Calgarian living in teepee despite freezing temperatures

Connor Ferster is just like any other young Calgary professional — until he gets home. He lives in a teepee on a patch of land rented just outside of Calgary.

Recruiter, 31, says he wants to know what's needed to survive a Canadian winter

Calgary man calls teepee home

CBC News: Calgary at 6:00

8 years ago
Connor Ferster is discovering what it's like to live in a teepee during Calgary's current cold snap. 2:19

Connor Ferster is just like any other young Calgary professional — until he gets home.

He lives in a teepee on a patch of land rented just outside of Calgary.

I wear a suit to work. I have suits here. I have a regular life.- Connor Ferster, Calgarian living in a teepee

"At first there was a lot of 'What are you thinking'-type questions and, 'Have you thought of this, have you thought about this,' because, of course, their primary concern is that I'm going to be safe and not freeze to death," said Ferster.

"One thing that I wanted to do with this is to have it a stereotype buster. I don't, you know, work outside, or for parks. I work downtown. I wear a suit to work. I have suits here. I have a regular life."

The 31-year-old recruiter has been living in the teepee for three months and plans to stay through the winter.

The set up in the teepee Connor Ferster has been living in for the last three months. The Calgarian works downtown during the day and comes home to the teepee he built on land he rents just outside of the city. (Courtesy Connor Ferster)

Once spring comes, he says he'll decide whether to stay the summer or move on to the next experience.

Is it possible?

"I'm wanting to find out exactly what systems are needed, and basically collect data on how to live out here," said Ferster.

"What do I do for heat. What do I do for food storage. What do I use for a bathroom. Where do I sleep."

He spent the first few nights shivering on the floor before building a raised bed to take advantage of heat closer to the top of the teepee. Right now he is using a propane heater and lots of layers to keep him warm. 

Though the thermometer said –20 C outside, inside the teepee it reads 10 C.  

Explore winter

Looking for less extreme ways to challenge yourself in the cold? Explore Winter with CBC's Live Right Now.

"As you can see there's a carbon monoxide detector right above you, and it's never gone off, even the teepee totally sealed off, the burner on the stove, the heater and all the candles going."

Food is kept animal-proof in glass jars and cooked on a camping stove. And the bathroom? It's frequently emptied and then composted. 

"You notice you haven't smelt anything," he laughed. 

Heritage of the teepee

Ferster says he wants to know if you can get through a Canadian winter on a basic set of survival systems. Although he has no First Nations' blood, he says the heritage of the teepee is very important. 

The born-and-raised Calgarian bought the high-grade canvas and put the teepee together with friends. 

While there's no electricity, Ferster says he passes time reading and writes a blog about the experience.

"What does it take for a meaningful life? And what does that look like? And so that's, I believe, a question that everyone is trying to answer for themselves and I am exploring the answer in my own way."

With files from Alana Baker/CBC


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