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Topics - kinguq

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Books, DVD's, Films and Magazines / The birthplace of skiing?
« on: March 28, 2018, 08:11:08 PM »

Wide skis with horsehair skins. Where Hoks came from. Interesting video showing the making and using of these skis.


Trip Reports / Solo trip in Mattawa PP
« on: February 04, 2018, 04:17:34 PM »
This trip went to an area I am familiar with north of the Mattawa River near North Bay. I like the area because it is close by and I can be dropped off and picked up, avoiding the hassle of finding a place to park.

It was snowing heavily on the first day and I was in some doubt as to whether I should go or not. But we had no trouble reaching the end of the road so I set off.

The going was pretty good with about 20 cm of snow on top of an ice crust. Interestingly, I was to find out that my skis performed better under these conditions than my snowshoes. Even though the shoes have more surface area, the skis did not break through the crust nearly as often. Also, once the shoes went through, it was hard to get back on top again because the crust would keep breaking. I am sure this has something to do with the flex quality of the ice and the shape of the load pattern, but perhaps an engineer can explain it.

This year I started leaving the tent poles in the pole sleeves and just rolling it into a long roll. I keep it in a ski bag strapped onto the pulk. I hated threading the poles into the sleeves in cold weather and this makes setup much easier.

The first night I really stoked my Chimpac stove as it went down to -31 C. But I stayed comfy enough. I made a long fleece blanket as a sleeping bag cover. It keeps the frost off the bag and is quick to dry in the morning. I cut it long so I can put my head under the extra fabric, which prevents frosting of the sleeping bag collar. Fleece is really pleasant to sleep under.

The other thing I changed this year was to use a big piece of reflectix as a cover for my gear in the sled. But it also doubles as a floor for about half my tent. This keeps the tent warmer and means I don’t have to gather as many balsam boughs. Seemed to work quite well for both purposes.

The next couple of days were sunny and cold. Perfect weather in other words. I skied around, exploring the nearby lakes and ponds.

I really like this campsite because it has accessible water, which is a real convenience.

I found one lake where a snowmobiler had left a big tarp out on the ice, as a fishing shelter I guess. This person or persons had also built a shanty on shore, complete with a sheet metal stove. Of course it is already falling down, and it is only a few months old at most because it wasn’t there last year. Another future trash heap. This is a provincial park and I have notified park authorities. Why do people do this kind of thing?

The final evening I was regaled by a small pack of wolves. I found their tracks the next morning about 300 m from my camp. They had also made use of my incoming sled trail.

Not much else to say. No adventures, really, which is what you want on a solo trip. Hoping to fit in a couple more before the winter is out.

General Winter Camping Discussion / Couple's sleeping bag
« on: November 09, 2017, 12:03:07 PM »
Due to changing life circumstances my wife is now able to join me on the occasional winter camping trip.

We prefer to sleep together. On summer trips we use a single rectangular down bag zipped to a fleece blanket bottom that I made. For winter I was thinking of using three down bags (Cygnets), one on the bottom and two on top.

The problem I see is that there is no good way to tighten up the top of the bag around our necks as you would with a single bag, which might make for a drafty bag.

With a single bag, I have taken to putting a zipped-up polarfleece jacket over my head. I can breathe fine inside it, and it prevents me from putting my head inside the bag, which inevitably happens if I don't use it. In the morning the jacket is a bit frosted, but it dries very quickly by the stove.

So for the double bag, I was thinking that a simple fleece blanket, perhaps sewn into a short bag, over both of our heads would do the trick. This would keep our heads and faces adequately warm, preventing us from putting our heads in the bag, seal up the top of the bag somewhat to reduce heat loss.

Anyone else use a double bag setup, or have any ideas for doing so?


Trip Reports / Solo ski tour
« on: March 06, 2017, 07:41:01 PM »
After the slushfest that was this year’s DeepFreeze, I felt the need to get out and enjoy some more pleasant winter conditions. Looking at the weather forecast, I took the opportunity to go while the going was good, with cool temps and clear skies forecast.

I am first and foremost a skier, and much prefer skiing to snowshoeing if the conditions allow. However, the shield country around here, with thick bush, deep snow and steep, sharp terrain, makes skiing very difficult, and I have come to accept that snowshoes are the better all-around tool. A while back, I discovered the virtue of skinny-skins, which to me make skiing in the bush, pulling a sled, feasible. So for this trip I wanted to ski most of the time. I still brought snowshoes, because they are so useful around camp and as a backup in case of ski failure.

I also wanted to try using a solid hitch. I prefer that when skiing because it gives much better control of the pulk and enables one to avoid being run down on downhill sections. They are a disadvantage in very rough bush, however, when one must often maneuver and push the sled over and around obstacles. I therefore rigged a simple X-hitch using plastic conduit. For a tow belt I used a fanny pack I had lying around; with the pouch at the front, it makes a handy “office” for snacks, water and essentials.

