I’m going to start off this story by sayingI finally did something I’ve been meaning to do for a very long time, A solo. winter, camp out in the woods.
I have been an avid outdoorsmen for a very long time. I love camping. and in recent years my partner Erin and I have been doing many trips on our sailboat in the 1000 islands. It’s basically camping but our boat has been our shelter for the evenings instead of a tent. We do all the same things one would normally do when out on a soft camping expedition accept building a tent to sleep in. (I use the term Soft camping to describe camping with some amenities like you would at a provincial camp ground).
Infact all the islands within the 1000 island that are not private, are Infact provincial parks. They have washrooms, fire pits, camp fire wood for purchase, and all for use by the public with either a daily or nightly fee, you must pay in order to use the islands.
It’s Exactly the same as a regular provincial camp ground. The only difference is that instead of camp sites there are docks for boats. Although there are a few camping sites you can pre book incase you decide to go with a smaller vessel like a kayak, canoe, jet ski, paddle board, or any other vessel not equipped with sleeping quarters.
On these trips we make fires to cook with, make items out of twigs, brush, and logs, using nothing but a knife most of the time.
Anyway, this year I have decided to get out of my personal comfort zone by going into the woods to set up a winter camping site for a night. I’ve watched so many videos with others doing this activity and I’ve wanted to do it for about 10 years and never have.
So this was the year to give it a try. I did this on a night that I was hoping wouldn’t drop below -10 degrees over night. I didn’t want the first time I try this to be my last lol. Especially after spending good money on all the proper gear.
I started out early 9am, the property I personally went to is only minutes away from home so I am able to walk, which also gives me a level of comfort knowing that if I was absolutely freezing I wasn’t far from a warm home to save my bacon lol.
After all, when learning to do something like this let’s be honest you don’t want your first time to be in a spot where it may actually be a life or death situation because you’re too far away from civilization.
Anyway this experience taught me a lot. After doing all kinds of searches and trying to figure out the best items to bring on an excursion-like this I decided to bring the following gear with me.
Of course, my KA-Bar BK16, (see my review on this knife at this link
my hacksaw, an axe, fire starting items to try out, plus my tested tried and true fire starting gear, para cord, food to cook with my canteen & water bottle, oh and my new hot tent with wood stove. And some food.
The Idea is to safely and comfortably stay a night out in the woods without getting too cold. This is not an emergency survival situation! It is a camping exercise.
In order for me to accomplish this task I will a wind break as soon as possible.
A tarp/tent that I bought a few years ago specifically designed to be light weight and can be set up anywhere. This will help me keep the wind off of me while I set up the rest of the camp site. Plus I can use it for several other possibilities if I do not need it as a wind break. Maybe as a shelter from falling snow or rain, that would give me a place to sit other than my tent in adverse weather conditions.
Then I have purchased a couple more items in order to be comfortable. A hot tent with a wood stove (pic above) and a couple hand saws to process wood faster than using only a knife.
Once this was all set up. I had to collect enough dry wood to make sure I have a fire going all night, I knew what this meant.
I will only be getting about an hour or so of sleep at a time before I’ll need to wake up and throw some more wood on the fire to keep me toasty warm throughout the night.
See my link on choosing the right gear
Knowing the basics, and actually going to do a night of winter camping are 2 very different things. You know when you go alone that you will be relying on yourself to get everything done, but actually being out there and setting up the site takes a boat load of work, and time is of the essence. Time is a limited resource in the bush.
If you set out in the early morning you will probably have enough time in the day before the sun goes down to get your site set up. That’s if you keep your location within a couple hours of home.
Before heading into the bush I decided to try a night in my own back yard to work out any kinks, and thank goodness I did. I set up my new wood stove on the front lawn, collected some wood to test out to see how well it works. The first thing that happened was all the chemicals in the paint on the stove itself started smoking and burning off. It’s a good thing I didn’t try that in a tent when it mattered. So I kept burning wood in the stove for 8 hours straight, re-stoking the fire every half hour to really give it a good chance to burn off all those paint and chemicals.
The following night I set up the new tent in the back yard, and the stove inside it. Then I had to collect enough fire wood “AGAIN” to be able to burn through the night comfortably. This means about 5 bags worth of wood, you know the size you buy at a campground? Yup approx 5 of those will burn constantly for around 10 hours straight.
When you have to go and collect that much wood yourself for every day that you plan to be out winter camping, it takes about 2 to 4 hours to collect and cut the wood into small enough pieces to fit inside the stove. (For each day). Example: if you plan to stay 2 nights? Expect about 4 to 8 hours of your time to cut and process enough wood to burn. That’s a chunk of your time for sure. However it does not all have to be done on day 1, you can split the time up into several smaller chunks of time if you’d like. By doing it this way it will keep you active and you’ll find there is always something to do.
When your out in the bush for real, there are many things you need to do to get comfortable and they all take time.
-1st you clear an area that is big enough for your tent.
-2nd you need to stomp down the surrounding area of snow (so it all lays flat and snow isn’t going all in your boots, this part all takes time, around 30 minutes ish)
-3rd set up your tent and wood stove. (Approx 30 to 40 minutes)
-4th grab some firewood in the near vicinity to your location and get the wood stove started, (this gives you an area to warm up in when your outside getting cold).
– 5th get some water, or snow in a pot on the wood stove (so it’s ready for tea after you’ve collected some firewood).
-6th go collect firewood and start hauling it back to your site. (Take the sled you brought your gear in with so you’ll be able to bring back bigger loads of wood at a time).
-7th. “Process The wood you’ve collected”, (bring it into the tent and stack it neatly. ) once your done this and have enough wood stacked in the tent, it has been approximately 4.5 hours of work.
To figure out a bit better just how much wood to collect? Check out my link on Firewood.
Once your done collecting what you think will be enough wood, then it might be time to finish making that tea on the wood stove and have a break. Your also probably hungry by now. Maybe think about starting dinner?
For me, even though I started at 9am in the morning, and my site took me only about half an hour to get to. It was approximately 3pm by the time everything was set up good enough for a decent nights sleep.
I had made a few sandwiches, and I put them and a can of soup over an open fire outside the hut.
It didn’t take long for the food to be ready to eat. And man was it good lol.
One other item you should make sure you have with you, is a lantern. Keep it handy so when it starts getting dark or if you wonder away from your site a bit to do some exploring? By the time you get back to your site, your not fumbling around in the dark looking for it. If it’s afternoon and you’re wandering away from your site? Turn it on first. It may help you get back if it gets dark before you return.
Also if you do plan to do some exploring in an unfamiliar location, then make sure you have a headlamp, knife, ferro rod, some paracord, and an emergency blanket tucked into your jacket somewhere. If you get lost at least you have enough gear on you to make a quick emergency shelter and have wood processing equipment. It could save your bacon in a pinch.
Pic of site at night.
Now after my little hike, I returned just as it’s getting dusk, now my soup and another sandwich was ready and I could sit down and relax. If you’re like me and enjoy activities such as these? Then You should enjoy this moment, you’ve worked hard for it.
As the sun goes down the temps drop significantly and -10 degrees is achieved. It’s time to hit the hay as tomorrow is going to be a busy but fun day as well. I personally only had time for the 1 night so on day to it was time to start thinking about taking down my site.
Also please remember, when you leave the bush, if you brought it in? Then take it out, & leave nothing but the footprints you brought with you.