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Glenn's Thoughts on Clothing, Packs, and Sleeping Bags

Choosing the Right Clothing

Comfort and safety during a camping trip can be greatly increased by choosing the right clothing. The "right" clothing does not have to be expensive high tech but as with everything else the more you expect out of your clothing the more it is going to cost. When advising youth (or their parents) on the appropriate clothing for your outing, keep in mind the activities that you are planning.

Choose your clothing to match:

  1. Weather
    1. Do you need warmth or cooling?

      Some materials are good for both, others are not. Cotton may be great when you are hot and sweaty but it provides little or no warmth. Wool on the other hand can be used both summer and winter.

    2. Does your clothing have to be water resistant, waterproof or windproof?

      Do not confuse water resistant with waterproof. You might not see the difference running from the house to a car but if you must live and function in the rain the difference can be uncomfortably obvious. Wind proofing is a key to staying warm.

  2. What you are going to do
    1. High or low activity

      If you are going to participate in high exertion activities for long periods (skiing, snowshoeing) then all your layers including the outer lay must breath (let your sweat out)

    2. High or low wear

      Some high tech fabrics do amazing things with water and heat but shred on contact with rocks and dirt.

    3. Safety nets / proximity to indoors
    4. If the going gets tough can you bail out! Or are you in for the duration? If it is the later then your clothing must be up to the extremes that you may encounter.

  3. How much you sweat

    Moisture is the enemy in cold weather. Make sure your clothing can deal with it properly.

Wear clothing in layers!

Do not rely on a single layer (heavy coat) to provide all your warmth. If you get too hot you can not easily remove it without risking a chill. Several lighter layers permit easier temperature control.

Know characteristics of fabrics.

Fabric Characteristic Good for- Poor for-
Cotton Absorbs moisture

High wear resistance

Shirts and pants during Summer months Socks

Damp or wet weather

Dangerous during Winter

Wool Wicks water away from the skin

Provides warmth when wet

Warmth in cool and cold weather for all clothing (socks to toque) Sensitive skin


Polypropylene Wicks water away


Underwear (can be worn 24 hours a day because it does not get wet), socks  
Fleece (PET) Wicks water away

Very warm

Mid layer upper and lower.  
Polyester Wind resistant, crease resistant, water resistant, snow resistant Mixed with nylon or cotton it makes good pants and shirts Flammable
Nylon Abrasion resistant


Light weight outerwear Flammable, doesn't breath
Acrylic Light and absorbs little water, dries quickly and stays relatively warm when wet. Sweaters , Scarves Flammable
Coated nylon and polyester Water proof but not breathable Outerwear for low activity, downpours High activity
Gore-tex and other laments Waterproof and breathable Outerwear for rain and snow, socks Downpours



Same questions as clothing - What are you going to do, where are you going to do it, and what is the weather going to be?

  • Nothing can beat a sturdy pair of leather hiking boots for three season camping.
  • Treat your boots with wax NOT compounds with silicon.

    A leather boot will dry faster on your foot. Wear wool socks to help your skin stay reasonably dry.

  • For winter I prefer to switch to a pair of wool lined boots (Sorel seems to have the corner on this type of boot but there are cheaper snowmobile boots that work just as well).
  • Running shoes give very little support and protection from rough ground and will never be clean again after a wet camp. Running shoes can even be more expensive than hiking boots.
  • Open toed sandals should NEVER be worn at camp.
  • Rubber boots can be worn at stationary camps during wet weather for the warmer seasons.



Pick the pack for the occasion

  • Day pack for one day outing
  • A good daypack has a waist strap and a chest strap.

  • Frame pack (internal or external) for weekend or longer backpacking
  • Internal frame packs are the most popular and easiest to adjust to your body shape and size.

    External frame packs are mostly found in very cheap packs (limited adjustment, poorly made) and very expensive, high load capacity packs, made for expeditions.

  • Equipment bag (duffel, hockey) for drive-in stationary camps
  • Easy to store in a tent and when the zipper runs the length of the bag, easy to find your gear.

Make sure the pack fits.

  • The weight must be shared between the shoulders and the hips.
  • The attachment point for the shoulder straps must be adjustable to match the length of the upper body. The padded waist strap must tighten (for some smaller youth this may be a problem). Do not get a pack that is too big.

Proper construction includes

  • Compression straps
  • Ability to move the pack away from your back
  • Chest strap
  • Wear resistant material such as cordura bottoms and heavy duty waterproof nylon bags
  • Padded waist strap
  • Adjustable shoulder strap attachment to allow for growth of the youth
  • Heavy-duty zippers and reinforced, double stitched stress points.

Sleeping Bags

If you intend to camp during the winter as well as the other seasons then you need 2 sleeping bags.


  • one 3 season bag rated 0 to -5, and one winter bag rated -25
  • or

  • two 3 season bags (one should be larger to permit one within the other for winter use)

Sleeping bags come in several shapes and are filled with several different types of materials.


Square Best for summer use and limited fall and winter Provides lots of room
Barrel Good fall and spring, limited winter use.

Warmer than square

Less constricting than mummy
Mummy Best for winter, too warm for summer Bag must turn with you.


Down This is the ultimate filling when it comes to weight to insulating quality (unless you are allergic to it). It is also the most expensive, hardest to maintain and looses it insulating qualities when wet. Highly compressible into very small package.
Synthetics Many are approaching down in weight to warmth. They are easier to maintain and respond well to cleaning. Compresses well.

What to look for in cold weather bags

  • Manufacture's rating of -5 to -25 (do not take the sales person's word unless you are confident they know what they are talking about)
  • Zipper baffles
  • Hood with draw string
  • Tapered shape (barrel or mummy)
  • Baffling between inner and outer layer (no stitch-through)