“There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear and bad attitudes”.
This statement is something I have learned to live by during my decade long career in the outdoor industry. Whether it has been days of rain or endless sunshine, the right gear has allowed me to stay comfortable when the conditions don’t want to co-operate and has made sure I can make the most of those blue bird days on the water.
The ideal outdoor kit can take years to perfect however and I have certainly spent my share of time missing out on comfort and enjoyment that was sitting right there in front of me. Unlike outdoor professionals, most folks only have a handful of wilderness experiences each year (if that) and these few act as a much-needed break from the hustle of modern city life. Because of this, many people won’t have the time to test gear and figure out what works best, nor should they waste any time during their trip not enjoying themselves to the fullest.
With this in mind and with summer fast approaching it’s important to start looking through what gear you have and sorting out what is still needed. Here are some of the key things I make sure I have in my kit every time I head for the woods.
None of us want to think about it, but the reality is, rain is going to happen. For those of us who are prepared for this truth, the physical weather will have little effect on our experiences. To ensure this is the case, proper rain gear makes up the backbone of any good outdoor set-up. Personally, I use the Arc’teryx Beta AR – a great all around jacket that will keep you dry all day. The key here for a good jacket is multi-layer Goretex fabric. You don’t necessarily need to go out and break the bank as there are a range of great jackets from companies like Patagonia and Mountain Hardware, but if there is one spot to put your money when it comes to outdoor gear, a high quality waterproof-breathable jacket would be the place.
One of the common mistakes made by early outdoor adventurers is purchasing gear that is described as “multi-use”. This gear however is often only mediocre at both jobs it is trying to complete. Because of this, many experienced outdoor guides will choose to carry slightly more weight while ensuring they have high quality gear that is made specifically for the job. During the day, this means water specific clothing like the MEC Mica Pant and the Simms Guide LS shirt. Light-weight long-sleeve fabrics like these help keep you from getting scratched on the portage trail, keep the bugs off, and assists in avoiding sun burns. Out of your day gear however the most important piece may be your footwear. Carrying you through muddy portages, wading through rapids, and on your feet all day they must be durable, comfortable, quick-drying, and have excellent traction in wet conditions. An old pair of running shoes can certainly do the trick, however if you’re looking for something new, a well tested and highly recommended product is the 5.10 Water Tennie.
Other day gear items in my kit:
– Smartwool Merino t-shirt
– Patagonia Baggie shorts
– Darn Tough merino wool socks
– Lightweight Smartwool Merino base-layer top and bottom
– Polarized sunglasses
In camp, you get the chance to focus more on comfort then precision gear. Some things to avoid however will always be items that are made of cotton. Jeans, sweat pants, and cotton t-shirts are heavy, slow drying, and pack poorly. Instead, finding comfortable outdoor specific clothing is your best bet. Items like the Wintergreen Guide Pant make great on-site pants as they are durable, light-weight, quick-drying and comfortable. Similarly shirts and base layers made of Merino wool have many of the same qualities. Footwear should have a good supportive sole and ideally fully cover the feet (to avoid sparks around the fire and stubbed toes). A good fleece sweater like the Patagonia Better Sweater helps keep you warm around the fire on those cool August nights. Like the rain, one thing we can’t avoid are our good friends the blackfly and the mosquito. For these flying pests, a good bug jacket like The Original Bug Shirt will out perform bug spray every time helping you make the most of watching the Northern Lights without having to swat your way though the evening.
Other camp gear in my kit:
– Petzl Reactik + Headlamp
– MEC Camp Together Senate Seat
– Leathermen Rebar Multi-tool
For everyone, your exact kit may change as you spend more time exploring. For me, this gear has been highly functional everywhere from the boreal forest in Northern Ontario to the mountains of Patagonia. Because of this, it should hopefully work as a good starting point for most people to build their personalized preferences from. And remember, beyond the gear, enjoying yourself in the wilderness is about attitude. We immerses ourselves in these spaces so we can know the beauty of the natural world in all its forms, and every once in awhile this may just include a little rain.