Northlanders Take on Extreme Freeze for Cold Camping

Special Report: Extreme Camping

DULUTH, Minn. – On a cold winter day, heading out to camp may not be the ideal way most people would want to spend their time.

However, hundreds of people live to get outdoors during the wintertime.

Cold camping is a passion of Brian and Miranda Gustad and their friends.

“Not too many people get out and do this so it’s kind of fun to do this kind of stuff,” explained Brian.

The couple recently spent the weekend on Boulder Lake in Duluth staying in their tents with wood-burning stoves.

The chilly, fresh air and escape from the busy city is what they find relaxing.

“My favorite thing is waking up in the morning, being nice and cozy in my sleeping bag and feeling like the cool air on my face,” said Miranda.

However, it takes time to get comfortable with the hobby.

Packing the right things is essential.

“You don’t want to bring junk, but also you don’t want to forget anything,” said winter camper Brian Maruska.

“Having an understanding of winter clothing would probably be one of the most important things,” said Brian Gustad.

Avoiding cotton and layering your apparel are the first tips you’ll hear from most experts.

“If you’re not staying warm you’re not doing it right. It’s like; we don’t come out here and freeze,” said Brian Gustad.

They’re definitely not freezing when they sleep.

“One of the most important things is getting off the ground,” said Brian Gustad.

He tells us he uses a foam pad, an air pad, Reflectix and a quality sleeping bag.

“Your sleep system and your clothing should be able to get you down to the temperature you’re expecting,” said Brian Gustad.

The wood stove is used for necessity and warmth, but not as a crutch at night.

“I have no other means of cooking when I’m out here, I totally rely on the wood stove,” said Brian Maruska.

Maruska built the wood-burning stoves and has shipped his products all across the country.

However, he’s dedicated to the camping experience rather than time in a shop.

“There were years and years of trial and error,” Maruska explained.

When he started winter camping 15 years ago he had sticker shock and decided to take matters into his own hands, “basically building wood stoves out of sheet metal ductwork you know from Menards and forging chimney pipes and stuff, just coddling it all together.”

He invested in the product to create a product both efficient and effective.

“All the legs fold down, chimney comes apart and can essentially fit inside so we’re down to just this little box that you can put inside your trekking toboggan,” said Maruska.

He kept at it until he could finally see the firelight inside, “when it’s wide open and it’s dark out that thing just lights up the whole tent and you can just sit there and you can see the fire and that’s when life gets really good.”

Those quiet moments in the cold are the flickers in time keeping these campers coming back.

These experts tell us it’s vital to always pack a medical kit.

They also say it’s best to start in the backyard because you can always head back to the house if need be.

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