Gearing up for winter canoeing

An illustrated guide (which most people won’t find useful)

I started canoeing year-round nearly 20 years ago. A bunch of us were sitting around the kitchen table at a friend’s apartment when somebody said, “Curt and some of the guys down at Little Kings Lounge have started canoeing in the winter. Isn’t that crazy?”

I immediately excused myself, drove downtown to Little Kings Lounge and told Curt to deal me in.

Winter canoe camping is a high-risk pursuit that requires specialized equipment. And a spare ass to replace the one you’ll freeze off if you forget something.

Let’s start with the basic clothing.

Your basic daywear, for when you're on the water. Although it's not shown here, a life jacket is your most important piece of equipment.

Your basic daywear, for when you’re on the water. Although it’s not shown here, a life jacket is your most important piece of equipment.

 

Once at camp, you'll want to get out of your clammy  wetsuit and into something dry. The key is wool under-layers and insulating layers and wind-stopping nylon outer clothing. The down jacket, military sweater and pants are from Glen's Surplus and Goodwill.

Once at camp, you’ll want to get out of your clammy wetsuit and into something dry. The key is merino wool under-layers, wool and down insulating layers and wind-stopping nylon outer clothing. The down jacket, military sweater and pants are from Glen’s Surplus and Goodwill.

 

For the sake of comparison — complete summer canoeing wardrobe. On remote stretches of the river, the shorts are optional.

For the sake of comparison — complete summer canoeing wardrobe. On remote stretches of the river, the shorts are optional.

 

Nothing like modeling extreme winter clothing on a hot August day.

Nothing like modeling extreme winter clothing on a hot August day.

 

dip

The only one thing to do after that!

 

Accessorizing for winter canoeing.

 

Yes, you do need sun screen in the winter. And sunglasses for glare, and goggles to protect your eyes while paddling through snow. You won't need mosquito repellant, though.

Yes, you do need sun screen in the winter. And sunglasses for glare, and goggles to protect your eyes while paddling through snowstorms. You won’t need mosquito repellant, though.

 

It helps to have a bomb-proof tent for winter camping.

 

A good winter tent has two doors. That way, if snow drifts over one end, you can get out the other.

A good winter tent has two doors. That way, if snow drifts over one end, you can get out the other. This is 22-year-old a Moss Olympic tent. It’s no longer made, but the company still honors the lifetime guarantee.

 

With the proper bedding, you can stay warmer than you do at home. Until you have to get up to pee.

I use a triple bag system. The Thermarest mattress goes inside the green outer bag. Then I get inside the fleece liner and winter bag and toss a couple heat packs in the footbox.

I use a triple bag system. The orange Thermarest mattress goes inside the green outer bag. Then I get inside the fleece liner and winter bag and toss a couple heat packs in the footbox.

 

The all-important chemical heat packs. Beware of cheap imitations or outdated ones. My brand of choice is Grabber Mycoal.

The all-important chemical heat packs. Beware of cheap imitations or outdated ones. My brand of choice is Grabber Mycoal.

 

The most important thing you can bring on a winter canoe trip is attitude. Unless you have the right mindset, you’re not going to enjoy yourself.

 

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