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Winter Camping Photos and Videos / Winter photo compilation
« on: February 25, 2013, 07:07:04 pm »
Every once in awhile, feeling lazy about being cooped up inside, I rummage through my e-photos looking for a themed slide show.  This one is about winter pics and appropriate to  Hope some of you enjoy.

Trip Reports / 2 nights in Upper Peninnsula, MI
« on: February 12, 2013, 07:35:43 pm »
Spent two nights in the UP in the Hiawatha Forest meeting up with a local fellow by the avatar of Lonetracker. 

Snow was great, perfect for snowshoeing.  I went down to -20oC on Friday night but warmed up on Sunday to about -4oC and was headed for freezing rain later that night.  We packed out before the fluffy stuff turned to slushy stuff. 

Lonetracker is really adept at tracking and stalking-hunting.  He took a porcupine and we cleaned it and cooked it over the open fire (with a little bacon added for extra flavour).  Tasted quite good, with a little twang of pine to it.  Mostly, we just wandered around stalking deer and snowshow hare, enjoying the stars at night and lots of quality fire time.

I stayed under my tarp but used a new bivvy bag for the first time.  It worked out great.  Yep, the condensation happened, wetting the outside of my Wiggy's bag, but I would just hang the bag and bivvy (inside out) on the ridge line of my tarp for about 30 minutes and then shake off the ice crystals.

Joe had a nifty go-lite tent, single pole setup.  Really light and quite nice.  I jealous but understand these things can't be had any longer.

Lonetracker was winter hammocking it.  He has a homemade hammock with some really neat innovations.  Instead of an underquilt, he constructed these tube pockets that run horizontal the width of the hammock.  He then made a series of down filled tubes, like stuffed socks that pack down to nothing and can be inserted into the baffle/pockets. This system always keeps his insulation in place.  I always thought winter hammock camping was more bother than it is worth, but his system really changed my mind.  Sorry - no pics of his set up.

Some long exposures at night


Tents and Shelters / AquaQuest UL Bivy - Unboxing
« on: January 30, 2013, 05:14:47 pm »
Okay, I know folks hate 'unboxing' videos and threads (well I do).   But.....Largely on Hoop's advice last year, I decided to buy a bivy sack to pair up with my sleeping bag/tarp combo that I usually do in winter.  I decided to try out a brand called AquaQuest which has a very economical model which is XL in size.  I need a large bivy both for the high loft of my Wiggy's UltimaThule bag and also because my bag is the X-wide model. 

Ordered it from  The Bivy was really economical - $49.95 with free postage (I also bought a spare silnylon 7x10' tarp for $65).  Its cheaper then the US Army surplus Gortex ones that run $90 used in the surplus stores and quite a bit lighter and smaller in packing size.  I've seen the military ones a number of times as my buddy uses one.  I figured if it wasn't big enough, I'd find another use for it.  Fortunately, it fits my bag and downmat-7 very well.  Haven't tried it in the bush yet, but I thought I'd post this in case somebody is looking for a simple, light bivy this might be just the ticket.  Build quality is generally good except the zippers are a bit on the small side and I know that I will have to be careful with them.

I'm scheduled for a Upper Penninsula camping trip in Michigan on Feb 8 and will be field testing it there.  Will report back after its been used a bit.

Video is attached.

Winter Camping Clothing / Disappointed Merino Wool baselayers
« on: January 08, 2013, 10:47:53 am »
Despite the title, performance wise, I really love my merino wool base layers.  They are among the most comfortable long underwear/undershirt combo's I've used, seem to match synthetics (perhaps slightly less performance) on moisture wicking and are very effective for adding warmth (better than synthetics is my guess) to my standard layers of clothing.  They also are very odor resistant which is more appreciated by my friends on the drive home than me, but this is still good especially on multi-day camping. In short, I love how merino wool behaves.

My disappointment lies in the durability of these garments.  I have two sets, one purchased from MEC in 2010 and another set from Swanndri purchased in 2011.  I prefer the weight of the Swanndri ones a bit better, but both cost about the same (although shipping was more from Swanndri coming from N. Zealand).  Both sets of garments are getting riddled with runs along the top of the thighs, in the crotch and at the knees.  The MEC's integrity is a bit worse for wear, but it is older and they were compromised once when I poked a sharp edge through my pants and into my leg once (Ooops!).  I sewed that hole and the sewing held, but there are runs streaming from stress lines around the patch.  Both sets did get a lot of use, I wore them pretty much every weekend for hiking and took them on several camping trips in the fall/winter.  I am hard on my clothing.  I frequently sit/kneel in the dirt and when I'm camping, I usually sleep in my long underwear unless they have become very wet and then I changed them.  They also get machine washed at home on gentle cycle and air-dried (never put them in the drier).

