Poor equipment, improper clothing, and lack of conditioning will not only limit your ability to enjoy your experience and compromise your safety, but will also impact others in your group.
Much of the enjoyment and success of your trip will depend on packing the appropriate clothing and equipment. It isn’t necessary to purchase expensive or trendy items. Remember that function is more important than style. It is also very important to be committed to the outdoors as a recreational past time before you invest significant sums to clothing and equipment.
If you do decide to shop for clothing and equipment, do so at outlets that specialize in these wares. Ask questions. Anything you need to know about the proper equipment is an important question. Take your time to decide. All reputable outdoors stores are more than willing to take the time to ensure that you are outfitted properly.
There is a direct correlation between the functionality/comfort of your equipment and price. It is not necessary to buy the top of the line (unless you can easily afford it) but you can be assured that if you buy the cheapest piece of equipment you’ll end up regretting it.
Special Note: With all outdoor related products, manufacturers will offer a range of prices and item options. You should be guided by your needs and your budget. The top of the line products may include options that are unnecessary. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the cheap offerings. You can bet that there are reasons why they are the cheapest and you will most likely regret your purchase once you are in the field.
Purchase from manufacturers and outdoor stores who have an established reputation for customer service and satisfaction.
NOTE: The outdoor clothing industry is one of the most innovative in terms of product lines. We have opted to stay away from recommending specific lines as newer and better products are forever entering the marketplace. It is best to visit a reputable outfitter and get the most up to date information about items that you may want to purchase.
There are three categories of clothing; outerwear, insulation and under layers. In each of the categories there are a number of materials available. The type of fabric you choose will depend on climate, activity level, and desired amount of warmth. Certain fabrics, such as cotton & denim are not ideal for layering as they retain wetness and can quickly make you feel chilled.
This is the layer in direct contact with your skin. Its main purpose is to transport or “wick” moisture off your skin and move it toward the surface of the fabric where it can evaporate. If your base layer holds moisture, you’ll quickly start to feel cold when you slow down or stop for a rest. Choose a thickness, or fabric weight, based on how cold it is and how active you expect to be. Look for seamless or flat-seamed garments that won’t rub against your skin when combined with outer layers or with a pack. And aim for a snug fit that isn’t constricting.
Synthetic fabrics such as polyester and recycled polyester absorb very little water, so they are quick to dry. These fabrics have good stretch and are easy to care for. They make great base layers – except that they can retain odors if worn for multi-day trips. To combat that, many synthetic base layers have antimicrobial treatments to cut down on unwanted odors.
This layer adds insulation, traps body heat to keep you warm, and continues moving moisture outward. Materials that are fuzzy like fleece are a good choice because they insulate without feeling bulky. And they are highly air permeable so warm, moist air can easily pass through them. Gridded fleece and high-loft fleece trap warm air without adding bulk. Other mid-layer options are lightweight, low-profile insulated pieces – they can weigh less and compress nicely in your pack while still being warm. Mid-layers should be roomy enough to accommodate a base layer and allow movement, but should still be somewhat snug.
Your final layer, sometimes called a “shell,” protects you from the elements. Depending on the climate, you might want a layer that blocks wind, sheds precipitation or does both. Your outer layer should fit easily over your base and mid- layers, without being so loose that all your warmth escapes. And it should still allow you to move freely.
The fabrics are made of layers bonded together to form one textile; typically 2-layer, 2.5-layer or 3-layer construction. If you choose a waterproof-breathable product, features like durable water repellant (DWR) coatings and seam taping are considered standard, and they increase capacity to shed water and prevent it from getting inside.
This layer should be loose fitting to accommodate the insulation layer. It is advisable not to buy insulated outerwear. The idea is to add warmth with the insulation layer as it becomes colder and vise versa when it becomes hotter.
Freedom of movement is essential, especially in the neck and arms. Make sure there is a hood and that it is roomy enough to allow for a hat to be worn at the same time. The hood protects the neck and head from the worst weather conditions. Ideally the hood will be brimmed but, if not, a brimmed cap should be included in your gear. A brimmed hat will keep the rain from interfering with your vision, especially if you wear glasses.
The jacket should be longer than waist length to offer greater protection to the thighs and the rear in the rain and cold.
The use of raincoats or waterproof products are fine. But, these do not allow body moisture to escape. After a short period of paddling you will be wet from your own perspiration and may become uncomfortably cold.
Nylon is wind resistant, quick drying and comfortable against the skin. Shorts, pants or shirts made of lightweight nylon are suitable for paddling in warm to moderate conditions. Nylon pants that convert into shorts are especially useful where temperatures change frequently.
We strongly advise against wearing jeans when paddling. Denim is a heavy material that, when wet, will become heavy, uncomfortable, and a safety consideration if your vessel tips.
| Ratings Chart
|Heat Conduction (Wet)||High||Low||Low||Low||Medium|
|Comfort Level (Dry)||High||Medium||High||Medium||Medium|
A full article about sleeping bags would be far too lengthy and complex to hold most people’s attention. I hope to offer some basic information that you can expand upon when you visit an outdoor retailer.
Questions You Should Ask Yourself:
Where will you be using the bag?
During which seasons?
Climatically, what will you most likely encounter?
Do you like to move around inside the bag or do you like a snug fit?
How much money are you prepared to spend? Do you get cold easily?
Shape of your Bag
Mummy: narrow, close-fitting and are designed to save weight and maximize heat retention. They start narrow at the feet, get wider toward the shoulder, then taper to an insulated, fitted hood. Nearly all backpacking bags are mummy-shaped. Positive: The slim cut increases efficiency and saves space and weight. Hoods retain a lot of warmth. Negative: A big consideration for the claustrophobic type is the narrow shape can feel restrictive and inhibit sleep.
