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Thread: Winter Camping

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Winter Camping

    If you are tired of snowmobiling only one day a weekend, or wanting to see new country;
    You need to learn how to winter camp. Winter camping in Alaska is learning what works for you under a wide range of conditions. Reading books on winter camping, is a good start, if you plan to camp at temperatures above 20 degrees. I remember a Caribou hunting trip I took my wife on. I waited for 3 weekends for the temperature to go above 30 degrees. She does not like the cold.

    We headed for Cantwell and found a place to park, everything was going as planned. Over cast skies and the temperature was a warm 30 degree above. I hadnít used the camper in a long time and decided not to turn on the heater. I had my wife sleep in a double sleeping bag. Knowing she would be warm at 30 degrees. By morning the skies cleared and the temperature had drop to Ė 20 below. My wife was warm all night and my truck would not start. We had to be towed back to Cantwell. After getting the truck fixed, we were back in Anchorage five days later. She never went hunting with me again. The reason I mention this is you need to be prepare for the worst and that includes rain.

    Most people think you need an expensive sleeping bag or special clothing to be warm. People have been winter camping for thousands of years before the modern sleeping bag or hi-tech clothing. A major problem with sleeping bags is the manufacture will claim their bag is a -20* or -60* bag. This may be true under the most ideal conditions. At best you will not freeze to death, although you may be thinking you are. Another problem with sleeping bags is some manufactures put very little insulation on the bottom. If you are a person who sleeps on his side your back will get cold.

    If you want to learn what works for you do your home work.
    Camp out in your back yard for 2 or 3 days is a good start. What I recommend you do is spend a day snowmobiling and then camp out by your truck. You will find what works in your back yard may not work after a long day of snowmobiling. You will be wet, tired, hungry and thirty. If you have good gear and know when and what foods to eat and liquid to drink you will be warm.

    Most people winter camp in a tent, and use a wood stove. I personaly never used a wood stove unless I am in a cabin. It is very dirty, and you have to bring wood or find it on the trail. I use a 3-man dome tent and an MRS stove. A 3-man tent is big enough for one person and I donít need a pull sled. This works for me because I donít spend a lot of days winter camping. If you want to spend several days camping you will need a wood stove or Propane heater to dry your clothes.

    Several years ago I asked an Iditarod champion (no not him) how he stays warm sleeping. He thought for a moment and said, I was never warm, and then added, I did not care; I was doing what I love.

  2. #2

    Thumbs up Winter camping

    I think winter camping is the bomb! I set up a winter camp every winter to be used as a day base camp or over night use. I have set up in Noatak National Park and now I have a sweet set up in Cape Krusenstern National Monument very close to the old state fish hatchery on the Noatak River. Winter camping is not for the meek but the solitude is priceless! I snowshoe ski, hunt and just take long sno-go trips and I have a warm tent waiting for me at days end. To me itís all about piece of mind and how to find some. Alaska has so many nice places to set up a tucked away winter camp and many of the federal lands allow you to establish a seasonal use camp. Donít miss out on winter guys!

    Northwest Alaska Backcountry Rentals
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    Kotzebue, Alaska
    33 miles north of the Arctic Circle

  3. #3

    Thumbs up More winter camping pics!

    This is winter camping to me. Unit 23 NW Alaska at its best!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006


    Winter camping is great. I'm working on the igloo end of things and just built the igloo in the attached photo. This was built with the tool from and was constructed in our backyard. Why there? Well, I'm introducing our young boys to the concept of winter camping. One is 6 and the other 9. Anyway, we slept comfortably during a night that dipped to near -10. Inside the igloo it was 52 with a lantern running and during our sleep, body warmth kept it at 35. Pretty neat. And the kids loved it. The igloo was a 9 footer that sleeps 2 adults comfortably. They can be built up to 11 feet and a solo igloo down to 7 feet. These don't go up fast, but can be used for an entire season once they've been built and properly hardened. Be prepared to practice a time or to in order to get the process worked out. Pretty neat to sleep inside an igloo!

    Eventually, we'll move our activities to the backcountry where we can enjoy the same accommodations.

  5. #5


    This is my idea of winter camping. Can't say enough good things about the Arctic ovens.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  6. #6


    Is that an a footer? I just got the AO 10. I was really surprised at the size of the AO8. I liked it but decided that the extra floor space on the 10 would be good if I 3 people ever go out. I wish they had one that was the same height as the 8 but a little bit wider.

