ECW Tent in the Snow

This post is a continuation of cold weather clothing and gear articles that we’ve been doing lately.  Calamity Jane opened with Cold Weather Basics and I then wrote a follow up post called, “It’s Winter – Don’t Go Hiking Without Proper Clothing!

This post goes into more detail about the equipment I’ve been buying and setting up for cold weather camping and the experiences I’ve had with it.

About two weeks ago I used my phone to record a trip out to my tent to knock the snow off and check things over.

I mostly made this video because there have been people commenting here that they don’t know much about cold weather or snow, so I thought I’d make a quick of vid of what snowshoeing through a winter forest looks like.

The tent is a military Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) Five Man tent, which I had lots of experience with back in the 80’s when we went to Norway and other cold weather operations.  Those with mobile devices can see the video here.

ECW Tent

The tent comes with a liner that you can see in the video that helps trap the heat when a stove is going.  The military used Yukon stoves, which are quite a bit bigger than the ammo can stoves, and it’s also a multi-fuel system.

Stove and Gear

Inside the tent I have an ammo can stove, a cot, and some extra gear like a canteen and cup, rope, etc.  There’s a stream about 20 yards away for fresh water.

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The ammo can stove heats the tent nicely once it’s warmed up, but recently I’ve been having a problem getting it really hot.  I’m in the process of removing the spark arrestor to see if that will help the air flow (draw) to the stove (based on a problem Leon Pantenburg was having with his stove.)  I’ll let you know how that works out in a later post.

Something I’ve found to help with those really cold mornings in the tent is to take the small alcohol stove and put it inside the Solo Stove and fire it up.  That heats the inside of the tent very quick.

It’s also a good way to utilize the Solo Stove if it’s raining or you can’t get dry wood.

Someone asked about using an alcohol stove inside the Solo Stove in a previous comment and I thought I’d share what I found out, that being the small soda can alcohol stove works fine in the larger Solo Stove.

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I also use it to heat the water for my morning coffee thus killing two birds with one stone.

The alcohol stove heats the tent quickly and the slower heating ammo can stove helps to keep it nice and warm.

Sleeping Bag

The military sleeping bag I use does a pretty good job, but you have to have it buttoned up tight or you will get cold.  The bivy is a nice touch because it’s light enough over your face not to suffocate you, but warm enough to keep

the heat in.

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The biggest problem with a sleeping bag in cold weather is that you tend to migrate away from the cold towards the heat, meaning that your head moves away from the face opening down into the bag itself.  The moisture from your breath then causes the bag to get damp,

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which can lead to a chilly night if it’s cold enough.  You’re clothes will also be damp when you unzip your bag in the morning and that will also be uncomfortable.

The bivy bag goes up over the head and traps enough heat to keep your face comfortable without all the moisture going into the sleeping bag itself.  The inside of the bivy over your face will probably be ice encrusted, but that’s to be expected when it’s cold.

A good sleeping mat or two is essential in cold weather.  The ground is cold and will quickly sap the heat from your body if you’re not properly insulated.  I’ve been sleeping on a cot (I know – I’m getting soft) with a single sleep mat and that has worked out really well for me.

I’ve been chilly a couple of times, but I

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believe that was due to my not using the bag properly.  When I zipped everything up and used the bivy over my face I was warm even at 10 degrees F.

Keep in mind that the same sleeping bag will probably yield different results for different people.  Body temperature wise I tend to run hot and Mrs. Jarhead runs cold, so she might be cold in the same bag at the same temperature that I find comfortable.

A Few Thoughts On Cold Weather Camping

This is probably not a sport everybody is going to enjoy like I do.  Your hands and feet get cold, your face gets cold, working outside is a struggle, sometimes you get mad and swear a lot, things that normally work fine freeze up and don’t work at all, snow shoeing in deep snow is very difficult, snow falls off the trees and down the neck of your jacket, and on and on.

It’s a challenge, which is exactly what I like about it.  Anybody can take a sleeping bag and pack in the summer and go camping, but in the winter there’s a lot more to think about.

Another thing to think about is what happens if you have to bug out in the winter with no place to go and camping is your only option?  Are you equipped?  Do you have the knowledge and skills necessary to do it?  Are you mentally strong enough to spend a few nights outside in the winter?

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

41 comments… add one
  • Waterboy January 11, 2013, 12:19 pm

    I’ll bet the ammo can stove fire started more easily after warming the flue with the alcohol stove as well. We used to heat with wood stoves and I often used a couple sheets of rolled up newspaper to warm the flue and get things going. Good article.

  • Tino January 11, 2013, 1:45 pm

    I recall doing a lot of ‘camping’ in the military without any tents and sleeping bags. A knife and means to create fire was all that was required. Yup, and there usually was a BN after you.

    When the SHTF for real, do you have your cosy tent with all the ameneties to survive with you?

    Better prepare for the bare-bones survival.

    I recall one joke from Norway (spent years in that country): An American unit was training cross-country skiing. Some tourists watched and one commented: Those Norwegians sure know $hit about skiing, but they sure know how to swear fluently in English.

    Naturally a tent or a cabin is a better option. Good article.

