Winter is still a few weeks away, but tell yourself that first thing in the morning.
Early starts on the water have been so chilly lately that I’ve regretted wet hands.
And, of course, my gloves were safely stored in a drawer back home.
The same can be said for the toasty fleece pants to go under my thin Goretex waders.
My heart may still be in summer mode, but the rest of my body is shifting quickly toward winter.
This is an awkward time of year for me because I’m still living in the patterns of summer and I’m not prepared for the rapid cooling of air and water.
Said another way, my truck isn’t stocked with the right stuff!
Lots of folks have quit silver fishing now, based on the reduced crowds I’m seeing everywhere on the road system. Considering the smaller number of boats I see out and about, others have quit fishing halibut and salmon offshore.
My wife and I are diehards. We continue to fish rivers and lakes as well as the ocean, in fact relishing the reduced company we find in both places.
Clearly it’s time to be better prepared for changes in weather and temperature.
Many folks have quit fishing and are shifting to hunting. They too will quickly discover the need to swap their summer clothes for something warmer and carry extras.
If you’re anything like me though, it’s pretty easy to forget things while making changes from one season to the next.
Experience has taught me that I need to sit down and take stock. No more piecemeal gear changes for me. I have to pull together a new array of gear and keep it all together in one easy to track package.
This is the time of year I assemble daypacks for field use. Sure, I have the packs I’ve used in years past, but they’re in disarray and pieces are missing.
It’s time to get them back into shape and start using them.
I keep a pack of gear in my truck for general use on outings.
I also assemble a hunting pack and a pack to load onto the boat any time we go out.
It’s lots easier for me to remember to grab a pack than to chase around the house collecting gear one piece at a time for each trip.
Of course, I’m talking about daypacks small enough to be convenient but large enough for all the things I need to have along “just in case.”
Each of us will find different packs that work best for our needs, but never fear. There are literally hundreds of designs, brands, models, sizes and prices to choose from.
I’m a bit of a gear head, or perhaps I just get colder than most folks. Whatever the explanation, I need to carry more clothing than most folks to remain comfortable as conditions change.
Clothing is likely the bulkiest thing you’ll keep in a pack, so that will determine the size of pack you need.
Lots of experience has proven I need daypacks between 1,500 and 2,500 cubic inches. Smaller than that, and I can’t carry all I need. But if I get packs much bigger, of course I fill every available inch and end up with more bulk and weight than is convenient.
Measured another way, a 1,500 cubic inch pack is roughly 12” x 12” x 20”.
The layout and design of a pack is almost as important to me as the size.
If I get a simple version with access only from a single top opening, it seems that everything I need is always at the bottom of the pack.
I much prefer versions with a zippered back that allows me lay open the whole pack at once. It’s even better if it has top and bottom compartments rather than one single compartment.
In addition, I like smaller outside pockets – one on either side plus a third in the middle of the back.
Such a layout makes it lots easier to keep my gear organized and accessible, whether in our truck, on a mountainside or offshore in our boat.
But what have 40 years on Kodiak taught me to put into the packs?
I’ve already mentioned the magic word, “warm,” so let’s deal with that first.
I always keep a spare fleece jacket or pullover in my pack. It doesn’t have to be a thick one, and in fact the addition of a single thin layer of warmth to your usual clothes is often enough. If you stay warm, you won’t cut your day short.
As days continue to cool, I’ll add fleece pants as well.
I also keep a lightweight raincoat in my pack, and in the hunting pack I add lightweight rain pants as well. When the cold breezes start suddenly up on a mountainside, the addition of a windproof layer over your warm layers will make a vast difference in your comfort and safety.
Even on days when my clothing layers are right, my hands, feet and head can need extra attention.
But since they’re small, a spare stocking cap, gloves and warm socks are the easiest thing to forget as you head out the door.
Truth be known, I’m not the only one who benefits from the extra clothes.
I can’t tell you how many times they’ve been needed by companions even when I’m adequately dressed.
Your day can be cut short just as easily by a poorly prepared companion as by your own lack of preparation.
I realize I sound a lot like a nagging parent in my points about warm clothes, but so be it.
Kodiak’s changeable weather will have a much bigger impact on your habits and preparation than my words.
Let’s move on to the fun stuff for your packs.
My hunting pack also contains a water filter pump, a small portable stove and fuel, a pot for heating water and an array of snack foods.
Certainly, I also pack a lunch for each hunt, but I always seem to run short.
I also fare better each day if I take the few extra minutes to heat water for coffee or tea to go with my lunch.
A spare knife, spare ammo, headlamp, small cheap binoculars, a first aid kit and a VHF radio live in my hunting pack. On remote hunts away from the road system, I swap the radio for a satellite phone.
The pack in my truck differs in the details, mostly because it houses things I often forget to bring from home on spur of the moment outings. The clothing array is much the same, but I include a spare truck key along with snack foods and water. My cell phone is in the truck for emergencies along with a first aid kit and more raingear.
My boat pack reflects my distrust in electronics. In addition to the GPS and VHF radio installed in the boat, my pack contains handheld VHF, GPS and compass as well as a navigation chart for the area housed in a waterproof zippered bag.
There’s a large first aid kit in the boat, so I don’t bother with another in the pack.
I carry additional clothing of course, but heavier rain gear is added as well.
There are lots of other things in my packs, but they serve to illustrate my tendency to fill all available space and the need for me to limit the size of my packs.
Do I sound overly cautious in preparing a pack of emergency gear and spares for each of my outdoor activities?
Outdoor life on Kodiak will do that to you!