However, for all of the above activities, the treatment of my merino wool undergarments has not been exceptionally hard compared to synthetics I've used, both polypro and some of the baselayer polartech products out there for many years with hardly any noticeable wear and tear.   The synthetics are also easier to launder at home and I can throw them in the drier without worry.  So this year, I was considering replacing a set of my merino baselayer and considering the synthetic option again.  I can purchase two sets of basic synthetic undergarments for the price of one merino wool set.  This doesn't mean I'm abandoning wool in my other garments, just expressing some concerns about the value/durability issue.

Anyone else have issues with the durability of their merino wool baselayers? 

Winter Camping Clothing / The Felt Store - Liners review
« on: January 05, 2013, 02:22:46 pm »
Wanted to give some impressions about my order of wool liners from The Felt Store.  The link is below.

The only reason I learned of this Canadian company is from so kudos to this site from bringing me there.  I purchased the 100% wool liners (blue felt, 75% virgin wool/25% reprocessed wool, 6 mm thick - 13" height, size 12).  I'm not going to bother posting pictures unless people want me to as you can go to the website and look at them.  Plus I have them inside my boots right now and I don't feel like pulling them out.

I ordered my boot liners on Dec 19, 2012 thinking I'd get them sometime in January.  Imagine my surprise when the postman dropped them off on Dec 23.  Man, that was quick!  I ordered 2 sets, one for myself and one for my buddy.  The order process was quick and clean, paid by CC.  One thing to note, when you first load up the screen the default boot liner size=1 which has a cheaper price ($33.64), but when you order an adult size the actual cost is $49.51.  This is a bit sneaky, but I think they are worth the price. There was also a rather hefty shipping charge (about $28) so beware....This made purchasing two sets worth while and again, I can't complain because the liners were at my door within 3-days of ordering.

Anyhow, the liners have a goofy navy blue colour to them.  Nothing you can do about that unless you want to order bright yellow instead!  They have a vinyl heel guard that should help with wear.  I ordered myself a size 12 liner and fit them into my size 11 pack boots.  For whatever reason, the packboots I have are unusually large (they feel like size twelves from the inside which I normally buy).  My packboots are the Marks WorkWearhouse -100oC brand, similar to the old Sorels.  The size 12 felt liners fit these boots perfectly.  Nice and snug, no sliding, no excess bunching.  Just a perfect fit.  Along with the mesh insert at the bottom, I also have a set of felt/foil bottom liners purchased from Cdn Tire.

Testing - I used these out near Sharbot Lake Ontario over New Years eve and Day.   Temperatures were not that cold, -12oC.  We were walking both on plowed roads and snowshoeing in the back country.  The felt liners felt great, kept warm and always seemed dry (although I understand that wool liners will soak a lot of moisture up before they feel wet).  My initial impressions are they they are superior to the high tech liners (foil/thinsulate/polyeurothane thingies) that came with my original boots. 

The originals liners I had did keep my feet warm (tested to -35oC on two camping trips) but the liners always seemed to get soaked even during my day walks.  This was a PITA while camping because I'd always have to take my liners into my sleeping bag to keep them from getting too stiff.  The fact that the high tech ones always got wet also impacted my main boots which have some thinsulate imbedded in the main boot material (I know - they aren't real pack boots - but it is hard to find -100oC rated boots that aren't like these anymore)...Anyhow, I always had the situation that while winter camping, my liners would get soaked real quick and then the outer fabric would also get wet.  Although I've taken to sleeping with my liners, it just don't feel right sleeping with your boots.  Thus, I always had to contend with the stiffy effect of those boots in the morning and trying to stuff my still wet (but body temperature warm) liners into significantly stiffened boots in the morning.

What I noticed thus far with the new felt liners is that the outer boot remained dry and thus far (only day walks of approximately 2-3 h) the felt liners have also largely remained dry.  Finally, those felt liners are much more amenable to drying at night by the fire.  I will have to be a bit careful of the vinyl heel guard but these are much more likely to survive drying by the fire than the ones that came with my boots.  Like any new piece of gear, they did wear a bit on first use with blue fibers getting impregnated into the heels of my wool socks and a little bit of pilling in that area.  I imagine this is a break-in effect and am not too concerned about this as of yet.

