Clothing is the one area where everyone has his own preferences. There is a general clothing list issued to everyone at the start of every trip, but the final decision on what clothing is taken rests with the individual -- provided it (including sleeping bag) can fit into two roll-top waterproof stuff sacks that, in turn, are put into larger canoe packs.
As a rule, we normally avoid cotton (except for T-shirts, bandanas, and underwear). For quick drying, nothing beats the synthetics such as polypropylene or pile. Wool is a good second choice, but most people don't find it as comfortable as pile, plus it is much bulkier. We tend to layer our clothes rather than using one heavy layer (like a thick wool sweater). This allows us greater flexibility in adjusting to changing conditions.
In addition to rain gear we also take wind gear, which is required with pile clothing because strong winds easily cut through woven pile. A thin shell of nylon works wonders to trap body heat when needed.
One item three of our paddlers are taking for the first time is a Kokatat Drysuit. This is a very specialized and technical garment made of heavy duty Gore-Tex. (http://www.kokatat.com/drysuits.htm
.) The other three are taking different Kokatat products -- an anorak and pants that are almost completely waterproof. Because we will be on the sub-arctic ocean for most of this trip (the water temperature will not rise much about 5°C) the Drysuits suits will protect us for at least 30 minutes if we end up in the water. These are made of the Gore-Tex fabric Immersion Technology, that are breathable and waterproof. We are also taking along some Kokatat PFDs as well. They are specially cut for paddlers with maximum shoulder room, extra pockets and reflective patches on the shoulders.
Andrew Macdonald wearing a Woods Don't Bug Me jacket with a trout he has just landed on the Eileen River in July 1995 near the headwaters of the Thelon River in central Nunavut. (Photo - Michael Peake)
For sleeping, we take usually the Northern Lite 900 bags from Woods
. Made of Thinsulate Liteloft, these bags pack down well and have proven themselves on those trips when nighttime temperatures dip close to freezing. On this trip we are also testing the Woods Inferno down bags. With the improvements made in waterproof stuff sacks, the rule of using only synthetic bags for canoeing is not really valid anymore.
Underneath the bags we use Therm-a-Rest pads. Probably the greatest invention for canoeing since the paddle, these beauties smooth out some of the roughest ground and help bone-weary, dog-tired paddlers get a sound sleep on the hardest or coldest surface.
Shoes. Now this is a hard decision. After 25 years, we are yet to find the perfect canoeing shoe/boot. The minimum we require is a quick-drying outer layer and preferably without an inner lining, either a quarter or half shank, and a Vibram® or vibram-like sole,
The ultimate test for any "outdoor" shoe is tracking upstream. Here, the shoe needs to survive a week to ten days of constant immersion, bending and twisting over boulders and river rocks, and immunity to the acids in peat bogs. Nothing has made the cut yet. With every shoe we have tried, the tread dissolves, the shanks break, the cambrelle lining holds too much water, or the sides blow out. Boots, however, are another story. Mike Peake swears by a pair of L.L. Bean's insulated Maine Hunting Shoe --b oots that have a Vibram sole attached instead of the regular crepe. He's been wearing the same pair for a record-breaking 5 trips. Hi-Tec has created a few shoes over the years that could withstand everything we went through for a single trip, but they changed models so often that we could never be sure if we find same shoes two or three years in a row. Too bad.
Finally, to keep tenting partners honest, everything -- clothing bag, tent and sleeping mats -- must fit into a single one large Woods Mason Canoe Pack -- they can't ask another canoe to carry some of their stuff. This can be a difficult and frustrating task because it requires some skill and a lot of patience to not only get everything in and closed up, it must also fit in the canoe. David Peake, the official Quartermaster of the HACC (and Head Compression Engineer) has been known to compact some bulky items (like the notorious Himalayan Hotel) more tightly that they emerge from the factory. Any harder and he'd make diamonds.
Here is this trip's standard personal clothing and equipment list:
Wool Socks (4 prs)
Nylon Wind Pants
Wind Gear/ Anorak
Polypro Top & Bottom
T Shirt (2)
Gloves 2 pair
Cup, Bowl & Spoon
Pad & Pen
Woods Don't Bug Me Jacket