Gear Review: Cold Weather Tent, Ammo Can Stove and Sleep System

The Tent

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.405079_301807096601754_991501162_n

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 62264_301807236601740_1772437901_ndry ground.  When we used to set them up in the snow it always took longer:  everything takes longer in cold weather for that matter.


The Stove

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 530610_301807169935080_1748513461_nhardwood 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

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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’s an excerpt from FM 31-70 (Small unit living in cold weather).  It discusses the stove and tents used by the military.


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.

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

52 comments… add one
  • Tim November 30, 2012, 8:56 am

    Yankeeprepper has a good youtube ammo-can-tent-stove video.

  • riverrider November 30, 2012, 9:31 am

    awesome! i love real reviews of gear and experiences. keep it up.

    • Jarhead Survivor November 30, 2012, 12:35 pm

      Thanks riverrider – when we get some snow up here I’ll make a video like Tim mentions above and post it for your viewing pleasure. :-)

  • GoneWithTheWind November 30, 2012, 11:39 am

    You might remember the two “mountain men” who kidnapped an olympic athlete as a bride for the son of the pair. But the point of this is these two men used to sleep in sleeping bags on the ground under a canvas tarp (lying on top like a blanket) in the winter in Montana. Now, make no mistake, that is not my preference. I would prefer a decent winter tent and a decent heat source. But just pointing out there is more then one way to skin a cat.

    • Jarhead Survivor November 30, 2012, 12:36 pm

      Oh, I’ve done some bare bones winter camping myself, but it’s not all that fun. This tent and stove is living in winter luxury, no doubt about it.

  • Karen November 30, 2012, 12:00 pm

    Couple questions:
    1. how do you stake a tent in frozen ground?
    2. I was thinking (if we could stake it) that putting our 2-man tent inside our 4-man tent might work. The 2-man tent could be the bedroom as it would hold heat in better (found that out camping in it in the rain in the summer!).
    3. is there an issue with snow weight on a tent?

    • smokechecktim November 30, 2012, 12:42 pm

      one winter we used chunks of logs as a tie point instead of trying to stake into frozen ground

      • Jarhead Survivor November 30, 2012, 1:05 pm

        There’s all kinds of things like that you can do s-c-tim. I’ve slept on frozen lakes many times and if it’s not windy I won’t even bother putting stakes in if I’m using a dome tent. I’ve also used ice screws (taken from my ice-climbing kit) and used those. You can even dig mini-tunnels in the ice and loop your rope through that.

    • Jarhead Survivor November 30, 2012, 12:43 pm

      Hi Karen – great questions. First, putting a stake in frozen ground. If it’s bare frozen ground you really don’t need to go down too deep with your stake. In that situation I’d use one of the big nails that doubles as a stake and drive it in until it doesn’t wiggle. That way you’ll still be able to pull it out when you’re ready to leave.

      Next – I assume you’re talking about dome tents here, and yes – you can put one inside the other as long as they’ll fit. I’ve never done it myself, but I understand what you’re talking about.

      And last – it depends on the tent. Four season tents are designed to be extra rigid (so to speak) and can stand up really well to strong wind and snow. Having said that, if it’s possible I’d get out and clean the snow off periodically as it’s coming down. Having a snow wall around the tent helps to insulate (you might want to consider that instead of one tent inside another) and it will shelter your tent from the wind as well.

  • Rae November 30, 2012, 12:21 pm

    Hubby winter camps all the time using a regular tent. Inside he uses 2 sleeping bags nestled inside one another, and if really cold adds one of those thin fleece sleeping bag liners. He has also done the tarp thing and works like a charm. This will be my first winter going- in a moment of weakness I agreed to do it with him and that time has come due! And my idea of a good time is not out in the wilderness keeping warm, but I suppose it’s good training!

    • Jarhead Survivor November 30, 2012, 12:47 pm

      I took Mrs Jarhead winter camping not long after we met. and that night it got down to -4 F.

      And we’re still together!

