I completed my new backcountry hot tent just in time for the weekend. It was a tough and stressful week, but I made it and I was super excited!
I had created a new hot tent recently to use in the backcountry as my DIY Tipi was just too heavy. Before I took it out into the backcountry though, I wanted to test it out somewhere safe, so as with past trials, I decided to head to Mew Lake in Algonquin Park for the weekend. As it gets dark at like 5pm now, I didn’t really have enough time to head to the park and set up before dark on a Friday so the plan was to leave early Saturday morning and stay until Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t a long visit but it should be enough time to give it a good trial run.
There were weather warnings all over the Weather Network but in Muskoka at this time of year, that’s pretty much normal. I got up at 7 and by 8am I was ready to hit the road and make my way to the park. It took me a little longer with the snowy roads, driving behind plows, etc, but after 2 hours, I arrived. (It’s usually an hour and 40 minutes on a nice day!).
Mew Lake is set up a bit differently in the winter time. Instead of driving straight and to the front gate, you turn right and go to a kiosk. There you can purchase your site using a self serve machine inside. I paid for a one night non electrical site permit and headed to the non electrical loop to find the perfect site.
I ended up on site 100, one of my favorites, and started to unpack the car. I had driven around looking at all different sites but still ended up here. At the time I set up, I was the only person in the loop.
There was snow on the ground but not a huge amount. I pegged down the corners of the tent, which was a bit tougher than the last few times I’ve set it up because the ground was frozen. I had brought an assortment of stakes to test out and liked one set more than the others, but they weren’t the right ones either. I would have to check out some other options for next weekends trip, as these would not suffice.
Unlike the tipi, this tent is super easy to set up and takes less than 5 minutes. (I tacked on a few minutes for the frozen ground, an issue I didn’t have previously setting it up at home, as the season continues this might take me up to 10 minutes, still not a huge amount of time for tent set up in my opnion).
Once I got the tent up I spread out the stakes a bit to remove as much slack as possible. Then I began setting up the stove!
I checked to ensure I knew where the damper would sit by turning the handle and looking into the pipe so I knew where the handle sat when the damper was open and closed, as this wouldn’t be visible once the pipes were put on. My previous stove from Princess Auto did not have a damper so this was a new feature to me. I was a bit worried about it, but also was excited to try something new. I received a quick tutorial on dampers the night before the trip from my good friends Paula and Jack. Thanks guys!
After figuring out the damper, I went back outside to set up the pipe. I opened the stove jack flap and attached a few pipe sections. Then I got out the aluminum poles, placed them in the correct area and hit them into the ground. Once they were in place, I set up the wire between them so it would cradle the stove pipe and then I attached the remaining sections.
A few days before the trip, someone had mentioned that I needed to get a cap of some sort for the end of the pipe, something I hadn’t yet thought of. This would be needed when it was raining or snowing so the rain or snow wouldn’t run down the pipe and into the stove and dampen the fire. I had settled on an elbow pipe and tested it out at the end of the stove pipe. It fit great and I believe would do the job nicely. As I was having a fire right away, I would leave it off for the time being, but knew it was there if I needed it.
Once the stove was in place, I got a little fire going in it to begin warming things up. I also had brought some leftover pizza for lunch and was just going to eat it cold, but I figured I might as well heat it up since I could. I grabbed a piece of foil and it got toasty warm in a matter of minutes. I continued setting up while I munched on my pizza.
The sleeping area was next. I put down 2 tarps which would go under me, then my Thermarest Ridgerest on top of that and my Thermarest Neoair on top of that. I didn’t think I would have any issues being cold, but I like to make sure I am not! LOL.
On the very top, I put my -40 Marmot sleeping bag and pillow and I was all set for bed. It looked very cozy. Next, I set up my chair and sat in front of the stove eating the rest of my pizza. I was pretty much set up so I went to visit my friends Ben and Tim who had arrived while I was putting up the tent and were just on the other side of the non hydro loop.
I had met Ben and Tim last year while on a walk to Mew Falls. They were staying on the site right by the falls and I was curious about the site and stopped to ask a few questions. We got to talking and Ben showed me his UFO… err, I mean tensile tent hanging in the trees. It was very cool and I being the curious type had lots of questions. Ben and Tim have a youtube channel called Two Men and a Canoe where they post amazing videos about their adventures and since meeting last year we have formed a friendship. I was elated that we were finally camping somewhere together at the same time so we could hang out a bit. The link for their page will also lead you to a video they did on this weekend’s adventure where Ben did an interview with me and I gave him a tour of the hot tent. Tim also made a video from the weekend and you can find it here. He also has me in his video. Super cool! Thanks guys!
Once Tim and Ben finished their setup, we headed out for a hike to Mew Falls. Along the way we stopped by the waste area and saw a pine martin being photographed by a few people who had been patiently waiting for it. I got a shot but it’s not the best as I had forgotten to bring my zoom lens for my phone. Woops.
The walk to the falls is always awesome and it was nice to share it with others. I usually do this walk early in the morning, usually solo, hoping to see some wildlife. Since we already saw the pine martin, I felt I had probably met my personal quota for the day. LOL
We took a few pictures and videos at the falls and then headed along the highland backpacking trail towards the rail trail to make a loop.
The weather today was perfect. About -5 or so and not too cold at all, but still snowy and wintery.
We walked along busy chattering and I really enjoyed the afternoon. I had great company and I was out hiking in the snow. Doesn’t get much better.
Eventually, we completed the loop and each headed to our campsites to make dinner. The fire was still burning in the stove when I arrived back at my tent, which made me quite happy.
For dinner tonight I was having roast and rice. I had brought along one of the roasts from Costco that I learned about through my friend Mike Burns. You basically just heat it up and it’s done. I was supposed to heat it up inside an oven or a microwave but assumed I could also do it on top of the wood stove. I brought my actual roasting pan from home and put it in there with the gravy that came in the package and it heated up just fine.
