School has started, there's a chill in the morning air, and some of you I am sure are thinking about putting your boats away. This however would be a HUGE mistake; fall paddling can offer some of the best paddling. The big crowds are gone, but more importantly so are all those pesky bugs! Your biggest concern will be how to keep warm and comfortable through the dropping fall temperatures.
One of the most important principles for cold water paddling is to dress for immersion. We have two best friends when it comes to staying warm: wetsuits and drysuits.
Wetsuits work by trapping a small amount of water between your body and the suit. In addition to the thickness of the suit, your body heat warms up the water and helps insulate you. The fit of the suit is extremely important in this respect. When too large, the suit will allow water to flow through, not retaining water, and not allowing you to warm it up. Your wetsuit should be snug while not restricting your movements.
While wetsuits excel when in the water, you will want to consider supplementing your suit with a paddling jacket to protect against wind and rain while you are paddling.
Wetsuits are the more economical option, and their durability is certainly an asset. Even with a small hole or tear in your suit it will still be very effective at keeping you warm.
Drysuits excel in and out of the water, offering superior protection from the elements while paddling and reducing cold shock if you do actually go for a swim. Many paddlers will opt to wear their drysuit on a cool rainy day even though water temps do not actually call for immersion wear because they know they will be more comfortable.
As the name suggests this suit will keep you dry, it does not however insulate you from the cold water. Under your drysuit you need to add appropriate layers for the water temps. Drysuits also tend to be easier to put on, especially if your wetsuit didn't have time to dry out overnight.
If you want to paddle all year round, a drysuit is your best solution.
Given the right skills and clothing system you'll be able to paddle year round – assuming you're willing to search out open water. If you're not sure what you should be wearing, we encourage you to visit us and we can help you put together a cold weather clothing system that will keep you warm and paddling for as far into the 'off' season as you would like!
"...And then we sang at it until it went away"
So finishes the story of one proud--and lucky--paddler who found his group's campsite being raided by a bear. Looking to intimidate the animal, he and fellow paddlers stayed in a pack and sang "The Age of Aquarius" at the top of their voices until it moved on. No word on whether it was the volume or caliber of their singing that encouraged the bear to leave.
When you venture into the wilderness, you have to be prepared to find it a bit... well, wild. Encountering an animal or two when hiking or camping is usually no great issue for most wanderers, and can be the stuff of great photos and stories. However, certain types of animals can spell trouble, and outdoors enthusiasts should always proceed with caution and safety measures in place when away from civilization.
Most of us have heard the basics of bear safety before - pack out all garbage, clean up any food or other aromatic products, and keep food stored safely away from tents and off the ground. These are all important safety measures that should not be overlooked. In addition, as our savvy--if musically questionable--paddlers found, often noise is enough to keep bears at bay.
There are two main ways to use noise to deter an unwanted furry visitor: first, continuous noise can help remove bears from your path when you're out walking in the wilderness. Something as simple as a bell worn on your body can warn animals you are coming far before you see them. Most animals prefer not to come into contact with human beings, and will attempt to stay out of the way if they hear you coming. If this level of noise is insufficient or ineffective you can use a loud noise item (like a bear banger) to produce a higher decibel of sound and alert the animal to your presence.
Smokey the Bear underwent a superhero-worthy reboot recently, with the new (tongue in cheek?) tag-line "Get Your Smokey On," so it feels like the perfect time to brush up with a refresher on how to stay safe around Smokey's wild, less anthropomorphic kin. Remember: bear attacks are rare, but the majority of attacks that do occur are defensive, and are a result of the animal being startled. Always make sure you announce your presence in the backcountry with lots of noise, and clean and pack away all food safely to minimize your site's interest. Seeing wildlife in its natural habitat is one of the most fulfilling aspects of getting away, but safety should always come first. You don't want to have to rely on a half-recalled version of "Sweet Caroline" to get you out of a jam.
Photo via ground.zero on Flickr
We get asked for advice A LOT! At this time of year snowshoeing is a pretty hot topic, so we asked our Thunder Bay store manager (and mother of two young snowshoers), to answer one of our most common questions:
There are a lot of factors you could consider, but for me the answer is simple, “as soon as they are independently walking and running!” Both of my boys were 'snowshoeing' at about 2 years old. I use air quotes, only because at this age these excursions were not what I recognized as snowshoeing. Our first trips were short, simple trips that didn't take us far from home. In fact, we were in our own back yard, and our adventures often took us just down the back lanes of our neighbourhood. The most important thing at this stage was for them to have fun! The mounds of snow at the end of the unploughed lane-ways turned out to be the most exciting parts of our adventures and soon the boys would be sliding down these mini-mountains using their snowshoes as tiny toboggans.
While we didn't cover much distance, spontaneous mountaineering up snow banks was more fun than just trekking though the back lane. Plus, it keeps the sense of adventure fresh while developing essential snowshoeing skills. Unplanned adventures can be so much fun, they won’t even know they’re learning!
From there our outings got a little bit longer: visits to the tree farm, Mission Marsh Conservation Area, never anywhere too far. Seeing as our outings were still fairly short-lived, it didn't make sense to drive for longer than we would actually play.
I try not to have too many rules as they become hard to remember for little ones. Our big one: stay within sight of mommy. This let them roam off the beaten path – but not too far.
I found very quickly that staying on the trail was pretty boring; there was so much to see just off the trail and they loved looking at the tracks that they made! At times they just wanted to see a cool ice formation, or sometimes we would follow a set of animal tracks in the snow just to see where they led. We never went very far from the path, but to a 2-year-old we were great explorers! These first excursions were short, maybe a kilometer if we were lucky, but each time we would go a little further.
My boys will soon be eating me out of house and home. They are always hungry, and in the cold we need even more fuel to stay warm. I always pack granola bars, and high-calorie snacks like cheese or gorp. If it's really cold and we think we will be out for a while I stash some of these inside internal jacket pockets. Insulated lunch kits also help to keep them from freezing. Don't forget water. My kids will eat snow before they ask for water (Bonus tip: teach them when it is ok to eat snow, and what kind is safe to eat). I often pack warm water to help it last a little longer before it starts to freeze, keeping water in liquid state in the winter is its own conversation!
As the boys get older and our trips become longer, a few things have helped us along the way. By being spontaneous, adventurous, and nutritious, snowshoeing is becoming one of our favourite winter activities. With all this in mind, my final piece of advice is to be adaptable. Weather and attitudes can change quickly, so be prepared to change with them. And when things get tough, a cup of hot chocolate can be the best motivator; my kids never let me forget the marshmallows.
We are so glad to have spent the last decade as a part of the Thunder Bay community! To show our appreciation, we're serving up some cake, BBQ, and the chance to joins us for a paddle (because nothing makes us want to get out on the water more than a belly full of buttercream!)
There will be canoes, kayaks and Stand Up Paddleboards to try paddling, or you are welcome to bring your own boat. Don't feel like getting out on the water? Just bring your appetite...everyone is welcome!
Join Wilderness Supply for our annual camping tent sale and expo at McLean's Athletic field on Lagimodiere!
Find your perfect backcountry home with over 50 tents set up from
and more! Get great discounts on brand new tents just in time for summer camping, or come by early to claim one of our expo demo models at an even deeper discount. It's our best tent prices of the year, at the perfect time of year to use them!
Friday, May 31st from 12:00-7:00 (2013)
Saturday, June 1st from 10:00-4:00 (2013)
Come to our Speers Road store to check out great in-store discounts on clothing and gear, or head directly to our expo location to see what tents are available.