So my initial impression is that I like them quite a bit.  I'm only sad that I only bought the 1 pair for myself and was planning on using these felt ones with my original synthetic ones as spares.  After testing them out, I think I'd rather have both sets (primary + spare) as the felt ones.   Anyhow, these are just preliminary thoughts and after only a couple of days testing them in my boots.  I'll reply back to this thread after I've had a chance to use them during a winter camp out or two.    Right now I'm happy.   They are expensive, especially when you consider the shipping fee, but they are far superior (in my opinion thicker and better built) to the felt liners you can buy at Canadian tire.  True, they are only 75% virgin wool (25% reprocessed), but then again, this is a lot more virginity than what managed to get for my marriage  :D :D

Happy 2013 folks and enjoy that snow!

Trip Reports / Puzzle Lake 4 day cold tarping trek...
« on: February 26, 2012, 07:28:31 pm »
Hi Folks,

I've posted this on another forum but thought I would add it here as well.  One of only two winter camp outings I've managed to fit in this year and unfortunately probably my last of the season.  I'll have a video up on my channel later in the week.  Hope you enjoy the trip report. 

For those of you not familiar with Puzzle Lake, it is Ontario's newest provincial park - designated in 2001.  At this time there are no facilities there and not really any access.  It is a chain of five lakes and there is a car park/boat launch at Gull Lake accessible just south of Kaladar.  My camping partner, RangerJoe, is also a member of this sight, he just hasn't posted all that much.

RangerJoe and I went back to Puzzle Lake over the Feb 23-26th extended weekend to enjoy a last hooray of winter camping and trekking. We left Thurs. at 5:00 am and drove the 7 h drive to the Gull Lake boat ramp and park area arriving right around noon.  On the drive there, the land was completely baron of snow.  This even occurred as we turned off Hwy 401 towards Napanee, there was still no snow on the ground and the rivers were running clean.  We both had a bad feeling about all our gear strapped to sleds.  Driving 1 hr north to our destination we started to see patches of snow on the ground.  Not a good foundation by any means, but enough to drag, haul the sleds through.  The lakes were also frozen and we were glad to see ice huts on one of the larger lakes en route.

At the landing, we parked the truck and removed our sleds. 

Mine -


We did a bit of poking around on the lake first just to make sure the ice was thick enough.  The ice fishing trip reports said that many of the lakes held 6 - 8" of ice the previous weekend and after jabbing and chipping away our confidence built.  However, the ice was as clean and snow free as a skating rink.  It made walking a rather precarious activity of slip and fall, but the sleds glided along friction free.  We made really great time that day!

Some of the ice was smooth, and others overlaid with a thin crust of crystaline ice with solid ice underneath owing to all the freeze thaw cycles of the past couple of weeks.

Beaver lodge...

Seeing all the fault lines in the ice does give you the heebee jeebees though and I knew that the stream connecting Gull Lake and Puzzle was likely to be ice free and flowing as it was last month.  So I steered us onto the other side of the lake and approached from the bank.

Here is the open water at the portage site that we were avoiding (and successful at avoiding).

The first portage - Gull to Puzzle, and a bit of a nasty one.  The hill was very icy from all the freeze-thawing and it was hard work hauling the canoes up without sliding down yourself.

Along the portage trail, you can see how patchy the snow is on the ground.  Fortunately, that was about to change!

A couple of shots of Puzzle Lake (Lake #2 of the 5 chain series).

After about 20 min. walking Puzzle we came to the Puzzle - Loyst portage trail.

Loyst Lake (we would camp out here on the 3rd night as we returned partway back).

The Loyst-Mud Lakes Portage Trail..

The wetlands surrounding the Mud Lake to Norway Lake junction (separated by a Beaver dam) was open water and we had to detour off and follow an ATV trail over to Norway.  Again, very patchy here with the snow and our sleds were touching more ground that snow.

Norway Lake - is stunning with its rock ledges and iconic pine covered islands.

We walked the entire length of Norway towards a small marsh and stream that signaled the point to begin bush-whacking it towards Bear Lake.  However, we traversed enough distance (far more than we could have hoped to do) in one day and decided to set up camp near by.  This was about 3:00 pm and we had walked 3 solid hours to this camp destination.  We were tired and also conscious that we only had about 2.5 h or usable light left to set up camp.

