Our Winter Village-Camping at Mew at -42! -Part 1

Several people who walked past the site I was staying on at Mew Lake, Family Day Weekend, said that it looked like a little village. This got me to thinking about it, and the differences betwen winter camping vs the remaining seasons.   When you’re camping in winter it really is just like we are all part of a small village.  There is a great feeling of community among all of the campers.  We are all temporarily living in the same neighbourhood, share the same bathroom, warm up in the warming tent together, have a great passion for the outdoors,  and share the same struggles and challenges as people that belong to a community do.


Above, I said ‘the site I was staying on’ because I actually didn’t have a site days before heading to the park. I was booked at MacGregor, but unfortunately my campmates weren’t able to attend, so a very nice father and daughter, Chris and Victoria, who I only met camping New Years Eve,  offered me a spot on their site.  This is just one example of many, of the great kindness and generosity of winter campers.   One of the definitions of community is: A strong fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.  This totally describes our weekend at Winter In The Wild perfectly!

Photo Credit: Marian & Duane Sonntag
Photo Credit: Marian & Duane Sonntag


Speaking of strong fellowships, above are a few pictures of Duane & Marian’s site.  They are huge winter campers, are full of knowledge and from what I’ve seen, the heart and soul of Mew Lake campground.  These fantastic people, their four kids and two dogs are the true definition of a Canadian outdoors family and they are a huge part of the glue that unites and holds together our winter village. They are the reason why I ended up spending my weekend at Mew Lake, also the reason that I purchased my wood stove and a big inspiration to myself and many others.  Thank you both for your total awesomeness and for providing many of the photos for this post.  You inspire me and your enthusiasm is totally contagious and I look forward to many great adventures with you and your tribe. 🙂

Photo credit: Duane Sonntag
Photo credit: Duane Sonntag

When someone needs help, he or she must mainly rely on the other village members. Sometimes it is not an option to leave the village to get that help as you could be snowed in, your car battery could possibly be dead, (or frozen), or the help you need is just too far away to be the best option.  This is another thing that makes winter camping so amazing and such a different experience from other season camping. The photo above was taken by Duane Sonntag and is not photoshopped or created to look this way, it is something that actually took place and what was done to get one of the campers batteries unfrozen so their vehicle would start.

photo credit: Paul Wiercinski
photo credit: Paula Wiercinski
photo credit: Paul Wiercinski
photo credit: Paula Wiercinski
photo credit: Paul Wiercinski
photo credit: Paula Wiercinski

Help could be found everywhere this weekend.  Paula and Jack brought their brand new Artic Oven tent to Winter in the Wild and had just barely gotten everything in time. Both avid outdoors people, they were anxious to set up Jacks new birthday present and join many hot tenters camping in the park this weekend.  Unfortunately the damper somehow reversed itself in their stove during the coldest part of the weekend. The spark arrestor got competely clogged with creosote and that blocked the smoke stack causing the smoke to go inside the tent, but some friendly knowledgeable neighbors Don and Jim came by to help them get things fixed up and working properly again.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 12.55.29 PMterry

Another great person residing in our village, Terry Thomas, was offering shelter, hot drinks and food to cold winter campers.  Terry, hasn’t  been winter camping very long, but he has the winter camping spirit in full force! Not to mention a really amazing tent.  When a fellow camper found themselves in need of a place to sleep, Terry eagerly offered up a spot in his tent!  On Sunday Morning after an extremely cold night, he posted on the Alognquin Park facebook page offering his tent to warm up in and hot coffee to anyone in need, totally generous and oozing community attributes! Thanks to you Terry, for helping make this weekend a great one!

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One of the most awesome things about Winter in the Wild is that some of the most experienced campers spend the weekend at Mew Lake and are part of our community.  These people have been winter camping forever, know all the best tips and tricks and are incredibly experienced.  It is the best time to be at Mew Lake if you are interested in winter camping and a great time to pick the experts brains and see all the demos that are up and tour them.  Here are just a few of the amazing dwellings that resided in our awesome little village.

Photo credit: Marian Sonntag
Photo credit: Marian Sonntag


Photo credit: Marian Sonntag
Photo credit: Marian Sonntag
Photo credit: Marian Sonntag
Photo credit: Marian Sonntag
Photo credit: Marian Sonntag
Photo credit: Marian Sonntag
Photo Credit: Tierney Angus atuk tent site 100, canoecrew.wordpress.com
Photo Credit: Tierney Angus, Atuk Tent, site 100, canoecrew

marians site photo kim

Some people camped in trailers:

Photo Credit: Rachel Miller
Photo Credit: Rachel Miller

And some, like myself, stayed in tents:

Photo Credit: Kim Burrell Lavelle
Photo Credit: Kim Burrell Lavelle

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My favorite demo of the day, was an Igloo Demo put on by Algonquin Outfitters using a tool called the Icebox. I, of course, had to crawl in and check it out for myself!

