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Topics - Pawistik

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This started as a response to another post, but I decided to separate it out to a post of my own.

Hi folks, perhaps you can help me decide on what to get for a new sleeping bag/sleeping bag system.

Currently I'm using an old MEC -20°C or so down bag (Swan Dryfoot?), with an overbag (MEC "Emperor Penguin" if I recall correctly). But, I'm getting older, and that bag was a wedding gift 20 years ago (my wife uses it in summer) ::) so it doesn't have the loft or warmth that it used to. Similarly, I don't have the metabolism and tolerance of discomfort that I used to. I'd like to replace the sleeping bag with something warmer (rated for colder temperatures) for my occasional winter camping exploits. As with others, I hot tent, but 20 minutes after the fire dies it's not so different from cold tenting. Every time I head out it seems that we have a sub -30°C night, so I want a system that can handle things down to about -40°C.

I've been looking recently at the Wiggy's bags. Some reviewers love them, others not so much. I'm considering their dual bag "FTRSS" systems. Either the 0°F/-40°F Super Light or the -20°F/-60°F Ultima Thule systems. On one hand I don't want more bulk/weight than I need, but on the other hand I don't really trust temperature ratings an know that it'll lose some loft with time (despite the claims). I am probably fairly average when it comes to being a hot or cold sleeper (slow to warm up though once I get cold if I'm not active). I like the modular approach and would use the overbag in the summer for canoe & kayak camping if it's not too bulky. Price seems OK, and some of the wet sleeping bag reviews seem promising (not that I intend to sleep in a sopping wet bag, but moisture management in the winter is an issue, and there's the potential for wet sleeping systems when canoe & kayak camping).

Shipping to Canada from Wiggy's is atrocious but I can have it shipped to Montana for free where a friend can bring it across for me (then I just have to figure out how to get it the last ~400 km north).

What's the conventional wisdom these days at the forum here on sleeping bag systems for hot tenting and hauling sled? What do folks think of the Wiggy's bags? Anyone try the boat foot bags that they sell? For those that like their Wiggy's bags, how have you found the flat hood that cinches with a draw cord? How bulky when packed have you found these bags compared to other bags of similar warmth? How have you found their sizing? (I'm 6'3", 205 lbs or so.)

Other cost-effective bags that I should be considering?

So, here's my parameters:
  • Hot-tenting/cold-sleeping to -40°C in a cold dry environment (northern Saskatchewan)
  • ~4 nights out per year, wish it were more but...
  • Usually snowshoeing and hauling gear on a 10' HDPE toboggan, meaning bulk & weight matter, but it doesn't have to fit on my back (bonus if it does)
  • Tallish guy at 6'3"
  • My current system would likely get used by my kids, so I'd prefer to build a new set-up rather than accessorize what I currently have
  • I appreciate durability
  • Less than $500 cdn, please
  • Bonus points for versatility in any system I get (i.e. overbag that can be used on it's own for bikepacking & paddling)


Prairie Provinces / Snow in Saskatchewan
« on: November 19, 2010, 06:44:49 pm »
I don't want to brag but... Saskatoon has snow! We now have a decent start on the season following Thursday's minor snowstorm. Great stuff, we have about 6" or so on the ground and we now quite suddenly look like a winter wonderland.

Looking at the satellite imagery, it appears that the snowcover is extensive. The smaller lakes are frozen, and so is Montreal Lake (large but shallow, it seems to be the first of the big lakes to freeze). Crean, Kingsmere and Lac LaRonge are partially frozen but I think they will go quickly given the current cold temperatures, clear skies and calm (following our winds of the rest of the week to cool things down).


Other Homemade Gear / Building an Anoroak, Tips Before I Start?
« on: November 18, 2010, 05:31:07 pm »
Hi Folks,

I would like to obtain a cotton anorak, or some sort of breathable and durable shell to go over top of the multitude of wool layers that I own. Like most others here, I really like the Arctic Anorak that Empire Canvas produces, however it simply is not in the budget for me at the moment. The swedish army surplus anoraks look OK, but I’m not a small guy and it seems like they fit a bit small without a lot of room in the arms.  So, I would like to sew my own. I’ve been researching and reading up, and have developed a few questions.

I have the Connover’s book from the library (1995 version) and have seen the pattern there. I’ve also been looking at the pattern for the “Parkover” from MacPhee Workshop thanks to the excellent post by Kinguq. I kinda like that Parkover pattern, probably with a large front pocket(s) added - it seems fairly simple. I’ve also seen the Swedish Army Anorak pattern here on wintertrekking from Pik.

Are there other patterns that should be considered, something easy for a novice?