Camp was just in a bush.  The terrain was not very flat.  We both set up on slants.  I had a slight tilt, feet down.  This was a pain since my emergency blanket used as a ground cloth kept wanting so act as a magic carpet slide every time I got on it.  Needless to say, it wasn't the most comfortable sleep that night.

The next morning we bushwacked it to Bear Lake.  Its only 500 m as the crow flies from our camp site to Bear Lake, but a straight line is not possible due to the ruggedness of the terrain.  It took us an hour and a half to get there.  The previous day, walking mostly on ice we covered 10 times that distance in only twice the time.  My what hilly country can do to make distances misleading!  Needless to say, I didn't take out my camera much for all the hauling up hills but I think there is some good video shots of it in the forthcoming vid.

For both Joe and I, this was our 4th foray to the Puzzle Lake chain of lakes and each time we had a goal of setting up camp at Bear Lake which has no formal portage trail from its nearest lake (Norway).  For one reason or another we were always defeated in that attempt.  Not this time! 

However, a storm was brewing and anticipating snow and possibly freezing rain I used one of Iawoodsman's tarp shelter configurations to beat the storm.  This involved using a wooden lean to frame to lend rigidity and support snow loading.

Making things more difficult was that the ground was solid ice.  I could not tap any stakes into it.  I cut some hefty logs and rolled the back corners of the tarp under the logs to secure them.  I was able to tie the front tabs to nearby trees.  Joe used snow anchors to secure his tarp lines.

Having set up camp, we went off to explore Bear Lake.  All the times we were here in the past was by hiking in (without gear, usually camping at Norway) so this was the first time that we were able to cross the lake and explore the other side.  What we found was absolutely beautiful and in hindsight its a real shame that we didn't explore first and set our camp onto the other side of the lake.  Next winter perhaps!


Sleds and Toboggans / Thoughts about a kevlar toboggan?
« on: February 18, 2012, 04:48:17 pm »
There is a canoe builder not too far away from me where I bought my kevlar canoe from.  Anyhow, I love the canoe and how it behaves and they did a great job with it.  When I went to pick up my canoe from their shop last summer we got to talking about the possibility of making kevlar toboggans.  I actually brought it up because they had a little kids sled in the shape of a canoe at the back - a gag build I guess.  As I used my kevlar canoe (never had a kevlar one before) over the summer I could not help but think that it would in fact have good properties for a toboggan.  Unlike the fiberglass canoe's I used, this one is flexible, bashing a log causes the side to dent in and pop out rather than jolt the canoe like a rigid fiberglass or alumnimum one does.

Now, I totally understand that a fiberglass canoe comes at a much greater cost than one of the plastic ones that people are making on their own.  I thought I'd just float it by this audience to see an interest.  It would certainly be bulletproof but I really don't know if it would possess any qualities better than the plastic ones of today do.  What would the price range be that people thing would be reasonable.  Would $300 for a kevlar tobaggan be out of line ?  (I know that quality wooden ones will approach $200)...

Anyhow, this is a concept question.  I have no vested interest in making them or the company I'm talking about, but if there was enthusiastic response, I probably would let this canoe maker know about it.  He seemed quite interested in the whole idea when I told him there was a whole bushcraft market out there for people seeking quality toboggans for hauling gear (as opposed to running hills in play).

What are your thoughts? 

Saws, Axes, Knives, Cutting Tools / Just some edged tools in snow pics...
« on: November 17, 2011, 10:20:38 pm »
Always fun seeing sexy steel in the fluff.  So, how about you folks share your shots of the glam!

Scagel Hunter (Bark River Production Model) and Brian Andrews Custom -Bitterroot model

Snow & Neely Hudson Bay Axe

Rick Marchand's personal tanto

Little Izula Necker

Oh, there are others....Lets see some glittery glam in the snow!

Winter Camping Clothing / BDU's as a low cost 100% cotton shell?
« on: November 07, 2011, 04:01:04 pm »
I have a good set of heavy wool used for winter jacket (Swanndri bushshirt) and outer pants (Woolrich Malone Pants - 18.5 Oz wool) plus all the base layers and mid-layer shirt-jac etc..  However, there are those times when a windshield is required.  One day I will get myself a a nice cotton anorak and pants designed for this purpose, but for now I'm trying to stay on a budget. 