      Hey – keep a positive attitude, take some warm, dry wool socks, and have your husband heat some water and put it in a Nalgene bottle for when you get in your sleeping bag. You’ll be warm as toast!

      Have fun!

  • Yoda November 30, 2012, 12:32 pm

    Greetings Jarhead and Calamity Jane

    The Magnified View will be featuring SHTF prominently in the upcoming article ‘Yida;s Predictions For 2013 And Beyond’
    Thanks for all you do and the way you do it.
    Respectfully, Yida – Founding content editor


  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. November 30, 2012, 1:43 pm

    Have you noticed any condensation issues ? The surface where cold / heat meet is area where this will occur, I’m assuming this would be on the outside of inner liner of tent.

    That is an awesome setup – thanks for the pictures and review of it.

    • Jarhead Survivor November 30, 2012, 8:30 pm

      I haven’t seen any yet, but when I get a group of people out there I’ll check it out when we wake up. Especially in sub-zero weather.

  • paul boyd November 30, 2012, 7:37 pm

    will you be selling a tent like this? or where can i get one? great review!!!

    • Jarhead Survivor November 30, 2012, 8:36 pm

      Hi Paul – I’m afraid I won’t be selling any of these tents. They’re fairly pricey starting around $300 or so not including shipping and like I said, these things are heavy!

      Check out this site from time to time:

      I had to search around and finally found one out in the midwest. Can’t remember the site now, but if you’re serious you can find them.

      If you do get one let me know what you think after you’ve had a chance to use it awhile.

  • sirlancelot November 30, 2012, 8:03 pm

    have done the winter camping. it’s a different world out there in the snowy woods as opposed to the summer months.

    it’s nice, quiet, peaceful

    the stove is a nice option :-)

    • Jarhead Survivor November 30, 2012, 8:39 pm

      I was camping in the mountains once and a blizzard blew in over night. The next day me and my buddy got up and there was a ton of snow and it was so quiet the only thing I could hear was the ringing in my ears. Absolutely beautiful.

      Until we realized we’d come without our snowshoes. It was only supposed to snow about 4″ and instead we got about 14″ . It was a looong hike out with heavy winter packs! I’ve never got caught without snowshoes again.

      • Jason December 4, 2012, 11:29 pm

        That sound so damn exciting – except for the lack of snowshoes. Are there many who camp like that in the dead of winter?

        • Jarhead Survivor December 5, 2012, 6:16 am

          There are some, but the number of campers drops off radically after September up here. After that it’s for the serious die-hard outdoorsmen.

        • Jarhead Survivor December 5, 2012, 9:05 am

          If you’ve never experienced the forest after a fresh snow it’s hard to explain. The snow creates a damping effect on noise. If the wind isn’t blowing it’s so quiet you can hear your heart beating in your ears.

          That time camping out with my buddy (Mike) was memorable because of the storm, but there have been many times I’ve woke up to fresh snow on the ground.

          Fall asleep at night with the wind whipping and snow and sleet hitting your tent and wake up to absolute silence. It’s awesome.

  • irishdutchuncle November 30, 2012, 10:15 pm

    keeping wife and kids fed, warm and dry: that’s what it’s all about.

    (well that, and doing the hokey-pokey)

  • Jason December 1, 2012, 10:24 am

    I was raised in Southern California where people complain severely when the thermometer hits 40 degrees because of the freezing weather. Hell, they complain when it hits 90 with little humidity.

    Anyway, I find these articles, pics & videos about inclement weather conditions absolutely fascinating & strangely exciting. The thought of winter camping is something I’d love to do & be good at because of the challenge.

    It might be an interesting idea to explore to see if a half a dozen audience members would like to go on a Jarhead led 4 day retreat in Maine. First summer then the winter & of course you would have to be compensated for your time.

    • Jarhead Survivor December 1, 2012, 3:42 pm

      Jason – I can’t believe you wrote this. I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing exactly that! Probably more like two or three guys to start with, but the idea of leading a small expedition on a winter campout is something I’d love to do. As it stands I have enough gear to pretty well equip two adults in addition to myself, which includes packs, sleeping bags and mats, and some other stuff.

