Crossing Algonquin 2018 Winter – part 1
Wonder what you need to Algonquin in winter? Here’s a quick rundown – By Buck Miller
When I started planning Crossing Algonquin 2018 to say there were a few things to figure out would be large understatement. Having enough gear already in my garage to outfit a team of six on a two week canoe trip, one would think “what more could you possibly need!?” The truth is, lots! Crossing Algonquin on foot, in winter completely unsupported means some winter specific gear. My top priority when traveling overland in winter is how to stay dry as possible when moving. Moisture can make an otherwise easy trek very uncomfortable, quickly. We headed into Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville to pick up some gear last month and test it out before our trip. Here’s what we found.
Three friends, crossing Algonquin Park on snowshoes and skis in the dead of winter, 2018. The interior of Algonquin is one of the most beautiful and remote places in Eastern Central Canada and is larger than the province of PEI. The team is setting out to highlight this incredible park and promote its backcountry as a place to explore, enjoy and further protect. Eric Batty is a Arborist, educator of arboriculture, athlete, adventurer and photographer. Ryan Atkins is a professional athlete with 5 world championship titles as Worlds Toughest Mudder, and Spartan world championship runner up. Buck Miller works in the camping world, is a former professional cyclist and a seasoned traveller by land and water. Here is where you can follow them.
Here’s the route folks! There will be some on-the-fly changes depending on a few things, like ice and slush conditions and if we’re ahead or behind schedule. Have any questions? Map and route choices can be forever debated. We chose this route as it gave us the least amount of time on rivers and creeks, which can be traveled on, but usually have less predictable ice. Furthermore, as we near Cedar Lake (at Brent, in the north) The Petawawa and Nipissing Rivers come in close together, so we had to pick a route which kept us off those pieces of water well known for their fast and fun whitewater canoeing. Let us know what you think, and if you’ve got a more interactive or detailed mapping program we’d love to hear about it! The red line is 156km long.
We’re going to be hauling 80 to 100lbs of gear each on three, ten foot freight toboggans over hills, through valleys and across lakes, rivers and swamps. Burning 6-8000 calories a day. If we were to go so slow that we wouldn’t sweat, we’d need a month to finish the 160km and that’s not an option for most people.
Next to skin, we’re going straight to Merino wool. Smartwool 1/4 zip shirt and matching long johns are a top quality, long lasting base layer that can be worn right against your body. It’s soft, warm when wet and naturally helps keep any smells you may ‘acquire’ after day 5 of not showering, to a minimum. For those who can’t handle the itch of pure merino, there’s blends available like the Kombi Body 2. Our team will have both brands used in some combination when we cross Algonquin.
This is a hotly debated topic among winter trekkers. Some people prefer a vapor barrier on their foot, keeping the moisture against the skin, and the boot dry; some people prefer to bulk up with socks, and dry their boots each night. If I’m hot-tenting, I prefer to wear a medium to thick synthetic/merino blend sock like the Smartwool PHD Nordic that keeps friction down and dries quickly at night. I’ve used these socks for a week straight substituting one other pair and after day 7, they were still like new (after a good washing)!
The Merrell Chameleon Thermo 8 winter boot is a great choice. It’s a high-end, technical boot made for long days in snowshoes. There’s a D-ring at the bottom of the laces to catch the clip on your gators. These boots are light, warm and won’t produce hotspots on your feet after hours of use. For the duck-footed adventurers out there, the Keen Summit Country boot is king. Waterproof and super wide paired with a tall, wide top make these a great boot for the larger trekkers or those who love to double up on socks.
Tubbs Mountaineer Snowshoes
Our team chose the Tubbs Mountaineers as our go-to footwear. They’ve got gnarly crampons to help dig in to the hard ice, and a very convenient binding system that lets us get in and out in a hurry. The hinged binding also lets your returning foot feel free of resistance, or weight of the snowshoe when bringing that back foot forward again and again, thus, cutting down on fatigue and giving your well worked hip flexors a break.
Finding the right gear for your next winter adventure can be a series of trials and errors. I’ve tested everything I’ve mentioned above and can confidently say that these couple of products will make your next trip more enjoyable and they’ll last. Weather you’re going on your first winter camping trip, or heading for the hills on a week long snowshoe tour, the folks at AO will steer you right and offer products they can stand behind.
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I’m a retired pro road cyclist turned carpenter. For 10 years I raced across Europe, North America and Asia with various teams. Ted and I became friends from our time training in Tucson and my one year stint on a US based team out of Connecticut. After racing I moved back up north. I was born in Smooth Rock Falls and lived in Moosonee for 5 years where my wife and started our family. My time on the bike and my love for this region inspired the James Bay Descent and bike racing is ultimately is what brought this team together.