CORNELL WILDERNESS TERM
September 2003


What to Expect

LOCAL TEMPERATURES AS MEASURED AT ELY, MINNESOTA [Today's Weather]

September 6 September 20
Record High 89 80
Average High 67 62
Mean Temperature 58 53
Average Low 47 43
Record Low 37 30


What to Bring

The short answer is a sleeping bag, clothes, personal effects and academic supplies sufficient for a couple of weeks in the North Woods in September. Typical casual clothes (jeans and sweatshirts) will suffice around the field station.

If your course includes an extended canoe trip, you will want gear to keep you warm and dry when continuously exposed to the elements. I have prepared the following list for canoe tripping based on advice for summer visitors to the Field Station (adapted for September) and my own experience in the BWCAW. --- Craig Allin

Necessary or Very Useful:

  • Sleeping Bag: The weather data (see above) indicates that frost is unlikely, but obviously you should be prepared for overnight lows around 40. Most any down or synthetic fill sleeping bag should do the trick, if you have a pad to keep you off the ground. Mummy style bags give the highest warmth to weight ratio. If you have a non-mummy bag, or don't like being mummified, you may want to wear your wool or fleece stocking cap or balaclava.
  • Sleeping Pad: Closed cell foam like ensolite or an inflatable foam pad like a Therm-a-rest will soften your bed and provide valuable insulation under your sleeping bag.
  • Compression Stuff Sack: Big enough to hold your sleeping bag and all the clothes you're not wearing.
  • Dry Bag: To protect things that need to stay dry. A couple of freezer weight, gallon size zip lock bags and a couple of heavy weight garbage bags should cover all the contingencies.
  • Boots: one pair with sturdy soles and cut high enough to provide a reasonable ankle protection. Modern voyageurs have generally worn leather boots, but newer models which have more man-made materials will absorb less water and dry more quickly. You will be wading with your boots on. Never go on a trip with new boots; make sure yours are thoroughly broken in before September.
  • Socks: You will need two pairs of socks. I like to think of them as the wet pair and the dry pair. Wool socks are traditional, but generally require a synthetic or silk liner stock to prevent blisters. Modern hydrophobic synthetic fiber socks are better, and can generally be worn without liners. Cotton socks are an invitation to unspeakable misery, and should be forbidden by intergalactic law. Wear your wet socks during the day; they are going to get wet anyway. Save your dry socks for dry camps and to wear inside your sleeping bag.
  • Gloves: Fleece or leather to protect from blisters as well as cold.
  • Hats: The ideal wilderness hat should shed rain, deflect sun, and be capable of being stuffed in a pocket. You'll probably want something to keep your ears warm if it gets chilly, e.g., wool or fleece stocking cap or balaclava.
  • Swim Suit: For modesty while soaking in lake or sunning on rocks.
  • Belt: Nothing beats a nylon strap with a plastic buckle.
  • Camp shoes: If the campsite is dry, you will want something to wear around camp other than your wet boots: moccasins, mucklucks, sandals, sneakers, etc. The less they weigh and the less space they occupy the better. Of course, this principle applies to everything you need to carry.
  • Pants: I am a big fan of nylon convertible pants. Nylon pants get wet, but they don't stay wet. Convertible pants allow you to zip the muddy pant legs off and wash them while you continue to wear the shorts.
  • Underwear: Non cotton is better than cotton. In September you will probably appreciate having a pair of longjohns and a long sleeved T-shirt made out of Thermax, polypropylene, Polartek or similar synthetic microfiber.
  • Shirt: Make sure you have a long sleeved shirt, preferably made out of something other than cotton. If this list is turning into a tirade against cotton -- your favorite fabric -- here's why. Cotton absorbs water very easily, and dries very slowly. When cotton is wet, it is extremely heavy and has virtually no insulating value. Conditions in the Boundary Waters in September are likely to involve both some cold and some wet.
  • Jacket: You need something to keep you warm. The traditional garment is a wool sweater. Wool has the great advantage of retaining much of its insulating value even when wet. Modern fleece garments improve on wool by being hydrophobic. Down garments provide an excellent ratio of warmth to weight. They do not absorb water easily, but if they become saturated they become useless. In short, down is a great choice if you protect it from rain.
  • Rain Suit: A rain suit means pants and jacket: Water resistant nylon or high-tech laminated fabrics like Gore-Tex. These will keep the rain off and allow your own body moisture to evaporate. Plastic rain suits are cheap, but they trap body moisture inside and quickly fall apart. Ponchos are traditional, but don't work as well. Raincoats don't work well.
  • Insect Repellant: Frankly, I doubt, you'll need it.
  • Sun Glasses.
  • Sun Screen: It's not going to be high summer, but still invaluable in the long term effort to avoid skin cancer.
  • Soap: Biogradeable backcountry soap like Bio-Suds, Camp-Suds, or good old Ivory Soap.
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste.
  • Personal medications.
  • Hand Towel: I prefer a couple of Handi-wipes. Volume & weight are negligible, and they dry quickly.
  • Water bottle (and perhaps a large plastic mug with lid for around the station)
  • Flashlight or headlamp.
  • Notebook and writing device.

Strictly Optional:

  • Paperback book: for recreational reading.
  • Canoe Paddle: If you own a paddle of which you are particularly fond.
  • PFD: If you prefer to use your own.
  • Compass
  • Skin Lotion
  • Binoculars
  • Utility knife or multi-tool.
  • Camera Gear: Strictly optional. You'll want a dry sack to protect it.
  • Fishing Gear: Only if you intend to obtain a fishing license. Keep it minimalist. Consult Bob Black for expert advice.

What It Costs

The surcharge for the CWT courses is $600.


 
Last Update: March 5, 2003
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