      I just might do a post and really see if there’s any interest out there. What do you think a three day-two night luxurious cold weather camping trip (tent included!) in the woods of Maine would be worth?

      • TIreland December 4, 2012, 4:46 am

        That would be a great idea!

  • sirlancelot December 1, 2012, 11:47 am

    Jarhead’s Winter Safari Tours ! :-)

    • irishdutchuncle December 1, 2012, 12:20 pm

      sounds like a good adjunct to the Surplus & Dive shop.

    • Jason December 1, 2012, 12:20 pm

      This is a sample of a video Jarhead could upload of the adventure where he would be the host & Irish would be the sled operator:

      • irishdutchuncle December 1, 2012, 12:42 pm

        I see the knowledge of my sledding ability precedes me.

      • Jarhead Survivor December 1, 2012, 3:54 pm

        Hahaha! He got creamed!

        • Sachin December 6, 2012, 3:43 pm

          I’m not sure about fitting a queen size marstets in a tent, I haven’t dragged one of those with me camping before.As for brands, there are a ton of good ones. If you buy from a tent manufacturer that’s been in the business of making tents for 20+ years, the odds are that you’ll probably get a decent tent, but no matter who you buy from there’s always a chance that you get a bad one. Brands I recommend:Eureka!REIMarmotKeltyNorth FaceBig AgnesMountain HardwareDouble check reviews of specific models though. REI is my favorite brand personally. They make good products and are a very responsible company as well. Their return policy is very accommodating as long as you don’t damage the item, even if you used something for a weekend, if you don’t like it they’ll often still do an exchange to help you find a tent you do like.

      • Suraykant December 6, 2012, 3:11 pm

        Don’t get me wrong, Coleman makes some fine tents for their price range. But I’ve always prrreefed Eureka. They are a bit more expensive but, in my experience, offer a very durable and well designed product. For example, I’ve been out twice in the past three weeks with my Eureka Backcountry II tent, which is over 15 years old and gets at least 30 days use each year between my oldest boy and myself.Given your preferences and budget, I’d take a look at the Eureka Suite V6. It’s a spacious 2-room tent (can be configured as one room, of course) that offers 6’9 of height. The fly provides good coverage against storms, plenty of vents and windows, and there’s a nice vestibule that can turn into an awning if you add an extra pole. A modified dome tent with three poles and clips, it should setup easy. Pricewise, at around $270, it’s well within your budget.Nevertheless, I wouldn’t buy any tent sight-unseen. A trip to your local camping/outdoors store will probably help you make up your mind better than all the answers you’ll get here.

      • Fabienne December 6, 2012, 3:11 pm

        I have found that some of the best tents are made by mountain harwadre and the north-face, but it sounds like the best choice would be one from the Eureka family of tents as they are great quality and Will keep you dry. I have used a number of eureka tents and I have never been disappointed yet. Try to look for a tent that is polester not nylon as it is much stronger a material. I still use my Eureka Timberline 2 which is now about 20 years old and it still keeps me dry. Also if you are looking for a smaller tent try to get one with aluminium poles as they are stronger and lighter. As for waterproofing a tent if you spray it with a waterproofing spray make sure that you ONLY cover the inside of the fly as if you spray the tent directly the tent will not be able to breath. I hope this helps and hope you have a great time in the backcountry.

  • irishdutchuncle December 1, 2012, 12:16 pm

    the personas we’ve all worked so hard to create over the internet might not hold up so well, in the harsh glare of reality.
    (much as I’d like to meet all of you, it could turn into an OPSEC nightmare)

    • Jason December 1, 2012, 12:22 pm

      We can all sign a secrecy agreement Mr. Paranoia!

      Besides, Google knows who we all are anyway ….

  • TOR December 1, 2012, 1:38 pm

    Seems like a great heavy bug out or “retreat” housing option. However unless you plan on taking a huge trailer it might serve best as a pre positioned item.

    • irishdutchuncle December 2, 2012, 12:15 pm

      I wonder how “Oroborous” would compare it with his yurt.
      He’d probably favor a “deuce and a half” over the huge trailer.