My next  concerns are regarding the fabric. I’ve seen the fabric offered for sale by Snowtrekker Tents. I’ve also seen the painter’s drop cloths that some use (seems to be the cheapest option). (just some place on the net that turned up at the top of a search) has cotton duck, and cotton canvas in 6 oz, 7.4 oz & 10 oz (with a variety of colours and even some organic stuff).

Today I went to the local fabric shop (Fabricland) to check out what they have and in order to touch, see and blow through various fabric options. They had 10oz cotton canvas ranging in price from $10/m to $15/m, with the apparent only difference being the supplier. They also had something they called “shoe canvas” which appeared to be a bit lighter and finer, but still quite wind-proof. The sales-lady figured it was about 8 oz and it was their cheapest option at $8/m.  A third option, and the lightest fabric with finest weave was a cotton twill, 5 or 6oz for $9/m.

Also, I have talked via email with MacPhee Workshop and they suggested a 10oz cotton canvas or their “Commander” fabric, a poly/cotton blend. I am awaiting their response regarding what the percentage of each is, but they describe the commander as a bit lighter but tighter weave in comparison to the canvas. Commander fabric is the same stuff referred to by Kinguq in his post about anoraks. Does anybody have any more insight into the suitability of the commander cloth?

On one hand the less money I spend on fabric the better, but I don’t want to spend all this time & effort with second-rate stuff so I might as well get the stuff that’s going to be best for the job. So, what is the best for the job? (lets assume that I’m not going to find the exalted ventile.)

These different fabric choices may relate to another question that comes up. In the Connover book, they describe making the anorak in two layers, but they also describe using light egyptian cotton. Assuming that fine egyptian cotton is another fabric I’m not likely to find, how many layers are needed when using any of the more readily available fabrics described above? For simplicity sake, it sure would be nice if I could build my anorak from just one layer. Or perhaps I can use two layers in certian areas (ie the main body &/or the hood) and single layer in others.

Sewing Tips
Have any advice or tips to offer?
I picked up a couple of sewing books from the library that will hopefully help me along my project.


Other Homemade Gear / Mark's Pulk, v4.0
« on: June 01, 2010, 12:06:03 pm »
Hi Folks,
A friend of mine built himself a new pulk recently and I think many of the folks here would be interested. You can see his post on the subject at his blog at

It's a UHMW toboggan, with a rigid frame inspired by photos Mark had seen here at I believe it's the Maruska Brother's design that he based it upon (

Cheers & happy dreaming of winter things,

Other Winter Camping Gear / Stove Building
« on: March 16, 2010, 06:48:52 pm »
I got together with a few friends (including member kunzr who took the photos) last month to build a wood stove. The design is based on the general guidelines given by Dave Hadfield at, with modifications based on info gleaned here and the forums at We used 22 gauge steel and the dimensions are 11x11x20 inches. The weight came out at 25 pounds with the damper and four 18" lengths of 5" steel stove pipe.

You can read about the whole adventure at

(n.b. In the above picture, the legs are splaying out under the weight so short bits of angle iron were added at the tops to stiffen the legs. I later saw HOOP's approach of adding notches at the bottoms that are to bite into small logs which then help the stove stay stable atop the snow. Too bad I hadn't noticed that detail earlier.)


Hi Folks,
I finally finished a post on my blog about a trip I did a few weeks ago in northern Saskatchewan, about 500km north of Saskatoon. There are a lot of pictures at the blog post and it came out pretty darned long for a 3 day trip. I'll add a few details here, but for the full story, head to

  • 3 full days, two nights, on the trail
  • Originally planned for 3 nights out
  • Destination: Nistowiak Falls, a popular summertime canoe destination on the Rapid River and near the confluence with the Churchill River.
  • 40 km in total of travel by snowshoe
  • 12 km from starting point (Stanley Mission townsite)to base camp on Iskwatikan Lake
  • 8 km from Iskwatikan Lake base camp to Nistowiak Falls
  • Trails followed were snowmobile trails
  • Only about 1-2 feet of snow in the bush
  • 6 participants, some had done only a single overnight snowshoe trip before this one.
  • Forecast: very warm, potential for melting
  • Reality: very cold; minus 30°C lows and -20°C highs for the first half of the trip
  • Second half of the trip was much warmer, with a high of +2°C in Stanley Mission as we got back into our vehicles.
  • I used my new UHMW toboggan for the first time (for more on the impetus behind getting that, see my post here.). It worked well.
  • Approximate weight of my load: 140 lbs
  • I had a hot tent which two of us shared, the others were in cold tents.
  • The stove was made from 22 gauge steel with the help of friends, especially Rob & Rod - Rob took lots of pictures so a posting about stove building will be forthcoming.
  • Even those that got cold thought the destination was worth the effort and discomfort
  • Half of the group would go camping in these conditions with effort and discomfort, even with no major scenic destination - being out there itself is enough


