What would happen if you went to an island in the middle of nowhere in winter?
That's a good question to ask, and I've been wondering about it for years. Last week, my mission was to find out. Armed with only a few products as listed below, I decided to camp for several days and finish a book edit that's due at the end of this month. (I also brought along a sidekick, my son Josh, to help me test.) Here's what I packed.
1. United by Blue Ultimate American Jacket ($648)
This was my main piece of gear on the trip, an exceptionally warm parka with an extra liner made from sustainable bison fur and a polyester mix. Why does it work so well? It has a thick, waterproof outer shell and 14 pockets for stashing gear and snacks.
2. OtterBox Trooper 20 Cooler ($249)
This 20-quart cooler required a separate hike back to the car, but it was worth it. A large padded strap helped me transport it to the island. It keeps food cool for 72 hours, and it's military grade rated at IP-65 for extreme abuse. I also liked the extra water-sealed pockets.
3. Mountainsmith Apex 100 Backpack ($250)
One of my favorite backpacks, mostly because of the reasonable price and the roomy size, the Apex 100 was light enough, at six pounds, to work for all of my extra gear and clothing. Around the waist are pockets that worked nicely for my iPhone X.
4. Nemo Equipment Sonic -20 Sleeping Bag ($480)
I refuse to go winter camping and then shiver all night. I brought along this Nemo Equipment Sonic bag, which is rated to -20 below zero (but I swear it could work in even colder temps), to make sure things worked out. Amazingly, it has the thermal protection and padding to withstand winter islands, since I slept toasty all night.
5. MSR WindBurner Stove System Family (Pricing varies)
Starting a campfire is not fun in winter, although I managed to make one a few times. Yet, when you are hungry, you want to eat right away to fuel your body. I used these pots and a burner from MSR, which are protected from the wind. The 2.5-liter pot worked perfectly.
6. Gerber Strongarm Fixed Blade Knife ($86)
In winter, a knife is more important than ever--for chopping up vegetables, trimming branches for the fire, and even protection. The Gerber Strongarm is my all-time favorite of mine; I even tested a similar version some 10-15 years ago.
7. Nemo Equipment Chogori 3P Mountaineering Tent ($850)
I loved using this three-person tent, and so did my son who joined me on the trip. Large pockets along the tent wall were ideal for stashing my phone and wallet, and the vestibule out front (at 18.9 square feet) was spacious enough for our huge backpacks. A big bonus: Two of these tents can be linked together to house six people.
8. Chef's Cut Real Jerky ($50/8-pack)
With winter camping, you want to have snacks on hand for providing extra fuel for your body, wince you'll get winded easily. This fresh-tasting jerky comes in dozens of flavors, but my favorite is the original steak recipe. It's thick and mouth-watering.
9. Toad & Co. Malamute Quarter Zip Sweater ($149)
I had to make sure I was warm and dry the entire trip. This thick wool sweater helped tremendously. (I also wore Cache Cargo Pants with thick liners inside). The sweater is made of 100% lambswool, and it's stylish enough that you can easily wear it on the mainland at work.
10. Patagonia Provisions Soup ($6.50)
Because I had to pack light and conserve energy, I brought several packs of Patagonia Provisions Soup in flavors like Red Bean Chili and Black Bean Soup. They're loaded with nutrients and tasted good, plus to make them you boil water for a minute, heat, and serve.
11. Omaha Steaks Roasted Root Vegetables ($18/2-pack)
I'm on a strict diet right now, long story on that one which I will relay here soon--but I picked these veggie packs from Omaha Steaks plus a few nice steaks for my son, which worked fine for cooking over a campfire. The veggies are a nice mix of sweet potatoes, cauliflower, yellow carrots, and red onion and, coupled with the soup, finished off my meal nicely.2.
12. 2018 Volvo XC60 Inscription ($45,300)
That's right, one other item to note. I drove to the island in this Volvo XC60, relying on the traction control (it has both an AWD mode and one for off-roading that raises the height of the vehicle), ample storage (the seats fold down easily), and smooth ride.