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Thread: Outdoor skills and useful information

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2018
    somewhere in Russia


    Before I'll be able to share my resent advancements in winter equipment, I probably should tell about how I managed to live in a winter forest for extended periods of time in the past. This will probably be useful for the purpose of this thread as well (though, I doubt that anybody here will ever use it in practice).

    When I started to learn how to live in the woods during the winter I already had a considerable experience with the campfires. And I extensively used tarp-campfire synergy.

    Campfires work really well when placed in front of a tarp. Tarp partially absorb and reflect the heat radiation from the fire, and this creates a warmer and drier microclimate, adding something about 10°C (18°F) on top of the direct effect of the fire. Pretty noticeable difference. The snow around the fire is also increase it's efficiency by reflecting back some of the escaping heat. So, spending a night in the winter forest with just a campfire and a tarp is really not that difficult.

    This is how my first typical winter camps were looking (bad old photo):

    It is very obvious here how snow is melted completely between the fire and a tarp but barley melted on the other side. This is a temperature difference that a simple tarp can give.

    The next step - is using special campfires. There are two types of campfires that are particularity suited to this method. One is usually called here "taiga campfire" and another one is Finnish "nodjya".

    Taiga campfire looks like this:

    Three logs stacked together in a triangle fashion, that are burning along there whole length. It can be any size in length, and can heat the whole body when sleeping near it. Very easy to setup, burns vert steady, need little fixing during the night, may be made on the surface of the snow if the snow is too deep (by putting some poles under it). It's not very fuel efficient, however.

    Also, don't look on this clear-sawn logs on picture, this is completely unnecessary. Practical and energy efficient version of this campfire usually look like a whole trees or really long logs dragged in the fire from the opposite sides (as they burns) with slight angle between the bottom two logs. By adjusting the angle and increasing the overlap with the upper log you can control the length of the burning area and the heat output.

    Another campfire "nodjya" look like this:

    It consists of two logs putted on top of each other, and stabilised (by various of methods, traditionally with hooks) to prevent the upper log from falling over. It is a very advanced winter campfire that is actually not burning, but smouldering along its entire length, and it create a very steady heat output with very high fuel efficiency. Like a giant infrared heater) It featured things like a self-regulation, very long burn time with very little fixing needed, the ability to make it on top of the deep snow without melting it, and so on. But it is very tricky to setup an it is demanding to the quality of the firewood.

    There are a lot more tricks how to make this kind of camps more efficient. That sleeping shelf / improvised bed made of poles (don't know how to call it in English) not only protects from the cold snow, but also could be setup in a way that the heat from the fire will accumulate underneath. So you will be heated not only from the side of the fire but also from beneath. Using reflective material on the tarp with right angles may add also heating from the top. So it will be literally impossible to freeze with sufficient campfire in any temperature (assuming wind protection). Adding side walls also increase the warmth.

    My latest version of this camps used something I call "winter tarp" or half-tent, and it has side walls. Here are some examples:

    They are a bit more smoky but considerably warmer. So, this is the most minimalistic approach to the winter camping.

    Pros: the lightest carrying weight possible (you need a tarp and an axe or saw, even sleeping bag is not necessary, maybe a light one is useful to cover from the side opposite to the fire.). So it saves a lot of energy on the move. No need of any expensive outdoor equipment. Very flexible. For two persons sleeping on the opposite side of the fire, the amount of firewood is not going up, and the camp becomes warmer. Always the opportunity to dry clothes (over the night it became perfectly dry, no matter how wet it was in the evening).

    Cons: laborious to setup, and has high energy demand to setup a camp. Very specific set of skill needed to be able to maintain the fire and rest well at the same time. Smoke and sparks are inevitable. High firewood consumption.

    I used this method of camping a lot. It is perfectly sufficient for typical winter in european part of Russia. The lowest temperature I used it was -27°C (-17°F). However, I wanted more. To be able to live in Siberian-like temperatures, to reduce energy and time spent on setting a camp, reduce fuel consumption, increase the overall feeling of freedom in the winter. It was not enough to reach wolverine-level) And I considered a lot of different options.

    1. I also experimented a lot with improvised shelters, teepee or chum - like shelters and so on. Like one in the beginning of this thread. They could be very livable, warm and cosy, but they usually take more time and energy to setup, and suited more for the stationary living. And I wanted to have a freedom of movement. So, no.

    2. Classical combination of modern tourists - very warm sleeping bag + the winter tent. First, it is extremely expensive to get an equipment for the temperature ranges I wanted. Second, it is not that sustainable. Sleeping bags in the winter tend to accumulate condensate over time and they gradually became colder. It is very unlikely also to dry winter clothes and footwear if you not use a campfire burning the whole night, so a lot of high-level tourists ended up with there footwear frozen solid in the morning and other crap like this... Third, no matter now good the sleeping bag is, you still breath the cold air, and it takes a lot of energy (and calories). And fourth, this set of gear still not light and quite bulky. So, no.

    3. Tent + lightweight small stove. This combination is quite popular among hunters and indigenous peoples of Siberia. It is cheap, effective and sustainable. No problems with condensate, dry clothes and footwear, little firewood consumption. But even with the lightest stoves it will still be the heaviest and bulkiest option in terms of carrying equipment. So it drains a lot of energy on the move. And it also saves not much energy on the firewood gathering as you may think. Because yes, stoves need little firewood, but you need to cut it in pieces and shapes of the stove. It may take less energy to just cut one or two dry trees and drag them to form taiga campfire, than to chop enough small firewood for the stove. So, no again.

    One option, however was very attractive for me. And I decided to experiment with it because it could give the best of both worlds. It is a winter tent with the greenhouse effect from the campfire. And this is what I am ended up with. Very lightweight, cheap, efficient and quite sustainable.

    This was a prototype I made a couple of years ago:

    And this is my recent advancement: the new, more efficient tent I made this winter:

    More details about how they work, how efficient they are and what are the pros and cons are here:
    Last edited by Forest Wind; March 31st, 2021 at 04:35 PM.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    The West
    Blog Entries


    These are great, and really impressive. I have a long ways to go with my camping and backpacking skills before I’d attempt anything like this. I have a circulation condition that means my hands and feet lose blood when they get chilly (and therefore get even colder and more prone to frostbite), so between that and just being small and skinny, the cold is tough on me.

    Since fires are not allowed a lot of the time in many places in the US (wildfire risk during droughts, which are happening increasingly often), the warm sleeping bag + winter tent + high R-rating sleeping pad is the best people can usually do. Swapping out for dry clothes, keeping things inside your sleeping bag with you, and using small heaters to get hot water bottles and such are good techniques.

    I haven’t ever really tried to camp in the snow. I did some camping last spring and it did snow one of those nights. I was sleeping in a cave.

    I really do love hearing about your experiences, though. Thank you for always sharing your knowledge and experience!

  3. #13


    This is really cool information. ( and a lot of it! ). Pretty badass !

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