After camping out a couple of times in a regular tent last winter I decided to look around for the cold weather tent we used when I was up in Norway. These were military ten man Arctic tents and when combined with a gasoline stove they were very warm and comfortable inside even when it got really cold outside. I found a five man tent this spring, which is just a smaller version of the one I was used to.
The tent itself is made from canvas, there’s a liner that goes inside it, and one big center pole that holds it up. The sides are held up by lines tied to stakes in the ground. In addition it also has a place for a stove pipe built in, which is very convenient.
I rolled the tent out in my basement and installed the liner, which was kind of a pain. Bear in mind this tent is designed for five people, or about the size of a fire-team, and I was doing all the work myself.
After I had it all put together I carried it down my back lawn and set it up where the tipi used to sit. Setting it up by myself wasn’t that difficult, but it probably took a half hour or more of fussing with the ropes and stakes in order to get it right. One thing to remember is that I set the tent up on dry ground. When we used to set them up in the snow it always took longer: everything takes longer in cold weather for that matter.
You may remember the ammo can stove post I made awhile back. I bought this before I bought the tent knowing that at some point I’d have the right combination to put together and about two weeks ago I finally made it happen.
After I had the tent up I took the stove and pipe and set it up in the tent, which took all of three minutes. I fired it up using small pieces of hardwood I split with my knife and within ten minutes the inside of the tent was warm enough for me to strip down to my undershirt. I was shocked at just how well this little stove worked. I used it in the tipi last winter and while it got fairly warm I didn’t have a liner inside and most of the heat escaped through the smoke hole at the top.
The liner in the tent makes all the difference in the world. Once the stove was going I actually had to take care to keep the heat down so I didn’t sweat inside.
The stove is small, only twelve inches in length, so you have to make sure the wood you cut is small enough to fit inside it. Not a huge deal, but it can be tricky if you’re used to cutting a 16″ length for your home wood stove. I used a small guide so that I wouldn’t cut the wood too long.
Being a small stove it requires a bit more attention than your home wood stove, but if you’re camping in the middle of winter I can guarantee you won’t mind huddling up to this stove and throwing wood in every fifteen or twenty minutes.
Back in the 80′s I went to Minnesota for cold weather training (two weeks at -40 degrees) and then up to Norway for another month or so in the snow during a big operation we were involved in. (Check out this video of winter operations in Norway. I was here around the same time from the look of the gear. Those damned ahkios (the sled) at the end ran over everybody in my fire team multiple times!)
Anyway, the stove is an important part of a winter bivouac if you’re going to be out there for any amount of time.
We used the Yukon stoves in these tents – mostly gasoline operated – and they worked fine, but we had to have access to gas in order to keep them running at night. Also, you had to be extremely careful when lighting them else you might end up with shorter eye brows. I know – it happened to me. If you get one of these stoves I’d advise using it as a wood stove for a couple of reasons: 1) After TSHTF gasoline will be hard to come by, 2) Wood is a renewable resource. If you’re in a forest you’re literally surrounded by fuel.
The Sleep System
The sleep system is the final part to the equation. You’ll need a warm sleeping bag and a good sleep pad that will keep you insulated from
the ground. The MILSURP bags I’ve been testing have worked very well so far and I intend to keep testing them over the winter to find out at what temperature they no longer work well in. Stay tuned for that report.
Here are some final thoughts on this cold weather combination. First, it’s not a lightweight solution. The tent with liner probably weighs about 55 or 60 lbs. The rest of the gear adds up to a lot of weight, which is why we used the ahkios you see in the video above during winter operations in Norway. With two or three guys pulling one it was possible to make decent time on a march. Hard work for sure, but very doable.
Next, cold weather camping isn’t for everybody. This is a much more comfortable way to camp than setting up a small tent you’ve packed in on your back. These days I’d either use it with my family off the back of my truck or as a hunting camp, or maybe on an overnight trip with the guys out in the middle of the woods. If you don’t like winter camping or have never tried it this might be a good way to introduce yourself to it.
Mrs Jarhead came out to visit me after I had the stove up and running and was very surprised at just how warm it was in there. She sat out with me for awhile bare foot on the cot and seemed to enjoy herself while she was out there. If we ever had to do a winter bug-out and it was feasible to bring this tent and stove I’d be very comfortable with the wife and kids in there knowing I could keep them warm and dry.
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