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Suggestions for hot tent

1:37 p.m. on February 10, 2014 (EST)
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I’m looking at purchasing a hot tent to use for winter camping mostly in northern mn, and michagan’s upper peninsula.  I’ve skied and snowshoe’d extensively in these areas with double wall 4 season tents and single wall tents for fast and light trips.  One issue we have is the fact that in december and january nights are long and it is frequenty too cold for a campfire to be practical which ends up translating to spending a large portion of our time sleeping.  In addition it is always more difficult to get people to join us on winter trips.
I’m thinking a hot tent may solve both of our problems by giving us a relatively warm area to spend the long night as well as making it easier to bring others on winter camping trips.  The long term goal is to be able to take our kids winter camping which would be difficult with our current tent system.  We don’t have kids yet but I’m hoping that when we do a hot tent will allow us to take them out in the winter at a younger age than would otherwise be feasible.  
I’m looking for recommendations on what tent would fit our needs best.  
I would likely only use the tent for trips where we are skiing or snowshoeing in and making a base camp rather than trips where we are moving everyday and still continue to use a more traditional tent for more mobile trips when we want to travel lighter.  I’d still like the tent to be light enough to transport up to 10 miles although in most cases 1 to 3 miles would be more typical
Looking for a tent/stove combination that is roughly 12 lbs or less (would be wiling to go to 15 lbs max if need be).  Would like to very comfortably fit 4 with room to easily stand inside.  I’m thinking an 8 man version would probably be an ideal balance of size and weight but I’m open to suggestions.  
We plan to use the tent in temperatures down to -40 or colder.  The hope is that whatever stove we choose will be able to warm the inside of the tent to a temperature where you can be relatively comfortable inside at those temperatures while immobile but still fully dressed (down jacket and pants boots etc) but without having to crawl into the sleeping bag until the wood runs out.  I’m not expecting it to be room temperature inside.  If it was -30 outside and 40 inside I would be pretty happy.  

  1. One big concern I have is ease of use at cold temperatures.  I would be willing to take a bit of extra weight in order to have an easier to set up stove/ tent or larger stove that allowed a bigger variety of wood sizes.  How easy are these tents and stoves to set up in very cold conditions?


I have a couple of other concerns listed below

  1. I also noticed that many stoves are elevated and seem like they would be really tippy unless the legs are pushed into the ground.  How do I deal with this when the ground is frozen or would a different design be preferable other than an oval?
  2. How practical is it to set these tents up on frozen ground without snow to anchor into?  I realize that I can tie off to bushes or a pack filled with rocks but this is time consuming and because most of the anchor points are at the bottom they would need to be extended dramatically which would mean a large gap between the wall and the ground.  
  3. How practical is it to pitch one in soft powder?  Most of our use will be in soft snow.  Snow stakes or buried stuff sacks work well for normal tents because they receive a mostly horizontal pull but all of the hot tents I’ve seen mostly anchor at the bottom meaning stakes get mostly an upward pull.  In deep snow this would be doable especialy if the snow has ample time to set before tensioning the stake but I have some concerns about this in shallower snow even if the snow is shoveled into piles on top of the stakes.


I realize that none of the hot tents that fit the weight and size criteria are freestanding but something that can stand with less anchoring when anchoring conditions are difficult would be preferable, especially given the hazard of a stove running inside.  

6:33 p.m. on February 10, 2014 (EST)
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sam g...I like that you know exactly what you want...both in terms of what you want to achieve...and what you think you need to achieve it. I use a very small and light hot-tenting system (which is probably not adequate for your needs) because snow is not something I can count on to make moving my system easier with the help of a sled...and I need only the space for 2-3 people at most. Unfortunately then...I can only give you more general suggestions...but I'll try to point you towards more specific information.

As you might already guess hot-tenting has several advantages. 1) hot-tenting allows you to dry things very effectively...so the moisture that accumulates into your clothes and sleeping insulation in the winter...as well as condensation from breathing and cooking...is nothing more than a mild nuisance. 2) hot-tenting provides a reliable source of heat...which not only provides a measure of safety...it makes ice-fishing (or other activities) infinitely more enjoyable when you know that the misery of the cold is only temporary because you have a warm tent a short distance away 3) with a sturdy flat stove you have an unending supply of melted ice and hot-water to make warm drinks..and the means to have three or more warm meals a day at no added fuel cost 4) the long nights are made much shorter as you partake of your hot drinks and warm food well into the evening over a game of cards or a good book.