The conditions were excellent with about 20 cm of new powder over a harder base. I elected an area I had used before, a chain of swamps and lakes north of the Mattawa River. It is beautiful, isolated and reasonably close to home. The weather was ideal: clear and about -20 when I started out.

I followed the creek downstream, portaging overland from lake to pond to swamp. I found the solid hitch fine under all but the roughest conditions, and there I was quickly able to change back to a rope hitch when necessary. The recent thaws had made the swamps rather treacherous in places, and I had to be very careful with the ice conditions.

Eventually I came to a portage around a rapids down to a lake, which I knew to be best on river right. Unfortunately, the portage ended in a bit of a canyon, and there was too much open water and thin ice to risk a crossing. I was forced to backtrack and force a route down river left, which was extremely rough and steep. Here I was forced to don snowshoes and actually lower the sled down a very steep hill. Not fun but part of the game I guess.

I made camp at the bottom of this portage in a nice sheltered alcove behind an island.

I had gotten my bindings a bit wet by getting into some slush. One problem with NNN type bindings (although these are actually Solomons) is that they tend to freeze up such that you can’t get your boot out! After facing this difficulty, I brought the skis into the tent to thaw and dry the bindings, as well as my skins and gaiters.

The night was cold. I kept my little Chimpac stove burning as hard as I could but still it was a struggle to keep the tent warm. My sleeping system was right on the edge and I was beginning to think it was getting old and worn out. I later found out that it went down to -35 in the night, but at the time I thought it was the forecast low of -25 so I was blaming my equipment! Ten degrees makes a big difference…

Glowing Chimpac stove

Balloon with headlamp. I call him "Wilson".

During the evening I heard several very loud cracks, some of them almost like rifle shots. I think these were trees cracking in the cold. The recent warm weather started the sap running, which then freezes hard in the extreme cold, cracking the trees. Or at least that is my theory…

The next morning was again clear and cold, with a fresh breeze as well. I struck off on a day trip, attempting to follow the creek to its mouth in a lower section of the Mattawa River. I kept the skins on my skis for most of the trip down, but removed them to backtrack back to camp. Again it was generally good conditions, with some areas of thin ice and overflow to take care around. I managed to reach the creek mouth after about 3 hours, but took less than 2 to ski back.

Mighty Mattawa River. Won't be crossing this...

After cutting up some more wood, I made a nice dinner of butter chicken, and listened to some music, then passed out, dead tired. Once again I found it a touch chilly…I later found out it went down to -32 that night. Again, in my blessed ignorance, I just thought I was getting to old to cope with what I believed to be warmer temperatures.

Wolf tracks

Otter slide.

Another cold and sunny morning, and I readied myself for the trek home. Setting up and breaking camp is a bit of a chore at these low temps. I particularly dread the task of threading my tent poles through their sleeves, and taking them out. I have to find a better way.

I was now faced with the task of climbing up the hill I had so laboriously clambered down. I did this on foot with no skis or snowshoes, staging the sled up using a long rope. This was a lot of work but quite do-able with patience.

The day warmed up quite a bit and the going became quite pleasant on my packed trail. I continued to use the skins as that made towing the sled so much easier. And one isn’t going to glide much towing a sled, in any event. I arrived back on schedule for my pickup. No adventures, just beautiful scenery, some challenging terrain and a lot of solitude.

I have to say that I did enjoy using skis on this trip. I think I can travel faster and farther with less effort under most conditions on skis, and it is just more fun for me. On the other hand, I don’t think I would leave the snowshoes behind, as they are so useful around camp, and better under some conditions than skis.

I also liked the solid hitch, although again I would always be ready to change to a rope hitch. I think I might go to a single pole hitch as detailed here , as it looks like a robust and simple system.

I am also happy that it was colder than I thought it was!

Tents and Shelters / Vinyl door for my lavvu
« on: January 29, 2017, 11:24:50 AM »
I got my Venor lavvu in Norway, and for some reason Norwegians like green lavvus. This makes them rather dark inside, which I have never particularly liked. I therefore made vinyl door panels that velcro on to the existing screen door.

This improves the lighting in the tent dramatically. It was not hard to make, but the seams are very long so it was rather a lot of sewing. I used adhesive velcro on the vinyl, so we shall see how well that holds up. All in all a successful modification I think.


Trip Reports / Moving my boat
« on: March 23, 2016, 09:04:57 PM »
We had a couple of weeks of warm weather, which took down the snow pack quite a bit, followed by a recent hard freeze. This creates easy travel conditions so I took the opportunity to move my backwoods fishing boat, Pulkat, to a new lake.

