“How To”- Winter Camping in Heated Tents

My crew- out on Attean Pond around Jackman, ME-  Hauling a heated tent set up.

My crew- out on Attean Pond around Jackman, ME- Hauling a heated tent set up.

Just in time for holiday gifting. Consider an immediate purchase of the grandaddy/grandmummy reference of old-school traditional warm comfort in the winter camping.

This book has been out of print ( again ) for several years now, but is back and available untilo it sells out again. I recently re-read the book (I have a couple of my own treasured inscribed copies) and discovered additional material that I’ve somehow overlooked or breezed over on past readings.

You won’t find this Fourth edition on Amazon, but it’s now available from one of the authors:
Snow Walker’s Companion : Winter Camping Skills for the North, written by Garrett & Alexandra Conover
Paperback – 288 pages, 32 full-color pages, from Stone Ridge Press.

Snow Walker's Companion

Snow Walker’s Companion

From the North Woods Ways Web site:
“Snow Walker’s Companion is a guide to comfortable winter camping using tried and true traditional equipment and native skills. The Conovers show us how to sleep warm, travel safe and enjoy the white season. Guides in Maine and Labrador for over 30 years, Garrett and Alexandra have learned not only how to survive in the North in winter, but to thrive. They share their little known secrets in an easy–to–read conversational manner.

-Learn how to stay warm in extreme temperatures
-Tips on reading lake and river-ice conditions
-Practical advice on setting up tents & stoves
-Choosing the right footwear and clothing
-How to pick the best snowshoes for you
-Common sense psychology for the trail

BONUS! A 32–page color insert on Garrett & Alexandra’s epic 350 mile snowshoe trip across Ungava, Quebec. Excerpts from their journals are highlighted with photos from the expedition.

Prices: US: $25 + $10 (s&h), Canada: $25 + $14 (s&h), Europe: $25 + $20 (s&h)

If you would like it inscribed to someone, send the name(s) along. You can pay via PayPal. Remember to include your shipping address. Checks may be made out to:

North Woods Ways
2293 Elliottsville Road
Willimantic, ME 04443
USA “

In the meantime, if you can’t wait for your own copy and want to learn more about the specific techniques that are detailed by the Conovers, check out this recent blog post from Paul Kirtley, entitled How to Live in A Heated Tent . Paul runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions. Paul’s photos and text hits a lot of the highlights of just how heated tent winter camping works in the UK, which is strikingly familiar to how it works here in the USA and Canada.

If you decide to get your own copy of the Snow Walker’s Companion, tell Garrett that Uncle Tom sent you.

Two great presentations from the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous (Nov. 2014)

Two superb presentations took place in November at this year’s Snow Walker’s Rendezvous in Fairlee, VT.

If you would like an overview of the whole Nov. program, I recommend tuning into Alex Gusev’s six minute YouTube video. Alex is handy with the camera, and weaves several presentations into a compact package.

Now, on to the two highlights of the weekend:

The first was Scott Ellis’ multimedia presentation entitled “Finding Simplicity in Winter Camping”.  I appreciated Scott’s low-key approach to having adventures outdoors.  Scott’s got tons of experience, and puts together informative videos about taking minimal gear and having fun in all conditions.  For his presentation he loaded up some clips from his videos.  Here is the full length version of him taking a piece of plastic sheeting, building a makeshift teepee, and putting some heat and comfort in his shelter by setting up a wood stove stove in there.

The second top-shelf presentation was by Paul Sveum , ” 21 day Snowshoe Trip in the Boundary Waters”.  His talk  highlights a twenty one day winter trip that takes place in march of 2014 in Minnesota, from the end of the Gunflint Trail (Saganaga Lake) 75 miles into downtown Ely. It was a particularly cold trip, with night time temps getting to 55 below zero.  Paul is an instructor at the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School way up north in Marsadis, Maine. The video captures an adventure of a lifetime, with a cast of characters that you rarely get to watch in action.  

It’s these types of programs that keep me coming back to Vermont every November to catch the latest installments from the Masters of Winter Wilderness Travel. It’s all set to repeat in Nov. 13-15, 2015. The event cuts off reservations at 100 folks, and if you have never been there- consider going. Stay tuned to this bog, where I’ll post the registration link sometime next fall.

Snow Walker’s Rendezvous – welcome to winter 2014

Last weekend, I attended the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous in Vermont .

