Happy Cold, Cold, Very Cold New Years!

There’s nothing like the present when trying out a new thing.  I’ve winter camped before- any climbing we’ve done in the Ghost Valley in Alberta required a sketchy truck drive, a long hike, and then a cold camp.  Being two, or three guys, and naturally without the absolute NEED to share a tent (ie. a narrow bivvy on the side of some cliff), we opted to each set up our individual little nylon tent, and then freeze solidly for the 12 hours of darkness.

I’m older, wiser, and will be sharing the tent with my wife and little ones.  As well, this makes a perfect warming shelter (which will be its primary use) when doing bush work, maple syrup…etc.  I ordered this from https://www.canadianoutdoorequipment.com/ which is a funky little shop in Port Credit that specializes in more heavy-duty outdoor gear.

When I was younger, travelling lighter, and had pre-kid disposable income, and spending my non-work days doing kinda fun stuff in the mountains, I was really, really into the ultra-light gear.  I wanted packs and jackets and tents that weighed about nothing, and with which I could get a good, full season of use, a second season of duct-tape-patched use, after which I would pitch the tattered, ultra-light rags and start.  If I used that same gear in the tree, anything Pata-gucci or ArcTear-it, I believe it would last a good couple of months or so…

But, as my leisure time has become, well, work time ( three mouths to feed, and counting ..), and I began to realize a penny saved is sure better than a penny charged on credit, I slowly began migrating to the burlier, heavier, and more enduring winter gear.

Which lead me to purchasing the 20lb Tent and 10lb Wood Stove, which is about 6x the weight of my old MSR Fusion tent, BUT will probably out last it by a ten-factor.


Practice Camping with a bail out a scant few hundred meters away. It is only about -15 in the mid day. At this temp, it’s pretty easy to keep the tent balmy warm.

And, it was in this canvas palace that I spent the closing nights of the New Year.  It was hovering around -30, and I was a bit sick with a bout of the flu, but I really, REALLY wanted to test it out.

So, how did I fare?  Set up took about 45 minutes, all told, and that’s for an amateur (I’d set it up in practice, once, and then spent some time on http://wintertrekking.com trying to figure out everything that went wrong the first time).  I’m pretty good with knots, being an arborist and all, so that bit went easy, and my commitment factor was pretty low.  This was in the folks-in-law’s orchard- their big, warm, heat-pump heated house was only a few hundred meters away.

I could bail so long as Grandma remembered to keep the door unlocked.

I hunkered down with an oil lamp, a wool blanket, a small stack of green Ash, and a well-thumbed book (Little House in the Big Wood). My wife left me to help tend the boys around 10:00 pm or so, and there I was, alone, in the Wild… sorta.

I did hear a Coyote, at some point, I think.  Mighta been Grandma’s furnace kicking in…

But, this was a practice run.  I was mildly uncomfortable all night, due to the fact that I was using green wood, which probably could have used another split.  I had the draw and damper completely closed on the Kni-Co wood stove, which tempered the heat ALOT (before going to bed, I had the tent roasty enough, even in -30, to just wear a flannel shirt).  I could have stayed roasty if I didn’t mind restocking the stove every hour, but I would probably have minded that.  Oh, and I might not completely close the draw next time- I had a bit of a head ache in the morning, and keep forgetting my kid’s names.

At any rate, I got some patchy sleep, but was refreshed enough ( headache excepting…) the next morning to hang out a bit longer, read more about little Laura and Mary, and Ma and Pa Ingalls, and then go for a snow shoe run and then help with the New Years dinner preps ( I might have laid out the forks, don’t remember- that dang closed damper!).

Winter camping is hard to fake. One night does not a respectable trip make, and it takes a degree of practice, and routine, to make it work so that your wife and kids don’t end up hating you (it, life…) someday.

Practice makes perfect.  We’ll try it again next weekend, when, once again, the weatherman is calling for -30.