When you’re out on a month-long journey, you camp in a new spot every night. Though unfamiliar at first, once you’ve set up the tent and established your kitchen, it instantly becomes home.
Here are a few tips on choosing reliable gear to establish your little piece of paradise with the ever-changing view:
I prefer a four-season tent for northern trips, particularly if you’re planning on going up to the Arctic barrengrounds where there’s little to shelter you from the bitter north wind that can kick in for days at a time. A narrow profile with lots of pole intersections and guy-line options will make your tent solid in the heaviest of winds. My favourite right now is the MSR Fury, which is light, easy to take down and setup, and has the luxury of four large inner gear pockets plus a gear loft to arrange yourself comfortably while the elements rage outside. I’ve put in over 70 days on this tent this year (both summer and winter) and it still looks brand new.
(Editor’s Note: The Fury is not currently available from MSR—the Access 2 would be a good alternative.)
I look for a high warmth-to-weight ratio with my sleeping system, so I prefer using down bags for both winter and summer use. If you’re lugging gear on a portage or in a pack, every ounce counts. My recent favourite is the Therm-a-Rest Antares, a cozy three-season bag filled with hydrophobic down that won’t wet-out like traditional down. For warmer-temperature trips (also the most compact bag around), I’ve also put a lot of days in with my Western Mountaineering SummerLite bag—it compresses down to the size of a jar of peanut butter when packed.
For paddling journeys, I use the extra precaution of replacing the stock stuff-sack of any down sleeping bag with a dry-bag to ensure it isn’t accidentally soaked during the day’s travel. Another key to a warm nighttime sleep is a comfy sleeping pad. My favourite for the past couple of years is the Therm-a-Rest Neo-Air XTherm—a four-season pad that is amazingly thick and comfortable, yet ultra-light and compact when folded up. Once you get one of these babies, you’ll never go back.
Most of my journeys just require boiling water quickly for coffee, tea, oats and re-hydrating dried food. For the past 10 years, I’ve used the same MSR Whisperlite International to faithfully deliver the boil quickly and efficiently. For two people, a litre of fuel will last me about a week. The great thing about the Whisperlite is not only its boiling performance, but also its field maintainability. With the available maintenance kit, you can easily keep the stove going no matter what issues may come up (though few rarely do).
On extra-long trips, you may have to stretch your fuel so I try to cook over fire as much as possible and save the stove use for rainy days or in areas where building a fire (the tundra for example) is more labour-intensive. For this reason, I always use stainless steel pots. I’ve had my MSR Alpine 2 pot set for over 15 years now—it’s great not only for its durability but it also protects the Whisperlite while in transit as the stove nests nicely inside the pot set.
It’s not always sunny in camp, of course, so your kitchen needs a roof sometimes too. For this, I love the MEC Silicone Scout Tarp. It’s super-compact with lots of anchor points and a handy stuff sack that doubles as a sleeve for either a paddle or hiking pole to create a central peak for your temporary “front porch” in the woods.