As a kid, I remember reading stories of prospectors and adventurers living in Canvas tents with tiny wood stoves to warm them. Over time that spirit of adventure was renewed, but due to their price tag (over $800 for the tent alone, not including the stove) those dreams had to remain dreams. That was until a friend of ours invited my son and I the opportunity to join on winter camping trip in Prince George, BC. The obvious and immediate response was “yes please!”, followed by, “when” and then, “What do we need to bring?”
Everything except the basics (clothes, lamps, snacks and sleeping gear) was provided, so we only needed to worry about packing our gear and making the long drive North.
Fortunately, there was a travel warning in effect, which meant that the roads would be clear. After a careful examination of weather radar, we made plans to miss the storm and have clear highways to ourselves. Blessed with great weather and a safe journey, we were set for the fresh foot and a half of snow and an excellent adventure.
The plan was to travel by snow machine (call them sleds or “snowmobiles” if you want) up to an area that our guide, an experienced outdoorsman and author (Check out his books here) had scouted and prepped for us. We would set up a tent, put on a hot meal and go for a snowshoe. We were told to prepare for a cold night that would be followed by a hot breakfast and then a bit of ice fishing.
The kids were sat safely on the sled with an adult, but that left me to take up the fun position of riding the dog sled standing up as we crossed the lake and then navigated the spindly northern pines and spruces with their heavy laden boughs.
About twenty minutes later we arrived at our chosen site with cold faces and grins frozen on our cheeks. From there we set about preparing the poles for the canvas tent and collecting spruce boughs for the tent floor.
We warmed up in no time in the calm afternoon as we heaved the heavy canvas, constructed alder tripods and cleared the freshly fallen snow. The kids busied themselves making snow forts and exploring the deep snow for wildlife before they were wrangled into collecting firewood.
With the tent setup and the fire roaring we headed out for a snowshoe with the kids. Buoyed by the excitement of the experience, they ran about laughing and playing in the deep Northern snow.
As we set up our sleeping arrangements for the night, the rich smell of stew mixed with the aroma of spruce bows worked with our hungry and tired bodies to whet our appetites. So, with full bellies we drifted off into sleep.
In a canvas “hot tent” the comfort and temperature of the shelter depends on the diligence of its occupants in feeding wood into the stove. We were told to prepare for cold in the early hours when the fire would typically die out, so we brought two sleeping bags each. We hadn’t anticipated the diligence of the other dad in our group who stoked the fire every time he sensed the cold. The result was a constant alternating between pulling the sleeping bags close to shut out the cold and tossing them away as we gasped for air in the oppressing heat. Our guide joked that if he heard another log being tossed on the fire he had considered tossing one right back at him.
Breakfast was a delicious and filling bowl of oatmeal. Normally I don’t eat the stuff, but we all know that food tastes better on the trail… so I went back for seconds.
The kids rushed out again to explore, while the adults chatted and packed up camp. We headed back through the woods and out to the lake as I clung on to the sled as we sped back through the now falling snow. I was already reminiscing about the constant smiling of my son during the adventure and I wondered if I should revisit the idea of having our own a canvas tent. Maybe there would be money in the budget if we just looked a bit harder for it.