Sub-Freezing Paddle Camping Suggestions?

I have been meaning to ask this question for a while. I do a fair amount of canoe / kayak camping in the sub-freezing weather. I had previously done a lot of backpacking in such conditions but paddling, being a wet sport, brings other challenges.

For instance…your dry suit freezes up at night as do your booties and gloves, etc. Makes getting dressed in the morning unpleasant to say the least.

I have started taking my dry suit in my tent with me but still doesn’t really stop it from freezing. I have thought about pouring hot water in the morning into my booties and neoprene gloves/mitts. Also have thought about moving away from neoprene gloves and to some sort of a dry glove or mitten. This would seem more possible for canoe camping than for kayaking where getting your hands wet seems inevetible.

Curious to hear your thoughts.



Liberal use of hand warmers

Dry suits and gloves in cold weather

– Last Updated: Oct-23-10 10:27 AM EST –

Matt, this what I do in cold weather camping with my dry suit and gloves. I know you tend to paddle hard and you'll work up a good sweat, Gore Tex breathes, but it's not perfect and I'll still get a good bit of moisture on the inside of my dry suit. Once at camp, I'll turn the dry suit inside out and hang up to dry.

With gloves, I usually bring two sets of Glacier gloves and multiple sets of poly pro and silk hand liners. In a hard paddle, my hands will sweat, and th liners will get saturated but stay warm. During a break from paddling, I'll change liners and sometimes the gloves as well. Again, once at camp, I'll invert the gloves and hang up to dry.

I keep a mesh bag with fresh hand liners in the sleeping bag with me. Gloves and dry suit are in tent.

Cold weather camping
I think you mentioned your own solution at the end of your question Matt. Kayaking is a wet sport, but in a canoe you can stay perfectly dry if you are careful and stay away from rock bashing whitewater. Everything you’ve learned about winter backpacking would apply to canoe camping. Someone else will have to give advice on dealing with frozen clothes as a result of kayak winter camping. Sounds miserable to me.

Carry extra camp towels
Dry everything as much as possible before turning in. If thoroughly dried your drysuit can be put between your sleeping bag and pad to keep it warm…er. I always carry chemical hand warmers for cold feet at night and I have often thought about putting one in each boot overnight but haven’t tried it yet. I usually carry a heavier ground cloth for winter and if available pile leaves on the ground before setting my tent. Also the poly glove liners are light so it’s easy to carry dry spares to lessent the initial shock and help keep the moisture away from your skin.



Hot tent
I am doing exactly the same as you this winter. We do have camping available in Maine on the ocean. We will be going to Beal Island.

Add the thought of cold all night and I would stay home!

We are taking an eight by eleven canvas tent and woodstove…both by Snowtrekker. No reason not to be comfy…but I admit thats a big investment just for occasional trips.

You can if your tent area is big enough look into a Black Cat catalytic heater. They are at Wal Mart(less than sixty bucks). I would not sleep with one on but it should warm up your tent for drying.

We did a 15 day canoe camping
trip on the Noatak river in the artic circle, and at night we would put all our day wear between our sleeping bags and the floor tent, and it worked like a charm.

It takes a bit of rearranging the stuff but once you get yourself “nested” it works out pretty good.

Jack L

Thats a pretty dry environment up there
drying your clothes using your body heat is problematic in the winter. You will have a damp sleeping bag…and wet things lose heat 27 times faster than dry things.

It is possible to dry clothes below freezing very well but takes a day in the sun. Works here at minus 30…the sun works remarkably well and fools the thermometer too.

I thought you were talking about subfreezing camping…subfreezing only at night or in the day too?

BTW tent floor permeability ratings are getting weaker and weaker. I use minicell workshop flooring under me and my thermarest for more insulation on snow. I dont want dampness anywhere near me.

I use

– Last Updated: Oct-23-10 6:10 PM EST –

an old-style canvas umbrella tent and a catalytic heater rated for indoor use. You can probably find such a tent on Ebay for a reasonable price. They're heavy and not so popular anymore but are great in cold weather if you don't have to back pack them. They "breath" better than nylon tents and you'll get a lot less frost build-up inside the tent with canvas. That's particularly important if you use propane to heat rather than wood.
I generally end up using 2 standard tanks of propane/night, though it might be nicer to carry a five or ten pound tank and an adapter hose. I also bring a short length of dryer exhaust tubing that I use to bring a bit of fresh air to the heater just to be extra safe with respect to possible CO2 build-up should the heater not run as cleanly as advertised.

My friend John has an Empire canvas tent and a collapsible wood stove. His is, I think, much the better rig but much pricier also. Personally, I think I'd have to do quite a lot of winter camping to justify the expense. Sure is nice to be able to cook and have a pot of hot coffee permanently on hand with that wood stove though...

Both are just plain cozy in winter but would be too bulky to carry in a kayak or, for that matter, either of my solo canoes. A 16' NovaCraft Prospector does the job nicely. I expect any tandem you can solo with reasonable ease would do.

No worries about clothes freezing too badly with either rig, assuming you keep the heaters fired up. Even if you choose to rely on your bag for warmth and let the tent go cold during the wee hours to save fuel its easy to thaw stuff in the morning before packing up for the day.

Hot water …
Use for getting in wetsuit when camping in the winter. I keep hot water in a large thermos bottle. Easy to do when car camping, would be a pain when traveling by boat, too much energy to heat the water and takes up too much space.

We surf once a year at a spot on the California coast where it gets below freezing every night. Every morning when I do that I wonder how the Aluets and Inuits feel climbing into their wet frozen stuff. Good news is salt water does not freeze until really cold.

Not familiar with all winter camping gear but my Snowtrekker stove fits neatly in a solo canoe.The tent is of course bulkier than a summer tent but again its the size of a medium duffel bag.

Watch E bay…my stove and tent cost six hundred total.

I laugh at wetting stuff with hot water. No doubt it works in some environments that go above freezing as the day progresses…but its folly to try it in Maine. Nothing like actually sitting on something and sticking to it…remember tongue on pole?

You need a new boat with thick foam
throughout the hull. You will arrive at your campsite toasty warm.

This all depends on where you go and what you have available to you but we used to string a clothesline under a tarp and this was all under a fire ring. Provided the clothes line is high enough so that the clothes get the benefit of the warm air and not the damaging flames - you can dry your clothes in the winter.

drying a dry suit
I am assuming salt water here. Rinse the dry salt crust off the drysuit with “fresh” salt water (lower concentration of salt in it). Towel off your drysuit - I like an Aquis towel - they are a microfiber towel. Wear it until dry - this is much easier than hanging it dry.

Once dry, just fold it up and put it in the tent with you.

My favorite warming trick for cold weather paddling is to use nalgene bottles filled with hot water. These will provide lots of heat in the bottom of your sleeping bag or holding like a hot water bottle around a campfire.

Florida or Belize.