Submitted by Jared Linkhart
When the weather turns cold and the days shorten up, many people store the rafts and prepare for other forms of recreation. For some us, the winter season opens up new opportunities for different trips we don’t have access to.
Thanks to our temperate climate influenced by the beautiful Pacific Ocean, rainfall provides us with rising rivers in the coast and Cascade mountains. While sometimes the temperature can be quite frigid, many times rain blesses us with 50 degree weather and partly cloudy skies.
One of my favorite types of trips are overnight trips on classic runs like the Wild and Scenic Rogue, or lower Deschutes. These are typically 3 day trips in the winter, with complications of camp competition and permits no longer an issue. The whitewater can significantly change due to higher winter levels, and and it can be easier to make your miles to camp.
I like to share ideas (and learn from others) tips and tricks with gear and packing for winter trips, so I’d like to share some of how I pack for winter trips.
Personal gear I wear- I wear a drysuit with a fleece liner, wool socks, neoprene shoes, I keep warm neoprene gloves handy, and some sort of a hat for under my helmet. I have short, thinning hair, so keeping my scalp warm is key.
Dry bags- I started upgrading my roll-top dry bags to zippered duffels that are truly watertight. There are more than one options for truly sealed bags, I just like the zippered style. I take three bags, one for my sleeping bag and pillow, one for my tent, and one for my clothes. Tents collect any moisture, so especially in the rain, your tent will be at least a little damp when you roll it up after the first night. If you are forced to stuff this in with your dry sleeping bag, it is no longer dry. The same for clothes, and this can get wet from the weather as well. I also keep a thin cloth zippered duffel inside my clothes bag, and I stick my wet/dirty clothes I don’t plan to wear again in there to protect my clean clothes.
When the weather really gets wet, and the rain just won’t let up, I bring a free standing tri-awning that my 4 person tent will completely fit under. It takes up space and adds weight to my boat, but I am usually solo in a large raft so it is worth the luxury. I will set it up first, wait about 30 minutes for the saturated ground to dry, then I will set my tent up under it. I also keep a 16X16 tarp made of tent material that in some cases I could set up over my tent instead or over the kitchen area.
I like to run a slightly large tent for a single occupant so I have room to store my drysuit inside with me to keep it dry. Some of my friends will bring different styles of the Buddy heaters to dry out gear and warm up in the tent when it is cold and wet, and I am considering getting a small model to take next time.
I don’t really pack my boat much differently, other than I normally carry less stuff than when all 4 of my family go. It is easier to balance the load, and I have room for firewood, a real treat in the winter. I did learn this month that some brands of wash station pump hoses get very stiff in cold weather, so I successfully switched all of my hoses to 12 mm ID medical tubing that stays flexible in the cold. The idea came from another friend’s wash station that had similar soft hose.
So, what does everyone else do to stay warm and dry in the winter months? I love to learn, and I bet our great members have more wisdom to pass on!