Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cold weather sleeping system

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to my sleeping system for winter camping. In the past I've used a MEC Hybrid -20 down/synthetic mummy bag with a home made fleece liner for those cold nights. But with the arrival of Zoe's new Hybrid -20 there are a few more options.

1. For those very cold nights the two -20 bags zipped together provide lots of room, maybe too much room with a fairly sizable air pocket between us. But with the addition of our MEC Raven -7 down bags the air pocket is reduced. The benefits of this system are that we are in our own bags but still able to benefit from shared body heat. (Actually I'll likely be the one producing heat) The down side to this would be the added moisture produced by two bodies in the same bag causing them to ice up quickly during a multi day trek. This could be addressed with the addition of a couple of vapour barriers which I don't have at the moment but intend to make before out next camping trip. (which is planned for New Years eve) With the bags in this configuration I measured the loft to be around 11".

2. A second configuration would be to not zip the bags together but still have the Raven inside the Hybrid. Advantages are less moisture due to only one body, disadvantages are no shared body heat. A vapour barrier would add to the warmth of this system.

3. If I was on my own in an extremely cold situation I have a Marmot -5 synthetic bag that is an extra wide that can be used as an over bag. My original thought was to put all three bags together but when I did this and got inside, it was certainly warm but I found that there was very little room to move around and the down bags were being compressed, reducing the insulation value.

I guess I'll have some fun this winter testing these ideas.

Let it snow!

Raven -7 inside the Hybrid -20. 11 inches of lot!

MEC put some thought into these bags. The zipper on Zoe's regular is in the same position as my long. The difference in length is made up in the foot box. Great!

My Raven -7 inside the Hybrid -20 which is inside my Marmot -5 extra wide. All I need now is a vapour barrier.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cree Hunters of Mistassini

I came across a link to this film on Murat's Paddle making blog. The film was produced by the National Film Board of Canada and depicts three Cree families and how they survive the winter in the James Bay region of Quebec. There are some fantastic images of the tools used and the men using them while hunting and trapping. Of particular interest to me are the variations of snowshoes that were used as well as the hand carved snow shovels that everyone seemed carried with them, their ice chisels used to open holes for fishing and trapping beaver. Their use of the canoe is also interesting in that they paddle well into the winter season even when there is slush and some ice on the water. As a paddle builder and canoeing instructor I found their paddles and paddling technique interesting. The film also portrays the Cree peoples feelings, beliefs, and rituals regarding the land.

I must warn those with weak stomachs about the graphic nature of some of the images in this film. The film portrays real hunting and trapping practices.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

We got skunked!

For today I had planned the ultimate hunting day, I would sit with my buddies Reg and Dave for a goose hunt in the morning, then spend the last part of the day looking for deer. As it turned out I only got one nice mallard and I didn't see a single deer. However the day wasn't a total bust, I got to explore some new country and ended up seeing and hearing some wildlife. While sitting in my deer blind a squirrel came over for a visit and sat in a tree just 5 yard back from me and ate his nuts or what ever he had stashed in the dead tree that he was sitting on. Shortly after the squirrel left a lone coyote showed up out of no where and stopped to look at me for a few minutes trying to figure out what I was. All he could see was my head poking up from behind the blind. Just as the sun was setting I could hear a small heard of Elk just 50 yards to the east of me start calling. Unfortunately they didn't show them selves for a photo.

The squirrel was a bit of a character, often he nearly fell off of his branch while enjoying his meal.

This Coyote stopped just long enough for me to get a blurry (low light) photo of him.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Make'n holes in ice

I just finished putting the finishing touches on a new piece of equipment for winter camping. To make collecting water for drinking while winter camping easier I decided to make an ice chisel. Now I'll be able to open a hole in the lake ice, provided we are camped near a lake to obtain fresh liquid drinking water. For the last few years I've been melting snow which works fine but is time consuming and uses a lot of fuel if a stove is used. Plus there really isn't much moisture in snow so it takes a lot of it to fill the water bottles. Another draw back of melting snow is that the area right next to camp can get a bit messy with ash from the fire and saw dust from cutting wood, making it difficult to find clean snow. On recent trips some of the fellas have used an axe to open a water hole which works also but they got very wet and inevitably iced up from the spray. One of the benefits of collecting lake water is the opportunity to star gaze with an uninterrupted view from the lake ice.

Measures - 10" X 3" X 1/2"
Weight - 5 lbs
Handle - 60" hardwood with a lanyard
Blade - high carbon steel with 45 degree bevel

The chisel is big and heavy so there will be some trade offs. On the plus side it will open a hole in the ice in short order but on the negative side it is a bit too heavy to use as a probe while traveling on dangerous ice. (which I tend to avoid anyway)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A dusting of snow but still no ice

The above MODIS Rapid Response System image, dated November 3rd shows a light dusting of snow in the La Ronge area but no ice can be seen on any of the lakes. The yellow arrow pointing to Lac La Ronge shows no ice, which is to be expected on such a large body of water. The red arrow points to Lamp Lake, and to my surprise there is no ice on this smaller lake. Blue arrow points to Kingsmere Lake in P.A. National park.

The MODIS Rapid Response System provides near-real time satellite (Terra and Aqua) images of much of North America in true color.

An interesting side note; the red 'X' is located over Montreal Lake and the geographic centre of the province.