Most people in the North choose canvas tents made by companies such as Snow-Trekker. However...for my system I use an old Go-Lite Shangri-La 3 nylon shelter...because rain is more commonplace than snow where I live and play...though freezing temps and snow usually accompany the rain. I know that canvas tents are supposed to be rain-proof...but the idea of carrying a rain-soaked canvas tent was more than enough incentive to steer me away from such an idea. Having said that...if I lived where you do I would probably go with a canvas tent...because by all indications they are superior to nylon tents...no doubt in large part due to the potential fire-risk that putting a wood-stove inside your shelter carries with it...and because the additional weight of canvas is off-set with the use of a sled. The biggest down-side I can see with canvas tents is the expense...good lightweight canvas tents are expensive...but will last a life-time.

Set-up for hot-tents varies depending on what you have. That is...taller tents are naturally more difficult to set-up than shorter tents...in that they require more height/upper-body strength. For the most part I do not like the trade-off of height....sure you can stand-up to get dressed...but nearly the entire time you're in the tent you will be on your butt or back...so the convenience of standing for a few minutes comes at increased expense + weight + difficulty of set-up. Having a larger tent than you need will also make set-up more difficult...but only in that it usually requires more time...not necessarily more strength/height. Since I use a different tent than most...I really cannot speak to the difficulty (or lack of) when it comes to setting canvas tents up on snow and frozen ground...but my tent does not have a snow-skirt or snow-anchors and I have not had a problem at all. The biggest issue for me is the floor of the tent...because the warmer temps lead to a lot of melting...which makes the floor wet and uneven. Though I bring a lightweight foot-print...I try to find a bare-patch of ground or a spot with less snow to set-up. From what I can gather most folks up North (who don't have the options I have) use evergreen boughs to line the floors of their tents...and this appears to inhibit the snow underneath from melting...provides a layer of protection against moisture...and probably smells wonderful:-)

Stoves...I'm not silly enough to get too involved in this discussion...as the choice of stove would appear to be a very personal one. Again...because of my needs I went with a lightweight option...a collapsible titanium stove from Seek-Outside. I really like the stove...and it performs extremely well...but with any lightweight stove there is a fear of buckling...and if one was to fall into it...there is a chance that it could collapse and create a nightmare in a tent made of petroleum! If I had to do it all over again I would probably look for a somewhat heavier stove...because while weight is important...I do not travel very far into the back-country with my hot-tent...and I stay-put once I get there. As far as balance...my stove is well balanced...particularly once you get weight into the stove...but like a lot of others I make a support for my stove-pipe outside using a green limb and a bit of wire.

Okay...so I'm not sure if what I had to say was very useful given our very different needs...so to further help answer your questions I put some links below that should help answer some of your questions.

Snow Trekker: http://www.snowtrekkertents.com/index.html

Seek-Outside: http://seekoutside.com/

Titanium Goat: http://www.titaniumgoat.com/

YouTube Wintertrekker Channel (Wintertrekker uses a system which is heavy...but very typical of Northern folks): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7pYLUts438

YouTube Wawhiker Channel (Wawhiker uses a system which is very similar to mine...but uses a shelter large enough to pitch a hammock underneath...probably both the lightest and most spacious system I know of): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIKfgJFU0xI

YouTube KCHappyCamper Channel (Keven Callan...he is a bit of a thing in Canada...he is really into gear...but this newest video gives a good perspective on hot-tenting): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkTLJdIYnqo

1:50 a.m. on February 11, 2014 (EST)
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Sam, go to www.wintertrekking.com

If you want to know as much as possible about hot tenting, that is the place. The members are very knowledgeable and very willing to share that knowledge with newbies to hot tenting. Pretty much anything you want to know about deep winter camping, including gear, clothes, shelter, cooking and safety can be found there.

Before asking any questions, I strongly suggest you read the article in the hot tenting section of the Equipment articles.

http://wintertrekking.com/equipment/hot-tenting/

Here is a direct link to the tent and shelter forum-

http://www.wintertrekking.com/community/index.php?board=46.0

6:17 a.m. on February 11, 2014 (EST)
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I've been impressed with the Kifaru teepees. If i were to buy one I would probably go with a 6 or 8 man one. I have never seen a tippy woodstove, all i have seen are well designed.

8:21 a.m. on February 11, 2014 (EST)
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In Scandinavia you can find a range of modern center pole tents that are usually called 'lavvus ' (after the sami version, but they are more like multi-pole tipis). I have only seen them and never used them, so maybe Otto or someone else with more direct experience will want to chime in. Here, by way of example, is a link to the page for Helsport's lavvu stove -- at the bottom you'll find pictures and links to 3 types of lavvu that it is compatible with. I think some (all?) of them are double wall. Probably some of the other Scando tent makers also make lavvus.

3:52 p.m. on February 11, 2014 (EST)
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Sam,

If you want to go with traditional canvas, Snow Trekker is very hard to beat in terms of design, features and quality.