      • Anonymous December 3, 2012, 12:21 pm

        (… uh, that would be western PA yurt dweller: Elder Dragon)

  • sirlancelot December 1, 2012, 6:22 pm

    we could all meet at the range. there’s a outfit in Maine called “Weapon Craft” that puts on some good classes :-)

    • irishdutchuncle December 2, 2012, 10:52 am

      I’d need to arrive by “bugout sailboat”, in order to bypass NJ, NY, Conn, Mass, RI and New Hampshire.
      Does Vermont allow vermont carry for out-of -staters?

      • Jason December 2, 2012, 5:55 pm

        Might be faster, easier & cheaper to fly ….

        • irishdutchuncle December 3, 2012, 1:29 pm

          too much baggage.

  • CoastalRanger December 2, 2012, 3:16 pm

    Jarhead, been there, done that. The use of a tent feels like almost cheating, not to mention a cold-weather sleeping bag.

    Due to dual citizenship, I served in the Finnish Defense Forces years back. The unit was kind of ‘special forces’ team, and we did a lot of long-distance recon. That did not include tent or sleeping bags during the winter months. It’s amazing how a carbon-based life-form can survive -40 temperatures without 50 inch TV and associated warm housing.

    One of the great inventions of the Finns is “rakovalkea” that keeps you warm in any weather. [ ].

    BTW, the word “ahkio” is Finnish, not Norwegian.

    ( Check out this ”Swedish Fire Torch” )

    Thank you for a great blog and informative posts such as this one. Stay safe.

    Semper Fi!

    • Jarhead Survivor December 3, 2012, 1:54 pm

      That longfire looks like a great idea. If I have time this winter I’ll try it out and post the results here.

  • irishdutchuncle December 2, 2012, 7:27 pm

    I have no desire to fly anywhere, if I’m not riding left seat.

  • Joe December 3, 2012, 10:27 am

    I remember these tents when I was in the arctic infantry in Alaska. The liner makes a world of difference when it’s fifty below outside.

    And I remember getting run-over by my ahkio a number of times. But there was no other way of transporting the medical supplies or an injured soldier (I was the batallion surgeon) without the old ahkio.

    Ahhh, the good old days…..

    • Jason December 3, 2012, 12:15 pm

      Love the irony – the battalion surgeon getting run over by his own medical supplies sled.

      • Joe December 3, 2012, 1:04 pm

        Yes, twas rather pathetic, ey?

    • Jarhead Survivor December 3, 2012, 1:56 pm

      *Everybody* who was near one of these sleds got run over and all you could do was lay there until your squad mates dragged it off. What a pain!

  • Bertan December 6, 2012, 1:17 pm

    Your best bet would be to just look around and see what they have in the stoers in your area. My family has gone through several tents in my life. As my family grew and I acquired more siblings the tents we used on our camping trips also grew. We started out a 4-person pup tent and gradually grew to the 4-room, 13-person, 30-pound Taj Mahal . My advice would be to look around and just get something that fits your needs. If you are going to do a lot of hiking to your campsites, get a small then that is light and easy to carried. If you are just going to park at your campsite, then get a tent as large as you want that is within your price range. A few recommendations from past experiences:Get a tent that has a good rainfly, water-proof covering, that covers the ENTIRE tent. Some tents give you the bare-minimum for a cover and that will NOT keep you dry. I life the tents where the rainfly spreads out in front of the doorway to create a front porch . This allows me a space to put my shoes and not have to worry about hauling dirt into the tent. You will also want to get a footprint for your tent. This is a small tarp that you will lay under the tent before you put it up. This will help protect the floor of your tent from sharp objects on the ground as well as give added water protection from the elements outside. (This usually has to be purchased seperate, or just a regular tarp will do.Since there will only be two of you, you might also consider getting a tent that is easy to assemble and quick to put up.In the end the choice is up to you to decide which tent best fits your needs for your budget, I can only offer recommendations. In the sources I have include different sites where you can look at many different tents. Have fun camping.


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