The question I’ve heard the most this winter is “How do you properly pitch a pyramid hot tent?”

I generally use an a-frame hot tent for winter camping (Snowtrekker, made in the United States). It’s a self-supporting tent. Lightweight shock-corded aluminum poles form the frame and the canvas is pulled over. It has fewer guy-lines than the pyramid design.

However, my winter camping buddies have pyramid tents, so I’ve pitched and slept in both styles. The pyramid design comes with one huge advantage: they set up with just one centre pole. The pole can be cut on-site or an aluminum pole can be packed along. The sides are held out with guy lines. This means quick setup and take-down and one incredibly light hot tent. I’ve tripped with an Atuk tent and an Esker Arctic Fox (both made in Canada). Both weighed just over six kilograms. They’re also amazing at holding up against high winds, which is why they're the top choices of polar explorers.

Setting up the pyramid tent does take some getting used to, especially when stacking it out in an open area. My trip buddy, Tim Foley (owner of the Canadian Outdoor Equipment Store), has made a video on how to pitch one properly. Check it out:

Of course, most hot tents made these days far exceed what we used to use.  My first hot tent was one of those regular wall designs—lots of space and head room but it weighted a ton and mold seemed to breed on it like rabbits during spring. I lived in one for a month while working in the north. I had weekly baths by using a blow-up kids’ pool and water heated on the woodstove. I didn’t travel anywhere with the tent, though. It stayed at my basecamp the entire time. Setting it up was too labour-intensive. I had to cut timber for at least seven poles: one centre pole, two scissor poles on each end to hold up the ridge pole and two side poles. It also had so many guy-ropes used to keep its form that the lashings looked like some massive spider web. Due to its open, rectangular shape, heavy winds would shake the tent something fierce as well. But it was a cozy home—even at -40 degrees Celsius.

photoKevin Callan

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