I noticed that the surplus stores sell 100% cotton and new BDU jackets and pants. The jackets are sized as high as 4XL and I think a 2XL will layer overtop of my wool quite nicely.  Has anybody tried BDU's as a windproof outer under deep cold, high wind circumstances?  I know this is not ideal, and the jacket lacks a hood which will have to be addressed separately with head gear.  Really, this is for those 15% situations when you need to layer on top of the wool for wind.  I have gortex as well, but find it undesirable in the deep cold.

Thanks for relaying your experience.


Trip Reports / Sometimes you can just camp local
« on: February 06, 2011, 06:54:58 pm »
A good buddy and I decided on an impromptu overnighter at a local spot we frequent.  Nothing special given its location in S. Ontario, but we've been hit with snow like we haven't seen in 10 years.  Planning on a 3 d trek in UP Michigan in two weeks, we though a little bit of skills tweaking might be in order.  

Plus, I finally got a chance to test out that Wiggy's bag of mine.  It only got to -7oC and the bag is rated to -30oC, so I guess it wasn't much of a test of the bag's performance.  However, I was warm and toasty all night and my buddy in his -20oC bag said he had cold feet.  

We arrived on site at about 12:30 pm.  It was only about 1 km haul to the campsite.  We both cold camped under tarps but set up a nice long fire.  The bench and lean-to wall was already on site courtesy of my buddy who created it one inspired weekend during the fall.  Made up a set of tripod bushchairs that turned out way more comfortable than I would have imagined.  Walked around a bit, worked on some fire skills and just enjoyed the evening.  

We did have to endure the sounds of trains and snowmobiles in the background and a hint of highway traffic.  But we also got to listen to the hooting of an owl, the yelps of coyotes and other hints of wildlife in a predominately rural/converting to suburbia area.  I wished I lived again in an area more close to the true backcountry.  However, I also found that making a concerted effort to enjoy the green spaces in your backyard keeps you out there more frequently and you actually increase your dirt time substantially by doing so.

Anyhow, here is a little compilation video of our little adventure.  Hope you folks enjoy that which can be done in the not-so great outdoors.  I'll continue to live vicariously through you folks who get out in the proper wilds on a regular basis!

Here is the vid. of our adventures.  Hope you enjoy!

Also - yeah, my sled is pretty lame compared to what you guys haul.  But it worked and I'll be going for a proper toboggan next season I think.  Had to prioritize this year!

General Winter Camping Discussion / Winter Primitive Fire Affectionadoes?
« on: February 03, 2011, 08:08:00 pm »
Hello, folks without really giving much introduction to myself, I just sort of rudely dove into a bunch of discussion threads hear abouts lately.  Sometimes I have a bit of trouble keeping my typing constrained.

Anyhow, as a new member to this forums I wanted to ask if there are any other folks out there with my peculiar affections towards making fire by primitive means.  More so on day hikes then multi-day camping, I often find it relaxing and a part of the fun gathering up local resources and making fire by bowdrill.  Its one of my favorite fire making methods, even though it takes time, its really the process that is the enjoyment as much as the fire afterwards.  Winter can sometimes be a particular challenge for achieving success at friction fire, which to me makes it all the more fun.

This year I also learned how to do hand drill, but I'm not very good at it or I can't seem to keep my palms well conditioned enough.  While camping, I less often make fire by friction methods unless I'm specifically making time for it.  Here, I prefer to make fire by flint and steel using tinder fungus or charcloth and when I can natural tinder's from local materials be that cedar bark, inner bark fibers of cotton or basswood or seedheads from phragmites grasses or thistle.  When in doubt, out comes the jute twine.

I got to thinking about making this thread after enjoying the emergency fire thread started in the winter safety section.  As much as I feel confident about using traditional fire, I am a realist and carry modern fire ignition methods (lighter, ferro-rod and stormproof matches).  But for the most part those modern methods are used as a back-up to the primitive techniques I enjoy.

How many other folks enjoy primtive fire making methods in the winter? 

Below is a picture of one of my buddies working up a coal in McGregor Point last year...He was using a cedar hearth and spindle as I recall.

Here are a couple videos I made of myself this year playing around with friction fire on dayhikes...Most of my videos are edited way to long, so I advise you only watch them under duress of boredom  ;D


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