Tapered/Barrel: are narrow at the feet, broad at the hips and shoulders. You get more space than a mummy, but also more weight and bulk. Some offer hoods. Positive: Good heat retention and a little more room to maneuver. Negative: More room means your body has more space to keep warm; some thrashers still find them restrictive.
I prefer the barrel bag as I am one of those who cannot stand the restriction imposed by mummy bags. The lack of a hood can be compensated for with a warm hat. I also find the trade-off in weight to a mummy bag is negligible. In warmer weather I can unzip the bag and use it as a blanket which is not possible with a mummy bag.
Quilted: In recent years sleeping quilts have started to become very popular, especially among lightweight backpackers. Using a quilt is just like sleeping under a down comforter. With a quilt, you’ll sleep directly on your sleeping pad, which reduces weight by cutting out unnecessary insulation that would be compressed under your body. Some quilts also have closed footboxes and can be attached to sleeping pads, which will help hold heat in.
There are two basic types of fill – synthetic and down. Down is the fluffy undercoating found just beneath the outer feathers of geese and ducks. Synthetic is basically plastic threads. Many manufacturers will have their own copyrighted fill based on weaving, material, and construction.
Down: works well for just about everyone except people who frequently find themselves in rainy conditions. Women often value downs warmth, softness and minimal weight. Positives: the warmth to weight ratio is excellent – it can be compacted into very small sizes – it far outperforms synthetic by many years. Negatives: if it gets wet it provides no insulation – takes along time to dry – can be quite pricey.
Synthetic: the threads are most commonly a long, single strand. Positives: less expensive than down -nonallergenic – still provides some insulation when wet – dries fairly quickly. Negatives: it takes up more space than down in your backpack – heavier and takes more weight to get the same warmth down provides n- the fill gradually degrades over time – does not drape over the contours of your body as effectively as down.
Loft is the thickness of the bag. In combination with shape and size it will have a great bearing on warmth. A reasonable loft for a three season bag is 11cm/4 in to 14 cm/5.5 in. It is important to note however, that some people sleep warmer than others. You may require a greater loft.
Make sure the sleeping bag is long enough to accommodate your body. Here’s a general rule: If you are no taller than 6 feet, choose a regular length bag. If you are up to 6-feet-6, you’ll want a long bag. If you are over 6-feet-6 take up basketball. If you are right on the border, maybe right at 6 feet or maybe half an inch taller, it’s a judgment call on your part. If you choose a bag that’s too short, you might tend to stretch a bag to make it cover you. Doing so flattens the bag and its insulation in spots, reducing its effectiveness.
Sleeping pads are the insulation barrier between your sleeping bag and the ground. With backpacking, space and weight are considerations when selecting the pad that serves you best. So, when viewing some of the options available, especially with inflatable models, the thickness may make you drool but the weight and size may be impractical.
Let’s look at our options.
Blue Foam – name comes from its colour. Relatively inexpensive, light, and is a good insulator. Anyone who doesn’t find sleeping on hardwood floors and rock piles as comfortable may want to look further. You can determine quality by applying the pinch test. If foam rebounds quickly then it is good quality.
Yellow Foam – name comes from colour also. Basically same as Blue Foam except more durable and performs better in extreme cold.
Ridged Foam – name comes from look. Series of built in ridges (see sample photo) offers a little more comfort and insulation. Some models can be rolled and others folded. The folded model, since it operates on a hinged system, tends to be bulkier.
Inflatables: These pads are the preferred choice of most backpackers. They are lightweight and very comfortable. Most models are self-inflating and contain an open cell foam inside for better insulation. There are many models to choose from. Your frame will determine what length and width is most appropriate. Outdoor retailers will have models already inflated that you can test.
When you arrive in camp, one of the first things to do is release the valve of your sleeping pad and allow it to self-inflate. It does not completely inflate, but requires that you add what additional air you’d like to produce the thickness you find most comfortable.
When storing it at home, open the valve and allow it to self-inflate and put it away in this condition.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir is the model that I now use. It doesn’t include a cell foam inside nor does it self-inflate. But, it is extremely comfortable [ridge construction see photo] , lightweight, and compacts for travel far better than anything else on the market. There is a non-slide lubricant that resists slipping off the pad during your sleep.
The down side is that you have to blow it up entirely – some people hate the fact that you cannot just slide into a new sleeping position – the regular model is not very wide.
May not be for everyone – test drive it before buying.
Most sunscreens currently on the market effectively block only UVB rays, not UVA. The concern is that people using high number sunscreens that block only UVB rays may still get high doses of UVA if natural warning signs, such as sunburn, are suppressed by these sunscreens.
Recognition of the damaging effects of UVA rays has set the wheels in motion for the reformulation of sunscreens to more effectively block UVA rays as well. Sunscreens contain various agents which have been proven to protect against the rays of the sun. Para-aminobenzoic acid or PABA, PABA esters, and cinnimates are all agents which effectively protect against UVB rays. Benzophenones and Parsol 1789 are effective in protecting against UVA rays. So, to be totally protected, select a sunscreen with a combination of two of these agents, one for UVB rays and one for UVA.
Theoretically SPF simply means the factor of time greater than normal that it takes for ultraviolet light from the sun’s rays to burn the skin. For example, if the unprotected skin burns in one minute, an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow 15 minutes of sun exposure before sunburn. An SPF greater than 15 provides diminishing returns.