Home made tent and stove

Learn by Doing

I experienced the weekend through a new lens-through the eye of a newly Registered Maine Guide.  Other Maine Guides were in attendance, including Master Maine Guide Tim Smith, and another new friend I made at the weekend, Portland-based Lou Falank.

I really enjoyed hanging out with Tim on Saturday night.

Tim Smith

Tim Smith has been finding his way into the conter of the bushcraft/backwoods survival skills spotlight for some time now. He developed and continues to run his Jack Mountain Bushcraft School,  the highly respected Maine-based ” University of Outdoor Skills” .  Tim’s long-term immersion programs are the longest and most comprehensive bushcraft, survival and guide training courses in North America.

What’s bushcraft?  The JMB website explains: ‘Bushcraft is the active component of our interaction with the natural world. Both art and science, bushcraft is doing, making, crafting, traveling, building and living in the natural world. It is an inclusive term for doing things outdoors and is composed of activities such as, but not limited to, primitive skills, modern survival, classic camping, expeditionary skills, prepping, hiking, paddling, crafting and outdoor living, as well as more specialized disciplines such as hunting, fishing and trapping. Bushcraft has no political agenda or worldview, isn’t about preparing for the end of the world, and isn’t an “ism”. It is made up of people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds who share a love for being active outdoors.’
Now Tim’s going to be on our living-room or palm-based screens in upcoming episodes of Dude, You’re Screwed on the Discovery Channel.  Tim’s episode should be entertaining us before 2015 rolls around, sometime in early December.  Stay tuned for more details.

The normally bushcraft-distant New York Times gave considerable column length to the show in their Dec. 20, 2013 review :  “Dude, You’re Screwed” centers on five men, most with advanced military training, who take turns running gauntlets designed for them by the others. Episodes open with essentially a staged rendition — the mark is kidnapped, hooded and bound at the wrists, then spirited off to who knows where. Unhooded, he’s left to fend for himself with just a handful of tools provided by the team. (As for suspension of disbelief, wouldn’t the participants know their destination when they’ve presumably gone through passport control?)
While the contestant in the game — all the men refer to it as “the game,” though there’s no prize — makes his way through various struggles, the other four men observe him remotely, and sometimes say grim things like “Moisture kills out here.”
But more often, their mood is light. Its like the home run contest before the All-Star Game, an essentially meaningless display of skills where titans watch one another show off. But the casual mood also serves to take the edge off the very real struggle of the man in the wild.
I want to see this show, but I don’t subscribe to the Discovery Channel.  If tell you when it’s on, can someone help me see it?  

I also had a great time talking with Lou Falnak.

Lou Falank -photo by Emily McCabe

Lou Falank -photo by Emily McCabe

Lou runs his Mountain Bear Programs and Guide Service.
Lou has provided programs as a director, instructor, and co-facilitator at camps & schools across Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania. He’s a Registered Maine Guide. His L.O.S.T.(Learning Outdoor Survival Techniques) Program specializes in bringing youth from a wide variety of backgrounds into the outdoors to learn skills and experience community. He’s making a difference in the lives of children in the Portland area, bringing after-school bush-crafting skills to the next generation.

Lou and I hit it off. We’ll get together in the near future, after Thanksgiving, to do something together in the outdoors.

I  was recruited to kick off the weekend at Friday night’s whole group meeting ( the event cuts off at 100 registrants) with a half hour reading from my blog. This was old school, no iPhoto or Powerpoint, just one guy trying to entertain the faithful by reading a half-hour story of an actual deep winter adventure in the Maine woods.

I  read about my one-week walk across the frozen Moosehead and Seboomook Lakes.    Here’s the link to the talk- this time there are photos and three video clips -The Great Slush Walk of 2009.

Mark Shaw exits our hotel room

Mark Shaw exits our hotel room

I plan to include at least one more entry about the weekend.

There was so much to be excited about !

Uncle Tom Keynotes at Minnesota’s Winter Camping Symposium

“We are excited to announce a new addition to our Winter Camping Symposium: KEY NOTE SPEAKER – Tom Jamrog.
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Saturday’s Key Note Address will cover: Winter Walking the West: Preparing and Adapting to Snow Travel in the High Sierras and Rocky Mountains.

