For some people the thought of winter camping is a nightmare – kind of like finding yourself at the mall on the Saturday before Christmas. But I’ve always been told that there’s no such thing as bad weather…just bad gear. Well, we wanted to put that to the test. Can you really do a deep winter camp and enjoy yourself?
“There’s no such thing as bad weather…just bad gear”
Having a preparedness mindset, you start wondering if all the gear you’ve collected can stand the test and won’t leave you hanging if things ever do “hit the fan”.
We knew we wanted to take a lot of gear with us and so, doing our research, we learned a lot about pulk sleds. This is a popular option to pull heavy weight through snow and ice, and we decided to build our own. Based on the size and amount of gear I wanted to bring, I found a decent price on a game sled (click here to check them out)
Once the sled arrived, I went to work attaching hardware, starting with two main eye bolts at the front, and smaller eye bolts around the edges (about 4 on each side will work). Simply use a small hole, and attach with a bolt. A little threadlock doesn’t hurt either:
I cut two lengths of PVC pipe to about 5 feet each, and then measured a small gauge steel cable and crimped loops at the ends so they just poked out of the PVC and then I leave carabiners on them so they don’t slip back through:
I noticed a lot of people will attach these to a padded backpack belt, however I chose a Condor Battle Belt because of the MOLLE webbing. There are a ton of accessories out there that attach to MOLLE very easily like first aid kits, pouches, etc. I even found a tactical baby wipes holder…for changing diapers like the SEALs do. I also attached optional shoulder harness and it REALLY added stability.
As long as you’re pulling the sled through the snow, it can handle a good amount of weight. Between the 5 of us, we had plenty of provisions.
After testing a loaded sled a few times (ie- putting my kids in and pulling them through the school field), I found the best option for stability and control in turning was to cross the poles behind me.
It’s not always going to be a straight pull. You’ll want to make sure the sled stays even on uphill and downhill stretches, as well as through turns and stopping.
Once we decided on a spot and hiked in, the first step was to compact the spot for the tipi. The snow was easily 3-4 feet deep so we needed a firm foundation for the shelter, the wood-burning stove, and for our bed rolls.
If you’ve got deep enough snow, it’s a great idea to dig yourself a trench. This not only gives your feet a nice place to go while sitting but also provides the cold air a lower level to settle to (remember: hot air rises). This will keep you just a bit warmer through the night.
The Kifaru tipi (or teepee, if you prefer), is specifically designed to minimize weight. Many hunters I talk to will take canvas hot tents on excursions. While these are a comfortable option, they are extremely heavy.
These light-weight shelters aren’t cheap, but consider that the tipi itself weighs approximately 11 lbs, plus a stainless steel wood-burning stove weighing in around 7 lbs. If you’re doing the specialized snow/sand stakes, it adds about 3 lbs to the mix. All in all, you’re looking at approximately 20 lbs for a 12 man shelter that can handle weather and, because of the floorless design, allows you to cook, eat, etc. inside while waiting out a storm.
The only downside I can find is condensation due to the single-wall design. With several people in the tipi, you’ll get some drips in warmer weather, or some ice in the cold. Kifaru does sell a liner that will tackle the issue (and insulate the heat a bit more), but keep in mind that it does add around 3 lbs more for the 12 man shelter.
I can’t begin to explain how pleasant a wood-burning stove can make your camping experience. It’s not just about keeping you warm. This allows you to weather a storm while drying out your gear, cook a meal without having to leave the shelter, or sit in comfort and relax (no matter what it’s doing outside).
The Sleep System
Unless you’re planning to wake up every hour or two to feed the fire, you should be prepared for the stove to go out at some point. This means that the way you lay out your bedding will make a world of difference.
We recommend starting with a moisture barrier (a small tarp will work great for this). Then a closed cell foam pad for added separation from the snow. After that, you’ll want some insulation and air pads work great for this. Prices will really vary for these pads, but we have loved using the Lightspeed self-inflating pads. With these layers, even inexpensive sleeping bags will do well, as long as they are rated for the right temperature range.
Please share your thoughts or questions with us below and we can’t wait to share our next adventure with you!