How To Live In A Heated Tent

by Paul Kirtley

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A heated tent is a fantastic way to spend the long, dark nights of winter outdoors, particularly in the deep cold of the far north.

While a modern four-season mountain tent – or even a bivvy – may be tolerable for a few nights out in sub-zero temperatures, when it comes to truly living outdoors for an extended period in a winter environment, nothing beats a heated tent.

Tent-tipi in snow

For winter camping, a tent with a stove such as the one in the foreground is a much more comfortable proposition than the unheated nylon mountain tent in the background. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Hot tenting has a lot going for it. First – and very important in a cold environment – is that you can get your clothing and footwear dry and free of moisture on a regular basis. This means your clothing will perform up to its maximum potential while out and about during the day. A warm space also allows you to properly air out your sleeping bag on a daily basis. Moisture in your clothing and sleeping kit will significantly reduce their performance.

Clothing hung up inside a heated tent

Clothing hung up to dry inside a heated tent. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Having a warm space also means that you are warmed bodily. This saves calories, which you would otherwise be using to keep warm. A heated tent, properly sited and organised, provides a comfortable space in which to cook, eat and relax. It’s not a sin to be comfortable while winter camping!

Warm interior of a heated Snowtrekker tent

A heated tent provides a comfortable space in which to cook, eat and relax. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

A tent stove isn’t just for keeping you warm either. Your stove provides a heat source on which to cook, produce hot drinks and melt snow to produce water.

A tent heated by a wood-burning stove is a much more efficient way to keep warm and cook than an open fire outside. You will burn much less fuel, which means gathering less firewood. This saves time, effort and calories as well being kinder on the local environment. Even a relatively lightweight canvas tent containing an efficient wood stove can quickly create a comfortable atmosphere of +20-25 Celsius inside while it is minus 20 to 30 Celsius outside.

Thermometer showing minus 20 Celsius.

When it is this cold outside, a canvas tent and stove will quickly and efficiently create a warm, dry environment for you to live inside. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

So, a heated tent has distinct advantages in winter. But there are some things you must know to get the most out of your tent.

Heated Tents: Safety First

There is a major risk factor inherent in heating a canvas tent with a wood-burning stove. You have a fire in a metal box, which becomes very hot, within the confined space in which you are living, surrounded by a material that is flammable.

This gives rise to specific dangers.

First, there is the danger of severe burns for anyone who comes into contact with the stove when it is up to operating temperature. Even a glancing touch can be enough to injure. Clothing can be easily damaged too.

Melted nylon jacket

Hot stoves can damage clothing – and people – very easily. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

At all times you must be aware you are working upon a surface that is either uneven or purely compacted snow. A snow platform will, over time, soften with the internal warmth of the tent as well as with people moving around on it.

Softening of the snow platform will be most pronounced nearest to the stove. It is while moving in these areas that you need to take particular care. Putting your foot through the snow floor of the tent and falling towards the stove is to be avoided at all costs.

Second, there is the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. While exhaust gases from the stove should be sent up the chimney, fumes can sometimes backup, even flowing in the opposite direction, coming out of the vents at the front of the stove and entering the tent interior. In particular, this can happen if there is a strong wind blowing towards the output of the chimney.

While carbon monoxide is both odourless and colourless, in the context of a wood burning stove it is also likely to be accompanied by a good deal of smoke. Hence, if the fire is burning overnight, you should always have a fire guard on duty. They will detect any smoke as soon as it enters the tent.

Tent filled with smoke

Tents can fill with smoke under some conditions. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Third, there is the risk of a tent fire. One of the main considerations in avoiding tent fires is to make sure that the chimney pipe does not get too hot, certainly not red hot. Ideally the design of tent you are using incorporates protection or isolation of the tent from the hot stove chimney, which necessarily has to pass through to the outside of the tent somewhere. This can be a panel of flame-proof material or there may be some physical structure-such as a fire guard or grill material, either of which separates the chimney from the main body of tent material. Some chimneys also have spark-arrestors on the end. Also, check that the tent material has been treated to make it flame retardant.

Hot pipe

This chimney was not glowing red to the naked eye but the sensitivity of the digital camera sensor picks out where the stove/chimney is particularly hot. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Insulated fire-proof panel.