Lovely sunny day, and quite cool at -8 C with a bit of wind. The snow was very firm and I found I didn’t need snowshoes. I brought them along just in case it softened up later in the day.

This area is mostly lovely deciduous forest, including maple, yellow birch and quite a few of these black cherry trees, which I find surprising to see in this climate. There are lots of small lakes around. No trails but there are some old logging roads that I have discovered over the years. Mostly I just bushwack from lake to lake, but that’s not too difficult in this kind of forest.

Some of these yellow birch are just huge!

The lake ice is still firm and hard, with a light dusting of snow. Have to be careful around the stream mouths but otherwise it is really good going on the lakes.

Saw what I take to be fresh wolf tracks on the ice. Seemed to be a pair travelling together, investigating beaver lodges etc.

Found the Pulkat just where I left it. As usual I brought along my Krazy Karpet toboggan to make it slide better.

It tows very easily with the plastic on the bottom. In fact with the hard conditions it was too fast and I had to be really careful on any downhill.

Eventually got it to its new lake, and stowed it on some logs. I will come back in May to try the fishing.
All in all a fine late winter day. Still lots of snow left and we are expecting more tonight, so perhaps I’ll get out again before winter ends.


Sleds and Toboggans / What makes a sled slippery?
« on: February 05, 2016, 07:56:06 PM »
On a recent trip I was struck by how much easier it was to pull my pulk than my similar-sized toboggan, with about the same load. Lots of time to think on a solo trip, so I pondered this, came up with some ideas, and did some research when I got back.

When most people think about sled friction, they think about the material the sled is made of, i.e. UHMWPE vs HDPE vs wood or some other material. That is indeed a factor (the “frictional coefficient), but other factors also affect the resistance of a sled of ski moving over the snow.

Assuming they are made of the same material, the force of friction on a sled or a ski moving slowly on snow is governed by two things:
1.   Wet friction, which is friction between the bottom of the ski and the surface of the snow, which, while the ski is in motion, is lubricated by a thin film of water that is melted by the friction between the ski and the snow. This film of water reduces friction greatly, which is why skis slide poorly at very low temperatures. Some materials are better than others at producing this film. The amount of friction is proportional to the surface area of the ski in contact with the snow.
2.   Compressive friction, which is the force required to push the ski or sled through deep, soft snow. To some extent this can be minimized by increasing the surface area in contact with the snow, thereby increasing floatation.

These forces put conflicting requirements on a ski or sled. On the one hand, we want to maximize floatation to reduce compressive friction, which calls for a large ski or sled. On the other hand, we want to minimize the surface in contact with the snow, in order to reduce wet friction and, in extreme cold, to provide the necessary pressure and friction to generate the lubricating water film.

In reality, we want a ski or sled just big enough so that it doesn’t sink down and become hard to move, but not so big that it is hard to push over the snow because of excessive friction.

One might think that a sled needs to be very large to float in deep snow, but most of the time, a sled that is being dragged by a skier or snowshoer is sliding on snow that has already been compressed by at least one skier or snowshoer, often more depending on the size of the party. This is particularly true of snowshoes, which generate a compressed trail about the right size for a sled. Therefore, to avoid compressive friction, a sled needs only to have roughly the same loading (i.e. weight per unit area, lbs per square inch) as the skis or snowshoes making the trail. Much more, and we are needlessly increasing wet friction by having a larger sled than is optimal.

Using my setup as an example, I use 16” x 48” Hurons, each of which has a surface area of about 385 square inches, for a total 770 square inches of floatation. But when a snowshoer walks, all her weight is borne by one snowshoe, so the effective surface area for floatation is 385 square inches. I weigh about 160 lbs, so the loading on the snowshoe is about 0.42 lbs per square inch.

I have a toboggan that has about 5’ of length in contact with the snow, and is 16” wide, for an effective surface area of 960 square inches. On a recent two night trip, I had about 70 lbs of food and gear (including the sled), for a loading of 0.07 lbs per square inch, or less than one fifth of the loading on my snowshoes. Clearly this toboggan is far bigger than it needs to be to float in my snowshoe trail. This is easy to see on the trail. If the toboggan gets out of the snowshoe trail, it easily floats much higher than I do on my snowshoes. It really does have more than adequate floatation.

I think this is true of all toboggans, simply because the density of camping gear is low compared to that of the human body, which is about that of water. Imagine towing a sled load of water! So it is nearly impossible to use skis or snowshoes that would provide the same amount of floatation as your toboggan: you are too heavy and the snowshoes would be too big.