    Oh well I can't wait to use it. I am working on a stove for it right now and hope to take it up north next week.

    Any tricks I should know before going out?

  7. #7

    Default Reply, Arctic Oven size

    It is a 10 X 10. Plenty of room for two full size cots & extra gear. I never had 3 overnight in it. It would be tight with a stove inside.

    Shovel the snow to the ground if able before setup. Make sure the vents are open all the time. Use 3Ē plastic tube or something to keep the vents open. Heavy snow loads will close off vents without something in place. Use a drop cloth to keep the floor clean. Set up again at home immediately after use. The fly material will mildew. Install two complete rows of rope in tabs provided for clothes drying. Donít be afraid to push cots right up against the interior. You can sleep up against it. That interior membrane wicks the moister away to the outside fly then it freezes. I the morning everything is completely dry. At -20 a lantern will bring the temps up to +20. Place small wood pads under cot legs to prevent damage to the floor. Use a piece of carpet as a door mat to catch snow before entering.

    I leave the heat on all day while out riding. I have spent up to 10 days in it.

    Getting extra tie downs installed for a spring bear hunt on Afognak.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  8. #8
    Member bgreen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006


    Any suggestions on winter camping books?
    The individual right to keep and bear arms shall not be denied or infringed by the State or a political subdivision of the State.

  9. #9


    someone recommended this to me. I haven't read it but it looks good.

    Snow Walkers Companion-Winter Camping Skills for the North

    Snow Walkerís 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. They share their little known secrets in an easy-to-read conversational manner. ē Learn how to stay warm in extreme temperatures
    ē Tips on reading lake- and river-ice conditions
    ē Practical advice on setting up tents & stoves
    ē Choosing the right footwear and clothing
    BONUS! A 32-page color insert on Garrett & Alexandraís epic 350-mile snowshoe trip across Labrador. Excerpts from their journals are highlighted with photos from the expedition.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Anchorage, AK


    This might be an off-the-wall idea, but has anyone used a ice-fishing shelter as a winter tent?

    The big advantage that I see is that they have an integral sled, are relatively easy to set up, and are designed for the winter. Most of the better ones can easily be pulled by a snowmobile too.

    Would something like this be a good winter shelter?

    Would they become a real pain in the ***** if pulled by a snowmobile down trails?

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2007


    I did a lot of winter camping in the 70s and 80s, hundreds of days, not so much nowadays. All in the Brooks Range and further north on the slope. Seemed like mostly 30 to 50 below because 20 below is a warm day. Running traplines and hunting with dogteams for a few years and snogos the rest of the time. The only tent I ever used was a 8X10 canvas walltent or just a canvas tarp. Used a 2 burner coleman cookstove to dry out and warm up before sleeping and in the morning. A coleman latern for light and some heat. The best sleeping bags I ever used were army issue down mummies but mostly had cheap 0 degree bags with a blanket sewed inside. You have to be able to sleep with ice forming on your facial hair and where ever your breath is exiting the bag. Never could have slept without a caribou skin betwwen the bag and frozen ground, nothing is better. An extra caribou skin to pull over the sleeping bag was a luxury. Dried out gear by leaving them in the sleeping bag with me. You don't sleep like a baby for 8 hours at those temps, an hour or two at a time and a lot of moving around in the bag and maybe breaking away some ice at your blowhole if in a mummy bag. Never sleep on the snow, dig down to the frozen ground. If you are in trees cover ground with spruce branches, if no trees than use willow branches if you can. You'll sleep much better at those temps if you consume a pound or so of fat before sleep and nothing is better than a slab of caribou back fat. 5 or 6 big spoonfuls of crisco works too Traveling and camping at those temps is 50% gear and 50% mental, make sure you are packing both.

  12. #12
    Member big_dog60's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    between wasilla and palmer


    I have done a fair amount of winter camping. I have never used a tent heater so I don't realy like using tents. a couple of tarps a good sleeping pad and a couple of moderatly rated sleeping bags. I always make sure that a fire can be built where I am camping.

    The snow huts are realy nice for a single night when it is realy cold. They are significantly warmer then tent and tarp shelters, but it can be hard to stay dry. After piling the snow up make sure that you let it sit for at least an hour 2 is probably better. Then I like to stick sticks about 1 foot long into the side of the hut before digging it out so when digging I know how close to the edge I can get without breaking a hole through where I dont want one or haveing the hut colaps.


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