Pale Thunder

Adventures of a Day-Walking Warrior Poet

Camp War Pony Day Seven: The First Cold Night

True to prediction, the mercury dropped pretty hard last night. According to my thermometer, the low was 3 degrees Fahrenheit. As can be expected, I was a little worried about exactly how my gear would handle the temps. Up until this point I’ve just been sleeping in a pair of boxerbriefs. Last night I added some long underwear, ski socks, put a comforter on top of my bag, and got in with my down coat. Within 5 minutes the down coat was off, and I woke up in the middle of the night to take my ski socks off because I was sweating. The setup worked GREAT, and I woke quite comfortably to a bitterly cold sunny day. This was a big confidence builder. 3F is the average low in Breck in December, and I know I have several options to make everything warmer.

 My view in the morning. Frozen condensation from my breath on my comforter.

My view in the morning. Frozen condensation from my breath on my comforter.


The only downside is that it appears that my heater setup doesn’t like to light in the cold. I have some thoughts as to why, and some ideas for fixes, but honestly even at 3F, not having a heater was an inconvenience at worst.


Ok, so here’s the scoop on the heater.


I bought a Mr. Heater “Little Buddy” catalytic heater. A catalytic heater takes a fuel (usually natural gas or propane), and introduces it to heated platinum and oxygen. This causes an oxidation-reduction reaction, the byproducts of which are carbon dioxide, small amounts of water, and heat. These heaters are optimal for small spaces because any non-catalytic gas combustion will fill a camper or truck with carbon monoxide in a short time, which is, shall we say, less than optimal.

The only problem with the Little Buddy is that it is designed to run on a 1-pound disposable propane tank.

While it will produce 3800 BTU’s for 5.5 hours in this configuration,  you then throw the canister away, and buy a new one for $4-$5. A better long-term solution, in my eyes, was to buy a 2.5 gallon (11.5 pounds of propane) tank for $50. This tank costs $4-$5 to refill, and will last basically forever.

Mr. Heater makes and sells a hose to connect the Little Buddy to a regular tank with a POL fitting. However, the design of the Little Buddy requires that 1-pound bottle to stand upright, which makes this hose preeeetty much useless.


To solve this problem, I worked with the lady at the propane store and made a custom fitting which will let the Little Buddy sit on the 2.5 gallon tank. I also put a second valve on the adapter so that I can run a cook stove off the same propane tank. Looks pretty slick if I do say so myself.