So I could use a much smaller toboggan and it should tow more easily than the one I am using because it will still have adequate floatation, but wet friction on the snow will be reduced because of less surface area in contact with the snow. The only problem is that my gear won’t fit on a smaller toboggan unless I pile it into a high load, in which case the toboggan will tip constantly. So I still need the larger sled, even though it has more than enough floatation and is costing me excess friction on the snow.

But wait: toboggans are not the only type of sled around; other types have runners or skis or even blades. A Scandinavian pulk, for example, usually has two narrow, thin ski runners on the bottom, and an Inuit Qamutiq has two narrow runners. While these runner-ed sled can be quite large and carry huge amounts of gear, the area in contact with the snow can be quite small, depending on the size of the runners.

Let’s take my pulk: It has a chined bottom with a flat area on the snow of about 54” x 10”, or 540 square inches. But there are two ski runners on the pulk, each of which is 2.25” x 54”, for a total of 243 square inches. Loaded with my 70 lbs of gear, that makes 0.29 lbs per square inch on the ski runners. This is still substantially less than the loading on my snowshoes of 0.42 lbs per square inch, which explains my observation that the ski runners do not sink very far into the snowshoe trail.

This, I think, explains why the pulk is easier to pull than a toboggan of similar size. The area in contact with the snow (the ski runners) is much smaller than the toboggan, but still adequate to float the sled in my snowshoe track. This means that there is almost no compressive friction (i.e. the pulk does not sink into the snow), and less wet friction between the runners and the snow than between the toboggan bottom and the snow.

If I was skiing, the situation would be somewhat different. The loading on my skis is much higher than that on my snowshoes, about 1.2 lbs per square inch on one ski, or almost 3 times the loading on one snowshoe. This explains why I sink down so much more on skis in soft snow conditions. Also, the skis do not make a wide flat trail, as do snowshoes, so a toboggan following a ski track is going to have to “break trail”, causing compressive friction, no matter how lightly it is loaded. A pulk will do better because the runners are set at approximately the right separation for a ski trail, but as the skier will sink down farther than the pulk, the pulk will still be breaking trail on its bottom. Ideally, we might want a sled with ski runners with the load platform raised enough so that the runners can follow the ski trail with the bottom not touching the snow. However, such a sled might be rather tippy because the runners would have to be fairly close together to follow the ski trail. Dave Hadfield makes a sled something like this , but the runners are too far apart to fit into the skier’s trail. There is no easy answer here, and the pulk might be the best we can do.

So, to summarize, I think the best thing one can do to make a sled slippery is to give it just the right amount of floatation. The surface area contacting the snow should be enough to float the sled in your snowshoe or ski trail, or probably somewhat more since the snow in a single track will not be fully compressed. This will allow the sled to float in your track, without digging in, while minimizing the friction between the sled bottom and the snow. Virtually all toboggans will have much more floatation than they need. A toboggan that is small enough to have the right amount of floatation will be too small to carry the load needed by a typical trekker. Therefore, a sled with runners, which reduce the area in contact with the snow but maintain sled volume, will be easier to pull under most conditions than a similar sized toboggan.

And that, I think, is why my pulk is easier to pull than my toboggan.

Trip Reports / An uneventful solo trip
« on: January 24, 2016, 04:31:00 PM »

Just got back from a 2 night solo trip. Nothing much of note happened, which is just the way I like it on a solo trip. I find traveling by myself, out of phone range, into wilderness areas where there is little chance of seeing or being seen by anyone, a little nerve wracking to contemplate, so it is gratifying when everything goes as planned. No adventure, no stress. Just fun and relaxation.

Most of my winter trips are with myself. I don’t have any friends who care to join me, and for various reasons my wife can’t come, even though she would like to. Over the last couple of years I have concentrated on reducing the weight and bulk of my gear, because I found that it was just logistically impossible for me to travel any distance, through untracked snow, using the rig I used to drag. The logistics of solo travel are drastically more difficult than even with two. The main reductions have come from: 1. Going from a lavvu (which itself was not bulky or heavy compared to most winter tents) to a modified 4-man summer tent, which weighs about 4 kg (8.8 lbs); and 2. Going from my home-made pot stove (, which again was not heavy as wood stoves go, to a Chimpac stove (, weighing under 2 kg (about 4 lbs). In turn, this has enabled me to go from a 3 m (10 ft) toboggan to a toboggan or pulk measuring less than 2 m. Just as important as the reduction in weight is that in bulk, as this enables me to use a shorter sled, which is itself lighter in weight and easier to pull.
So in essence I have gone from this:

To this:

I took the trouble to weigh the gear before departing. Total gear and food weight for a 3 day trip was 30 kg (66 lbs), plus the pulk which weighs 4.1 kg (9 lbs). So I was towing about 34 kg (70 lbs), which is much more manageable than what I used to drag. I'd be interested in hearing how much weight others are pulling. Under most conditions it is quite possible for me to break trail and pull this load. Slow but doable.