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And when we finally all got very cold and tired after spending the day hikng, snowshowing, skiing, exploring, skating, playing hockey, checking out other tents and all the other outdoor activities we could fit into our day, and we needed to get a bit warmed up, the warming tent offered us comfort and a communal place for our community to commune!! LOL

hockey kim

Photo Credit: Lisa C. Laine
Photo Credit: Marian Sonntag

kimnpeter marian&duane menmarian Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 2.01.10 PM

Photo credit for all above warming tent photos: Marian Sonntag.

When I camped New Years Eve at Mew Lake I met the most awesome people!  We shared stories, embraced the slight cold together, and bonded over our passion for the great outdoors.  The experience is something I have never really had camping in any other season and I was curious if it was just the way things aligned for me that weekend, or if it was winter camping in general.

Photo Credit: Kim Burrell Lavelle
Photo Credit: Kim Burrell Lavelle



Now, after spending a very very cold long weekend at Mew Lake in Algonquin park Family Day with record breaking low temperatures, I have decided it is definitely winter camping that causes this reaction.  I have honestly never met so many wonderful generous adventurous people in my life and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend time with such a large number of outdoor enthusiasts who share many of the same passions that I do.  I’ve met more people in the two weekends winter camping, that I have in my entire life of summer, spring and fall camping combined.  I am ecstatic that I have not only tried, but fallen in love with winter camping and the people who embrace it!
10 Things only winter campers will understand:
by: CamperChristina.com

1. People who don’t winter camp think you’re totally insane and do not understand why you do it?
2. You belong to a very unique group of individuals, who don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t do it?
3. When you say your car battery is frozen, fellow campers will put their woodstove in front of your car to unfreeze it.
4. Random strangers will offer you a spot to sleep in their hot tents and/or will offer you a hot drink or meal even if they don’t know your name.
5. You are ecstatic when the temperature rises to -22 !
6. Everything plastic you touch snaps and breaks with the slightest pressure applied to it.
7. None of your lighters, batteries, or electronics work, as it is too cold for them to function, and you don’t really care if they do.
8. You not only know what hair frost is, but have had it and seen it regularly and it seems strange not to have it.
9. Putting chapstick on your entire face is totally acceptable.
10. It is completely normal to loose feeling in your fingers and toes for sections of time and it no longer scares or worries you in any way.

I really hope you enjoyed my post!  If you were at Mew Lake Family Day weekend and have a story or pictures to share, please comment or send them to me, and I will happily add them.  As this post was about Mew Lake Campground (aka village/community) I made it a communal post and asked many of the people I met and know to contribute their own photos and any stories they had to share, as one person, does not a community make!

HUGE THANK YOU TO Harvey and the entire Ontario Parks Staff for their amazing efforts in keeping us all from freezing, for boosting cars, getting our hydro working and the hundreds of other jobs they do every single day to make our camping trips awesome!!! We are all eternally grateful to you!

Click here for my post on my personal experiences, challenges and adventures from Family Day weekend at Mew Lake!  Where I Survived Mew at Minus 42 in a summer tent! Also containing LOTS of pretty pictures and a hike to Starling Lake Lookout!

Thanks so much for checking out my post!

Happy Camping!


Sticker created by Marian Sonntag
Sticker created by Marian Sonntag





35 thoughts on “Our Winter Village-Camping at Mew at -42! -Part 1

  1. I still can’t believe we didn’t get to meet! We were the village outcasts, I suppose, hiding out over on site 100. Hardly anyone walked by. Normally we like to be alone, but it would have been great to meet you and check out your tipi and meet everyone else I’ve been talking to on Wintertrekking.com for some time now! Shame about Paula and Jack’s stove clogging… we had heard this could be an issue with the damp park wood so we snipped out the spark arrestor in our stove ahead of time and had no issues. With the extreme cold, I’m sure the smoke was quite cool by the time it reached the top sections of the pipe and we would have had the same problems if we didn’t cut out the Kni-Co “potato masher” beforehand. What a learning experience though, eh?! We hardly did anything all weekend except huddle by the stove and eat, and I’m still exhausted four days later.

    1. Awe Teirney! Who knew? I definitely had no clue that winter camping was like this and such a social event? The week before new years my mom and I camped on the lake, away from everyone on our own also. I am used to doing things like you are, find the solace, be at one with nature, find the best spot ‘away’ from the people. What a huge difference it is, but a very pleasant one indeed! We live and learn, right? Thanks so much for commenting, for checking out the post and for donating your beautiful photo! I’m glad you had a good time and I hope to see you in person next trip! Will you be at the adventure show tomorrow?

