Camp Like a Canuck: How to Use a Canvas Hot Tent All Winter

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When the tent is set and the stove begins to roar, there's the finest little home tucked cozy far and away at your favorite lake. David Jackson

Canvas tents and wood stoves are the (ahem) hottest trend making a resurgence in the outdoor community. And especially if you’re a paddler, you need to know why. ‘Hot tents,’ as they are commonly referred, have for long been a necessary overland staple of northern regions, be it for prospecting or moose hunting, over-wintering, or dog-sled travel. These are adaptations of indigenous tipis, with heavy canvas and lightweight wood stoves that ward off the coldest nights. For paddlers, the modernization of an old-time tradition means you can now easily fit updated, streamlined models in your hull and tump them over portages, the ultimate takeaway being an extended paddling season on both ends of winter’s chilly fringe. Initial research where to start with this category of tents can overwhelm. Here’s what you need to know before you start dreaming of those cozy, stove-crackling nights on far away lakes.

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In the early mornings, there’s sometimes a light dusting of snow on the ground and a skiff of frost on your canoe but inside your tent, there’s coffee brewing and warmth all around you. David Jackson

To start, there are two designs most commonly used: one a more traditional, five-sided, circular tipi; the other, an aluminum-poled, A-frame-style tent. The former, such as an Esker Arctic Fox 9×9, is easiest set up in and among trees, considering the numerous lashing points for the walls, while a center pole erects the tent. Either a green tree from the bush or a store-bought painter’s pole works, where the stove’s exhaust pipe rises straight up. The latter, such as a Snowtrekker Short Wall, is a more common style among winter campers with a freestanding frame that’s easier to set up in open areas. These tents’ stove pipes utilize a bent elbow, rising from the side of the tent wall (which requires a constructed tripod for support). In the case of either tent, the canvas for two-person models is generally sub-20 pounds. The preferred stove by most campers are made by Kni-Co Manufacturing and feature stove pipes that nest inside the firebox. Together the kit weighs around 40 pounds.

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The red glow of a stove on white canvas against the blue of morning is enough to have any traveler hooked on hot tents.

Whichever tent you decide to go with, either style has finicky tricks to setup and takedown; neither should be considered more or less capable. What is most exceptional about hot tents is their ability to create comfort in otherwise uncomfortable climates. Fall and spring time can be dangerous for people on the land traveling by water. Skies bring rain, night brings frost, and there’s always the sneaking chance of a blizzard at bay, but once you’ve experienced the warmth of wood stove inside canvas, any outdoor traveler is liable to fall in love with the solitude of fringe season travel.

Interested? A few brands to consider are Snowtrekker TentsEsker Tents, Atuk Tents, and KniCo Stoves.

The joy of fringe season travel with a hottent is the freedom to travel in otherwise dangerous conditions. In the changing seasons, although lakes may become coasted in think skiffs of ice, having a warm place to sleep and dry out every night adds a level of safety. David Jackson

See more of David Jackson‘s prior work for Canoe & Kayak:

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A Canoe Country Ode to Fall

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