This trip involved travel on a chain of small ponds/lakes with creek sections and bushwack portages between the lakes. It is a really nice area with no snowmobile or any other kind of traffic, only a half hour drive from my house. Rough country but really nice.

The creeks are still fairly open because of the ridiculously warm fall and early winter we had. This has its good and bad points. On the one hand, you have to go around rather than on the ice. On the other hand, it is more obvious where the dangerous parts are than it sometimes is later in a cold winter.

It’s also quite pretty.

The lakes are finally frozen up tight, much later than usual around here. There is slush on the lakes but I stayed on top of it with the big shoes. I could see that the deer and moose tracks were sinking into slush however.

The bushwacks between the lakes and ponds were the most difficult part of course. At one point I had to backtrack a considerable way because I had set off down what turned out to be the wrong side of the stream, leading to an un-navigable dead end. Ah well, sometimes it pays to scout. In a normal year I probably could have found a spot to cross the stream, but not this year.

After a few hours I made camp beside the stream, mainly for the luxury of being able to access liquid water.

Nice snug camp. Not so cold as last year, went down to maybe about -20 C at night, -10 during the day. Next day I went on a long day hike, further exploring the chain of lakes. So nice not to see or hear any human activity, other than aircraft, all day. Lots of animal activity, however: deer, moose, coyote, rabbit and lots of otter tracks, everywhere.

Chimpac stove kept me warm and cozy in the tent, and cooked all my food and boiled my water. Using a stove this small, I noticed a precipitous drop in the temperature inside the tent when I put a pot of cold water on the stove. The pot actually absorbs a large part of the heat output of the stove!

When the stove is going full out, it produces absolutely no smoke, which is quite remarkable. It is also very efficient on wood consumption, which gives me more time to enjoy other activities.

This pot cozy I made out of Reflectix and duct tape is really a handy thing. If, for example, I am cooking potatoes, I can put them aside in the cozy and they will cook while I fry my steak. Also, I can put a pot of warm water in it before bed, and it will be ice-free in the morning. I also use it as a pot bag for transport.

Next day I headed out the way I came in. No adventures on this trip, which is always preferable. I do learn something new on every trip, however, and here are some recent lessons:
I have decided I prefer the pulk to a short toboggan. I have used both with similar loads, and the pulk definitely pulls easier. I think this is because it rides on the runners most of the time, even following a single snowshoe track, which reduces friction substantially. It also runs straighter without the annoying toboggan sideslip. On the downside, the lack of flex makes it perhaps a bit more difficult to negotiate the very winding bushwack trails around here. But I think the advantages override this.

Secondly, I have started using a simple, lightweight ripstop nylon jacket as a windbreak and it rocks. Lightweight, breathable, packs down do nothing, sheds snow, and dries almost instantly. Of course it is prone to spark damage, but I am not sitting around an open fire on these trips. For me, this is far superior to a canvas anorak, although I am sure canvas has its place. This particular one cost me 5 dollars at the local second hand store.

Thirdly, I have started sleeping with my head inside a zipped up polypro jacket. I am using nested 3 season bags without a hood, so something to cover my head and face is essential or I always end up breathing in my bag, which gets the top part damp. No I just put the jacket over my head and tuck the waist into the top of the bag. The sweater is a bit frosty by morning but polypro dries in a flash.

Finally, I have started using a fanny pack while towing the sled with the tump line. In the pack are some emergency items like fire starting stuff, a bit of food and water, and binding repair items. This is much more comfortable to use with a tump than a daypack, as it doesn’t interfere with the tump. I got into a bit of trouble last year when I left my daypack behind on the sled to scout a portage, but with the fanny pack there is no temptation to take it off, so it stays with me at all times. It is also comfortable to use with the daypack if you want.

That’s about it. Nice to get out, looking forward to the next trip.

Back Country Skiing Discussion / Skinny skins
« on: January 06, 2016, 03:23:35 PM »
I was looking into getting a pair of kicker skins to use in the bush and for towing a sled. However, doing some research, many recommended against them for various reasons, particularly because snow tends to get underneath them so they start moving around. I have never used them myself, just full length skins.

Some recommended something I had never heard of before: skinny skins. These are just very narrow full-length skins. The idea here is that they give enough grip for not-too-steep terrain, give some glide, and allow positive fastening at the tips and tails so they aren't as likely to loosen up as partial skins. As far as I know they are not available commercially: people just make them by cutting down standard skins.

I looked through my ski box and found I had 3 sets of full length skins that I haven't used in years (I used to live in Norway...different country there). So I took out one of the narrowest pair, which was about 1.5" wide.