    Stay safe and warm out there,


    • Jarhead Survivor January 11, 2013, 3:01 pm

      I agree with you that knowledge is more important than gear and I’ve often said that myself. Knowing how to make a shelter using just a knife or how to dig a snow cave could save your life.

      This type of camping is fun for me though, whereas the other type is just about survival. Gear is good, but if it’s about survival you really have to understand and practice survival fundamentals.

      • Tino January 12, 2013, 12:00 pm

        No doubt camping is always fun. I did no mean to disparage you or camping at all. Good for you doing and testing and teaching others important matters living in all kinds of weather.

        I merely added my experience in the military when we did not have the luxury of carrying a tent with us for a few weeks in our LRRP exercises, when a Bn worth of enemy was chasing us. That’s survival when shtf.

        I could as well tell my years in the desert, and how to survive there without refridgerator, an available resource for most armies today.

        Yup, a warm tent or a cabin is better option for those taught to use all available resources. It just isn’t an option when evading and escaping the enemy in the arctic …

        Again, thank you for your excellent blog and all the valuable info you guys provide.


        P.S. As to the winter floor, a few branches from fir, for example, makes an excellent floor and water barrier; but, of cource, most people have liners of all kinds …

        • Jarhead Survivor January 12, 2013, 12:20 pm

          It would be interesting to hear about your desert experience. I have zero experience in that environment.

          I always line my tipi floor with fir boughs. It’s a great insulator and smells great!

    • riverrider January 11, 2013, 4:34 pm

      in my army we were taught to use whatever we had, including a tent. “maximum use of available resources” was my sl’s fav catchphrase.

      • riverrider January 11, 2013, 4:36 pm

        ps: enjoyed the post j.s., brought back memories.

        • Jarhead Survivor January 11, 2013, 9:37 pm

          I knew any old military guys out there who’d spent time in that tent might get a little misty eyed. :-)

  • T.R. January 11, 2013, 3:18 pm

    Definitely old school tent , and sure beats out in the open …………but not having a floor isnt a good idea , thermally speaking . Kinda like building 4 walls and not putting a roof on it . Especially in cold climes where the ground freezes . just sayin .

    • riverrider January 11, 2013, 4:33 pm

      cardboard works well for a while, as long as you make sure visitors dust the snow off their boots on the way in. pine needles too, but flammable as sh!t, ask me how i know:) but really, if you’re up off the floor on a cot the cold floor doesn’t hurt much.

      • T.R. January 11, 2013, 7:18 pm

        Yeah but the air temp in the tent with a stove going is warmer than the outside air temp which makes the ground inside the tent start to turn to mud or a least thaw to a degree ……..the moisture has to go somewhere . Then there is heavy rain , the water doesn’t stop at the outside tent boundary , it soaks into the ground and will seep inside the tent , mud again , unless you find a perfect high spot . Then there are the things that live in ground areas , like tics , etc . Like I said , its far better than being directly out in it , but a self contained unit with a floor works better on every level .

        • Jason January 11, 2013, 8:35 pm

          Hey don’t knock cardboard … 40,000 residents built complete homes with it in Tijuana so it can’t be wrong! Ha, ha (Been there & saw it – its just an hour & a half drive south from the Jason headquarters)

        • Jarhead Survivor January 11, 2013, 9:44 pm

          Hmmm, not necessarily. My experience is that if it’s really cold outside the cold always settles to the bottom of the tent while the heat rises. If you’re a foot off the floor it starts to get warm, but below that it stays pretty chilly. If it’s ten degrees outside and the stove inside has the tent warmed up to – let’s say 50 degrees – the floor of the tent is still below freezing.

          Now – if I took this out in a rainstorm it would be a different story! I think you’re right about the floor turning to mud, although I don’t intend to try it out in wet weather. Once it warms up I’m going to take the liner out and put it back in my basement until next winter.

    • Jarhead Survivor January 11, 2013, 9:31 pm

      I used to think the same thing until I tried it. Found out that tent floors are overrated. We used to just tramp an area down with our snowshoes and let it set for a bit then put the tent up.

      Once we had all our gear in you couldn’t tell the floor was snow anyway. Sleeping bags, sleeping mats, ALICE packs, parkas, stuff everywhere. You couldn’t even see the floor.

  • Ray January 11, 2013, 5:08 pm

    Have you got creasote in your flue? I had a wash stove in my cabbin back in the 70s that had to have its pipe cleaned every 3 days. A flper /damper will realy help that air flow too. ( I didn’t see one in the photo)

    • Jarhead Survivor January 11, 2013, 9:32 pm

      That’s a great question, Ray. I’ll check it out next time I get out there. I never even thought of that to be honest.

  • irishdutchuncle January 11, 2013, 9:14 pm

    how do you stay up on such tiny snowshoes?

    • Jarhead Survivor January 11, 2013, 9:36 pm

      Dude – those shoes are rated for about 240 pounds! Most of the shoe is actually behind me, but they’re probably still small by what you might expect. But… they’re still bigger than the bear paw shoes I used to wear when I was a kid.

