Hot Tent Backcountry Trial Run – How to Stake a Hot Tent When Camping on Rock

A few weeks before the hot tent was done, I ‘d made plans to take it out into the backcountry with my friend Sue, from Sue’s Outdoor Crew.  She had spent the weekend before making a sled so she could carry her gear on it and some of the items needed for our weekend.  The day before our trip, we had some issues locating a good spot to camp as it’s very difficult to find places to go in the winter, in my opinion, at least.  We settled on Go Home Lake as I had scouted out a site when I was there last year, doing an interview on my tipi with Shawn James.

We had some bad weather coming in and Sue had a 3 hour plus drive to head this way, so we decided she would drive up to Muskoka Friday night, stay at my place and then we would head out early Saturday morning to Go Home Lake.  I had yet to make a cozy to insulate my water bottle and keep it from freezing and as it was supposed to go down to -25 during our trip, I thought it would be a good idea to make one.  I will be posting  a blog post and a video on our crafting time, but here are a few clips from our project.

Basically, we used a yoga mat from the Dollarama and cut it to size to fit our nalgene bottles. Then we used Duck Tape (this is the brand) LOL to keep the yoga mat material together. We also made caps.  I thought they looked pretty cool.

We woke up to a cold snowy morning in Port Carling with the temperature dipping down to -19 with the windchill.  The forecast for tonight was down to -25 so I guess we would have to get used to that quick!  Once we had some breakfast and finished packing up the cars, we took off to Go Home Lake where we would crown land camp in the backcountry.  We parked in the lot and got out our sleds and packed them up.

It took a bit to set the sleds up right as it was Sue’s first time and I hadn’t done it in a while, never with the items I had now, so we made sure they were packed well before heading out.  By around 10:30 am we were on our way, sleds in tow, breathing in the crisp winter air.

My sled was heavy but not anywhere near how heavy it was when I had the tipi and my other stove on it.  We just stopped whenever we got tired and then continued on.   I remembered approximately where the spot I found was when I was here at the end of last season, but didn’t remember all the hills along the way.

For the first part of the journey, we were on a plowed road, then we were on a road that had only one set of tire tracks on it. It was perfect and we each used a tire track to put our sleds in and pull them along.  The snow was pretty deep but the tire track definitely helped make it more manageable.

It was a tough pull in but we took our time and eventually found a nice place to camp around 12pm.

We had some trouble deciding on a tent location, finding 3 places that were all pretty good.  Eventually we settled on one and laid out the tent.  When I went to put the stakes in however, I couldn’t get any of them in.  At first I thought the ground was frozen, but that wasn’t the issue.  The ground was actually all rock and I had no idea how to resolve that issue at all?  We tried the other spots we had been debating using and all of them were pretty much entirely rock.  Now what?

I had set up the tent multiple times in my sunroom and had just tied the corners to some furniture and random items in there, so why not do the same here?  Thankfully I had brought a big bag of rope, just in case, so we attempted to do that.  Once I put the pole in to lift the tent, the entire tent rose up and was floating in the air. This would not work.

After that, Sue came up with a great idea.  We had brought in some firewood and she suggested we tie the rope around the wood and then bury the wood under the snow.  We gave this a shot and it actually ended up working.  It took quite a bit of time and patience and the tent did not look it’s best, by any means, but it did allow us to set it up, well enough to use it.  I honestly thought we were heading back home for a while there.  Big thanks to Sue for her brilliant idea.

After we got the tent set up finally, we put the stove in and got a fire going. We were getting pretty cold as we had done a bit of sweating on the way in and our inner layers were probably a bit damp.  We sat in the tent and warmed up and ate lunch, then headed out to find water and check out our surroundings.

We came across a babbling brook and knew it would be a great place to get water.  We had a few options for water, treat it with the Purinize drops I’d brought , or boil it, or we could also melt snow.  Melting snow to me was painful. It took forever to make just a bit of water from snow and I think the ratio was something like 10:1.

Sue was pretty sure she could get down to the water source, but after actually walking down there, we decided water fishing might be a better option. I had a piece of rope in my backpack and got it out and tied it to the handle of the kettle I’d packed to collect water with. Sue dropped it down into the waterfall area and let it fill, then pulled the kettle up and poured the water into our nalgenes.  Voila!  Now we just needed to put some drops in it and it would be drinkable in an hour.

Unfortunately, the Purinize was frozen, so I put it somewhere warm to unfreeze it and we slowly made our way back to camp.

Along the way back we came across this beautiful rock wall full of icicles and stopped to check them out, take some photos and play a bit.  Then we hurried back camp as we were getting really cold as the sun dropped below the horizon.

We took a few shots from up on our high hill, then headed into the tent to warm up.

The fire was still going a bit and we added some wood and soon were toasty warm.  We were both pretty hungry from our outing so we decided to get dinner going.  Tonight’s meal would be salmon with a dijon mustard and brown sugar glaze, rice with yellow and red peppers and some sauces and asparagus with olive oil and garlic.  YUM !