I cleaned some of the glue off with solvent first. I was trying to figure out a way to use a straight edge to cut it lengthwise but eventually just cut them with scissors. Precision isn't terribly important in this case I guess. I left the front clip on one of the halves. I cut the front clip off the other skin and used a pop rivet and washers to fasten it to the other half skin.


The resulting skins are 3/4" wide.

I tried them out in the local forest, and the results are great! My previous experience with full length skins is that they are great for climbing mountains but give little or no glide. These ones seem to provide all the grip I need for the rolling terrain around here, but still allow enough glide that it still feels like skiing. If you tip the skis a bit going down a hill, it is almost as if the skins aren't there.

I had pretty much given up on skis for bushwacking around here, but with these skins I will be using them more. They make bush skiing fun again. They will be quite adequate for towing the sled too. All in all I am very happy with them, and will likely make another pair out of the other skin.


Tents and Shelters / All-in-one tent and sleeping system
« on: October 02, 2015, 03:38:51 PM »

"In collaboration with the start-up "Polarmond," scientists at Empa developed an "all-in-one" shelter system. Inside the shelter conditions remain comfortable whatever the weather outdoors, thanks to a sophisticated dehumidifying system and a fine-tuned temperature control mechanism."

It will be interesting to see how light and bulky this will be. It is basically an insulated bivy sac as far as I can see. Condensation would surely be the challenge at low temperatures, but they claim to have addressed this.

Don't think it is for me, but for certain kinds of travel, something like this might be just the ticket.


Trip Reports / A solo trip and some lessons learned
« on: March 07, 2015, 04:14:25 PM »
It has been a cold winter and last week was no exception: down to -26 C at night and windy during the day. But winter trekking teaches not only to survive but to thrive in conditions like this.

This two night solo trip went through a creek and chain of lakes in Mattawa Provincial Park just outside of North Bay. Turned out to be a great area: absolutely no one around, no noise, and lots of wildlife sign. However the travelling is hard this year because there have been no melting events since December and the snow is unconsolidated.  Even with my big shoes, it is heavy and hard going.

This trip was fairly uneventful, as solo trips should be, except for one incident. I was scouting out a portage around a rapids, and left my sled and gear at the top. I hacked a route through about 500 m of bush, but decided it was too rough and steep to pull the sled through. So I started back up the creek to see if I could push a route through closer to the rapids.

I am always very careful around flowing water as the ice is notoriously unreliable. So I stepped carefully, stamping ahead and using a stick to test the ice. Eventually I decided there was not a useable route and turned around to head back along my tracks. To my shock, my right foot suddenly plunged through into the slushy, muddy mess below.

I lunged forward and managed to land on my knee on my left snowshoe. However I could not move my right leg: the big snowshoe was fully buried in the slushy water and would not budge. I could feel the icy water running into my boot: not a great situation and -20 C.

Seeing no other alternative, I took off my glove, plunged my hand into the icy water and managed to undo my snowshoe binding, thus freeing my foot and enabling me to crawl forwards. I still had my hand on the snowshoe binding so I tried to full the snowshoe out. That was a mistake: I only succeeded in ripping the binding off the snowshoe, making a bad situation even worse.
Trying again, I managed to grab the snowshoe frame and was finally able to pull the shoe out. However, I was still about 500 m from my gear, with a soaked foot and lower leg and no binding on my snowshoe. The lampwick I carry for binding repairs was, of course, back with my sled. After some tinkering I managed to jury rig the binding, using one of the toe straps to attach it to the shoe. I was then able to hobble back to my sled, then across a pond to a potential campsite I had scouted earlier. Once there, I took off my rapidly freezing boot and put on dry socks and a spare boot liner. Then I was able to set up camp and eventually dry my gear by the stove. I was also able to repair the binding, using a multitool and some spares I had on hand.

Thinking about this afterwards, I realized it was quite a dangerous situation. Lesson learned: never leave all your gear behind, even for a short distance. I should have had  a minimal repair kit to fix the binding, on my person. And of course, be careful around flowing water, but I already knew that. I also think it might be a good idea to build a “weak” point in the binding attachment, so it can be ripped off the shoe in an emergency like this. If for some reason I had not been able to reach the shoe to unlatch the binding, there would have been no way I could have gotten my foot out.

On the other hand I don’t want to exaggerate the danger here. The water was shallow and I could probably have gotten out somehow, albeit not without getting very wet. And I was not that far away from my dry clothing. But incidents like this certainly make one think…

This trip I decided to use the front half of my plywood toboggan ( which is a bit less than 2 m long. This was room enough for the 2 duffels that hold all my gear.

Most of the route to the campsite descended a small creek which was broken by a chain of ponds and small lakes.

