DULUTH (AP) -- Jon Farchmin had tried winter camping the way most people envision it.
The small nylon tent. The long hours around a campfire, trying to stay warm. The frigid mornings.
"Cold camping," he calls it.
Then, about five years ago, Duluth's Farchmin made the move to traditional winter camping. A roomy canvas tent. A wood stove purring in the corner. Shirtsleeve suppers. Long evenings of candlelight conversation.
He has no intention of cold camping again.
"What traditional winter camping does is make winter not a factor," Farchmin says. "You can go out almost like in the summertime. You're comfortable."
Farchmin and several other traditional winter camping experts shared their knowledge last weekend at the Midwest Traditional Winter Camping Symposium in Solon Springs. The event, which cost $60, ran Nov. 1-3.
Garrett Conover, a Maine winter camping and canoeing guide, presented the keynote address and shared slides from travels in Labrador.
Farchmin and Duluth's Chris Gibbs demonstrated the use of both wedge-shaped and pyramid-shaped canvas tents.
Jim Ryder of Madeline Island near Bayfield showed slides of his winter travels on Hudson Bay. Ely's Ichiro Stewart discussed traditional winter travel in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Duluth surgeon Clint Moen and outdoor instructor Kris Kolenz presented a session on wilderness medicine.
The third annual event was sponsored by Empire Canvas Works in Solon Springs and Four Dog Stove in St. Francis.
"Our vendors are there to display stuff, and people can buy stuff, but our idea from the first one until now is to be an educational event first," said Duane Lottig, owner of Empire Canvas Works, which makes canvas tents, anoraks and other winter gear.
Traditional winter camping has begun to gain popularity in the North Country.
"It's nothing new," Farchmin says. "It's the way people camped 30 or 40 years ago. We just forgot about it with the advent of nylon."
"The central point of it all is going back to a canvas tent that you heat with a wood stove," Lottig said.
Related gear includes cotton canvas anoraks, mukluks, layers of wool and toboggans for hauling 100 pounds of gear and food across wilderness lakes.
The mode of travel is ideal for the border country of northern Minnesota, where winter campers traverse frozen lakes and rivers and occasional overland portages.
Winter campers can travel by skis or snowshoes, and may use single dogs or larger teams. Travel is sometimes difficult -- wind, cold, snowstorms, slush, open water.
"To me, you can handle anything during the day, as long as you know you have a warm, dry place at night," Farchmin says. "The enjoyment of those evenings, that's really the highlight of those trips. Dinners can take two or three hours. You go outside to see what's going on with the moon, and you know you can come back to a warm, dry place."
Making the commitment to traditional winter camping requires an initial investment. A tent may be $400 or $500, a lightweight wood stove another $300 or $400.
"It's a real niche market," Lottig says. "But the people who love it, love it."
Traditional winter camping seems to appeal to a somewhat older market. That could be because they can more easily afford it. Or because they've tried winter camping the other way.
"They remember (cold camping)," Lottig says. "They're old enough they've spent enough nights freezing out there. They don't have anything to prove."
Now, with wood stoves and canvas tents, they're finding they can be comfortable on the trail in winter.
"Some would argue that's the prettiest time of year in the Boundary Waters," Lottig says. "You sure leave the crowds behind."
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