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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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?
Sound off below!