A full moon made for beautiful bright nights. Didn’t even need the headlamp in the tent.

Otter tracks in the deep snow. These were the most common tracks I saw. Otters seem to be the only animals that can move freely in the extremely deep soft snow.

A new lake to cross on a fine cold morning.

The going is very hard, even on the lakes. This is a major disadvantage of solo travel: only yourself to break trail.

An old trapper’s shack, made of particle board and siding. These do not age well, and I greatly prefer the more biodegradable log versions.

Beautiful lakes and hills around here.

Long shadows late in the day.

My campsite, by the creek.

It’s a welcome rarity to be able to dip fresh flowing water at -27 C!

Tent interior. Cozy for one or two people.

It take a lot of heat to dry boot liners.

Glowing Chimpac stove.

Fire and Woodstoves / Heating people, not places
« on: February 11, 2015, 03:42:57 PM »
A fascinating article on historical heating systems relying mainly on radiant and conductive warming, rather than convective warming.

Lots of good ideas here. Since our tents are not insulated, it is far more efficient to maximize radiant heat, rather than trying to maintain a warm air temperature. This can be realized by having a properly shaped and situated stove, seating stations around the stove and seats that insulate the back, like a Thermarest chair.

Another measure that might be very effective would be to have the inner tent made of an IR reflective material, perhaps an aluminized fabric like a space blanket.

For long-term installations, including some thermal mass would be effective.


Trip Reports / First trip of the new winter
« on: December 14, 2014, 05:08:57 PM »
Set out on my first trip of the new season. One primary objective was to try out my new, lighter-weight tent and stove, to see if that made solo hot tent trekking a logistically feasible activity for me.
My new stove is one made by our member Chimpac and is detailed here:

The tent is a 4 man Eureka Alpine Meadows, measuring about 8’ x 6’ on the floor. I cut out and hemmed most of the floor, and made stove jack holes through the tent and fly. I also made a clear vinyl window that velcro’s on to one of the doors. I like to have a view…

The tent and stove are much lower in both weight and volume than my lavvu and pot stove ( This setup was lighter than most but I found that I simply was not physically able to manage the load while breaking trail or climbing hills.

The lower volume and weight also let me use my pulk rather than a long toboggan. I made this pulk from stitch and glue plywood, glassed and with two retired skis as runners. I used to use it with a solid hitch for ski touring, am using rope hitch now. It has more than enough space for my reduced load.

The pulk has some advantages over a toboggan. It is easier to pack, tracks better, is better for traversing slopes, and is more usefull for transporting firewood at camp. On the other hand it tracks a bit too well sometimes, particularly on downhill sections. I may try a short toboggan next time to see how that compares.

The trip in was hard, bushwacking uphill all the way and breaking trail through soft snow. I leapfrogged ahead to find and break a trail in the most difficult sections. The creeks are tough this time of year, as we had a very wet fall so some are still running fairly hard and the ice is dicey. But I made it to my destination lake, something I was not able to do in a previous attempt with my heavier setup.

I tramped out a pad and proceeded to gather some wood. I brought a Dustrude saw, a folding saw and an axe, not knowing what cutting tools would be best with the new stove. In the event I didn’t use the axe at all, and the Dustrude saw was quick for sawing up the wood into suitable lengths. An axe might have been useful if only big wood was available, but that doesn’t happen often. This much wood was almost twice what I needed to keep the stove going for about 8 hours.

This tent is easier to set up than the lavvu, because it is free standing and doesn’t need snow anchors.

The clear door is a nice addition but really I found myself watching the stove most of the time. It is really nice to be able to see the fire through the partially open door.

View through the vinyl door.

The next day it was actually dull and quite foggy. I went for a long hike and visited my pulkat ( at it’s winter lair.

Moose or deer scratches on the trees.

After that I warmed up, had some coffee, then packed up for the trip out. I expected that to be easy on a packed trail downhill, but it was actually quite demanding to slow down the pulk and keep from hitting too many trees. Made it without any serious incidents.

All in all I think my new lighter setup is a huge success. I am finally able to really travel solo with a hot tent rig and make some distance, rather than just pull a short distance from the start. I can also break trail and climb hills with this load. The tent is easier to set up, and the stove uses far less wood than any other I have used.
It is not for everyone however. The tent is good for one and would be acceptable for two. The stove warms the tent up nicely at the temps I experienced (min about -12 C), but it might be a touch chilly at -30.  The stove performs well but one can’t expect a long burn with a stove this small. It requires frequent attention, but really, what else is there to do during those long December evenings?

