The Speakers



Emily Ford

Emily Ford is an aspiring winter adventurer and thru-hiker based in Duluth, Minnesota. She has completed many thru-hikes in the midwest including the 1,200 mile Ice age trail, which crosses Wisconsin east to west from Potawatomi State Park to St. Croix State Park on the Minnesota border. Also, in the winter of 2022 she completed a solo 180-mile ski route across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Wilderness with her Alaskan Husky, Diggins. With an understanding and drive to show that anyone can adventure and everyone deserves to discover the outdoors, regardless of race, gender identity, or upbringing, she continues to seek adventure and represent the underrepresented in outdoor spaces. 

Michael Neiger

Michael Neiger lives in Marquette, Michigan, along the south of shore of Lake Superior. Since 1984, he has organized and led 100's of backpacking, canoeing, mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing, winter-camping, and caving trips and expeditions in the bush between the Upper Great Lakes in Michigan and the Arctic Ocean in Canada.

He has skied solo from the end of the northern-most plowed road in Ontario, Canada to the Arctic Ocean, and has paddled solo from the Lake Superior area to the Arctic Ocean. He has completed at least a half dozen winter expeditions to the Arctic Ocean, and he has helped train and outfit members of two North Pole expeditions. He currently leads monthly trips, primarily backpacking and winter-camping, in the bush between the Upper Great Lakes and the Arctic Ocean. He also teaches two-day wilderness survival classes and two-day wilderness land navigation classes.

Michael was a Det/Sgt with the Michigan State Police for 26 years and currently is the lead investigator with Michigan Backcountry Search and Rescue (MibSAR), a Long Range Special Operations Group (LRSOG) that investigates long-term missing person cases and cold-case murders in the bush between the Upper Great Lakes and the Arctic Ocean. He is also the author of the "Missing-Person Sourcebook: Strategies & Tactics for Finding Your Missing or Murdered Loved One from the World’s Top Experts."

Pam Wright

As a child of camp directors, Pam Wright’s early life was steeped in the outdoors of eastern Montana and woodlands of northern Minnesota. For the past 20 years she’s been adventuring and leading others into the BWCAW and other backcountry locations throughout the US and Canada. When she’s not dipping a paddle, she enjoys ultra-running, winter camping and backpacking. She takes joy in introducing everyone to the beauty of the north country, hoping that they too will be caught in the wonder of the wild. She currently works as a guide for Women’s Wilderness Discovery in Ely, MN as well as a volunteer leader for Thrive Women’s Outdoor Adventures, Hudson, WI. 

Curt Isaacson

Curt Isaacson is an avid craftsman, trekker and camper from Nebraska. He’s been exploring the outdoors since childhood and developed an early knack for making and modifying his own gear.  He especially enjoys promoting the intersection of the oft-forgotten tools of traditional craft and outdoor travel, especially as they relate to winter.  Curt has fond memories of growing up working alongside his father in the workshop while learning tending the wood stove at the heart of it.  His grandfather Karl immigrated from Kisa, Östergötland County, Sweden, giving Curt a deep appreciation for the culture, tools and lifestyle of Scandinavian peoples.  He recently joined the ambassador team for Hults Bruk Axes of Sweden (also in Östergötland County) helping to produce content for their North American social media platforms.  You can find them both on Instagram @hultsbruk1697 and @4esttrekker. 

Karla 'withak' Iseler

*She started camping as a middle-aged adult and two years later, she started camping at least one night a month (currently on year 7)  and exclusively hammock camps *She hosts BACONFEST camping weekend “where bacon is consumed with every meal.”  More info:     *She camps with her rescue cat, Kizme (Kiz-mah) and runs the Facebook group Camping & Hiking with your cat.   *Karla’s goal is to camp in every Wisconsin state park.    *Her favorite camping foods are anything in a pie iron, dutch oven, and any type of woofum.    *She collects a patch from every park she has visited and wears them on her red wool vintage Valeninto cape.  *Follow her: 

Pete Brautigam

Pete Brautigam has been a winter camping symposium board member since 2020. He is an avid winter camper in the back country pulling his toboggan solo or with a crew. Owner of Brautigam Expedition Works LLC. He will be teaching classes that get into the science of our gear.