      And snow shoes don’t really keep you on top of the snow unless it’s very hard and crusty. If the snow is really deep – say three feet – it’s wicked hard to move through it if it’s powdery. The missus and I went snowshoeing a couple of years ago in the woods behind our house and the snow was really deep. We made it about a 1/2 mile before we turned back (she was pregnant at the time.)

      C’mon up sometime and I’ll introduce you to the sport!

      • D'ja'c January 12, 2013, 8:05 am

        Jarhead, it’s “wicked ha-a-d”!

      • irishdutchuncle January 12, 2013, 11:52 am

        yeh, but I’m over 250…
        without gear.

        (the pair I bought is probably only rated for 240 also)

        I’m in trouble at work, again, so until I sort that out I won’t be traveling anywhere. Maybe next year.

  • Jamie January 11, 2013, 9:52 pm

    We lived in those tents a lot and we had cots so I used to throw my shelter half on the ground under my cot and put my gear on top of the shelter half but under my cot. Those old closed foam pads would sweat a lot and soak the old type sleeping bags so I got a small self-inflating mattress and I stayed nice and warm. I got one of those 1 burner stoves that fit on top of a 1 pound propane tank and they could heat up the small 5 man tents in about 5-10 minutes as well as make some coffee and give you warm water to wash up with at night. I figure I used about a tank a week on FTX.
    Last but not least I kept a small hand towel to cover the lower half of my face to keep it warm and I did not get my bag wet by covering my face in my sleeping bag.

    • Jarhead Survivor January 12, 2013, 12:12 pm

      I’m going to put a poncho down if it ever needs it. It’s basically the same thing as a tent floor anyway.

  • Jason January 12, 2013, 5:17 am

    Loved the video, it was really great! Of course true to Jarhead form, the coffee pot was ready for action.

    I noticed you were huffing & puffing a bit, it must be a little workout walking thru the snow. If it was more powdery & even just a foot deep AND you have a loaded backpack, it is must be exponentially harder. Still looks like a fun experience to me.

    Curious though, what kind of wild animals have you encountered in your area?

    BTW, the camera on your phone takes a nice resolution video. Do you use Mac products?

    • Jarhead Survivor January 12, 2013, 7:42 am

      Ha! Coffee is always ready to go at my house!

      Wild animals here? Not too many really. Deer, skunk, porcupine, coyotes, squirrels, and rumors of bobcat and other slightly larger predators. The only thing I’d worry about is a bear and they haven’t been seen in this area for many years.

      Oh! And turkeys! You can’t swing a cat by the tail without hitting a wild turkey around here.

      The camera is one of those “pay as you” Samsung smart phones. The plan is $45 a month for unlimited voice and data. They throttle the bandwidth back on it, but I don’t mind because I don’t stream video to it or anything. I do like the phone though.

      SHTFBlog and my email load up fine and that’s all I care about.

      • Ray January 12, 2013, 8:09 am

        Jarhead Y’all want critters come to Ky we got bobcat, bear,skunks, hedghogs,groundhogs ,sqack,snakes, elk,deer,turky,coyote and wild/feral hogs. In western Ky they are trying to intrduce the eastern woodland buffalo(NO S*** BISON!!!) And yeh down here the turkys line up next to the road and watch the cars go by.

        • Jarhead Survivor January 12, 2013, 12:10 pm

          I hunted wild hogs once a loooong time ago with you southern maniacs. It was a good time, but unlike any other hunting I’d ever done!

  • D'ja'c January 12, 2013, 8:45 am

    I remember the platoon size tents. 3 squads of 3 fire teams a com guy and messenger, I think. Our dipsh!t Lt told us where to set the tent up. Then the chain told him to move it to the correct location. So our platoon “turtled” it.
    Poles ropes and all. Seabees Can Do! Before video phones… Ok before cell phones. Or it would have been viral Youtube fo’ sho’.

    • Jarhead Survivor January 12, 2013, 12:09 pm

      Those were the GP tents right? I stayed in those too on a couple of occasions, but for the most part it was these tents in cold weather.

      How much extra work do you think has been done in this world because some butter bar took matters in to his own hands?

      • smokechecktim January 13, 2013, 11:53 am

        the most dangerous person in the world….a 2nd lt with a map and compass

  • Pineslayer January 12, 2013, 4:06 pm

    That tent is beaut. I love my floorless Teepee tents, except is buggie territory. If anyone comes across a Black Diamond Megamid, but it. 9 X 9 for 81 sq ft, comes with removable floor, tent with pole, 3.5 lbs, floor costs you an extra 1.5 lbs. Not set up for a stove, but I have used a Trangia to cook and provide some heat before bed time. At 5 lbs it gives you a great option. When the weather hits below freezing that insulated bomb shelter would be worth it’s weight on the sled though.

    • Jarhead Survivor January 12, 2013, 6:46 pm

      Yeah, it’s pretty sweet. I’ve camped in the expensive four season tents and they’re great, but this one is nice because it’s got a stove. You can’t beat that for comfort!

  • smokechecktim January 13, 2013, 11:39 am

    off topic…a friend sent me a picture of the new sign he has for his front door.

    Thank you for your understanding

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