Tom Jamrog has been backpacking, riding mountain bikes, and living in the outdoors for close to 50 years. Tom maintains his popular blog: Living Large While Walking The Big Trail, and Tom’s Trailjournals have amassed close to one million web visits.

From 2007 to 2013, Tom backpacked over 8,000 miles in the United States. On October 24, 2014 The American Long Distance Hiking Association-West awarded Tom the Triple Crown of Hiking, for having completed continuous through hikes of the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails, joining a relatively small club of 200+ individuals.

Tom has completed winter trips in Canada and conducts yearly trips in Maine, where he has lived with his wife, Marcia, for the past 40 years.”

I am really looking forward to my visit to the Duluth area next week, where I hope to connect with some old and make some new friends.  I’ll  be working at the Four Dog Stove booth at the event, so please stop by and say hello.

Full schedule, speaker and workshop details here ! 

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous 2014

Tent City at Snow Walkers' (2013)

Tent City at Snow Walkers’ (2013)

I am presenting a talk in Vermont at this event, upcoming in November..

My talk/ photo display will be : Winter Walking the West: Preparing and Adapting for Snow Travel in the Sierras and the Rockies

It’ a great weekend of all things winter foot- travel related.  It sells out at 100 registrants every year so far, so get in touch with Lynn if you are interested in going.

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous 2014
November 7-9
Hulbert Outdoor Center
Fairlee, Vermont
Friday, November 7 – 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Saturday, November 8– 8:45 am- 9:00pm
Sunday, November 9 – morning – workshops & informal hike/ bike

Join us for our 20th informal gathering of friends (and friends of friends) who love to travel traditionally in the winter wilderness. We’ll have slides, and films and lots of information to exchange. Bring your favorite items from the North to display: maps, books, photo albums, sleds, tools, etc. All are welcome to display tents and share traditional camp set-ups.

Partial list of folks sharing their experiences:
Katherine Donahue NH Steaming North: 1st Cruise of US Revenue Cutter Bear,Alaska & Siberia,1886
Ruth Heindel VT Stories from the Poles: Science and Adventure in Greenland and Antarctica
Paul Sveum NH 21 Day Snowshoe Trip on the Boundary Waters
Mirelle Bouliano QU Skiing Northern Quebec
Craig MacDonald ON Richmond Gulf Traverse 1979
Bruce Lindwall NH Back Country Skiing the Sierra Crest Trail
Tom Jamrog ME Winter Walk the West: Preparing & Adapting on the Pacific Crest & Continental Divide
Scott Ellis VT Finding Simplicity in Winter Camping

WORKSHOPS:
Alex Medlicott NH First Aid for the Winter Trail – Cold Injuries; prevention,recognition;treatment
Ann Ingerson VT Sewing Your Own Winter Gear
Tim Smith NH Axe Handling
Ross Morgan VT Knots for the Trail
Paul Sveum NH Food Planning for the Trail
David & Anna Bosum QU (Tentative) Cree Culture
Film – “On the Wings of Mighty Horses” – Sakha Republic
Geoffrey Burke NH Build your Own Toboggan
Loranne Carey Block NH Felted & Knitted Sock Fiber Arts for Camping
Tour of the Tents & Stoves Traditional Equipment Display
Used Equipment – Sale/Swap Bring your fiddle, guitar or musical instrument for evening fun…
AND MUCH MORE…………………………..

Meals & Lodging: Simple lodging is available at the Hulbert Outdoor Center. Cozy 3-4 bedroom heated cabins provide comfortable accommodations. (As well as your tent!) Meals served buffet style in dining hall. The Center is located on Lake Morey, and is easily accessible from I-91.
Program registration -$60; student/limited income-$45. Registrations accepted until program is full.
Meals & lodging package for the weekend (Fri. Dinner through Sun. Breakfast, 3-4 occupancy/room)
Commuter & tent rates available (see registration form) Thanks for mailing or faxing your registration after Oct 1. Sorry we cannot accept phone registrations.

Registration Questions: Lynn_Daly@alohafoundation.org

Hiking on Acadia is Primo in October

Our route

Our route

It was able to make a couple of scheduling adjustments and free myself up to join Guthook on an all-day summit fest on the lesser populated trails that run across the western side of Acadia National Park.  It’s not often that I get an offer to hike my heart out on a warm October day in Maine.

