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Precautions against bad weather on the Delaware River


Rain

Always keep an eye on the weather before embarking on a camping trip. If the weather looks questionable, bring rain gear. Rain gear can make the difference between having a good time and getting a little wet or being totaly miserable.

Always bring extra tarps and rope. Not only to cover tables and gear but to cover essentials like firewood and the fire pit. It makes starting a campfire after a long rain easy and there is nothing better to dry things than a hot campfire.

The location of the campsite is also very important. Never pitch a tent in low lying areas that may flood when the river rises. The Delaware will rise very fast after a long downpour. Setting up camp on high ground is essential because you could lose your gear and possibly your life.

Cold

In the north, one may encounter snow any month of the year. On trips in the spring or fall, we should take additional care because the possibility of running into cold weather is much greater. Planning for cold weather is sensible at any time and is both a safety and comfort issue.
Jeans are NOT appropriate canoeing wear: they are cold when wet and dry excruciatingly slowly. You will do much better if you bring one set of quick-drying pants (nylon, thin cotton, etc.) and another set of wool, polypropylene or other synthetic pants. These will keep you warm, even when wet. On a canoe trip your pants are guaranteed to be a little wet at least some of the time. Similarly, cotton T-shirts alone do not a wardrobe make. Bring a few along, but make sure that you have a wool or synthetic sweater as well. On longer trips, it is often best to bring 2 sweaters, one lightweight and one heavyweight.

Feet are the most difficult item to keep warm. For people who bring nothing but cotton socks, warm feet soon become a distant memory. At least 3 pairs of wool socks are mandatory on most trips. Nylon running shoes dry very quickly if they don't have a lot of padding or leather. Some people like to bring a set of rubber boots which work great if you have woollen or synthetic socks on underneath. If the water is particularly cold, or you will be doing a lot of wading and/or lining, you might want to consider wet suit socks or booties. Both of these items are made of a thin neoprene and will retain incoming water against your skin, allowing it to warm up.

On longer trips, or during those times of year where marginal weather is expected, carrying a lightweight parka may be a good idea. Packed into its own drybag and riding at the bottom of the pack, the parka will be ready to warm you up on a cold evening or after a long swim - Cheap insurance against hypothermia!

Wind

Many people are unaware that crossing a large, windy lake is often much more dangerous than running evil-looking rapids. The worst canoeing accident in recent history occurred when a group tried to cross Lake Temiskaming, a very large and occasionally very windy lake on the Quebec-Ontario border. A good rule is never to go more than 300 meters from shore if you can possibly avoid it. This distance not only allows you a fighting chance of swimming to shore in case of an upset, but also allows you to quickly go to shore if weather conditions change for the worse. A large lake can go from a glassy calm to a crazed froth in 20 minutes, so all crossings larger than 2 kilometres are to be treated with caution. Crossings of 4 kilometres or more are only for the foolhardy.
Camping in windy conditions can be quite interesting: a canoe flying through the air, touching down with a crunch every 10 feet might make for an amusing story, after you get back home but is not to be recommended. Lifejackets are among the first items to take to the air, so tie, buckle, zip, or weigh them down. Some extra rope or parachute cord is handy to help secure tents: for some tents it is possible to tie directly to their poles, which are very strong attachment points. Firelighting and campfire maintenance are also more difficult with wind: try using the canoes to create a windbreak, but if they get any hotter than lukewarm to the touch you'd better have lots of duct tape around to patch the hole!



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