Final Gear Review for Winter Camping Setup

The winner of the SHTF contest giveaway is named at the end of the blog post. Ain’t I a stinker? ———————————- This weekend saw what will probably be the last winter camp out this season.  I’ve slept out about six times this year and thought I’d give my final notes on the gear I’ve used. My buddy Al and my eleven year old nephew joined me last night and we had a great time.  This was my nephew’s first winter camping trip and he did really well.  We got out the compasses last night and shot some azimuths and I did a little explaining on how to convert azimuths from grid to magnetic.  (Don’t worry, that lesson is coming to soon.) Following are my final thoughts on the winter gear.   Tent OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This five man ECW (extreme cold weather) MILSURP tent is a beast.  It’s got a hole specially designed for a four inch stove pipe for the Yukon stove.  The 3 inch stove pipe from my ammo can stove leaves some space, but it wasn’t a problem even in the coldest weather. The canvas outer shell and the liner make for a warm environment when there’s a stove going.  After the stove goes out it gets cold quickly though, so don’t think you’re going to be able to sleep in a summer weight sleeping bag in the winter.  You WILL freeze. The tent is heavy by civilian standards – somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty to sixty pounds for the tent and liner.  Ironically, this is considered light by 1970s and ’80s military standards.  We used the ten man version of this tent in Norway and it kept us pretty warm when the stove was going. You won’t take this tent backpacking with you, but we used to move it around with a big sled called an Ahkio and about five or six guys pulling it.  It worked great in this configuration.  Setting the tent up is easier with more people, but I’ve set it up by myself the three or four times I’ve done it.  Think base camp or hunting camp with a tent like this.  It’s a lot of fun for a few guys just to hang out in. I think I paid about $325 for the tent at a military surplus site and then there was probably another $60 or so for shipping and handling.  It came with one telescoping 8’6″ tall center pole and the guy lines on the tent.  It was in decent condition when I got it and while I’ve left it set up over the winter it’s still in great shape. All in all I’m pleased with it’s durability.  I went out at one point about two weeks after a huge snowfall expecting it to be down.  It was leaned over, but still upright.  I dug around the outside with a shovel and knocked the snow off the top of the tent and voila!  It was ready to go. Sleeping Bag The MILSURP sleeping bags I  bought do a great job.  There’s an inner bag, which is the intermediate weight bag good for camping in temps down to around 40 degrees or so.  The next bag is the lightweight patrol bag.  The intermediate bag fits inside this and the two 2012-11-10-14.51.27_thumb.jpg together are good for temps down to around ten to ten below. The bivy is a neat rig that I’ve really come to like a lot.  This is a Gortex shell that encapsulates both sleeping bags and serves as a shelter when there’s no tent or other shelter available. The coldest I slept out in this winter was probably about five below zero and this bag was up to the task.  I got chilly a couple of times, but by arranging the way the bags were zipped, closing the bivy over my face, and things like that I was able to warm back up again.   They’re rated to -40 f., but that would be more of a survival situation than a comfortable nights sleep. Another great feature of this bag is the big foot box.   Some mummy bags have a very enclosed area for your feet, but these bags give you some room to move around and I like that. They’re relatively heavy – about ten pounds for the whole package, but if you only need the intermediate weight bag you can just ditch the components you don’t need and go with the lighter section you do need. Overall I haven’t found too much about this bag I don’t like.  The one thing I really like is the bivy as I mentioned earlier.  If you’re feeling hardcore on a big hike you could ditch your tent and just sleep in the bivy. Stove(s) The two stoves I’ve used the most this winter are the ammo can stove and the solo stove.  For full disclosure they both advertise on this site, but one thing I like about the advertisers who sell gear here is that I’ve tried some of  it and I like it alot. The ammo can stove is brilliant.  After looking at how ratty my other stove was looking in the pictures I’ve been posting here the owner contacted me and asked if I wanted another one. Seriously?  Hell yeah!  Bring that baby on!  As you can see in the pictures it’s nice and black.  Best of all the new generation of stove has a few modifications that really make the product even better than the old ones. First, the door is made of much heavier material and it’s got a nice handle that you use to open it with.  The paint on this model is a lot better too.2012-12-30-16.25.58_thumb.jpg There’s also a piece that you buy that fits inside the stove to help your stove handle high temps better and prolongs the life of the stove. They recommend using hardwood, but last night I burned some dry pine and it worked beautifully.  The pine lit quick and burned hot as pine does and the stove handled it like a champ.  I had some problems with draw in my other stove, but with the new one the air flow was perfect. I also use the Solo Stove, which is a terrific backpacking stove.  I ordered that stove with the pot as well as the stove and wind guard and it’s also performed very well.  I found that if I took my soda can alcohol stove and set it inside the Solo Stove (see picture) it gave off a great flame and heated water up super quick. This is a very good quality stove and I’m reasonably sure that if you buy one you won’t be disappointed. 2012-12-30-16.30.33_thumb.jpg Pack Another piece of gear I got about the same time as the rest of this is the assault pack that attaches to the Tango Pack.  I’ve talked about it before, but thought I’d post a comparison picture on here so you can get an idea of how big it is. In the picture below you can see it next to a medium sized ALICE pack my friend Al owns.  He’s got it tricked out the way he likes for camping.  My pack is on the right and is set up as a combination bug-out/hiking bag. I’ve already posted about how much I like this pack, so I won’t go into it here.  I would like to add one piece of commentary though… there are people out there who say that you shouldn’t have a military looking pack as your bug-out bag because it will draw attention.  Screw ’em.  I love this bag.  It’s comfortable, the perfect size, and you can configure it to suit your need, your mood, or your whim at the moment with the MOLLE attachments. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA If you want to use a military pack as a bug-out bag I say go for it.  They’re rugged and have been proven in the field again and again. In all, I’m pleased with the way my winter gear is working.  I spent a couple of years getting it together, but I’ve really enjoyed it this winter.  Plus, half the fun of a set up like this is researching it and planning it and ultimately seeing it come together before your eyes. That’s about it, though I hate to see the winter camping season coming to a close.  Last night almost didn’t count in my mind because the temp only went down to about 20 or 25 degrees – not really that cold. But we did have fun sitting around the fire telling stories.  My nephew has gained an appetite for this kind of camping (much to my pleasure) and had lots of questions for us and we had fun kicking ideas around with him.  ‘Course we talked a little about ‘squatching too, (look it up) and he’s still not 100% sure if I’m pulling his leg or not. Ahh, the fun of camping! Questions?  Comments? Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