Fire and Woodstoves / Testing a Chimpac Stove
« on: November 02, 2014, 12:22:55 PM »
For several years, our esteemed member Chimpac has telling us about the stoves and shelters he makes. Basically, his stoves are cylindrical, with the body being made out of a suitably sized can. Chimpac adds a baffle to concentrate the heat at the top for cooking. The smoke exits out the side near the top, leaving the top unobstructed.

A major innovation is that the stove hangs off the chimney, which itself can be used as a support pole for a tarp or tent. The pipe sections are joined by short joiner sections and butt together, so the chimney can support a substantial weight. Chimpac uses his stove chimney as the main support in his tarp shelters.
If you are not familiar with his work, just search for his name in this forum. He has described the entire system rather thoroughly.

Chimpac claims that his stoves are very efficient, in that they produce a lot of heat with very little fuel, lightweight, compact and easy to use. They are certainly unlike anything else being made today.

I have to admit that I, probably like many of you, have been skeptical about Chimpac’s claims. His stoves are so unlike anything else out there that it is hard to accept that they will work as he claims. Also I have never seen an independent evaluation of one of these devices: he seems to be the only one who uses them. And here I should note that I have never met or spoken to Chimpac, and have no affiliation with him.

That said, I was looking for a lighter way to go winter camping, without sacrificing the joys of a warm tent. I tend to do most of my winter camping solo, as nobody seems to want to come with me. So a small, lightweight, compact rig sounded ideal to me. Despite my skepticism, I wanted to try one of these stoves.
I contacted Chimpac but he was not in a position to build me a stove or provide detailed instructions. However he directed me to another forum member who had bought one of his stoves, but apparently never put it to use. I contacted this member and purchased the stove from him, for a very fair price.

The stove body itself is made from what looks to be a 1 gal. paint can. There are three pipe sections that nest one within the other, two short connector sections, the connector that is supposed to meet and go through the stove jack, and the chimney top that fits on this connector. There is also the stove mount that connects the stove to the pipe, and the pipe base that allows you to support the pipe on a small stick. The pipe sections taper and are no more than 2 inches in diameter at the top. It also came with one stove jack, and I made a second one to the same design. All of this, including stove, chimney, jacks and associated hardware, weights 3.2 lbs.

Putting all this together was a bit daunting but was actually quite easy. Assembly requires no tools and everything fits together well. The workmanship is superb. I have made 4 stoves myself, but I could never make something like this. Obviously Chimpac is quite a craftsman, and he also must have access to a spot welder and some other sheet metal working tools.

As I mentioned this stove and chimney is designed to support a tarp shelter. However I decided to modify a tent I have had for over 25 years to take this stove. The tent is a Eureka 4-person, about 8’ x 6’ on the floor. It is much like the Timberline but with a central hoop that makes it more roomy. Don’t think they make them anymore. The modifications were basically to cut out and hem most of the floor, and cut and hem holes in the tent and fly for the stove jacks. I decided to place the stove at one end and slightly off centre. I think this setup will be perfect for solo camping but could also sleep 2 if needed. I may in the future make up a tarp shelter to Chimpac’s specs but this will do for now. It’s certainly a lot lighter and more compact than the lavvu I have used previously.

I have now used the stove 4 times in this tent. The stove starts very easily. There is a draft opening at the bottom that you can open, the this makes it go like a torch. You can close this later to slow things down. After it gets going, you can start feeding larger wood through the door. And here is another huge innovation with this stove: the wood feed door. This stove is only about 6” in diameter and it would be a major pain to have to cut wood that short. The feed door allows you to use longer lengths and just give them a push now and then.
The stove baffle is very effective and the cook top gets very hot. I was able to boil water much more quickly than with any other stove I have used.

This stove burns very cleanly and well. Once it gets going you can see absolutely no smoke coming out of the chimney. It is also incredibly efficient. I would guess it takes less than a quarter of the wood compared to my other stove, which is also not very big. Most small stoves I have used are “fussy”, in that they require fairly constant attention and feeding to keep them going well. This stove is not that way: it seems to burn whatever you feed it completely to ash, with no complications.

This morning it was about -9 C, so I again tried out the stove in my tent. It was easy to warm it up to a comfortable temperature, and I think I could keep comfortable in much colder temperatures.

All in all I am very satisfied with this stove. It is innovative, lightweight, compact, burns hot and is incredibly efficient. It is easy to start and keep going, and has a hot cooking surface. The baffle also seems to prevent sparks from coming out the chimney, even when burning snappy cedar.

Not everyone would want a stove this small. It is probably not large enough to heat a tent much bigger than the one I am using. But the design is scalable and I know Chimpac has built larger units. Also the cooking surface is very small, so you are limited to one-pot cooking.

Chimpac, if you are out there, I commend you. This is a great little stove and I am going to have fun using it. It would be great if you could start manufacturing these commercially, as I am sure there is a market niche for them.


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