As the salmon was still a bit frozen, I put it on the stove right away solo.  As the stove was hot and we would eventually need more water, we also scooped up some snow in the kettle and left it to melt.

 Dinner was ready quite quickly and we were both very happy with it.

To view the full video on this meal, please click here. 

After dinner we cleaned up and sat and had a few drinks.  It wasn’t roasting in the tent by any means, but we were both warm considering the temperatures outside.  Around 10pm we realized we would need some more wood so we went out to get some that we had seen earlier in the day.  Getting wood was great, it warmed us up further and gave us something to do to wake us up a bit.  We gathered a fair amount and then set up our sleeping areas.

Sue would be sleeping in the spot I slept in last weekend along the back of the tent. I would be sleeping with my head right at the door along the opposite wall of the stove with our feet somewhat meeting in the corner.  I honestly was worried we wouldn’t fit but it seemed to work okay as long as neither of us moved around too much.  Once we got things set up, we changed, stoked the fire and headed to sleep, both super tired and ready for a good nights rest. When we went to bed at midnight, the temperature was -20 with a windchill of -23 but we were comfy cozy inside the hot tent.

I have learned over the last two years that there really is no such thing as a good nights rest when you are hot tenting.  I am a very cold sleeper and use my -40 bag most of the year. This means I never let my fire go out and even if I wanted to let it go out, my body just doesn’t let it happen. The second the temperature drops, I wake up.  Therefore, every 3 hours, I am awake putting wood in the fire.  The picture above on the right is the little flame that I can see flickering in the stove when I crack open one of my eyelids to check on the fire. LOL.

I woke up to go to the washroom (haha) at 6am to be greeted by a balmy -29 degrees with the windchill.  Being up on that hill, I am pretty sure it was the full -29, maybe even colder.   I came back into the tent and put some more wood on the fire and went back to sleep for a bit.  I woke up again around 8ish and Sue woke up also.  We were both hungry and the fire was going really good so we decided to put breakfast up on the stove.

And when I say put breakfast up on the stove, I mean literally that.  LOL. Sue was in charge of breakfast. She premade egg and cheese omelettes, lots of bacon and brought some english muffins.  I brought a cookie sheet for this purpose and we placed it on the stove, put all the items on the cooking sheet and in less than 5 minutes, we were eating breakfast in bed.  It was awesome and being so cold outside, didn’t matter one bit!

After we ate our breakfast we cleaned up and then laid back down. I was sooo sleepy from being up so much during the night and before I knew it, I was fast asleep. We had a nice nap for about an hour or so, then I woke up and noticed there was no more fire. As we were packing up soon, I just let it be and got up to start the day.

Even though it was bitter cold outside, the sun was shining and that always seems to make things better.   We slowly began to tear down and pack up our sleds and were done in not time at all.

Once we were all packed up, we said thanks to our awesome site and made our way down the big hill we’d struggled so hard to come up yesterday.  We made it no problem with just a few pushes on the bum from our sleds telling us to go down the hill faster. LOL.

Our sled out was pretty uneventful, but extremely pretty.  The extreme temperatures had frozen things making them look eerily beautiful and we enjoyed the sunshine on our backs.  A good portion of our trek in was uphill, making the trek out a bit easier for sure!

Just before arriving back to the parking lot I stopped to take a photo and Sue noticed the sundog in the sky. We marvelled at it for a bit, took some photos and then made our way back to our vehicles.

The hot tent had survived it’s first backcountry trip, although it almost hadn’t.  I would now know to bring more rope with me and at least 4 pieces of wood on every trip in case I am not able to stake down the corners again.  There was no water leaking in the tent this trip,  but I was doubtful that had anything to do with the 2 new coats of spray I’d added after last trip.  It was too cold for water to exist the weekend of our trip. Even the water in our insulated bottles froze a bit while inside the hot tent, so that was probably not a worry for me unless I was out during a thaw.

Another issue we had was the painters pole slipping again. I would definitely need to address that issue. Someone had suggested drilling a few holes into the pole and if it slipping, just sticking a nail or pin or something in there to keep it from dropping.   I would be doing this shortly to rectify that issue before the next trip and will post about it if I do.

On the way out I also had some issues with my sled. The metal loops I’d put in it when I made it were rusted and very brittle. They snapped like potato chips during the last half hour of our journey out to the parking lot.  Luckily, I had 3 sets of loops that I was able to use, so when the first one of a set broke, I moved the poles back to the next set and when one of that set snapped, I moved the poles back to the 3rd set. Thankfully, we arrived at the car then or I would’ve had to get some rope or wire out of my kit and fix the sled out in the freezing cold on the trail.  I will be doing a repair on the sled before my next outing.