Note the square panel of heat-resistant material around the chimney opening. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Inside of a tent tipi with chimney guard

Here there is a metal grill around the chimney separating it from the tent material. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Tentipi chimney with spark arrestor

Chimney with spark arrestor. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Another consideration is the materials that are stored near to the stove. In particular, firewood is often stacked nearby so it warms and is readily available to fuel the stove. While logs themselves are unlikely to spontaneously combust due to the radiant heat of the stove, slivers of birch bark and wisps of beard lichens on the wood can set alight this way.

Care must also be taken with the use of candles and other naked flames inside the tent.

Stove, wood, candle

Care must be taken with materials stored near to the stove as well as naked flames such as candles. Photo: Paul Kirtley

You should keep a knife to hand in case the tent does catch fire, in which case you can cut straight to the side of the tent and escape.

What To Do Overnight? To Heat Or Not To Heat?

One option to minimise the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning overnight, while the tent occupants are sleeping, is to allow the stove to go out and sleep in an unheated space. This is one of the reasons why you should have full winter sleeping gear even if you have a heated tent.

Sleeping Bags. In a tent.

Sleeping with winter-weight sleeping bags in an unheated tent. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

In this case it is definitely worth leaving some small fuel ready to go so that you can quickly and easily light the stove in the morning. It will be only a few degrees above the outside ambient temperature and you will want to get the tent interior warmed up as quickly as possible.

The other option is to maintain a fire watch, whereby at any given point in time one member of the tent party remains awake to both feed the stove as well as keeping watch for fire and smoke.

Man watching stove in a tent

Taking it in turns to keep fire watch. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Obviously, most people will not want to stay awake all night. So, you need to have a rota system whereby each member of the group in the tent takes turns to have a stint on fire watch. In a tent of four, we typically take a shift of 2-2.5 hours each. Personally I find it good thinking time and an opportunity to write journal entries or notes.

If you sleep with the stove off, one person should rise a little early to light the stove and heat some water for breakfast. Everyone else can then get up into a warm tent. This duty of getting up first and lighting the stove can be rotated with a different person doing it every day so as to make it fair.

These latter points highlight a key element of making winter camping in a heated tent work. Even though the tent is quite large by mountain tent standards, it is still a very confined space. Therefore, it’s important everybody does their share of the work and the group has agreed systems so everybody is aware of what needs to be done and how it should be done. This avoids confusion, resentment and unnecessary friction.

Communal duties in a heated tent

Living in a confined space, everyone does their fair share of the tasks – such as melting snow for water – working to an agreed system. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Get Organised For Top Notch Hot Tenting

As I have already suggested, an important part of living in a heated tent for an extended period of time is being organised.

This organisation starts right at the beginning of the trip. Take an organised approach to your packing- both personally and as a group.

When you get to the point where you are packing your gear, whether it is onto a toboggan, pulk, dogsled or snow machine trailer, make sure you have a system which allows you to know where everything is. When you arrive at the spot you are going to camp, you will be able to easily lay your hands on the things you need first. This is particularly important in winter. You may be tired, cold, hungry and the light may be limited (days are short in winter), so you are going to want to be efficient in your camp set up.

To ease into a trip, it can be good to make your first night out a shakedown night. This is when you get everything really tightened down. So, it is often good to have a short first day, allowing you more time in camp to set up your tent, get organised and fully up to speed. This is particularly useful if the group has not camped together before or it’s been a while since you all last camped together. As the trip progresses, the camp set-up and breakdown process will become a well-oiled machine.

When you get to your camping spot it’s important everybody knows the jobs that have to be done, which jobs they are to do themselves and with whom. While it may seem obvious what needs to be done, organisation and good communication at this stage saves a lot of time. Remember the aim is to be in the tent warm and with a full belly as quickly as possible.

Choosing and Preparing The Winter Camping Pitch

In choosing where to pitch your tent, there are a few major considerations.

Generally, the first thing that needs to be done is for the site of the tent to be prepared. As with any shelter, you are looking for an even, flat surface on which to sleep. You have two choices; the first being to dig out the snow and erect the tent directly on solid ground; the second choice is to create a platform of compacted snow on which to pitch the tent.