Books, DVD's, Films and Magazines / Trying to identify a story
« on: March 01, 2010, 12:31:04 am »
Hi folks,
I need some help jarring my memory. I recall reading a short story about a greenhorn in the Yukon (?) or far north, probably written 80 or 100 years ago. In the story it's cold, very very cold and the man is travelling alone with a dog. He stops to get a brew going, or perhaps for the night. Either way, he is attempting to light a fire under the eaves of a tree, which dumps snow on and snuffs his fire. I recall his hands getting cold and him losing the dexterity to strike a match. Eventually he strikes a whole handful in desperation but in the end is unsuccessful. This in the end leads to his demise and the dog moves on.

Does this ring any bells? I'm sure I read it online and may even have learned of it here.

Thanks in advance,

General Winter Camping Discussion / A Great Day
« on: February 26, 2010, 12:38:20 am »
Hi folks,
I wrote a post today on my blog that some of you may find interesting. It's not a trip report or gear report, but still, there's a few photos that may be of interest and a sentiment I think many here can appreciate. You can find it here:

Classifieds / UHMW for sale in Saskatoon - 10' x 16"
« on: February 22, 2010, 10:13:33 am »
I have one piece of UHMW polyethylene plastic for sale. 1/4 inch thick, 16 inches wide and 10 feet long. Makes an excellent, very slippery and very durable toboggan.

I recently tested another piece from the same sheet during 40 km of trekking up near the Churchill River and the toboggan performed very well. Over half that distance was overland, battling hills with 140 pounds of load. On the flats, my 140 lb load was easier to pull on UHMW than a friend's 50 lb load in a plastic sled. On the downhills, I rode in style while others trudged along. My fully built toboggan weighs 20 lbs with all bolts, screws ropes and cross braces. Rolls up to fit in the trunk of a car.


Shipping extra, but I would rather sell locally if I can.


General Winter Camping Discussion / Chafing
« on: February 02, 2010, 03:17:15 pm »

So, ummmm, does anyone else suffer from chafing when travelling into the backcountry? Moisture and rubbing leads to tenderness and swelling which leads to more moisture and rubbing. I was out for a fast lunch-time snowshoe today and already I feel it starting in certain areas which I prefer not to be specific about.

How do others deal with this, or is it just me? Creams, powders, clothing systems? I find hydrocortizone cream can help treat the irritated and inflamed skin, but are there other things I should be doing first or also?

Thanks in advance.

Winter Camping Safety / Alcohol and the Cold
« on: January 27, 2010, 05:17:28 pm »
I enjoy a drink or two when I'm out as I'm sure many others do also.

This afternoon (and last Saturday) on Quirks & Quarks ( on CBC radio they had a piece "Science Fact or Science Fiction" where a caller asked if it was fact or fiction that alcohol can help to warm you.

Hear the piece here:

From time to time, we present a commonly held idea or popular saying - and ask a Canadian scientist to set us straight on whether we should believe it or not. And today's popular belief is - drinking alcohol will keep you warm. To help us with the answer, we contacted Dr. Florence Kellner, a senior research and policy analyst with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse in Ottawa, and Professor Emeritus at Carlton University. She says it's science fiction.

I'm sure most of us were already aware that this is a fallacy, but it might serve as a useful reminder.


Prairie Provinces / Snow arrives, in bulk
« on: January 26, 2010, 12:37:37 pm »
After a dry winter and warm spells that decimated what little snow we had, snow has arrived on the Southern Prairies this weekend. A blizzard has hit the prairies over the past few days and I found myself in what seemed to be near the epicentre in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where I was visiting for a few days. I had considered bringing my bearpaw snowshoes, but MJ is not known as a major snow destination so I left them behind. I soon regretted that decision. It's hard to say how much snow felt from Saturday morning to Monday morning since it's not so much the snow that falls, but rather the snow that blows in from the surrounding countryside driven by the very strong winds. Any place that could slow the wind enough to accumulate some snow had drifts in excess of 4 and 5 feet while windswept areas are nearly bare. I enjoyed myself going out for short walks and wallowing through the not-yet-consolidated snow. Farmyards, ditches, driveways and shelterbelts had all trapped huge quantities of snow.

