Living in a wall tent is very different from living in a house.
In some ways it is wonderful. You hear everything that is going
on outside . . . dogs, birds, the sound of rain,
the river or ocean, and more. There is a tremendous sense of freedom.
As there is so little room inside, you want to go outside and
be busy. It is hard to be lazy in a tent.
On the other hand, in bear country, sleep in a tent is much lighter
than in a cabin. Alert dogs are essential for safety and a good
nights sleep. In rainy weather, tents get damp.
Spruce bark makes an excellent tent floor. It is fairly
easy to sweep. It can be removed and shaken outside if necessary.
To peel a tree from May to June, it is first ringed low, then ringed
as high as the person can reach. A slit is chopped down one side
of the tree. The bark is then loosened with a sharpened stick, starting
at the bottom, and working around and toward the top.
Boards and plywood make a good tent floor, although they
need to be nailed down well. As plywood splinters so badly in the
weather, I hesitate to use it for tent floor unless it is taken
up and stored in a dry place after use.
Some people use gravel for a tent floor. All the dust sifts
out of sight, so it is self-cleaning. A gravel tent floor always
feels cold which is fine during the summer.
Spruce boughs make good flooring, particularly in the winter.
They insulate well from the cold ground and they smell wonderful.
However, they are a fire hazard near the stove.
D 1, 4
A tent is warm as long as the stove is burning, even at 30°F.
The stove needs to:
- be near the door so wood can be easily stacked,
- be close to the ground so the lower areas of the tent are heated,
- be big enough to hold a fire for a while,
- be light enough to transport,
- have a good flat top to cook on,
- be set on rocks or legs to keep it from burning the floor, and
- have a damper to control the fire.
Often sparks will fly out of the top of the stove, land on the
tent, and make a hole or start a fire.
time, at 30°F, I came back from my trapline, made a fire,
and took a nap. I woke up looking at the stars surrounded by a ring
of fire. My tent burned beyond repair.
To prevent sparks we used to shoot holes in the top stovepipe
with a .22. This allows the sparks a chance to cool before they
emerge from the stovepipe. Some people put a screen over the top
of the stovepipe, but this hinders the air flow considerably.
We once tried to burn tamarack (larch) in a tent stove. It threw
so many sparks two of us had to constantly bail water on our tent
until the tamarack burned down. No more tamarack! Some people burn
dry cottonwood. It doesnt throw as much heat; it makes a lot
of ashes, but there are no sparks.
The bottom of the tent must be fastened to logs or boards to prevent
the wind from blowing the sides up and to keep drafts out. Mosquitoes
have many more opportunities for gaining entrance into a tent than
they do in a house.
Material & Color
A white tent will reflect much of the stoves heat within
the walls and will be very warm. A dark tent, green or brown, will
absorb much of the radiant heat, and will be cold and damp. The
white canvas of a tent is not a good insulator, but it does contain
the warm air heated by the stove. It also reflects the radiant heat
of the wood stove. Oil stoves dont heat tents as well as wood
stoves. They dont radiate heat in the same way.
Nylon tents often frost terribly in cold weather. It would be
unwise to put a wood stove in a nylon tent as synthetic fabrics
melt with that amount of heat. Sparks destroy nylon in a short time.
Unlike nylon, cotton canvas allows the moisture from cooking and
peoples breath to pass through. It breathes. Cotton
tents can be treated to be
mildew and fire resistant, but both effect the tents ability
to breathe out moisture.
Water doesnt run off a canvas tent. It generally runs through
it. That is why there must not be any sagging in the roof when the
tent is set. Water settles to the low points and drips inside. A
tight tent will shed all water except in a severe driving rain.
Rain water passes through the tent and runs down any object that
is touching the inside surface.
In a tent, it is good to have the beds above the floor, as warm
air is less dense than cold air and rises. The floor is often cold.
This allows for storage under the bed too. The mattress is often
grass or caribou skin. They make good, soft, warm bedding.
It is very important to dry a tent well before storing it. Tents
are made of natural fibers. They rot and mildew easily in storage.
If a tent is dried well, the water necessary for bacteria and mold
will not be present. Rotting cannot take place.
- Ask the oldtimers in your village what they use for tent floor.
If they use spruce bark, get someone to show you how to peel one,
although this only works from late May to mid July.
- Pitch a wall tent. Make the roof nice and tight. How big is
it? 10 x 12, 8 x 10? How high are the
walls? When you put the tent away, ask an experienced person to
teach you the right way to fold it.
- Touch the inside of the tent when it is raining. Does it leak
down your finger?
- Make a bed for the tent. Is it warmer on the bed than on the
- Make a stove for a tent. Make a half-a-drum stove or a five-gallon
can stove. We used to use Blazo cans, but square cans are now
available from hotels and restaurants where they buy coffee in
square five gallon cans. Take your time and make a stove to be
- Ask the experienced people in your village about tent stoves
and sparks. How do they keep from burning their tent down?
- What kinds of tents are used in your village now? Many people
still use wall tents for hunting camps. How many of the tents
are wall tents? How many of them are white? How many of another
color? Of the canvas wall tents, do any have evidence of mildew?
Why or why not?
- Ask in the village why some people use nylon dome tents?
- What are four kinds of flooring for a tent? Which is best in
the winter on the snow?
- What wood burns with the most sparks? With the least?
- What are two techniques to reduce sparks on a tent?
- Why is a white tent warmer than a dark one?
- Does water run off or through canvas tent fabric?
- What are two advantages of having a bed?
- What is the difference in floor space between a 10 x
12 tent and an 8 x 10?
- Franks tent weighs 72 lbs. His stove and pipes weigh
another 27 lbs. He can haul 200 lbs in his sled to his trapline.
How many pounds of groceries and gas can he haul on the same trip?
- Ed spent $225 for a 10 x 12 wall tent with 4
walls. He used it for two seasons, but put it away wet and it
rotted. The tent could have lasted eight years if well cared for.
How much did the tent cost him per year? How much should it have
cost him per year? Can you put a price tag on his laziness?