Ryan Fox

Ryan has been on the Winter Camping Symposium Board for the past 10 years. He is a husband, father, and an avid outdoorsman. In the Winter he can usually be found on trail pulling a toboggan, or in a canvas tent, having a staring contest with a wood stove. Ryan has been teaching the Hot Tent 101 course for the past several years as well as a first time toboggan travel class. If you're new to Winter Camping, you don't want to miss these classes. 

Greg Wilcox

Greg Wilcox is the co-founder of Country Ways and for the past twenty-five years has brought us the very best in showshoe kits and finished outdoor equipment. Greg will be teaching a seminar on snowshoe lacing and repair. 

Dan Cooke

Co owner of Cooke Custom Sewing. Winter camper for over 40 years . Leading Winter camping trips into the BWCA since 1974. Mostly ski-tarp camping until making sil nylon hot tent in 2008.  With CCS has over 30 years experience designing and sewing winter camping and mushing clothing and sled bags. 

Scott Oeth

Scott loves getting outside--no matter the time of year--to explore, enjoy the wild, and test his outdoor skills. He eagerly works to convince others to join in the fun--in hot or cold weather--as he is thoroughly excited to introduce people to the outdoors and the adventure it holds. No stranger to cold weather camping, Scott earned his first "Zero Hero" more than 25 years ago, sleeping in a quinzhee on a frozen lake. An Eagle Scout, he is currently involved in teaching at the BSA's Winter Camping School and Okpik Cold Weather Leader Program, as well as developing and coordinating other advanced outdoor training programs. Scott is also a Registered Maine Guide, and co-owner of Bull Moose Patrol, an outdoor skills and adventure company. 

Ben Piersma

Ben’s full time job is testing, researching, and selling tools and outdoor goods for life in the north woods. He uses hand tools like axes, hand-saws, and knives daily for fishing, hunting, foraging, self reliance, and primitive bushcraft. His goods can be found at 

 Jason Gustafson

Jason Gustafson, founder and owner of Lester River Bushcraft (LBR), born and raised in Minnesota; living in Duluth since 1997.  While LRB is primarily now known for the 100% wool Boreal shirt, it started with a different intent.   I am fascinated with primitive skills and adapting to modern day bushcraft.  I’ve trained with Mors Kohanski in the states and on location via Karamat in Edmonton, Canada.  I continue to work on expanding my skill base and put those skills to use while camping and hiking year round. 

Sydney Tanner and Jim Nosker

Sydney Tanner and Jim Nosker are Azen Lodge Outfitters and Winter Camping Symposium board members. They’re parents of 10 children, have been cooking together, for groups, for decades. They’ve camped from coast to coast, from the rain forests of Central America to the Arctic Circle, in all seasons. They’ve hiked, backpacked, run dog teams, skied, showshoed, canoed, kayaked, hunted, fished and trapped at one time or another throughout their lives and have been long term Boy Scout leaders.

They will be hosting the kids program this year. 

Nick Gordon

Nick Gordon, Owner of NOW Outdoors, has been helping people gain more skills, knowledge, and confidence outdoors since 2010. In addition to guiding year-round in the Upper Midwest, he also leads adventure seekers around the world to destinations in Nepal, the Peruvian Andes, Canada, and deep into the Amazon Jungle of Colombia.

Kelly Harlton

It all started when he was at wilderness camp in Northern Alberta Canada. He had just turned 11, this 'old guy' with a beret on his head and a thick beard shows up. He starts off by whipping up a pack frame with 3 sticks, throws it on he's back and and takes them on a two hour hike that would change he's life forever. On that hike that "old guy" must have showed them over hundred amazing things about the bush. He had them smell it , feel it, taste it and share it's secrets. It was like a veil had been pulled back and he would never look at the bush the same again. 