Achieving a flat surface is typically difficult when digging down to the ground, as you’re never quite sure what lies beneath the snow. In my experience, you are unlikely to find a large enough area of flat ground for a tent of several people to live and sleep comfortably just by taking a chance and digging in an area that “looks good”. You are just taking pot luck. And there is no way that you will dig multiple pits until you find the perfect one – you just don’t have the time or the energy.

tentipi dug into the snow

The occupants of this tent dug down to the ground, which was uneven and made for an uncomfortable night. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Our preference is to create the platform because we know it is going to be flat and comfortable for everybody to lie on. Digging down to the ground, by comparison, particularly in the boreal forest is likely to reveal uneven ground, logs, frozen features that are hard to change and potentially even frozen water, none of which makes for a comfortable surface on which to sleep. The downside of creating a platform is that over of the next few days the platform will slowly – and it is only slowly – start to melt a little and compact. This creates a surface that is no longer flat but somewhat saucer shaped. This convex surface tends to centre on the stove.

Trampling snow with snowshoes

Creating a platform area for one of our camps. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Certainly, if you are staying in an area for only a night, or even a few, tramping down a platform is the quickest and most certain way of achieving a comfortable living and sleeping surface.

Another issue with digging down to the ground is that you are sleeping at the lowest point of the tent. Whereas, if you create a platform, you can then dig a cold well in part of the area for the coldest air to drop into. Then, even on nights where you are not running the stove, you will not be sleeping at the same level as the coldest air in the tent. This makes a significant difference.

Camping in a tent that relies on a wood-burning stove, means you will need access to a ready source of firewood. Once you get to know your stove, you will know how much it will burn in a given time to keep your tent warm at different external temperatures. Efficiency with a saw and axe is what’s required to process the dead-standing timber into useable pieces of fuel but having the raw material relatively close by makes a big difference. You should be keeping an eye out for potential fuel before you settle on a particular site to pitch your tent.

Winter Tent Organisation Starts Before Putting It Up

It should be fairly obvious that you cannot mount a heated stove directly on compacted snow or even frozen ground. The heat of the stove will melt the surface. Therefore, you must mount the stove on some sort of legs or framework so that it has a stable platform regardless of what the snow is doing around it.

Work this out before you put the tent up. It is often easier to set up the stove first. Another tip for this stage is to save space by digging the cold well under, or partly under, the stove.

Cold well in Tentipi

A cold well incorporated into the vestibule area with the stove mounted on a wood framework. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Organising Your Camp Around Your Tent

Oranising a winter camp

Once the platform is established, you can organise your camp around the tents. Photo: Paul Kirtley

In addition to an area to pitch the tent itself, you are going to need to organise your camp around it.

Have an area near to your tent where you can keep spare logs, ready to section and spit as well as having the space to do this safely. We generally extend the tent platform to create this space.

Firewood processing area in front of tent

Space outside the tent to process dead, standing trees into firewood. Photo: Paul Kirtley

We also prepare an area of snow where we can store our toboggans and spare equipment duffels. Once the extended platform is frozen solid, we can process fuel, access equipment, go to the toilet, collect snow and generally move around directly outside the tent, without having to put on snowshoes.

Hard platform of snow with tent on top

There is sufficient space to move and work directly around the tent without putting on snowshoes. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Around the perimeter of this area, you should also designate a place where people pee. This should be strictly adhered to. As the old saying goes, “don’t eat the yellow snow”. Yes, the yellow snow is obvious. Until it snows or drifts. Hence, the need to have a designated pee area.

You should also have an area for brushing teeth, which can be the same area as for peeing if you want. You don’t want everyone spitting in your communal water supply.

Away from these areas, you should have an area that is designated for collecting snow for melting into drinking water. This area should not be used for anything else.

Area of snow for collecting for water

The area for collecting snow for melting into drinking water. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Some distance away from your camp should be your main latrine. This should be placed with as much careful consideration as you would give the position of a latrine in summer. In particular, you should consider what will happen to melt water in the spring. You should not place your latrine on top of or close to watercourses. Burn your toilet paper. Do not leave it buried in the snow.

Moving In To Your Heated Tent

Dusk and cold

With a bitterly cold night setting in, there’s nothing better than to have your tent set up and a warm space into which to retire. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Once you have your platform established, stove installed and your tent set up, you can then get organised with your group kit and personal kit.

When we are camping in the winter, my groups all have a personal duffel bag, which we call a tent bag, containing our sleeping equipment, some spare clothing for inside the tent, wash kit and anything else we might want inside the tent such as a book. We organise ourselves so that each duffel fits at the top of our individual sleeping areas.

