Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

First Hot Tent trip

Trip Type: Snowshoeing
Entry Date: 03/04/2016
Entry & Exit Point: Snowbank Lake (EP H)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 3
Trip Introduction:
First experience Winter camping in the BWCA
I bought an older thicker Canvas tent on Craigslist this summer with the purpose of turning it into a hot tent. I don't know the model, but it smelled like grandpas basement but not to bad. Approx 10x12 It was unlike any canvas I had seen before kind of slick. I was also lucky enough to find a tent stove on craigslist, (he made them to order), for only $100. I thought that was pretty fortunate. All told the tent and stove cost me $150. The tent had metal poles including a an extra beefy ridge pole. I would have to guess that the tent weighed 30lbs at least and the stove another 30lbs. I bought a pulk also on craigslist for another $50, it had the waist belt and extension poles. Looking back although built really well, it was extremely thick and weighed a ton. Probably close to 30lbs. So I planned on towing that along with the ice fishing gear (including the Marcum) and the newly sharpen hand auger. My 16 year old towed a kids sled, with the sleeping bags and other misc gear. (we had a rock climbing belt that he hooked the ropes to the sled to that worked pretty well. The 14 yr old carried a pack with food and other stuff that we didn't need.

Day one, got to snowbank about 9am, was surprised to see 10 cars in the lot. An outfitting company was off loading its sled dogs to take a couple of groups across the ice. You know when you are in the north woods when you see someone traveling by dog sled, that was worth the trip right there. We bought some bait back in Virigina with the intent of going after Trout on snowbank, but I had suspected that we were going to camp on Dissapointment just because it was more secluded. I had also thought we we would see people driving out of Snowbank because technically some of it isn't in the BWCA. But a sign right by the launch said no cars on the ice.

We started the trip, there seemed to be a worn path on the snow and ice that many people had walked on so we originally stuck to that, it swung around the southern part of th lake. Come to find out it was well worn because there were some houses on the lake that people were using snowmobile to get to. So the establish path lasted for about a mile and then it turned into regular snow. I didn't buy snowshoes or get skiis because I was looking to keep spending down and I didn't want to buy something, in case I didn't like the winter camping experience. My plan was to go in as far as we could and if it meant it was only a couple of miles so be it. However the snow wasn't to bad, between my weight and the sled I would sink in the snow a half an inch. Just enough to be a pain but not bad. Just like going up in the summer time it took us zig zag lines to find the portage. Orignally my boys, were running along the established path but by the time we got to the disappointment portage they were tired and the smiles had gone flat. On the walk up to the portage I was thinking that I was going to see this new BWCA, I keep track and this was my 30th time up but never in the winter and I was excited to see how the terra firma looked in the winter. I had supposed that I could see deep into the woods, but soon realized that everything up there at least at snowbank was pine. So the view you have in the summer time peering into the woods is the same as winter. A little disappointing, but what little there was in disappointment was made up for in the beauty of the snow and walking through a winter portage. Speaking of portage. We got through the portage between snowbank and disappointment and the pretty walk though the woods helped to bouy tired hips and legs. It was decided that we should find a spot sooner and have a little left in our legs than "go as far as we can go". So after another couple miles we found an island spot. We were fortunate that as soon as we found our new home, it started snowing and probably added 3 inches that night. However we were tucked in the woods away from the wind and had a great little place to set the tent.

Creating camp was pretty uneventfull. Tent set up well, finding wood was easy because you could just walk across the water to find different sources. It probably took us 5-6 hours from beginning to camp so we were a little tired and skipped lunched and opted for an early dinner at 5pm. The stove set up without a problem ( used 16 gauge airventing pipe for the stack. I had tried the tent and stove in the backyard a couple of times before the trip, good idea). I had also not purchased a stove jack for the roof so I jury rigged some fire proof ropping around the hole in the roof and used fireproof glue to hold the rope in place so tent would not make contact with the stack. More on that later. I also purchased a battery operated carbon Monoxide detector. The last thing I wanted was not to wake up in the morning. So we settled down to bed, I would wake up every hour or so to check on everything and fill the fire. I certainly could have just shut the firebox and closed the vent but I had done that we would have gotten cold, so because I knew I don't sleep well the first night anyways I slept with one eye open. I had purchased something called thermopayne which is a fireproof cardboard at Meanards. A put that around the stove so that if sleeping bags happen to roll against it they wouldn't melt.

The next morning we were pretty sore from the pull in, but the boys got busy splitting wood. And I tried my hand at Ice fishing. Which sucked, the fish were down there but nothing was interested in biting, after 3 hours I gave up. At that point I told the boys that the next day we would try snowbank. We spent the rest of the days walking in the woods, sledding with the pulk down hills and generally goofing off.

Saturday night we settled into bed. We had a surplus of the wood so I was stocking the fire pretty full. In the middle of night I woke to a an odd smell, ironically I left the carbon monoxide detector to close the stove and it melted the face, leaving it useless. Further I had the fire going so hot that the glue that I used to hold the fire proof rope up in the ceiling melted and was dripping down on the stove. Lessons learned. 

Sunday morning we awoke to an over cast day. Wind was coming into our faces pretty good about 20mph. That combined with the new snow, my pig of a sled and general fatigue made the trek back a death march. Fortunately we brought one decent pair of ski poles and that helped drive into the snow and wind. But was even more helpful was my son using his ski poles to push the sled, had it not been for that I think we would still be out there. I forgot to mention that the canvas tent had a floor which I liked but was pretty wet when we took down camp and and added more weight to an already heavy sled. I had the intent of fishing on snowbank on the way out but the wind kicking up and no one was in the mood, even though I had purchased a trot stamp. We made the walk back in 3 hours.

All in all it was great, just need to figure out that balance of weight to enjoyment ratio. I think I would try a different entry point next time, something on a smaller lake more secluded. Should have put a tarp down under the tent. Brought longer ski poles for trekking. Snow shoes would have been more prudent than Cross country skies I think.  I can say with 100% confidence that I will do it again.