BTW: The winner of the egg giveaway is….. .. Wayne! Congrats dude!  Send me an email at and we’ll figure out how to get them to you.          
14 comments… add one
  • irishdutchuncle March 10, 2013, 11:04 pm

    yeh, I think you have to pick your gear for what it can do, more than for what it looks like. Tacticool, Yuppie, Mall Ninja… as long as it’s quality stuff, and not too much to carry. it would be great to be the “gray man” during SHTF, and attract no attention. that’s still a “FAIL” because you’re still out there where the trouble is.

    • Jarhead Survivor March 11, 2013, 4:14 pm


    • irishdutchuncle March 12, 2013, 2:32 am

      selecting gear for “backpacking” is different than selecting gear for SHTF, too. after SHTF, we won’t be hiking for “fun” for awhile. MILSURP has every advantage, except “lightness”.

      • Jarhead Survivor March 12, 2013, 10:55 am

        That’s an excellent point irish! I’m getting ready to do a post about three different packs that I own and I’ll be sure to make this a point when selecting what pack does what.

  • Mountain Rifleman March 11, 2013, 11:59 am

    Good article!

    Over a period of fifteen years my elk hunting pard and I used an 8×10 wall tent with the Korean War Yukon stove. That was in the Rocky Mountains. We always camped at timberline, about 10,500 feet.
    A good wood burning stove is a must.
    Semper Fi

    • Jarhead Survivor March 11, 2013, 4:11 pm

      I looked into wall tents, but decided to go with the ECW tent because I had more experience with it. I’m still thinking about buying a Yukon stove because of the ability to burn gas as well as wood.

  • des March 11, 2013, 2:21 pm

    Nice article.
    The best part for me is the fact that your nephew has got the bug for the camping and as much that you find it very satisfying but encouraging kids to get involved is excellent too.
    Cheers Des

    • Jarhead Survivor March 11, 2013, 4:11 pm

      I’m really happy he’s got the camping bug too. We’ve already talked about camping out this summer. He’s ready to go!

  • PreppingMomma5 March 11, 2013, 4:03 pm

    I just got back from my first winter camping experience in the BWCA. It was -15 degree one of the nights and not much warmer on a couple others. Have to admit I am a little jealous of the heated tent! We slept in two zero bags and just a regular tent. Mornings were a bit chilly. Definitely wouldn’t enjoy that type of situation in a crap scenario! But hey, I did have a good time, caught some fish and survived, and now I can brag about it to all of my friends! (Even if I admit inside that I probably won’t go every year like my crazy hubby!)

    • Jarhead Survivor March 11, 2013, 4:13 pm

      Ahh yes. Minnesota, correct?

      When I was doing cold weather training to go to Norway back in the ’80s we were in Minnesota. It got down to -40 just about every night. If it warmed up to -10 or zero during the day it was a freakin’ heat wave. You guys get some serious cold weather out there!

      But most of my civilian camping is just as you describe it above. The heated tent is a recent luxury.

  • Ray March 11, 2013, 5:36 pm

    Winter?– Temps here are in the 40s, 50s and 60s with highs sunday in the 70s. The maple, sickamore, juniper and red ceder are all blooming ,the easter lillys are in bloom and the hyicinth and crockus are ’bout to bloom. One week above 50 and we’ll be in full green up. Every bird is nesting, the does are hideing in the thickets ,getting ready to faun. Man its spring here or just about to be. I’ll be plantin’ taters soon.

    • Jarhead Survivor March 12, 2013, 7:57 am

      What state do you live in, Ray? Here in Maine we’re just entering mud season. Some of the snow has melted leaving big patches of open muddy ground. If you accidentally drive a vehicle on a piece of lawn you’ll turn it into a mud pit. The temp is fluctuating between 25 and 45 degrees. But on a bright note I did see some big deer tracks out behind my house this weekend. Those deer were actually walking all around my tent!

      • Ray March 12, 2013, 9:29 am

        Kentucky — We have had a very mild winter, nights were seldom below 25 all winter. I don’t think It will be an early spring but; I don’t think the cold will last much longer. I been watching flights of mallards and Canada Geese for 2 weeks, I saw blue harrons yesterday. The wetherman says 60s this weekend. Won’t be long now befor the buds pop and the orchards bloom.

  • T.R. March 13, 2013, 8:44 pm

    How is the ammo can stove for realistic cooking ? or is it called a stove but is really a heater ?


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