The Happy Camper: Winter-Isn’t-Over-Yet Gear Review

It may be the first day of spring, but for much of Canada winter camping season is still on. Read Kevin Callan's "Winter Isn't Over" gear review now:

Credit: Kevin Callan

Late-winter/early-spring offers some of the best times to go sleeping in the woods. Temperatures are usually warmer, snow is less deep and wildlife begins to come out from hiding (including the snow fleas).

I’ve got a few more winter outing in me before it’s all over with. Here are a few pieces of new gear I picked up for my final trips trekking across the frozen landscape—before the blackflies remind us that winter isn’t something we should really complain about

KIHD Stick Stove ($92)

This is a relatively new stick stove that I picked up at the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show. It’s a solid stove, made of cold-rolled steel and weighing 540 grams. The assembly is quite straightforward and I like that a Trangia stove fits perfectly in the centre, in case you want to use alcohol when there’s no dry tinder to be found. The flames stay constant for approximately 20 minutes before needing to be refuelled. The bonus part, however, is a door on the front. This lets you tend the flames while you’re cooking.

ThruNite Archer 1A V3 ($30)

I read a lot of good reviews for this flashlight and after using it on a trip last week I wasn’t disappointed. First off, it’s priced well. Second, it’s compact, durable, lightweight (42 grams) and has variable light outputs that helps save your batteries. It has a super-low 0.1 lumen mode, 200 lumens high mode, and two other modes in between. Battery life is 22 hours on low with a single AA. There a strobe light and mode memory—which is kind of a cool extra. The rear clicker is also very intuitive and a big bonus is that it’s waterproof.

Whisky Jack Outdoor Co. Freight Toboggan ($295)

Here’s something Canadian-made. Winter camper, Jon Wakani, of Whisky Jack Outdoor Co., asked me to test out his handmade, custom-built freight toboggan and I have to say it’s got all the bells and whistles. I love it. The toboggan is quarter-inch, UV-protected high-density polyethylene, allowing the toboggan to adjust and glide over uneven terrain. Crossbars are locally sourced white oak—hard, tough, naturally resistant to water and rot and attached by stainless steel screws. Of course, that’s all normal for modern freight toboggans. Jon has added exceptional side lashing and straps to help tie in your gear. This part is awesome, especially when your fingers are frozen and you’re having a hard time feeling each digit while yanking on rope and bungee cord. The pull harness uses rope and wider nylon webbing, and the length of pull line is adjustable to suit personal preference, weather and terrain conditions. There’s also a front haul loop and a tail line for easy downhill control. Total length (including curl) is nine feet; weight, 20 pounds.

Outdoor Research Wilderness Cover ($200)

Is it a poncho, a tarp or a mini bivy? It’s all three. You can cinch it up to stay dry while trekking in the woods or peg it to the ground for a quick, lightweight tarp shelter or sleeping system. I think it’s brilliant. A bottom draw-cord can be tightened around the waist for walk mode or closed over the feet for bivy mode. A wire-brimmed hood snaps to chest for protection while in bivy mode. It’s made of 2.5-layer Ventia fabric with a 70-denier nylon face and a waterproof-breathable polyurethane laminate. There are eight tie-down loops for use in tarp mode and an internal mesh pocket for small essentials. It’s the size of your forearm when packed in its stuff sack.

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