That was over forty years ago and since then he has followed a lifelong quest to learn, experience and spend as much time in the wilderness as possible. Mors Kochanski jokes that he is longest and oldest student.

He has canoed, backpacked, fished, hunted, skied and snowshoed throughout Canada. Ran a trapline for two years . Prospected and staked a claim when he was 17 and placer mined for two summers. Married he's High School sweet heart moved to Slave Lake in the far North. Raised two wonderful children.Started and ran Wildside Wilderness Connection - instructing wilderness skills, survival and kayak and canoe trips.

At some point he stumbled across a copy of "Bushcraft" . He went out and tried items shown in the book. Everything worked and worked well. In the photo supplement there was an old fella with a beard and a beret. Nah.. it couldn't be....A few phone call's to confirm suspicions. Before he knew it he had he's book signed and a few summer and winter courses with Mors under he's belt. He started to instruct winter and summer courses with Mors and Randy at Karamat Wilderness Ways.

Deb Johnson

Learn to make your own soap!  This demonstration will teach the cold process method for batching soap.  Join Deb Johnson, founder of Painter Creek Soap Co.  We will make a 100% coconut oil soap that is non-gmo and contains high quality essential oils.  All ingredients are natural, pure, earth-friendly, and contain stuff you can recognize. We take great pride in creating amazing, all-goodness soaps with the health of your skin and the planet in mind.  Painter Creek Soap Company LLC is located in Independence, MN and has been evolving for 8 years.  It began with a mom, passionate about kids with sensitive skin. 

Don Kevilus 

Don is the proprietor and owner of the Four Dog Stove Company. He has been designing and building portable wood stoves for the past 23 years. From a 2¼oz titanium back-packing stove to a large steel stoves that can heat a 14’ x 20’ wall tent at -30 below. He is known as the leading innovator in trail stove design and construction. All stoves are hand crafted with his wife, Roxanne on their back 40 acre Minnesota-based workshop/farm, where they enjoy family, friends, raising a large garden, chickens and working their mules. Don’s passion for creating time tested and proven items for use in the harshest wilderness conditions is evident by the testimonials of hunters, trappers, outfitters, guides and adventures throughout the globe. 

Jerry Ward

Jerry Ward has been a life-long student of the wilderness and the skills it takes for humanity to thrive there; from both the historical and modern perspective.  From an early age, he took to the forest and fields more-so than the hustle and bustle of a life in town.  After receiving his BA in Wildlife Biology, Jerry’s research and work has taken him to 48 of the 50 states and many countries abroad.  He most recently hails from Interior Alaska where he pursues one of his favorite of pastimes; fur trapping.  Over the last 15 years, Jerry has trapped in multiple states successfully harvested 25 different species for both food and fur.

Brian Rice

Bushcrafter and survival instructor, is dedicated to teaching the love of the outdoors and how to coexist in harmony with nature.  Brian has been operating Three Ravens Bushcraft for 6 years and is part of the volunteer leadership team that coordinates Frostbite! on an annual basis.

Brian will be teaching two classes: Friction Fire and a Knot Class.

James Bishop

Jim Bishop lives in Spooner, WI. is a long time winter camper whose excursions focuses on lakes with fish.  He has ice fished in Canada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana and Lake Superior.  A board member of FISH - Friends Into Spooner Hatchery - a friends group of the state hatchery, where they put on fishing programs for youth and elderly.  He is retired Public Affairs Manager with the WI- Department of Natural Resources. 

