Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hot Tenting Trial - Algonquin Park.

My wife and I recently "invested" in a hot tent. A canvas tent that you can use a wood burning stove inside to heat. We invested in this to make deep winter camping bearable and to open a whole other season of back country travel. In order to successfully do multi day trips in the winter you need to be able to dry out your gear. If you cannot within a couple days it is so full of moisture that it ceases to be warm and that as a whole is no good.

So we found a nice looking 8'x10' wall tent on Wintertrekking.com, in their classified section. For the stove we purchased a Kni-co "Packer" directly from them. Our original plan was to head up to a local conservation area to try out all the new gear and see how it works and to see if we need anything else. However since we had a long weekend here we both took an extra day off and decided to jet up to Algonquin for some winter fun.

Our tent did not come with a internal frame, nor were we going to stay in the back country this trip to be able to find dead fall to construct a frame on the spot, so I had to come up with another means. So what I did is use a 2" x 27' ratchet strap between two trees as the ridge line, and make 4' "pikes" with lags in them for the side eaves. Then it was just a matter of guying out the tent by the "pikes". My wife and I had the tent up with no problem on a beautiful site in Mew Lake within a hour...Remember first time setting up.

The set up wall tent.

As soon as we got the tent up in went the rest of the gear, Stove set up, Chimney out the back, fire wood lit. Setting up the interior is a fun game, trying to maximize comfort and location for ease of access. My wife was going to be staying on a cot, and myself on the ground beside.  Within another hour we were fully ready for the weekend.

Smoke Stack Out The back.

Because this weekend was family day, there was all sort of demonstration and event happening within the campground, it made for quite a lively day, meeting and greeting new people sharing stories about adventures within the park etc. I even had the pleasure of meeting two gents from Wintertrekking.com who were there camping as well.

Relaxing By The Wood Stove.
As the night came to a close and the festivities wound down we retired back to our tent to relax and take in some reading. This is when I had my first lesson on wood stoves. Well as we were relaxing I notices that I could not get a good fire going, and there seem to be smoke coming into the tent. The adjustable elbow was leaking smoke. At first I thought it was perhaps the crimped ridges and perhaps they were not fitted properly. as we explored in a frustrated fury I decided to check the stove pipe and sure enough the Kni-co spark arrester had completely clogged and there was no draft. As I removed this the fire came back to life and we were able to calm down enough to hit the sack.

Seeing as this was a "learning trip" I wanted to see if I could keep the fire going all night for to reasons. One: to keep my wife warm, as she hates being cold, and two: just cause.  Well it seems that the small size of the stove made for hourly firewood installations. Not fun. I got a horrible sleep, if you can even call it that. It was -31 and me constantly trying to keep the fire going in a state of extreme tiredness was not fun. I would get the fire going, fall into a pseudo-sleep and the wake up a hour later cold and worried about my wife. Needless to say I awoke at 5:30 and was up and at em' with the stove making the tent a balmy 25*C

First coffee of the morning.
 We got coffee going ASAP and added twice the amount of coffee, a newly dubbed "Algonquin kick start" drink was invented. Both tried cold but happy we decided on a hike on Hemlock Bluff was in order for the day. One of the most beautiful winter hikes in Algonquin...My opinion.

7 am: Coffee and wool. Warm and ready.
 The hike was wonderful. The trail packed so no snowshoes were necessarily. The temp was about -25 and as we hiked perspiration was freezing on the outside of our clothes. This movement of sweat is great, it brings it to the surface keeping you dry, and with a  quick brush off goes all the moisture. The hike was about two hours and it was just long enough, as we were getting hungry and our lack of sleep made us a little stiff. After the hike we made our way to the visitor center to take a look. Apparently a Moose had been killed by a motorist and the Wardens had dragged the carcass out in to a field visible at the center. They do this in hopes to attract wildlife for people to see and take pictures of. There was only ravens on the moose during our visit. Oh well.

Hemlock Bluff Look out.
 We returned back to camp to relax and again try our hand at working this wood stove. While the wood available by the parks is just hardwood it take some small pieces to get decent flame for heat, It is unfortunate that it is not a mix for good burning. As we chatted and ate snacks around 8 pm we called it a night and again I was persistent to try my hand at keeping the fire. Well again it was -30 and I gave it more attention which only led to me getting colder faster, climbing in and out of my bag. I could not produce the energy to constantly be warming the air within the bag. At one point my wife whispered that she was "toasty" and that I should just leave it alone for the night to get some sleep. That was music too my ears and I was able to get about 4 hours of sleep.

Frost In my Wife's Hair.
 The next morning I was up at 6 am, got the fire going and awoke My wife to say if you want to get dressed up now is the time as the tent was cooking. She arose and we again had coffee on. Before long we had boiled eggs and oatmeal in our stomachs ready for our day. After some conversation we decided because of the lack of sleep we might take off for the weekend and take advantage of the extra day at home to "recoup" before work. So it was about-30 and we started the procession of taking down the tent. Within a hour or so we were packed up and saying good-bye to the wonderful scenery. The drive was beautiful and sunny. We had a great time, and discussed what we had learned while out and about my wifes first experience winter camping.

Along The Trail
Hot tenting is going to be a great part of our outdoors life. It's fun, exciting and such a wonderful time to be out in the bush. We hope to maybe get another small trip in this year. Also during the off season I will be building a internal frame out of 1" EMT conduit for close short back country adventures where perhaps distance is 1-3km and couple trips are do-able if needed.

Frost on my Swanndri Bushshirt.
I hope to meet some like minded people to perhaps have some deep back country trips with. Also we are pondering "renting out" the set up for experienced campers who cannot at this time fork out the funds for the entire set up, this would be great and totally worth while for both parties. So stay tuned folks. Here's to successful winter-trekking trips and learning even more.

Hemlock Bluff Look out.




7 comments:

  1. Jealous... That's a lot of work for a weekend. A true man sacrifices sleep to keep his wife warm, hope that got you some brownie points haha!

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    1. Its is and it isn't man. I find "car camping" way more laborious. and I only hope we shave more gear out that we didn't use. I think when we start walking out to camp it will be more like a canoe trip (gear wise). As for the brownie points...you know it! ha!

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  2. Hi Chris, Cool trip; too bad I am way out west otherwise I would be in for renting your gear to show my partner the joys of winter camping. Do you plan on using a pulk or tobaggan for some of your longer trips with this set up?

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    1. Jenn, Gosh Darn-it! As for the Tobaggan, yes. We will be using. The Gent I bought the tent off of through in a 8ft Freighter Toboggan. I also have a small pulk I made years back that my wife will be using. These two should be enough for our gear!

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  3. Wow, Nice write up, I have always wanted to winter camp in algonquin but my wife would have none of it! There may be hope after reading this, though - How did it hold up in the wind without a frame?

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    1. The tent held up fine, as the Sod cloth anchors it into the ground really well.

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  4. SOme good advice. We go camping several times a year. So fun!

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