What essentials do I need for spring camping in Ontario?
April 11, 2012 6:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm going camping in Algonquin Park in the first week in May. It's going to be cold. What do I need to bring to stay warm?

I've gone camping before, so I already own a fair bit of gear, but previous camping trips have mostly been in July and August. I'm going to bring long underwear, warm socks, a polar fleece, etc but I want to make sure I'll be warm and happy on this trip, not cold and miserable. I'm thinking I'll either buy a bag liner or a warmer sleeping bag, but I'm not sure if there's other things I'm missing.

What essentials do I need for spring camping in Ontario?
posted by iona to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total)
For spring in Ontario, it's as important to be dry as warm. There may be rain, and the ground will certainly be wet and squishy.

Good groundsheet, tent fly, waterproof boots, gaiters to the knee, dwr-coated rain jacket (eg GoreTex), perhaps rain pants (esp if you don't have gaiters). Layering is essential still, so dry layer on the skin, insulating layer, water sheding layer on the outside, as per normal cold weather gear. Mid-day may get quite warm so be prepared for that.

I'd want a dependable stove and higher-calorie meals. A hot meal is the best after a cold day in the woods. One that we used to do was cheese, ham and onions melted into a pita wrap in the morning. A but guster in town, but great when hiking all day. Soups are great this time of year too.

Bugs will be starting in May. Heck, we were seeing the first mosquitoes near Perth a week ago.
posted by bonehead at 7:19 AM on April 11, 2012

Ground pad/thermal break. Its going to be cold, hella cold, at night. I would bring a winter weight bag too.
posted by saradarlin at 7:19 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Possibly obvious detail but in case someone reads this who doesn't know - remember to change your clothes when you sleep at night. Switching that sweaty tee-shirt for a clean one will keep you warmer and you'll feel less grungy in the morning.

You might even want to do this earlier if your evening activities involve mostly sitting around after a day of being active. Main point is don't sit still in damp clothing.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:11 AM on April 11, 2012

Oh, and slight derail but related cold-weather camping tip is to remember to stay hydrated. You don't think about it as much as when it's hot and you're roasting but it is just as easy to get dried out and end up with a headache when it's chilly. Easier, in fact, since the humidity tends to be lower.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:37 AM on April 11, 2012

One more thing: just in case you don't already know, Algonquin park is both deer tick country and beaver fever/Giardia lamblia country.

Deer ticks mean no exposed skin or loose cuffs: pants tucked in boots or gaiters.

Giardia can be resistant to chemical water sterilizers. RO filters or boiling are the best options to neutralize the cysts.
posted by bonehead at 8:43 AM on April 11, 2012

moisture management is key! i much much much prefer wool to polar fleece when it come to winter camping. wool will keep you warm even when you're wet. wool socks, wool long johns, wool toque, wool t-shirt, wool sweater.

and when i was camping last week, i really missed my thinner toque to wear at night. i was still cold (even with a winter weight bag and silk liner), until i put my (heavy, itchy) toque on.
posted by bellbellbell at 9:10 AM on April 11, 2012

As someone who has camped in 40 below, the most important thing about staying warm at night is a thermal barrier between you and the ground. A decent sleeping bag on top of that, and you should be fine.
posted by RedEmma at 11:18 AM on April 11, 2012

Are you canoeing or just camping? If the former, make sure you have good waterproof packs (along the lines of these). The only thing worse than wet clothes is a wet sleeping bag. Also, a good emergency firestarting solution is advisable, in case you need to build a fire in the rain (of which there could be a good deal in May). What part(s) of the park are you planning to be in?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:08 PM on April 11, 2012

nthing the thermal pad. As someone who has slept on bare earth in the middle of July (admittedly on an island in Boston Harbor) and woken up freezing, put something between you and the ground. Added bonus, it makes the sleeping surface softer.

Extra socks. It may be just me, but I hate the feeling of wet socks, even socks that I have sweated in. Dry socks always make my feet just feel warmer.

Oh and have at least some clothing/sleeping bags in a waterproof container. This goes double if you go canoeing (what I did in Algonquin), but just in case it rains on you when your camp is packed up.
posted by Hactar at 12:19 PM on April 11, 2012

You don't want cotton or any other moisture-absorbing material next to your skin, so leave the t-shirts and cotton socks at home.
When I do spring trips I wear polypropylene long underwear and socks covering me completely from my neck to my wrists and toes. It has to be a material that wicks moisture from your skin to your outer clothing layers. Then a layer of wool over that, including wool socks. Wool retains its insulating properties even when damp (or wet). Over that you want a wind- and water-blocking outer layer with enough venting to let some air circulate and keep you dry.
Also get a hat with a face net to keep the black flies away.
posted by rocket88 at 1:33 PM on April 11, 2012

thanks for all the great answers! it's a canoe trip, but most of the group gear (canoes, packs, tents, etc etc) is taken care of - I'm mostly wondering about what personal items (eg. clothing) I should bring. Thermal pad, warmer sleeping bag, and hat have all been added to the packing list, thanks!
posted by iona at 3:52 AM on April 13, 2012

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