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Winter in the Wilderness Survival

Winter in the Wilderness Survival

Snow camping belongs in the category of survival, not fun!

During our winter in the wilderness, my husband built a tent out of several large tarps.  He did this while I was down in the city for a few weeks trying to earn enough money to replace the truck that had broken down and stranded us in the mountains in the first place. Since I wasn’t there, I don’t know in which order he did certain things, but I’m going to give you the basic plans.

tarptentHe used our largest tarp, a heavy-duty silver (20x30), and centered and draped it over a thirty-foot (30’) center pole that he created by cutting down a lodge pole pine (hence the name). When draped lengthwise, ten-foot of tarp hung down on each side of the center pole.

"Lodgepole Pines" are tall slender trees most common in the mountains of the American West. They were the source of the poles used in teepees or "lodges"

tarptent-end Four other poles at least 20’ in length, two on each end of the center pole, were used to raise and support the tent. This was done by placing the end poles basically in an "X" that looked more like an "A" where poles crossed high up, more like the peak of the "A", than crossed in the center like an "X".  The center pole rested in the notch created where the two end poles crossed. 

Taking two more tarps (10x20) and beginning in the center at the peak, he sewed (using sinew and leather needles) the end pieces to the roof tarp.  The height of the tent was approximately 10' and the width was a little less than 20'.  The bottom ends of the tent was straight across and actually hung against the ground.

The top followed the angle of the roof tarp at the top. As he sewed he cut off the excess that was created by the peaked angle.  At the very peak, he left a hole around the center pole, which enabled the pole to be removed once the tent was lowered, it also allowed for ventilation.

tarptent-sideHe then cut and sewed tarps on the sides and sewed the tarps together at the corners.  The center pole and end poles were on the inside of the tent.  When raised it had straight sides that rose about 3' high before meeting the sloping sides of the roof.

When finished the tarptent had a roomy 30' x 15' interior, that allowed room for a full-sized bed, a table that held our camp stove and became our kitchen, and another table where we ate. In one corner we had a self-contain portable toilet.

While in the city I had obtained a 55-gallon drum that a friend had helped me turn into a wood stove. This homemade stove was what we used to heat the tent and to heat water for cooking and bathing.

I sewed metal flashing to the roof where the stove pipe would exit the tent. I then cut away tarp material within the area covered by the flashing, leaving just enough to hold the flashing in place. I then attached a second piece of flashing to the inside, sandwiching the tarp between the two pieces of flashing.

We also used a stove-pipe collar mounted in a hole in the flashing to prevent the plastic tarp coming in contact with the hot stove pipe.  The stovepipe rose higher than the peak of the tent and was covered by a mesh spark arrester.

winter-landscapeFor one month from mid-December to mid-January we lived in this tent. There was snow on the ground, and ice would form on the sides and ceiling of the tent. This was the ultimate in winter in the wilderness survival.

With the wood stove, it was actually quite cozy. In fact, during the day it would get so warm that we would let the fire in the stove go out and leave the entrance flap open. That was actually one of the more pleasant aspects of my winter in the wilderness survival.

Do I sound like I miss that winter in the wilderness survival situation? Not really, but then again, I survived. Gathering firewood every day, melting snow for water (and it takes a lot of snow to get a few cupfuls) and listening to the wind howl and the sides of the tent flap and shake during a blizzard are not my idea of fun. While I don’t wish to do it again, I’m not as afraid as I would be if I ever have to face a winter in the wilderness survival situation again.

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