Roger Pilsner

Roger Pilsner has been involved in a variety of crafts working with wood, leather, metal, fibers and anything else he can get his hands on, for over 50 years. Everything from blacksmithing and creating functional objects from mild or high carbon steel, brass and aluminum to reshaping salvaged metal into a variety of tools, camping gear and household objects. Owning a bandsaw mill he typically starts with green trees for his woodworking projects, sawing the lumber, kiln drying, machining it to dimensions and eventually creating a finished product is very enjoyable for him. He takes logs to finished goods. According to his wife he has at least two or three or four of every tool known to mankind and then some. He has built cedar strip canoes, houses, chairs, tables, weaving looms, boxes, guns, bowls, spoons and a variety of handmade tools such as bow saws, chisels and hammers utilizing his high end woodworking abilities. There is sawdust running through his veins. 

Joe Stromski

Joe is a lifelong outdoors enthusiast, with a deep interest in the natural world. Camping trips as a child set the stage for countless family trips as an adult. Winter camping started on a whim, as a way to get outside during the cold, and has quickly become a favorite. Over a decade of winter camping with his wife Lori has imparted a wealth of knowledge and experience on what works for them. Joe's approach is pragmatic and practical. A woodworker by trade, Joe's hobbies include boatbuilding, paddling, hiking, biking, and pretty much anything outdoors. 

Jonathan Maruska

"Jon Maruska is an Engineering Technician in Duluth, MN.  He is addicted to making gear, skiing lakes and hot-tent camping in northern Minnesota."

Mark Morgen

Mark Morgen moved to Grand Marais, MN 6 years ago to be closer to the Superior National Forest and the BWCAW.  Utilizing this amazing resource year round, he canoes, camps, snowshoes, fishes, skis, and also takes many pictures.  He is a wilderness guide in the summer, bringing the joy of canoe camping to many newcomers, and a boat builder and a sailor. When not in the woods, he can be found in his workshop finishing his latest canoe, or out sailing Lake Superior on his sailboat. 

Andy Wright

Andy Wright calls himself an “outrovert”; one who’s energized by and most at home in the outdoors. As a lifetime wilderness camper, he’s written extensively about the Boundary Waters (including how to eat really, really well there). Recent years have seen Andy teaching about foraging wild edibles, inspiring others through foraging hikes, classes and online content.

Kevin Kinney

Empire Wool and Canvas Company

Kevin Kinney is the owner of Empire Wool and Canvas Company. He's a pathologically creative outdoor industry veteran who's equally at home

in the mountains, on trail, or on the water. Kevin works from his cottage home in Duluth, MN.

Earl Swenson

Earl Swenson is an outdoor enthusiast and BWCA devotee. He’s been enjoying the BWCA since 1986 with 70+ trips in during the soft and hard water seasons. Tripping solo and with groups. He has a passion for Bushcraft and all things outdoors.  He’s been Winter Camping since 2010 and coming to symposium for nearly as long giving seminars on Staying Warm, Food/cooking and Bannock/quick Bread making.

David Hoole

David Hoole’s first WCS was in the rains of 2009, covering winter camping as a tv newsman for KBJR in Duluth. Since then he has jumped ship for Frost River and been a staple among the cast of characters at the Symposium and beyond. 

David has pulled his own toboggan weight on several of the guys wilderness trips, has lived through all so far, and has tales to tell! Many tales will be of what Not to do. First time speaker, longtime listener.

Peta Barrett

Peta Barrett made Ely, MN home in 2014, intent on growing her business – Women’s Wilderness Discovery. She outfits and guides year-round in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, with the focus of empowering women of all ages through the wilderness experience. Peta engages clients from across the country and globally – women, men, families – who seek the solitude and beauty of canoe country. A life-long Minnesotan, Peta is an angler, hunter, outdoor enthusiast and teacher in all seasons. Women’s Wilderness Discovery is a member of the Boundary Waters Business Coalition.

429 East Sheridan Street

Ely, MN 55731


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Jeff Hasse

Veteran paramedic, wilderness enthusiast, Scoutmaster, Search Manager for missing persons cases, and--as of this summer--a through hiker (the 487 mile Colorado Trail).