As soon as we have laid down the tent flooring – usually the canvas tarps from our toboggans – we lay out our sleeping mats too, which has several advantages. First it provides protection for the snow platform from feet, knees and hands breaking the crust as we move around inside the tent. It also provides insulation for us from the snow underneath.

Tent interior with sleeping mat and duffels

Canvas tarp flooring with sleeping mats and tent duffels in place. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

You will necessarily have to be wearing your boots while getting in and out of the tent, then removing your outdoor footwear before proceeding to the sleeping/living area. This means it’s useful to have an area near the door that it is OK to stand on with boots. If you are only staying overnight you can just have the snow platform showing. We have found, however, that if we are staying in area for several days, then it is worth putting down what are effectively roughly hewn floorboards.

There are two issues, which are linked. The first one is that this area near the door is often where the stove is also situated, so the radiating heat from the stove is quite high in this area, causing a softening of the floor. The second issue is that this small area near the door is the area that gets most foot traffic. So the combination of heat from the stove softening the snow plus a lot of weight in one particular area means that if the floor platform is going to be damaged anywhere, this is the place it is most likely to happen.

We have found by making the simple addition of floorboards in this area means the floor stays in good condition for days rather than deteriorating steadily after day one. These boards are made from firewood offcuts. An alternative is to use spruce boughs.

Split wood for flooring

Roughly hewn floorboards to protect the snow platform from heat and footfall. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

You can stack firewood inside the tent so you have ready access to fuel. Make sure you have split the wood down into the various sizes you will need, from kindling up to main fuel. You can also stack some spare, processed fuel outside the front door, in case you need to bring some more in.

As soon as the first firewood is available, we typically get our stove going and get some snow melting so that everything starts to warm up and we start producing water. It can be hard to stay well hydrated while trekking in the cold, dry conditions of the far north. Hydrating yourself once in camp is a priority.

Stove, wood, pots

Wood stacked, stove on and pots of snow melting. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Arrange your group equipment inside the tent and have a system, so that everyone knows where things are. Only take kit – personal or group – into the tent that needs to be in the tent. This allows for maximum room inside as well as minimising time both unpacking and packing. Everything else can stay outside.

Group kit neatly organised in vestibule

Group kit neatly organised in the vestibule area. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Duffel bags in snow

Spare kit and food stored outside in duffels. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

As the inside temperature of the tent increases above zero, you will want to make sure that when you do enter the tent, you have the minimum amount of snow on your clothing and equipment. Otherwise, the warmth will simply melt the snow and make your kit damp, which can then freeze into it if you go outside again. We position a brush outside the front door for removing snow.

Brush on a rope on a stick

Brush for removing snow from clothing and equipment before entering the warm tent. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Enjoy Your Winter Camping Experience!

Winter camping done badly is a miserable experience. Winter camping done right is a wonderful experience. The devil is in the detail and it does take some practice.

It’s worthwhile making the effort, though, as winter camping takes you to some amazing places and allows you to see some incredible aspects of nature.

If you haven't turned on images yet, then you probably should...

The Northern Forest in winter is stunningly beautiful. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

View of reindeer from tent door

Reindeer using the trails outside our tent. Lapland, Sweden. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

You can start hot-tenting before the snows come. It’s a great experience to camp out in a warm tent during the damp and frosty nights of autumn. It’s so cosy; you’ll wonder why you’ve never done it before.

Heated tent in winter forest but no snow

Hot tenting is a great way to extend camping to a year-round activity. East Sussex, UK. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

The forests in full winter conditions are quiet and empty – much wildlife migrates south and many people simply stay indoors or close to home. In contrast, the winter camper sees the best the season has to offer and literally extends their outdoor life to a world of year-round possibilities.

Tent at night.

The spendid isolation of winter wilderness camping. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Do you use a heated tent? Or do you own a canvas tent but are yet to invest in a stove? Or do you prefer other means of winter camping – cold tenting or hammocking even? Let me and others know in the comments below…

Recommended Further Reading

    

Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog

A Winter Camping Trip In The Northern Forest

Winter Magic: Return To The Northern Forest

How To Split Firewood On Snow: Key Axe Techniques

Surviving A Winter’s Night in the Northern Forest: How To Build An Arctic Lean-To

Cliff Jacobsen and Camping’s Top Secrets

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Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.