My next adventure will be a solo backcountry trip for 2 nights in Killarney just after Christmas and just before taking the hot tent to Mew Lake for New Years.  Stay tuned, lots more winter adventures to come!

Happy Winter Camping!

Camper Christina

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17 Comments

  1. Lorrie Silk January 2, 2018 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    Hi Christina,

    Just wanted to share an idea I’ve seen for stakes that
    may be lighter that carrying wood, and would allow you
    to burn the wood 😉

    I’ve seen others use hollow plastic pipe, like plumbers
    might use, cut into 2 foot lengths or so, and buried in the snow. If enough snow is packed on top, they will
    quickly freeze and anchor themselves. Anyway, might
    be worth a try.

    Thanks for the great videos and posts, Happy adventuring!

    Lorrie Jackson

    Sent from my iPhone

    • camperchristina January 2, 2018 at 8:43 pm - Reply

      What a super amazingly awesome idea!!! Thanks Lorrie!!! I will definitely look into that. I camped on ice this weekend at a car campground. I used 4 different stakes, the nails seem to be the heartiest but the silver v stakes work well to get in, but they are pretty much trashed after each use because they are too thin. It’s what makes them go in! Ironic. So PVC piping right?

  2. Al Christie January 2, 2018 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    You two are a couple of troupers! It’s interesting to read how you solved problems as they came up. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I was thinking that you might be able to bank the sides of the tent with snow for some insulation.

    • camperchristina January 2, 2018 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      HI Al! thanks so much. It is what you have to do out there sometimes and it is one of my favourite things in life, finding solutions to issues and overcoming them. More of a challenge in the winter for sure. I do bank snow on the sides of the tent for insulation. I have to keep it below the beige canvas as it sticks and could melt into the tent. I also have to leave some openings for air to get in and vent the tent, but the sides used for sleeping along always get covered to help with drafts. Thanks so much for checking out my post and for commenting. Happy 2018! Cheers!

  3. Jim Moodie January 2, 2018 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    If you know anyone who does decking (vinyl) see if you can get some “ends”… 1x6x12… drill a hole through it in the middle to fasten the rope and use that as your under snow anchor. If it is long enough you could even add some rock on top of the vinyl before you cover it with snow.

    • camperchristina January 2, 2018 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      That is also a very good idea! Thanks Jim. Light and easy to pack and carry. I love it. Would hold the snow well too. Not likely I will find any rocks out there in the snow, but the snow I think would do the job just like it did with the wood..and… vinyl would get cold as well right? I like this idea! cheers and happy 2018!

  4. Colette January 2, 2018 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    You ladies are awfully brave to tackle camping in such frigid cold, holy cow! But you cooke delicious meals, looked warm and cozy and enjoyed such beautiful sunshine! Looks like this trip was a total success!

    • camperchristina January 2, 2018 at 8:48 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much Colette!!! (i always aim to spell it right btw ) . I appreciate your comments and checking out the post. I hope you had a great holiday and new years! Happy 2018 my friend! 🙂 cheers!

  5. Harry Ewaschuk January 2, 2018 at 11:26 pm - Reply

    Great log of your trip! Your Mew Lake blog should be interesting. It was pretty cold then too.

    • camperchristina January 3, 2018 at 8:15 am - Reply

      Thanks so much Harry! I did another trip in between as well to Killarney. Solo winter backcountry. Happy New Year to you! Hope you had a great holiday! Cheers!

  6. AlwaysARedhead January 3, 2018 at 8:41 am - Reply

    Your trip sounded like fun, though I think I would want to stay two nights after pulling everything in on the sled.

    • camperchristina January 3, 2018 at 9:53 am - Reply

      I would also but sometimes, in the winter, when it’s bitter cold, one night is enough. LOL. Thanks for checking out my post and for commenting. Hope you had a wonderful christmas and happy 2018 to you! Cheers!

  7. George E Webster January 3, 2018 at 11:41 am - Reply

    That goes to show that necessity is a ‘mother’! Another idea is to have some metal pails, or small plastic grocery bags to bury. You can fill either with snow, then add water to make it very wet to add weight. At those temps, the watery slush will freeze quickly. Wait for the slush to freeze before covering it with tamped snow and tightening your guy lines. When you break camp, just pour some hot water to free your ‘anchors’.

    The only thing I have had good luck with on ice, are 10″ Galvanized Spikes, driven in at an angle. Fill any excess opening with wet snow. You need to chop the ice away from it when you tear down.

  8. Mike B January 4, 2018 at 10:29 am - Reply

    Great report ! Great way for Sue to have a first hot tent experience! Always love your meals you have and show us.
    Cheers

    • camperchristina January 6, 2018 at 7:01 am - Reply

      Thank you so much Mike! Hope you had a great holiday ! Happy 2018! Cheers!

  9. […] my trip backcountry camping at Go Home Lake, Sue went to exit the tent and when she pulled the zipper down, the pole sunk and dropped the whole […]

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