger the holes for water than try to chomp through. my Auger is pretty light.

Best investment I have made and has increased my stay out in the bush.


Author:  awbrown [ February 15th, 2014, 4:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Seeking advice on hot-tent winter camping

There is no reason to worry so much about filtering your water. Filters don't like freezing. Just bring your water to a boil. It's okay to use snow, just stay away from the yellow kind. Yes, it takes more snow, but you're probably going to have a lot of it around.

Now, let's talk Thunderbox......... If you're not comfy with just sqattin', a very effective seat is to take two branches, approximately 6 feet long and 2 inches (or larger) in diameter. Line em up side by side and wrap some line around them about 6 inches or so from one end.

You want them to pivot, forming a V shape. Find a downed tree, lay the closed end of the V on top of the downed log, spread the open end of the V apart which is sitting on the ground in order to form a stable platform so to speak. This creates a "toilet seat" of sorts. Works real well, just adjust the width of the opening to fit the size of your bum and you're all set. Sittin' high and dry!

Author:  kgd [ February 18th, 2014, 8:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Seeking advice on hot-tent winter camping


For the past three years I've been cold tenting. Actually, I use just a silnylon tarp and bivvy sack with a synthetic bag (Wiggy's ultima thule). The bag is big and heavy, but I drag everything in a sled.

Things to consider. 1 km in the summer is like 3 km on snowshoes. Try not to plan too much distance in winter. Gunnelbob's advice is very much worth heeding. Plus, I have had situations where it was easy going in and then hard getting out due to storms where it took twice as long coming out as going in. It also gets dark early in the winter, so realistically you usually begin setting up came at around 2:00-3:00 pm, forage for wood and pile it in place for cutting, which can be done at night on the fly. You don't want to forage for wood at night. Bring a full size buck saw. I use a 24" take-down trailblazer saw for cutting wood. I also bring a boy's axe. Both tools are necessary since fire is your best safety net in the winter.

Water - snow is good. If setting up camp with a group, point out an area where there is fresh snow and make a circle around the perimeter with a stick. That is your fresh snow. Ask folks not to pee there, otherwise at night people will be wondering off making yellow snow in every possible direction. Bring a BIG pot. Leave the titanium 600 mL cookware for backpacking. Get a 4L aluminum pot to boil snow. At night, a plastic nalgene filled with boiling water/tea makes a wonderful personal heater. The nalgene doesn't get too hot to the touch, if you have a metal one you need to wrap it in wool socks otherwise it will burn you. Plus you have something to wet your mouth if you get thirsty and the water will not freeze while its in your bag.

Privy - I use a gateraide bottle for a pee bottle at night. Bladder can't hold all the tea and hot chocolate I'm drinking over the fire before going to bed and I prefer not to get out of the sleeping bag if I can help it. Make sure its air tight and has a different feel/shape then your nalgene bottle. Its a bit weird at first to go while you are in your bag, but its not that bad. Just don't overfill your bottle :) For #2, just squat and go. Use a tree to lean on if that helps.

Floor - depends on the situation. Sometimes tamping the snow down with your snow shoes and then going over it with your boots will pack the snow enough. However, it has to be absolutely level to do this. Otherwise, your body heat will ineviteably leach through your pad and melt a bit of the snow. After a couple of nights it can be like a slip and slide where your pad is. Might have to line it with pine boughs to keep the friction up. If you can do pine boughs that works great, but it is both a lot of work and hard on trees around you. Use your judgement. Digging a little bit to get to harder pack snow helps a lot. This is what I do mostly for cold camping.

Tent - I just bought a nylon tent with a stove jack. Its a custom tipi tent made by BearPaw Wilderness Outfitters. As a single pole tipi style tent, snow loading is not an issue. Besides, I don't get the fear of snow loading. Just wipe the snow off if you are worried about it. That's what we did with our tarps and never had an issue even in heavy downfalls. I also bought a seek-outside titanium stove to go with it. Unfortunately, my work schedule has not let me get out and use this setup, although I used the tipi tent for fall camping this year. Here is a video of my set up in the backyard where I was testing out the stove/tent combo:

I like the seek-outside stove, but I kind of wish I bought one of the Titanium-Goat ones that are round and roll up as opposed to flat and screw together like mine is. Both have plus' and minus' but the Ti-Goat one probably won't warp like the square ones do (its a minor issue anyway). Personally, I'd suggest either the seek-outside or Ti-Goat in preference to the Kifaru stove. I saw and used a kifaru, nice stove, but at a very steep price compared to these competitors.

Like I said, I haven't used my tent/stove in winter yet. All my camping has been cold camping. I'm not even sure if I want to sleep in my tent because I can see it getting pretty cramped in there and I kind of like sleeping under a tarp in my bivvy (maybe I'm weird that way). Part of my plan is to keep the tent as a clear area to warm up, do some cooking on the stove dry my gear. Seems like it would be better with a couple of stools than having all the room taken up by a sleeping bag/pad. Besides, even when hot tenting you really have to have sleep gear that will get you through the weather conditions encountered. It would be foolish to rely on your stove for heat. Plus most small titanium stoves (like the one I have) burn hot and fast. They are good at heating things up and cooking, but they don't run that well when damped down. You would be lucky to get an hour burn before having to restock it with wood.

Here are a couple of cold camping trip videos - one at Puzzle Lake and the other in UP Michigan. I'm posting them because there is a lot of footage about our camp choice and shelter set up info.

Last thing - is a great place for solid advice. The owner/moderator (Hoop or Wintertrekker on youtube) is a solid and really personable guy. If you ask him advice by PM he always gets back to you and he is a treasure trove of knowledge. I've learned a lot from talking with him by e-mail.

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