Winter Camping with the Jeep

I’ve been pacing the floors far too often this winter. Eager to get out and enjoy being surrounded by nothing but the wilderness, and when weekend weather reports were calling for +9C and a low of only +4C, I thought that it would be a great time to get out for a weekend camping adventure.

The day was beautiful and started off with a short hike at Crescent Falls, Alberta. I’ve been here and camped here in the summer, but it was nice to see the falls when frozen.
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I took a short hike down the steep edges of the cliffs here (wearing ice cleats) for the photo above. Interestingly, I also came across some other footsteps frozen in the snow. They are a little weathered, but I’m guessing cougar due to the size and rounded shape.

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After that, it was off to explore a couple of paths (unfortunately closed off due to excessive snow this winter). When you’re in the mountains, you need to plan for an early sun set as well, as once it dips below the top of the mountains, it gets dark and fast!

I ventured into an area off the highway to an area where I’ve explored before and identified some areas where people have camped in the past. Doing so, I’m not creating a disturbance in the area more than what has already been done. In winter, not many people venture out camping, so it was a quiet, secluded area with easy access to Lake Abraham for some sunrise photography experimenting.

For me, the first thing to get setup (normally) is my fire. Once I have a fire going, I can progress with the other necessities. There is more than enough dead fall in the area for a person to collect and it, and my new Gerber Gator Hatchet with mini saw made quick work of processing it into manageable sizes.

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Normally, I’m building a tipi or log cabin style fire, but this time around I thought I’d try out the upside down or reverse fire. The idea is that larger logs go on first and your fire will burn slower as it is burning down instead of up, so that is what you’re seeing in the photo below.

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A carefully placed bag from my on the road breakfast snack was my tinder, and it took care of ensuring the fire started quickly. After the fire became well established, I started some water boiling. I’m a tea addict.

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The sun was rapidly setting, so next up is to get to work on shelter for the night, and that normally means just popping open the Tepui roof top tent. Since this was my first camping trip of the season, I also had to add back in my sleeping gear – in this case, my -20C HotCore sleeping bag, a fleece liner and my pillow. I grabbed the photo below while I was in progress with the tent. The driver’s side tent door and storm flap still to be put up.

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Once that was all done, I proceeded to collect and cut additional firewood – that reverse fire – well, it burned very quickly. I’ll have to try larger base logs next time – otherwise, I’m sticking to my log cabin fires!

Camping out of a overlanding vehicle makes meal times generally easy. A cooler of food is close at hand and everything you need for prep is generally quite accessible. I decided to cheat this time around, as I picked up a couple of packages of Mountain House Lasagna and wanted to give it a taste test. It passed the taste test, and the pocket-book test as it only cost me $5.99 – you can get two nice sized bowls out of one package.

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The sun set and it very quickly became dark and much colder. I checked in on the temperature gauge on the Jeep’s dash and found it sitting at the 0C mark (32F). It wasn’t supposed to get that cold tonight, but I came prepared with the fleece sleeping bag liner – just in case. You can’t trust the weather reports, and you can never trust your sleeping bag temperature ratings!

I’ve still got a lot of learning to do with the new Nikon camera and decided to play with it a bit. Long exposures will let you create trails of fire like you see below.

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I spent some time after just staring up into the starry skies above and around 11pm decided to call it a night. Temperature on the Jeep now showed -8C. I wondered how much colder it might get.

Call me crazy, but I set an alarm for 5:45am – one of the reasons for my winter camping trip was to try to get some sunrise photos and a time-lapse of the sunrise over the mountains with one of the GoPro cameras. I stirred awake and got dressed. My Hot Core sleeping bag is a regular ‘rectangular’ bag, so it has room to keep items stuffed beside me during the night – my morning clothes, in this case, were nice and warm from my body heat so I layered up and climbed out of the tent.

Everything was still quite dark, so I started a fire and got the water back on to boil for my morning tea. The Jeep read -9C (15F) for the morning temperature, but I had slept quite comfortably through those temperatures. I had worn a toque to bed, and with that and the sleeping bag with fleece I stayed quite warm.

I made my way down the path to the shore of the lake and set up my one GoPro, engaging the time-lapse feature and then just sat there for a few moments, watching as the glimmer of light started to appear on the horizon.

There was still lots of time before sunrise, so I ventured back to pour myself a tea and get started with breakfast, which was cold cereal with powdered milk and a touch of water. Not my ideal breakfast, but it was soon complemented with a fresh Cara Cara and a freshly baked and very warm cinnamon bun.

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The sun started to appear in the distance and I proceeded to experiment further with the camera, adjusting settings and taking new photos.

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Before long, the camera battery died and I resorted to letting the GoPro finish capturing the sunrise for a time-lapse (view it here) while I packed up camp and prepared for the remainder of the day’s adventures.

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