      1. I’m not sure if we’re going to the show tomorrow or Sunday, depends on how much we get accomplished tomorrow morning. I think Hap Wilson is speaking on Sunday.. I enjoyed his talk last year and he signed my copy of his Temagami book, and now that I’m planning a Missinaibi trip a couple years down the line I would love him to sign that book too! It seemed to bring us good luck, haha.
        I hope to get out again with our tent and stove this winter. Our toboggans are nearly finished, we just have to set up the rigging, so our next winter camp will probably be outside of a park on crown land.

      2. very nice! even farther from the socialites! HAHAHA, just kidding. 🙂 I think its awesome what you do. Will you be writing a post on your trip as well? Send me the link when it’s up if so. Would love to check it out. Now I have to write part 2. LOL. My personal experiences. Hope it’s received just as well! 🙂 (almost 1000 views since last night! CRAY!) If you go tomorrow you best find me!!! 🙂 But sounds like your day is sunday! Happy adventuring my friend. I’m sure our paths will cross again soon! 🙂 cheers!

  2. Can we start planning next winter already?? I need to experience this craze!! Great post – you really captured the essence of the ‘winter village’. I’m looking forward to part 2!! Hope to see you Saturday.

    1. Of course! I have already committed to New years! HAHAHA. Thank you so much for your wonderful words. I greatly appreciate your continued support and am so happy you enjoyed the post. This one is especially dear to me as I am trying to be a bit more creative with my writing and not just state facts, so I am truly delighted by the response I’ve gotten. I hope to see you saturday also. I’ll be a walking billboard so you shouldn’t be able to miss me. Please come up and introduce yourself. I am very much looking forward to meeting you! 🙂 Happy adventuring! 🙂

  3. Terry said it best last weekend when a couple came to see his hot tent, ,” in the summer you don’t usually chat very often with campers around you , but in winter it is completely different…you invite people in and offer them warmth” (not exact words but close enough), Winter campers are a very special breed of people…blessed to be a part of it all and can’t wait to try hot tenting 🙂

    1. Terry says a lot of things quite fabulously, doesn’t he? He’s a wonderful man with a great spirit and sense of community, no doubt! Thanks so much for reading, for letting me use your photo and for commenting and sharing the post! I appreciate it greatly and am so glad you liked it! Have a great time back in the Gonk this weekend! I may be slightly jealous! 🙂

  4. Overall this is a really good review Christina. Victoria and I, are glad we enjoyed what mother nature dished out with you. On that note, thank for the birthday cake, it was a nice treat, in a warm tent, on a cold night.

    1. Thanks so much Chris! Im happy you liked it and thank you again for your amazing hospitality! It is greatly appreciated! Hope you stay tuned for part 2, including our beautiful hike to Starling! 🙂 Happy Adventuring!

    1. Thanks so much Cathy! I did have a great time, but it was cold! I haven’t touched on that subject yet. Waiting for the next post! 🙂 Have an awesome day and thank you for your continued support. It means a lot to me! 🙂

  5. Hey Christina, I just want to say that it was a pleasure to have met you this past weekend. Your teepee was really cool and the design was truly amazing. Kudos to you on bldg that.
    I really enjoyed reading your blog, you have a lot of passion in your writing. I can’t wait for part II

    1. Wow girl! You definitely know how to make someone’s day! Thank you so very much for the wonderful words and it was a great pleasure meeting you too. I have a feeling we have some adventures ahead! Hope to see you back soon ! Happy adventuring ! 😊😊😊

  6. Chrisitina , Really enjoyed reading your blog. We were on site 10 in the wall tent. glad you had a great weekend. hope to see you again.

    1. So awesome! thanks so much for checking out the post and participating in such an amazing weekend! !!! Hope you come back for part 2 and congratulations !!! #ISurvivedMewAtMinus42 !!! 🙂

    1. It looks to be! hahaha. My tent was anything but hot! I was camping in a summer tent! Part 2 posting later today! Hope you come back to check it out! 🙂 And at -20, you are still a winter warrior -no doubt about it! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and for commenting! 🙂

    1. turns out 4 of them are missing. thank you so much! If you hadn’t said anything I could’ve come back tonight to all of them being gone!!! Security is working on it right now and ‘hoping’ to restore the missing content! 🙁 thank you again!

  7. it was cool seeing you there, Christina. the home-made tent is mine, a little background; I couldn’t find a sufficiently lightweight tent and stove for snowshoeing, so I designed my own. the tent roof is 4oz preshrunk canvas, and the walls are4oz coated polyester/nylon. I made the stove out of 30ga steel with a 2ply floor and door (no sunburn here!)
    The big, beige bell tent is my friend Greg’s WWII Army 10 man tent (made by Woods canvas in 1941!)

    1. Thank you soo much for sharing that information Rob! It was cool seeing you as well. I am only sorry we didn’t get to chat more. Next year? 🙂 Have a great warm season! (haha, it was 3 degrees when I woke up in Port Carling today! tipi time again? lol)

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