Browsing Tag


The Lowdown

Winter Camping Village and The Beargrease

February 3, 2010

Winter camping villageAmazing. That’s one word, to sum up my night winter camping under a full moon and 30 dog sled teams. I should (and will) let the photos do most of the “talking”.

New to the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon this year, was a Winter Camping Village. Fans could bring their own winter tent (or rent one) and experience traditional winter camping at the Sawbill checkpoint.

We heard the first dog sled team swoosh by our tent at 6:25 AM MondaySawbill checkpoint morning.  Other teams soon followed suit, with distant barking alerting us that the next team was soon to arrive. (click here for video)Our spot on the Sawbill Trail, was a mandatory 4 hour layover in the race, in which mushers were required to handle Time to resttheir teams without any assistance, (as a pre-qualifier for the Iditarod).  Each musher had a spot with hay for the dogs to warm up and sleep in.  Once nestled in, dog booties were removed, food was served, and sleep was top priority.


In the checkpoint mix, was our winter camping village, and it brought manySawbill checkpoint curious onlookers. How are the tents made and how are they set up? How do the stoves work? What should you pack for winter camping? And are you warm?! (I have addressed most of these questions in my previous winter camping blog). Yes, we were warm! Warm from shoveling snow for our tent site and warm again once the stove was lit.

back on the trailIn between answering camping questions, and taking in the sights and sounds of the Beargrease, we were enlisted to help out on a few occasions, leading dog teams back onto the trail after their break. The dogs were definitely ready to get back on the trail! (watch the video, click here)

It was an exciting day, but unfortunately we had to pack it all up and head back to Duluth. The teams have to pass through the SawbillTime to rest checkpoint again, and how fun it would have been to be able to watch them come back through the next day!

A big thank you to the Beargrease staff and volunteers. As I stated above, it was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do it again next year! I hope some folks out there will join us!

Techniques & Advice

Winter Camping How To’s: Pictorial Pointers and Helpful Hints

January 26, 2010

DSC00726When I mention winter campingto folks I get a myriad of responses from “that’s crazy” to “sounds like an adventure!’ I will try to cover the basics so you, too, can have a winter wonderland adventure!

First thing you need to do is find a buddy or two to go with you! (Preferably one with gear!) Then map and plan a route and buy the appropriate maps. Also, call up to folks in the area to check out ice conditions.


Here is a basic list of items to pack.  DSC00742CLOTHING - A complete change of clothes including extra wool pants and ice breaker long underwear. Extra smartwool socks. Waterproof shell. Balaclava (to keep condensation off your face while sleeping).

GEAR – Sled, which is easier than a backpack, (and a dog to pull it!) X-C skis or snowshoes. Ground cloth (to create waterproof barrier to sleep on). Wool Blanket. Closed cell sleeping padice chisel for water(self inflating ones tend to lose air). Mittens are warmer then gloves. A cooler (to keep items from freezing, sits well in a sled). Bees wax candles  for light.  Thermos. Head lamp. Ice chisel or auger for water (see photo). Cold weather camping stove.

FOOD – Pack a lot of  high calorie food for all the energy you will be exerting. Pre-made or just add water meals. Almond butter (doesn’t freeze like peanut butter). No alcohol or caffeine, they will only dehydrate you.

SAFETY – Ice picks. Throw rope. Sunglass or goggles. Emergency Blanket. Lotion and Suntan Lotion. Matches, firestarter (lighters don’t like the cold weather).

When you are ready to set up camp, find a level spot and stomp down the area where your tent Set upwill go with your skis or snowshoes. Allow time (average 1-3 hrs) for the snow to settle and pack down before putting up your tent. While the area is settling you can gather downed firewood and chip an ice hole for water.  Set up tent (usually a twoStove area person job).  Nearest to the door, dig out a section for the stove and cooking area. This will create a nice higher platform to sleep on and a cold air sink near the door.  Next assemble the stove while the Sleeping platform and kitchen areaother folks gather more firewood. Next set-up your sleeping platform. Lay down your ground cloth first, then a wool blanket, your closed cell foam sleeping pad, and sleeping bag. (We offen lay another wool blanket on top of our sleeping bags for the dogs to lay on and wrap them up in). Another night time tip is to fill your water bottle with hot water before you go to sleep to have unfrozen water in the morning. If you turn your water bottle upside down the water will make the cap easier to unscrew.

So now that you know some of the winter camping basics, get out there and enjoy winter! Winter camp