The gullies and valleys of southern Saskatchewan (and North Dakota, Manitoba, Montana, southeastern Alberta) will be great places to find quantities of snow. The opportunities for quinzee building in my backyard has gone from zilch to decent.

The story back here in Saskatoon is similar, though I would guess that we received half the snow of Moose Jaw (yet somehow this city is twice as incapacitated).

I'm adding a map or two from Ag Canada showing the southern prairie region (agricultural). I think these maps will update with time.

Regions farther north have a bit more snow than we have had prior to this blizzard. A recent trip in Prince Albert National Park showed that the park has minimal snow; enough to haul a sled and enough to warrant snowshoes, but only just. Perhaps a few inches of accumulated snow. I am not certain what the northern regions received of this recent snowfall, perhaps nothing, but I am hoping for some additional snow in the region north of La Ronge before our next trip in less than three weeks.

The following map is somewhat more revealing for the North.

(These maps come from

p.s. It's not great biking conditions so I brought the snowshoes to work today instead.

General Winter Camping Discussion / Making my sled slide better
« on: January 18, 2010, 01:27:37 pm »
20 km with heavily loaded plastic sleds (including a borrowed heavy wood stove) this weekend had my friend Rob & I wondering about how to make our sleds slide better. The sleds we use are the cheap 5' kid's sleds.

We thought of a couple of options, and I want to bounce those ideas off of the collective wisdom here.

First, can this type of plastic be waxed, and would it help? A ski base is plastic, but the plastic is porous to hold the wax. Will wax stick to the bottom of a plastic sled and would it be any benefit after 1km down the trail?

Second, would adding runners of HDPE or UHMW polyethylene help? Does HDPE or UHMW polyethylene slide better on snow with less friction than cheaper plastic of the sort found in my sled? I was thinking two 1" wide runners of 1/4" to 1/2" thick HDPE, attached with machine screws countersunk and fastened with a nut & washer inside the sled, ensuring that the bolts do not stick up much. Or chicago bolts would be another fastener option.

So, what do you folks think? Is it worth trying?


Winter Camping Clothing / Moosehide Mukluks
« on: December 23, 2009, 04:19:54 pm »
Merry Christmas from the North where the snow is falling!

It's an early Christmas here at the in-laws and we've been opening presents spread through the day. My first present was opened before lunch - a single moodeshide mukluk! After lunch and some time playing, we opened the second round of presents. Under the tree for me, lo and behold - a matching moosehide mukluk!

The mukluks in question are a tall, unadorned leather boot with rubber sole. They are lined with a fleecy fuzzy synthetic material glued and stitched to the inside leather.

Now, before I head out in the nearby bush and try out my new present, I have some question about sizing. The mukluks fit me seemingly just right; snug, but not tight. They are maybe slightly smaller than I'd fit a new pair of runners. I could probably fit a fairly thick pair of socks inside, especially after wearing them a bit and the leather stretches.

Should I get them sized larger and fit a wool liner inside? How tight should they be to allow for stretch of the leather?

Cheers & Merry Christmas,
Bryan ;D

Prairie Provinces / Route Suggestion: Northern MB - NE of The Pas?
« on: December 16, 2009, 06:24:44 pm »
Hi folks,
I have some questions for the Manitobans on here. What's your snow like in the area NE of The Pas? Got enough to haul a sled yet?

If you were going to take the train northward, where would you get off and start trekking? I'd rather spend more time "out" than on the train, so would just as soon get off closer to The Pas, perhaps in the vicinity of Cormorant, rather than continuing farther on to Gillam (for instance). Any local contacts that I should talk to if I decide to proceed?

CANORA - CORMORANT, Tuesday Dec 29, 2009   Departs: 20:46 on Dec 29  Arrives: 04:06 on Dec 30   Train: 693
CORMORANT - CANORA, Friday Jan 1, 2010 Departs: 21:32 on Jan 1  Arrives: 08:08 on Jan 2   Train: 692

(See my map of the VIA Rail line.) *edited to correct that link*

That ride would cost me under $80. It's somewhat limited by schedule, but might just work for me. Yes, the hours are not perfect but why should I let that stop me?

My wife & kids are maybe heading to Winnipeg after Christmas to visit the brother-in-law. I was thinking I might slip out for some "alone time" while she visits. She could drop me off in Canora, which is on the Via rail line and pick me up there again on her way home again.

Judging by the sat image there's snow at least, though perhaps not much (4cm on the ground at The Pas according to Environment Canada).

At this point I'm not sure what I'll do. I may just head to the Nesbit Forest or somewhere a couple hundred km from here, or I may go along to Winnipeg, or I may not do anything at all.

Thanks in advance,

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