 

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew

Thanks for this, a great read. All I need now is some snow. :)

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Andrew, good to hear from you. Yes, snow has been very sparse here in the UK this winter too…

Reply

Dean White

Excellent article and far more practical advice than I had ever thought possible – great tips and ideas in any cold environment.

Thanks

Dean

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Dean,

It’s really good to hear from you. It’s been a while.

Thanks for your comment and I’m happy that this has added to your cold weather knowledge.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Zed

An astounding article Paul, never even considered a heated tent before reading this but now am inspired to set doing this as one of my goals. Thanks for taking the time to put this together

Peace

Zed

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Zed,

Good to hear from you my friend. I’m glad you enjoyed this and it has opened up some new possibilites for you :)

Take care,

Paul

Reply

Craig Johnson

Great article as always mate, I was lucky enough to get a SoulPad and I have been out in the snow with it once without a stove it was still a good weekend. Just have to wait for a decent amount of snowfall then I will go longer with the stove in tow.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Craig,

Sounds good. Yes, when it’s cold and damp, getting that stove on is a real treat. It feels luxurious as soon as you start to feel the benefit of the heat.

It would be great, though, if we do actually get a decent amount of snow this winter…

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Richard

That. Looks. Awesome!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Oh, it is!

Reply

Paul Glazebrook

Paul, again a very good article with excellent photos. A few considerations on site selection I use here in Maine: shelter from the wind, access to a source of water, and access to standing dead wood. With our snow pack and topography finding a level site is usually not an concern. We access water by chipping through pond ice using a chisel. I can not remember the last time I melted snow for water. Finding a good supply of standing dead wood (Cheeco) is a always a major consideration.

For additional reading, I highly recommend ‘The Snow Walker’s Companion’ by Alexandra and Garrett Conover. It may be out of print.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Paul,

As always, it’s good to hear from you and to share in your experience.

Interesting regarding not melting snow. How thick is the ice typically you are chipping through?

I agree the Snow Walker’s Companion is well worth reading. I have included it in the recommended reading section below. At present it seems to be commanding a high price in the second hand market but as always, it’s worth keeping an eye on as the prices of many out of print books seems to fluctuate widely.

Thanks again for your comments Paul.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Paul Glazebrook

This thickness of the ice varies year to year and by location. Normally it is in,the range 6 to 10 inches. So far this year snow cover is thin but it has been very cold recently. Last weekend the ice was 12 inches thick on a small central New Hampshire pond. I expect the ice will get thicker.

Reply

Paul Glazrbrook

Paul, just had a thought for an addition to your list for further reading: ‘True North’ by Elliot Merrick. It has just been re-published. This is an account of Merrick’s travels with Labrador hight of land trappers in the winter of 1930. My copy is dog eared, highlited and flagged. Paul

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks Paul. It’s been on my list for years…

Reply

Rune Bjørnsen

I have done my fair share of hot tenting as you call it while I did my national service in the Norwegian army. One of the biggest problmes was snow melting under the oven. There was seldom more than 20-30 cms of snow covering frozen ground where we camped. So as the snow melted, it did not run off. It just gathered under us. So after a couple of days we the floor under us was completely soaked, with the cold well filled with freezing water.

The sollution was to add a good layer of spruce branches over the floor. That alsp provides good isulation from the snow. But with thousands of soldiers excercising on one area, that was not really allowed. We just had to live with the wet stuff under us.

But for a lone tent out in some wilderness area that will help a lot. Specially if you cover the spruce branches with a tarp.

For safety we used to build a barrier of branches around the oven too, so that nobody zinged their sleeping bag at night. It was kind of crowded with 8-9 men sleeping in one tent :-)

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hei Rune,

Thanks for your comment. There’s some great advice and information there, thank you. It’s also interesting to hear some of the compromises you had to make from a military perspective (it does sound quite crowded!). Was it the round Norwegian military tents with a gasoline stove you were using when you served?

