Hiker at a 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.

With help from our friends at Subaru Canada, we’ve gathered 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).

staff talking to visitor

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)

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.

people hiking

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.

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.

boots on trail

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.

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.

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.”

child in carrier on hike

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

A blue SUV parked next to a red and white tent

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.

tent at night

Happy trails!

Ontario Parks thanks corporate partners subaru logolike Subaru Canada for their support.