I brought some precooked basmati rice that I get from Dollarama and put it into the gravy once the roast was almost ready to let the gravy soak into the rice a bit. It smelled so good! I read up on Winter Camping while I waited.
Since I ate really slow and didn’t want it to get cold I scooped up some in one of my mugs and ate it out of there. It was delicious. I sat in the tent roasting, eating my roast. It was now 40 degrees inside the tent. LOL. I think I was getting a heat burn. bahahahaha
After I finished eating I began to clean up when I heard a hello from outside. It was Ben coming by to take a night shot of my tent with his special camera. I sat in the doorway and he said to hold very very still. I didn’t move for about a minute while he ran around outside flashing a light from different directions. It was very hard not to laugh, but I held still. This is the result.
Pretty neat picture. Ben invited me over for a campfire when I finished cleaning up dinner, so I packed up a few drinks and my chair and put my snow pants and jacket back on and headed over to their site.
We spent hours sitting by the fire, sharing camping stories and laughing and it was a really fun time. Eventually, the wood ran low and our eyes were getting sleepy. I said goodnight, packed up my chair and headed back to my tent.
I was surprised that the fire was no longer burning and there was no smoke coming out of the stove pipe. The tent was still warm inside and it didn’t take me too long to get a fire going. It had been snowing the whole time I was away and the snow had all settled on the bottom 3-4 feet of the canvas outside. I had not really noticed this until the fire got going and it began getting hot in the tent. This caused the snow that was on the canvas at the bottom section of the tent to melt and leak. Sigh. I guess 3 cans of waterproofing spray had not been enough? I had focused more on the top half than the bottom. Not much I could do about it now. I just moved away from the sides as much as I could, although, with a small tent that is not easy, but I did my best. I wiped up the sides with my dish towel and covered everything in plastic, but otherwise there wasn’t much else I could do, so I went to sleep, warm and toasty in my new hot tent, my wet drippy hot tent.
I woke up to go to the privy at 4am. It was crisp and fresh outside and a balmy -15 with the windchill. I actually enjoyed the walk but enjoyed coming back to my warm tent much more. Even with the fire barely burning, it was almost 30 degrees in the tent and the canvas was completely dried out. I went back to sleep for a bit and then eventually got up around 830-9ish.
Once I got the stove going after waking up, it got hot in the tent very quickly. I had to strip down to my tank top to avoid sweating too much and was then quite comfortable. I loved heat and I was a very very happy camper.
I set my chair back up in front of the stove and got breakfast going. Usually when I winter camp I precook my food but for this trip, I’d decided I would cook everything right on top of the stove. First I made up a few strips of bacon while browning some toast and then I cooked up some over easy eggs.
I was surprised how quickly everything cooked on the stove. It was pretty hot so I guess it makes sense, but my other stove does not cook food this quickly at all. It also isn’t as user friendly and I was really happy with it so far. The only thing that was bothering me is that it was a bit big for the tent.
I had originally wanted the Junior Stove but I would’ve had to wait 2 weeks for it and I needed to finish the tent and get out camping before then. I sent Dave from Lure of the North a short video of me in the tent and he in turn emailed me to ask if I still wanted to keep this stove or if I found it too big? It was like he was reading my mind. I told him I think I’d prefer the smaller stove and he said we could make that happen! AMAZING!!!! I will do one more trip with this stove next weekend and then I will switch this one out for a smaller stove. I was very much loving working with Lure of the North!
After I ate breakfast and cleaned up as much as I could, it was time to slowly start packing up my stuff into the car. Once I put away my sleeping area and changed my clothes and emptied out the inside of the tent, I went to check on Ben and Tim, but they were not at their site. I headed back to my site and finished up packing and just as I was almost done, Ben and Tim came by to say goodbye. I really enjoyed my time hanging out with them and looked forward to our next visit.
Someone had asked me about the painters pole and if I had reinforced the top of the tent to ensure the pole didn’t go through the top of the tent. The inside peak is reinforced somewhat with the seam edges all gathered from each piece making it well padded. I also took a photo of the painters pole and it is below. The end I put into the top of the tent is round and very smooth and doesn’t seem to have an ill effect on the tent as yet. Hopefully, this won’t change.
My ride home was a bit challenging but this is something you have to expect when winter camping. I was very glad I had taken the tent out to Mew for it’s test run. It is always comforting to know that if something goes wrong there are others nearby that you can get help from. The tent will be back up in my sunroom this week to add 2 more cans of waterproofing to the bottom 3 feet and then another 2 coats of fireproofing on top of that. I also will be picking up a carbon monoxide detector to keep in the tent as some people expressed worry about me not waking up. The canvas I used to make the tent is only 8oz and is extremely breathable. I also have lots of fresh air coming in but when I have a bit more time, I will also be putting in a vent.
On the way home I stopped in Huntsville to pick up the carbon monoxide detector, 2 cans of waterproofing spray and also get a variety of different stakes that hopefully will do a bit better in the frozen ground. The stakes I used worked but only one set of them managed to make into into the frozen ground and I needed some more options for that. I would be fully prepared for my next outing, next weekend, a test run into the backcountry! Hopefully, all issues will be resolved for that adventure, but there is never really any way of knowing or planning for everything , you can only be as prepared as possible and do a little bit of praying. LOL
I hope you enjoyed my post and will check back for my next outing, heading into the backcountry with the hot tent. I will be joined by my friend Sue, from Sue’s Outdoor Crew. I’m still not sure there is enough room for two people to fit comfortably in the new tent, but I guess we will find that out soon! If you have any questions, comments or just want to say hi, please leave a message.