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Rune Bjørnsen

…Oh and these days I prefer hammocking. But I only stay out a a night or two…

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Yes, that can keep things simple…

Reply

Simon Cook

Hi Paul, than you for yet another great article and fantstic photos. I personally have not had the chance or finances to use a heated tent but I certainly do like the idea. I use a little one man hooped bivi during the colder months, and although a bit cramped I have always been snug thus far. I am considering buying a Polish Lavvu tent made from two poncho’s, I’ve heard pretty good reports about them and it with give me extra room so as I can take my dog with me. Obviously this will not be heated as hiking with a rucksack into the Kent woods does make it hard to lug a stove. So hopefully soon I will be able to experiance camping in the snow, I have been told by a fellow bushcrafter that it is fantastic.
Thanks again for all the hard work you put into your articles “Much Appreciated”

Reply

Mike

Hi Paul,Great article,n great pictures.Takes me back many years to hunting in ALBERTA,in the winter n living in “Hot Tents”.But now I’m in my 70′s,even in mild UK,I’m getting a little soft.lol
Best wishes and I hope you catch up on your backlog of mail.Mike.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Mike,

I’m glad this brought back some good memories for you.

Getting soft? That’ll be the mild British winters, not you ;)

Best wishes and please do keep in touch.

Paul

Reply

Bob

Good article Paul. I’ve been winter camping for 35 years and hot tenting for 15. Here in Northern Minnesota we usually go to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. We also bring a chisel or auger to access the lake water for drinking. We are also fishermen, so it serves for that purpose too. We put some sort of thin sheet metal over a split wood platform under the stove. Helps a lot against melt down. One thing to remember is the colder it is out the better the chance of setting your extra wood stacked in the tent on fire. With that stove humming along for longer periods it’s easy to get the wood too hot. Speaking from experience here. It’s quite a shock to come into your tent and find a fire outside of the stove. Also make sure your stove is angled slightly up from front to back. This will help the stove draft better and keep it from smoking when you open the door.
Here’s a great website for those interested in winter camping and wanting some more info.
http://wintertrekking.com/
Bob

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Bob,

It’s good to hear from you. Thanks for dropping by and leaving such a useful experience-filled comment.

We tend to put two long poles across the tent to support the stove in the Snowtrekker and dig the coldwell so the stove sits over the top. The snow can then melt away a bit but the stove stays on a stable, level platform. But I’ll also be interested to experiment with the metal plate idea.

We too like to do some ice fishing and we take a portable auger with us. I’ve had mixed experiences with ice chisels in the north of Sweden. Where the ice was several feet thick, it was a real pig to chip out iron-hard ice. Sharp auger blades cut through it like a knife through butter by comparison. But maybe I didn’t have the right chisel. Do you have a maker you could recommend?

Good point regarding colder weather meaning you run your stove hotter which makes combustion of nearby materials likely.

Angling the stove up towards the chimney is a great tip too.

I’ll be sure to direct people over to http://wintertrekking.com too.

Thanks again and warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Bob

I agree, augers are much faster than chisels. I do have something called an ice needle that’s based on a type of chisel used by Cree commercial fishermen on lake Nipigon. It has a pyramid shaped point with which you strike the ice. When it’s very cold the ice explodes. Has to be very cold though, below -10F for it to work. It was made by a local blacksmith who is no longer doing that though. So, yes, I’d agree the auger is best.
It’s great you are promoting the hot tent experience. Takes a bit to get set up, but it’s such a great time of year to be out. Makes areas you’ve been to many times new again.

Reply

Fr Dave B

Consider the Mora ice spoon, it looks like a shovel that turns in the ice and if sharp can give an auger a fierce run for it’s money. You will have to search for one but it is well work the effort.

Good luck

Fr Dave Birchfield

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Fr Dave,

I’ll have to keep my eye out for one of those on my Scandinavian travels…

Thanks for the heads up.

Paul

Paul

Great article Paul. Something iv always wanted to do but don’t get much snow in Anglesey haha ! all the best Paul .

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks Paul. Haha yes but Anglesey has other redeeming features ;)

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Don Grant

That was a great read – covers everything one needs to know to get into Hot Tenting. I’ll have to refer others to the article. Love my Snowtrekker. Sure makes extended stays in the winter a pleasure.

RR

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Don,

Yes Snowtrekker tents are great. Which model do you have?

Please do refer others here if they will find it helpful.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Jim Gohl

Greetings from Michigan, USA… Wind chill today -25. I’m not camping today; I’m home by the fire. I liked your take on the heated tent, but you didn’t mention the all important “latrine”. How do you take care of that in frozen ground?
Keep on writing; I’ll keep on reading.
Jim

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Jim,

Good to hear from you and thanks for your comment. Sounds cosy where you are and I’m glad you like the article.

