Penner: You possibly can survive – and even take pleasure in – winter tenting if carried out proper

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After scarfing down my beautiful breakfast – rock-hard granola bar with an beautiful Fireball whisky demi-glace – I speculated that neurons had been as soon as once more sending indicators to my mind. (The “hypothesis” half tipped me off.) This was good. It had been a protracted, chilly evening within the tent. However now, with hearth made and physique fuelled, indicators of hope began rising. The morning gloom was fading. After which, because the solar crested the distant ridgeline and fingers of fog began burning red-orange over the half-frozen floor of Higher Kananaskis Lake, my senses actually began tingling. I grabbed my digital camera and tripod and sauntered all the way down to the snowy shore to seize the present.

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First the reality, winter tenting isn’t for the faint of coronary heart. The chilly seeps into every part. Issues freeze. The whole lot takes longer and requires extra effort. Days are quick, nights are lengthy. Stuff doesn’t appear to work as nicely. (Together with the physique’s important techniques that depend on circulatory exercise, which, I feel, is all of them.) That’s the unhealthy information.

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The excellent news is that this: winter tenting will be extremely rewarding. They make stuff for winter tenting. You possibly can shield your self from the chilly. The peace and quiet is surreal. You get selection camp spots. (Or, in my case, the campground utterly to your self.) The sense of journey, of accomplishment, is heightened and much more gratifying than when situations are “simple.” (I’m being critical.) The skies are phenomenal. And winter serves up spectacular scenes that may heat your soul like nothing else.

Frosted backlit pine bushes on the hike into the Level Backcountry Campground, Photograph, Andrew Penner cal

My one-night journey on the Level Backcountry Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kananaskis Nation was, in some ways, the proper little foray into the backcountry to get my ft moist – er, chilly – within the “sport” of winter tenting. Like most individuals with a ardour for backpacking and tenting, the overwhelming majority of my treks have been in spring, summer time, and early fall. A backcountry overnighter in December? Not a lot.

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Nonetheless, contemplating the hike from the North Interlakes Day Use Space is simply 4 kilometres with little elevation achieve – to not point out the very fact the Level Backcountry Campground is gorgeous, permits fires and offers firewood, and is open year-round – all paths pointed to “The Level.” In summer time, I’ve hiked by this campground a number of occasions and all the time thought it will be nice within the shoulder season. And it’s certainly one of solely a handful of backcountry campgrounds open in winter.  (For a listing of extra campgrounds, together with front-country campgrounds which might be open in winter, go to You can even reserve your campsite on the web site. It’s $12 per evening/individual plus a $12 non-refundable reservation charge.)

Andrew Penner takes a selfie upon making it to Higher Kananaskis Lake. cal

I set out from the trailhead (positioned roughly half-hour south of Kananaskis Village on Kananaskis Lakes Path) at 1 p.m., a late begin, and made it to the 20-site, lakeside campground by about 3 p.m. Distractions alongside the way in which – gorgeous reflections within the lake, frosted pines, the hovering rock partitions of Mount Indefatigable, to call a number of – had been quite a few. So, as a result of a number of stops for images, I had barely sufficient time to arrange my tent, seize a stash of wooden, and catch the solar’s final rays earlier than it slid behind the looming ramparts of Mount Lyautey. Shortly thereafter, the temperature began falling, my water bottles started freezing, a frosty sheen began constructing on the tent, and I questioned if my gear – and myself – would maintain up. In accordance with the weatherman, it was going to be a -15 C evening.

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“The largest enemy once you’re tenting in winter is water and condensation,” says Ofelia Hernendez, an advisor at Mountain Gear Co-op, or MEC, who’s a winter tenting specialist. “Moisture seeping into the sleeping gear, base layers getting moist, tents collapsing beneath snow hundreds, dehydration, these can have dire penalties and need to be averted in any respect prices. Your survival can really rely on it.”

The creator’s campsite at Level Backcountry Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Photograph, Andrew Penner cal

Throughout my quick go to with Hernendez, who commonly conducts free winter tenting clinics on the downtown MEC retailer (the subsequent one is slated for Jan. ninth at midday), she additionally highlighted a number of the important gear. “Having a four-season tent, which can have a stronger body, stronger supplies, and the mandatory air flow to stop frost build-up contained in the tent, is vital for winter tenting.”

Extra objects that Hernendez highlighted had been: a light-weight collapsible snow shovel (for constructing a tent web site, digging a hearth pit, and gathering snow for consuming water), a closed-foam sleeping pad (to supply a moisture barrier from the bottom), insulated sleeping mat, headlamp, sunscreen, sun shades, insulated thermos, moveable range with further gasoline (melting snow for consuming water is vital, consuming snow will really dehydrate you) and, clearly, a heat, down-filled sleeping bag made for chilly climate.

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Not surprisingly, given my lack of winter tenting expertise, I made a number of rookie errors alongside the way in which. My reminiscence foam sleeping pillow, for instance, froze stable (an inflatable one would have been higher!), I burned my gloves whereas drying them out by the fireplace (fortunately, they had been nonetheless usable however a second pair would have turn out to be useful!), and I barely had sufficient gasoline for all the snow melting that was required for getting consuming water.

he creator admiring the fog and dawn over Higher Kananaskis Lake. Photograph, Andrew Penner cal

Nonetheless, I made it via the evening comparatively unscathed. And there have been many memorable moments within the quick and candy 24-hour journey. Just like the dawn present. The frost-smothered pines and ice-smeared peaks. And, in fact, my connoisseur breakfast.

Winter Tenting Gear 101

There’s no method round it: you want good gear for a winter tenting journey. Listed here are a number of objects that I’ve discovered carry out exceptionally nicely within the wild.

NEMO Tensor Excessive Circumstances Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad – That is the warmest, most insulating sleeping pad you’ll ever want. Out there in a wide range of sizes to pair with the remainder of your sleep system. $349.95

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Huge Agnes Torchlight Sleeping Bag – The “Mom of Consolation,” Huge Agnes makes a number of the greatest backcountry tenting gear in the marketplace. Their Anvil Horn -18° is a heat, light-weight bag that has accompanied me on dozens of adventures, winter and summer time.

MEC TGV2 Tent – A terrific shelter can save your life. MEC’s TGV2, an all-season, two-man tent that’s constructed to resist no matter Mom Nature desires to dish out, matches the invoice. $569.95


MEC Tremblant Jacket – An ultra-warm “puffy” that packs down right into a compact bundle, the Tremblant is likely to be the warmest jacket I’ve ever owned. It’s excellent for tenting, snowboarding, climbing, or simply strolling the mutt on a frosty morning. $269.95

Petzl ACTIK Core Headlamp – Name it an unfavourable tilt within the Earth’s axis, however we don’t have a ton of sunlight hours in winter. Simply the way in which it’s. Headlamps are key. The Petzl Actik will gentle your path. $109.95.

Helinox Chair One – Weighing in at lower than a kilogram, this ultra-lightweight packable chair has develop into a “must-have” on each backcountry journey I take. A no brainer. $159.00

Grayl Geopress Water Air purifier – It’s easy to make use of and works like a French Press – push down the filter and, presto, clear water. Saves the boiling course of in winter! $124.95


Gregory Baltoro 65 Backpack – A time-tested traditional with an superior suspension system and form-fitting design. It’s going to get you – and your whisky – the place it must go. $449.95


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