I would like to thank the following companies for their support, without which I would not have been able to undertake this adventure.
Canada's member-owned co-operative for people committed to the active outdoor lifestyle generously provides funds to Canadian adventurers whose expeditions are exploratory, unique, completely self-propelled, and geographically remote and/or technically difficult. Their mission is "to bring about a future where Canadians of all ages, and especially our youth, play outdoors in self-propelled ways more often and in ever-increasing numbers; have access to a comprehensive, carefully nurtured network of parks, wilderness, and outdoor recreation areas; and have a connection to nature that is stronger than ever." Can I say any more? I am proud to be a part of this mission. Thanks for your support, MEC!
Anyone who has ever had a sore jaw from gnawing through rock-hard conventional energy bars at 20 below will be glad to hear that Belly Timber survival bars remain “bitable and chewable” in subzero temps. Belly Timber is a family-owned company based in Bellingham, Washington, that produces energy bars that are as rich in nutrients as they are in calories. And that's the key to a good energy bar. The bars come in a variety of flavors, but every single one contains organic peanut butter, organic grains, honey, dates, seeds, and natural sweeteners. I'm proud to have had the friendly folks at Belly Timber as partners in my expedition.
I skied on 187 cm Åsnes Amundsens, formerly known as Ragos, arguably the world's pre-eminent long-distance all-terrain expedition skis. The same design was used by Rune Gjeldnes in Antarctica (I asked him, and he was satisfied with it). It has a normal touring width and moderate sidecut (by today's standards) of 67-57-62. In addition, Åsnes generously supplied me with poles, bindings, a couple of toasty toques, full-length skins, and two pairs of their locking half-skins. These actually lock into slits in the base of the ski and allow the skier to have climbing power and reasonable glide at the same time. Of course, the Amundsens are waxable too, but the skins give you a little more stick than kick wax. These skis were my best friends on the trail. Only at the tail end of the winter did they blow an edge out, but fortunately I was still able to ski on them for a couple of days before coming to a place where I could repair them.
Ed Bouffard makes these affordable expedition-grade pulks in his garage in Minnesota, and Grant and Ashley Schnell distribute them through their website, which has links to all sorts of useful information for winter campers. I hauled one of Ed's lightweight high-density polyethylene Paris systems to keep the weight off my back. As I covered a lot of miles of gritty terrain, I burned out my first sled in Alberta, where I had I had a second one mailed to me before getting back on the trail. That one is still in great condition, and I look forward to using it on smaller trips in the future.
As the name says, these are revolutionary energy bars. They're made from ingredients that are not only organically produced but are also raw, making them richer in nutrients than many other more processed bars. At the same time, they are packed with flavor and each little bar contains hundreds of calories of energy. A real diesel delicacy! Thanks for the fuel, RawRev.
Optimus of Sweden, owned by the Swiss water filter company Katadyn, makes what is probably the hardiest little stove of all time, the Svea. I cooked every night on my Svea and melted tens and tens of gallons of snow for drinking water over the course of the winter.
I proudly wore Sydpolen leather backcountry ski boots by Crispi. I chose these handmade, small-batch, top-of-the-line Italian boots because they offer the very best in insulation, stability, and impermeability without requiring me to make big sacrifices in terms of weight and flexibility. If I hadn't had these boots, I'm not sure I'd still have ten toes!
Clean disposal of human waste is something that is all too often neglected in planning for a camping trip, but it is especially important in the wintertime, as all manner of pathogens can be carried directly into water sources during the spring runoff. Cleanwaste GO Anywhere Kits are biodegradable sacks approved for disposal in standard garbage receptacles that provide a clean, environmentally friendly, and odor-free solution to the human waste dilemma in high-traffic areas where plumbing does not exist. The folks at Cleanwaste have generously offered to supply me with an ample stock of these kits, often known to backcountry enthusiasts by their former name, WAG Bags. I packed a few for the odd chance that nature might call near a population center, or if it was really too cold to go outside.
Lightweight, nutritious, and hearty meals are essential on the trail. With Mountain House pouch meals, it's simple. Just add boiling water (directly to the packet if you want), let your meal rehydrate and warm up, and voilà, you've got a tasty backcountry supper. Mountain House nights were a real treat on my trip!