There is a short section in the article about latrine arrangements, just after the section on collecting snow for water.

If you have questions on thus, please just ask!

Take care,

Paul

Reply

Tim Smith

Great article Paul! An excellent primer. Thanks for writing it.

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Paul Kirtley

Hey Tim, very good to hear from you and thanks for your comment. Coincidentally I was thinking about you just the day before yesterday, having re-watched the Woodsmoke video with you, Larry Dean Olsen, Mors Kochanski and co.

I’ll have to get out to Maine for some winter camping one of these years…

All the best and keep in touch,

Paul

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Fr Dave Birchfield

Very well done, you have gleaned many good suggestions from many experts and amateur campers. I live and camp in Wisconsin and spend a good part of the winter outside practicing what you preach. We use a toboggan (plastic) to tote our kit and food. Well I must get packed for my next weekly trip. Keep the cold out of your bones. Again very well done article. From a Scouting Polar Bear, good times to you all Fr Dave Birchfield

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Paul Kirtley

Thank you Fr Dave,

It’s good to hear from you and thank you for your kind comment. My friends and I also use plastic toboggans. Mine is by Black River Sleds, who I believe are based in your home state of Wisconsin. So, I’m glad to be in good company in that respect ;)

Enjoy your winter walking – good times to you too :)

Warm regards,

Paul

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Sally King

I took my recycled tipi to the woods a coupe of times with a calor bottle woodburner :) It had a liner but tbh was a bit of a toy compared to the Sioux ones it was based on. However some of the design aspects were really interesting to work with- the liners, using the chimney flaps for draft, the asymmetrical pitches performance in high winds especially, I learned a lot :)

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Paul Kirtley

Hi Sally,

It’s nice to hear from you on here and thanks for leaving a comment.

What you say is interesting and very valid – in using things that you have made yourself, you learn much more about their design and functionality, more than you would if you just bought a product. Experience of use means that you can modify things further and be in a position to understand the pros and cons of each aspect. Design, manufacture and the experience of use all have to go hand-in-hand.

Warm regards,

Paul

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paul

hi paul
my winter camp last year was nothing like yours
i hammocked in the gales over here in ireland before christmas, the hammock rising up and down as the trees bent , the rain was hammering on to the tarp , i had a great nights sleep enjoyed every minute of it tucked up in my 4season sleeping bag the only problem i had was starting the fire for the dinner but i won in the end

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Paul Kirtley

Hi Paul,

It’s good to hear from you my friend. Yes, that does sound like a different winter camping experience to the ones I’m describing in this article. But it still sounds like a blast! I love those nights where you hear the rain bashing on your tarp and the wind blowing through the trees; you might even feel a breeze going across your face. Yet you are warm and cosy in your sleeping bag and you can just relax and enjoy raw nature working around you.

All the best,

Paul

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Sergio

Thanks…AWESOME READ.

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Paul Kirtley

You’re very welcome Sergio. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much! :)

All the best,

Paul

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John Ireton

I really liked your article on hot tenting. What size wood stove & pipe do you like and why? Thank-you!!

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Paul Kirtley

Hi John,

Thanks for your comment – I’m glad you enjoyed the hot tenting article :)

The stove depicted with the Tentipi tent is their old style vertical-cylinder type. It wasn’t a great stove for many reasons. They have a horizontal stove now, which at least has a flat top on which you can put pots but it is very heavy and has no chimney damper.

The stove depicted with the Snotrekker tent is the medium model of the range of stoves Snowtrekker supplies. The two smaller stoves come with a 3″ stove pipe and the two larger with a 5″ stove pipe, either of which fit the model tent we were using, which has an apperture for the 5″ pipe. It’s a good size stove for the space and well suited to the tent.

Hope this helps.

Warm regards,

Paul

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phil

A great article. I’ve done a local camp in some woods already this month. Apparently, it got down to a chilling -1c! I used a uco candle lantern for warmth and light, and had a great time of it. I would love to do a snow camp, although I don’t think it’s possible on your scale. Let’s see what Feb/March brings! An inspiring read, thanks once again.

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Paul Kirtley

Hi Phil,

Thanks for your comment. A damp minus one Celsius can often feel much colder – it’s the damp, penetrating cold we often get in the UK. I’ve definitely felt the benefit of a heated tent in those conditions too.