If you want to go lighter Dan Cooke recently added two sylnylon hot tents.  I spoke with Dan recently after a presentation by Will Steger about Steger's new institute.  Dan is outfitting Steger with a hot tent for an upcoming trip.

http://www.shop.cookecustomsewing.com/category.sc;jsessionid=2AB2462CC497EBD187D28FA141CB5F7A.m1plqscsfapp04?categoryId=45

I've not seen Dan's hot tent in the flesh, but I do have a lot of his gear (I'll be using a handful of pieces this weekend) and all his products are thoroughly field tested, well designed, and impeccably constructed.  Dan has been working on a hot tent design for several years and I am certain he has all the kinks worked out.

5:49 p.m. on February 11, 2014 (EST)
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Thanks!  I'm thinking the canvas tents would be great for car camping but a bit too heavy to pack far even with a pulk.  

 

Right now I have two winter tents, a double wall 3 man tent and a single wall 2 man for fast and light trips. 

I'm thinking something along the lines of an 8 man tent would be perfect as it would allow 4 people and a stove relatively comfortably, but the canvas tents I looked at were too heavy for me to pack in far.  

Alan, I sent dan an email about his and I'm looking into the lavvus tent.  

Both of them look pretty close to what I'm looking for. 

The kifaru tents also look pretty interesting.  

Does anyone know if there are any freestanding hot tents that are reasonably light to pack?  Sometimes in december the ground will be frozen but there isn't yet enough snow to anchor in.  I can usually tie off to a couple of trees but finding enough tie off points for a good pitch may be difficult in this situation.

12:06 p.m. on February 12, 2014 (EST)
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My experience with hot tents is limited to dog sledding treks in bush Alaska and Yukon Territory, mostly along the Yukon River and surrounding country. We had the dogs to haul the gear. The tents and stoves were from Alaska Tent and Tarp. Their website is http://www.alaskatent.com/. They do have a range of sizes, so you could find the size you need. The one Barb and I used mostly was an external frame (under the fly in the photo) and is free-standing. But between the tent's and stove's weights (abt 40 pounds for the tent and abt 10 pounds for the stove), you couldn't backpack it, and hauling a pulk with all your other gear on it as well would be hard work except in ideal conditions.

As for tent setup and take-down, that was pretty easy and fast. Anchoring on the frozen ground was no problem (in the photo, the tent is on the bank of a stream, so the ground (sand and gravel) was soaked and frozen solid. We just pounded the stakes in at all tie-down points.

The one in the photo was a so-called 8 person, which I think means you can sit 8 people in it. But it really sleeps 4 with the stove and all your other gear inside. There is some "industry standard" for determining how many persons that is beyond my comprehension, since it seems to relate more to how many people you can crowd in, rather than how many you can comfortably sleep in it.

Our recorded low temperatures were in the -40°F/C range. With the stove going during the night, it was almost too warm for the person closest to the stove, but just right for the person against the tent wall (we have Feathered Friends bags rated at -40°F/C that I have also used on Denali and Antarctica)

This is a view of the Arctic Oven from the outside.
EagleDogBTS2.jpg

This is the inside, showing the stove.
EagleDogBTS1.jpg

Note that the stove is sitting on a board to give solid support, plus protect the floor from any conducted heat through the steel legs.

3:57 p.m. on February 12, 2014 (EST)
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Dick Pula, one of the speakers at the Winter Camping Symposium, uses a Snow Trekker tent for his extended winter trips, most of which are solo.  He must move slowly to haul that much gear.  In any event, he uses Snow Trekker's tent frame and can put his up in under 10 minutes.  Dick says he practices this setup in his backyard in the winter such that he can get his tent up quickly in the event something bad happens such as falling through the ice.  He figures he has about 10 minutes before he's done in by the cold so he rehearses this.  He also keeps his wood stove filled with dry wood so a quick match will get the stove lit in such a situation.  Rather interesting to watch him demonstrate this, but without rushing too frantically, he manages to get the tent up quickly.

http://www.wintercampingsymposium.com/

12:15 p.m. on February 14, 2014 (EST)
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Bill when the outside air temperature was near -40, any guess what the interior temperature was?  You mentioned that it was almost too warm for the person closest to the stove but I'm guessing that you mean while they were in a sleeping bag.  

 

I probably don't plan to let the stove run overnight but it sure would be nice to spend a few hours less in a sleeping bag.  

5:49 p.m. on February 14, 2014 (EST)
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Sam,

Actually both while in the sleeping bag and while sitting in the tent with the parkas off. We did restoke the stove when it died too far down (note the piled in front of the tent). With our bags, we could have let the stove go out completely, which we actually did after 3 or 4 AM. The stove does not provide any light, of course (although I suppose you could use a PowerPot with an LED light or the modification of the Biolite stove that was mentioned in another thread).

I did check the inside temperature one time when the stove was going full tilt - about 50-60°F IIRC. With the clothing layers we had for riding the sleds, this was more than warm enough, obviously.

April 16, 2014
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