The weather was a bit iffy, with a 50% possibility of afternoon rain.  As it turned out, we were spared the wet, and instead blessed with a steady, cool, drying wind that came at us right off the Atlantic Ocean, which was often within sight.  No drenching our shirts today, either with water from the sky or from our own sweat.

Despite an early 7:30 AM start from Belfast, ME , ittook 5 hours to walk the 12 miles of trails, at an average speed of 2.3 mph. Guthook and I did not take many breaks today, and any that we did were relatively brief.  However, a few road construction delays and the dwindling daylight put me back home  after dark.

I was running two apps on the walk: Fitbit for the iPhone 5s ( no band needed) and Strava-tracking my hike, and playing with distances.  Guthook was packing a GPS, an also running Fitbit to double check steps and mileage. Its fun to know as much as I can about my hikes.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve walked the Acadia trails.  The last time camped here was on a 2009 February winter trip in Blackwoods Campground where I set up my heated wall tent  for a few nights as we explored the snow-packed trails and roads.

I would characterize Acadia’s trails as “ Camden Hills on steroids”.

Atop Acadia Mountain

Atop Acadia Mountain

While the tallest mountains in Acadia are about the same height as my nearby Camden Hills State Park (roughly 1,000 feet in elevation), there are many more of them, and the trails are often wilder, with more fallen dead tress, and a footpath that is often much gnarlier.  Here’s a shot of Guthook and Casey dog on a rocky section up to Bernard Mountain. IMG_3626 Yes, that’s a blue blaze marking the trail in the lower part of the picture.

The flat light today and the still vibrant foliage made for Zen gardens, all day long.

Really....

Really….

It is the absolute best time of the year to hike in Acadia right now. At least one parking lot was almost empty. IMG_3605 We only saw a dozen hikers all day, averaging just one person per mile on a warm weekday. The Park’s website states,  “Acadia National Park generally receives more than two million recreational visits each year, making it one of the most-visited national park in the United States. The busiest months are July, August, and September.”

We each drove up, spotting my car at the end of our hike off the Western Mountain Road, and with Guthook’s car at the start in the parking lot on the East side of Echo Lake on Route 102.

Here’s what we did today:  Acadia Mountain (681′)—> St. Sauveur Mt.( 679′)  via Canada Cliff Trail/plus Beech Cliff Loop—> Beech Mtn.(839′) —>Mansell Mtn. (949′) —> over the Great Notch and Bernard Mtn. (1071′) and then back down the West Ledge Trail to the other  car.

Elevation, baby.

Elevation, baby.

It was up and down all day long.

Here are some additional pictures:

The beach at Long Pond

The beach at Long Pond

Looking south down Somes Sound

Looking south down Somes Sound

Panorama  from Beech Mountain

Panorama from Beech Mountain

Check out Aislinn’s blog entry about hiking Mansell Mountain for some historical background on Mansell and her own account of a great walk in an astounding National treasure.  Thank you U.S Parks  !

Snow Walking is Alive and Well…

..even if the book is still out of print.

This past week I have been re-reading Garret and Alexandra Conover’s definitive Snow Walker’s Companion: Winter Camping Skills for the Far North.

Snow Walker's Companion

Snow Walker’s Companion

Reading it again makes me wonder if I was paying attention the first few times I read the book, which is currently out of print. There is so much to be learned from the pages of this book. Coming off a 4 day winter trip of my own earlier this month on the Moose River near the Canada border, I appreciate filling in my knowledge gaps with the details that are laden onto each page. If you can find a copy at a used book store, snag it.

Over to Youtube.  I have been tagging potential videos for the past few months and took some time last night to view some of them on my TV set by the glow of the wood stove. 

I stumbled onto this gem, which is a MUST VIEW for all lovers of boreal trekking in the wintertime. It is stellar 50-minute piece of work entitled “Snowwalkers”.

This was a 10-day, 100km ( 62 miles) trip down the historic Missinaibi River in mid-winter. Released on Youtube on Feb 24, 2014, the video is to you by Laurentian University, the LU Alumni Association and Lure of the North. The video features Garrett Conover in action, portrayed here with justified reverence and capturing him in his usual, low key, hard-to-squeeze-anything-out-of-him style of leadership. I remember asking him numerous questions on the few trips that i had the fortune to take with him, and the answers were always preceded by, “Well, it depends….” I now realize how right he was.

See for yourself- invite some friends over, grab some popcorn and take notes until the book is republished.