Don’t put your paddling gear away yet. Fall is one of the best times to get out there. There are no mosquitoes buzzing in your ear, the autumn colours are stunning, the days are usually sunny and the nights are cool and cozy. Just make sure you pack properly.
The worst weather condition to deal with is rain, especially cold rain. Make sure everything is packed in several waterproof bags. I don’t mean garbage bags. Even if you’re using heavy-duty plastic bags, they will eventually tear open. I’m talking about solid dry bags from outdoor stores or, to save money, heavy-duty plastic placed between two nylon sacks.
I start off by placing my waterproof liner inside my regular pack, with the liner oversized for the pack to give plenty of length to roll up and secure at the top. Or better yet, I use a totally waterproof bag, like Eureka’s SS115 Canoe Pack. Then, in a number of separate colour-coded stuff sacks I place my cloths, sleeping bag, first-aid kit/repair kit and anything else that’s important to keep dry.
My food is stored in a blue barrel. It's totally waterproof—spend the money on a top-of-the-line harness for it.
You probably won’t have trouble keeping warm during the day, as long as you keep moving. But the night air can bring a bone-numbing chill.
The first thing to do to battle the cold is to set up camp early. Daylight is greatly shortened during the off season and you don’t want to get caught shuffling about in the dark trying to put the tent up. During set up, munch on high-calorie snacks and change into dry, warm clothes and cap your head with a wool toque.
I also tend to avoid designated summer campsites when camping during the cold season. They receive so much use that tent sites become far too exposed and firewood is limited. As well, my tent choice for such a trip is always a four-season design that provides plenty of ventilation. Condensation is a major problem in cold temperatures, forming quite easily from you breathing and in turn causes the interior of the tent to become uncomfortably damp. Placing the tent on a slight rise will also keep dampness away and using a good thick foam pad to sleep on will reduce the loss of body heat.
I also label an empty water bottle and place it inside the tent to pee in. A full bladder robs the body of more heat then an empty one; and besides, who wants to crawl out in the cold night air to relieve themselves at some ungodly hour.
Fluffing your sleeping bag (a top-of-the line, high-quality, four-season design) before crawling in is a good idea. The action creates more air space between the fibers or feathers. If you find yourself shivering inside your sleeping bag, put on your rain gear to act as a vapor barrier and hold in your body heat. Better yet, use a liner to increase the efficiency of your sleeping bag. Or even better, double up two sleeping bags and share your warmth with a partner.
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