hiker atop lookout

7 tips for cool-weather adventuring

For many, autumn is the ideal season for outdoor fun. But as the temperatures start to drop, we want to make sure our hikers and campers stay safe while exploring our parks.

We chatted with our friends at SAIL to gather some top tips for staying warm and dry during your fall forays.

1. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst

Odds are, you’ve got a refreshing day of outdoor adventure in store, but wise adventurers are prepared in case things don’t go according to plan.

Choose trails suitable to your level of experience (if you’re not sure, park staff are happy to offer advice).

gate staff showing map to hikers

Let friends or family know where you are going, what your route will be, and when you will check in after your adventure. If you’re day hiking, make sure you’ve got plenty of time to finish the trail before dark.

Carry an appropriate emergency kit for your planned excursion. This could include:

  • First Aid kit
  • survival kit (e.g., knife, firestarter, water purification tablets, emergency blanket, paracord)
  • headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries
  • navigation gear (e.g., map and compass, GPS, navigation app on your phone)
  • emergency locator beacon / satellite communicator (Spot or Garmin Inreach devices work via satellite so you can communicate when you are out of cell reception. If you get in trouble, hit the SOS button and help will be notified with your location)

hiker looking at night sky while wearing headlamp

2. Start cool; stay dry

If you’re warm before you even start a hike, you’ll quickly overheat and sweat once you get moving. This increases your risk of hypothermia.

woman backpacking through forest

To avoid sweating, start cool. Dress in layers of wicking, quick drying fabric such as merino wool or synthetics.

3. But not too cool

It’s important not to let your body get chilled when you take your breaks.

man sitting by river in orange jacket

Keep a down or synthetic puffy jacket in your pack for when you stop. They are warm, light, and take up very little room.

4. Keep your feet dry

On wet fall days, it’s hard to keep your feet dry. Make sure you have waterproof (but breathable) footwear, and wear wicking socks made out of merino wool.

woman tying hiking boot

On rainy days or wet mornings, add gaiters to keep you dry from the knees down.

5. Fuel your body

Keep your warmth and energy up with high-calorie foods and hot drinks.

camp stove boiling water in winter

Nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, energy bars, and high-calorie energy drinks can all be great choices for the trail. Bring a compact camp stove with small pot, or pack hot chocolate in a thermos.

orange water bottle on rock

Don’t forget to bring lots of water to stay hydrated.

6. Pack for cold weather

Yes, we know — the title of today’s post specifically says “cool weather adventuring.”

But “cool” can quickly turn to “cold” in fickle fall weather, especially if you get caught in the rain.

man in rain coat in rain

Always pack a warm hat, gloves and waterproof shell jacket in case the weather turns. By keeping hands, head and core warm you will be a lot more comfortable, even in nasty wet weather.

7. Sleep tight

Spending the night?

Make sure your sleeping pad is insulated and your sleeping bag is rated for 5-10ºC colder than you expect to encounter.

camper holding Thermarest

You can adapt your warm weather gear by adding a foam pad under your sleeping pad and adding a sleeping bag liner to your summer bag.

If you experience a particularly cold night, add layers of clothing to increase your warmth.

Ready to hit the trails?

Whether you’re conquering a rocky scramble or taking a leisurely stroll across a boardwalk, we’ve got the perfect trail for you.

If you’re up for a hiking challenge, we’ve got three mettle-testing trips to recommend.

The view from the summit of the Top of the Giant Trail is worth the effort!

Really craving that autumn glory? Cross Restoule Provincial Park or Mississagi Provincial Park off your bucket list this year, and soak in the full fall colour experience.

husband and wife looking out from Helenbar Lookout at Mississagi in fall
Mississagi’s Helenbar Lookout Trail is an autumnal gem!

Happy trails!

Ontario Parks thanks corporate partners like SAIL for their support.