One of the most frequent questions I get asked about traveling somewhere is “what kind of clothes to bring”. Hopefully I can help shed some light on the problems created by being under prepared. Having the proper layers is essential. This allows you to maintain comfort throughout the varied temperatures of the day. Being a guide in the Bulkley canyon we only see the sun a few times out of the entire day. The mornings in mid-late September are usually negative temperatures and driving the boat makes that chill even worse. Whereas the afternoons can still be 10-15 degrees and feels hotter in direct sun. Thus being prepared is vital to being comfortable throughout the day.
The easiest way to begin selecting what layers need to make it into your bag to breakdown the layers into categories. We have puffy jackets, sweaters, mid layers, & base layers. I really keep my mid/base layers the same daily. This is usually just a athletic t-shirt which is moisture wicking and very breathable. On top of that is a hooded sun shirt which is also breathable and quick drying. I love the hood because it keeps the chill off the neck in the morning and keeps you protected and comfortable in the high sun of the afternoons. Next up is the sweater, there are a few kinds of them. We have wool which is very warm even when wet. There are also the common better sweater blends by companies like Arcteryx and Patagonia. Then there’s the plain cotton hoodie. Which are more comfort rather than any real other attribute. And the synthetic felt type which are cozy and warm. On very cold mornings I am always wearing a tight fitting wool sweater. This is a magical insulator underneath a puffy jacket for the brisk mornings. In the boat I’m also bringing a spare better sweater and a cotton hoodie to change in to in the afternoon when I want this as my outer layer.
Now we have the puffy jacket. These are easily broken down in to two categories, down and synthetic insulation. While both do a great job of keeping you warm both have very different ways of doing it effectively. Down has a very efficient insulation to fill ratio. But when wet down loses a lot of its ability to maintain heat. It is also less breathable than it’s counter part making it difficult to be my choice when I know I’m going to be physically exerting. Synthetic insulation is very good at maintaining breathability while keeping you warm at the same time. Becoming very popular in the mountaineering aspect because of its ability to regulate its internal temperature. This means while hiking up and down the river bank you’re less likely to become that sweaty overheating mess you become when wearing a down jacket. The synthetic insulation also dries quick so after dunking your arms to release that big fish you don’t have to swap your puffy out for a dry one. No need to worry about becoming cold with the wet sleeves either. This insulation maintains it warming properties even when soaked. There’s is a multitude of puffy style jackets on the market right now as their popularity continues to grow. You can find them from super lightweight versions to ones designed for the harshest conditions you could imagine encountering. Personally on every trip I always bring a high warmth rated down one as an early morning or emergency jacket. Along with that is a lightweight synthetic for the times I’ll be hiking and a warm AR (all round) synthetic for my basic all the time wearing. This ensures I’m ready for anything from negative temperatures to a typical late summer/ fall time afternoon.
I always recommend the layering properly from the inside out and having extras with you on a daily basis. Falling into the river could end your day early if you only have the stuff you’re wearing and some not near as quality “back ups” in your bag. A high quality rain jacket is in my opinion the most important layer to have with you everyday. Your other layers may be able to perform well when wet but staying dry will allow them to be as effective as possible. A good Gore-Tex jacket will be breathable and water proof. Big enough to fit your layers underneath comfortably but packable enough to roll up and toss into your bag when its not in use. A good jacket paired with the proper layering will have you telling the unprepared people that there really is no such thing as bad weather. Just bad gear.