As for a candle – yes, it can make a big difference to comfort levels, particularly in snow shelters. In such a shelter, you also get the benefit of nice light and a handy oxygen level indicator.

Hope we get some winter camping opportunities close to home in Feb/March.

Warm regards,

Paul

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Fr. Dave B

Those who are looking for ice removal tools. there is a thing called a Mora ice spoon that might to be hard to find but works very well. We used to race motor powered ice drills and won some brewiskies at times. Also an extension can be added for ice over five or six feet deep as found in northern Minnesota and Maine. They also pack very well on a toboggan. I also bring a ice chisel for enlarging the top of a ice hole for easy extraction of water with a large pot. Check out the use of the ice spoon on youtube there are some funny videos showing how not to drill deep lake ice.

Good cool camping guys.
Fr Dave Birchfield

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Lee

Hi Paul, really enjoyed reading the recent blog about living in the heated tent, not something I have ever tried but it looks great. I spent a very cold night in a tent on the Black Mountains in about 4 feet of snow when I was younger and I was completing a ‘leadership’ exercise as part of my training in the RN….a stove would have been bliss 

I especially liked the photo at the end of the blog showing the beauty and the vast expanse of the night sky…magic…also interesting to note the position of ‘Orion’s Belt’ relative to where I see it from my back garden…gives me an idea of where the pic was taken.
Kind regards. Lee

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Ruud

Hi Paul

Thanks for this great article! In March I’ll be making another trip to Sweden, and if all goes well, we’ll be sleeping in an old (but good) Swedish military heated tent. Having slept outside in a selfmade shelter last year, this will enable me to spend a night without shivers. I’m printing this article right now and I’ll give it as lecture on the plane for my companions, it’ll give them, as it gave me, a good insight in the little details that come with this kind of camping.

Kind regards!

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Paul Kirtley

Hey Ruud,

Thanks for your kind words and feedback. I’m glad you found this article interesting and that you’ll be able to apply the details to a practical situation in the near future. I hope your companions find it as illuminating as you and that you all have a great – and safe – trip.

Warm regards,

Paul

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Pehr

Good article, learned a few things even after having spent lots of time in “hot tents” during my time in the Swedish army.

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Paul Kirtley

Thank you Pehr.

Med Vänliga Hälsningar,

Paul

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Leo

Another fantastic article, Paul. Tremendous detail and some great tips.

I’ve recently bought a bell tent made by BCT and a Frontier stove. Perfect for family camping in the northern Swedish spring. I like the Snowtrekker tents but I can’t imagine what customs in Sweden would want if I imported one. I paid over a hundred quid in duty for two pairs of Steger Mukluks…

Vi hörs!

Leo

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Paul Kirtley

Hi Leo,

Thanks for your feedback. I’m glad you found it useful and you picked up some tips.

I’ve heard good things about bell tents combined with a Frontier stove, particularly for creating a pleasant atmosphere during Spring and Autumn camps that would otherwise be cold and damp.

I understand about Swedish customs – they seem to be extortionate and painful to deal with. Several years back I had some hassle with them when I had some new equipment sent straight to an address in Sweden from the United States, rather than have it delivered to the UK first then for me to arrange commercial shipping to Sweden with the rest of our gear. They just couldn’t seem to comprehend what was going on and kept sending demand letters in Swedish to me at my friends house (for months and months and months), even though she explained the situation in Swedish and I could easily prove the equipment was back in the UK.

Speak soon!

Paul

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James Gohl

Hey Paul, thanks for your reply!
I wonder if you’ll write something about wind. Here in Michigan wind chill is a killer; it can lower the real feel temp by 15 degrees or more and protecting myself from it is a big problem.
I really like your articles, so keep writing.
Jim

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Paul Kirtley

I’ll add it to my list Jim :)

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Rov

Hi Paul,

That was a very well crafted and informative article! I picked up a stack of really useful tips and, budget permitting, my treat myself to Frontier Stove and a Bell tent for use next winter. Also, there were some great posts from other readers, all of which only adds to the value of the original article.

Keep ‘em coming!

Rov

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Rov,

Thanks for your kind feedback on this article. I hope that you are able to put what you’ve learned from it – and the associated comments – into practice with a heated tent of your own. If you do invest, let us know how you get on with it.

Warm regards,

Paul

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