Shirt or sweater? shorts or jeans?

June 12, 2011

As I write this it’s a very cool 18 Celsius in Forfar.  On Graham Island, halfway up the British Columbia coast, it’s 13 and raining.  In Abbotsford on the Fraser River, it’s 21.

My problem seems trivial to everyone I ask, but it’s important to me:  what clothes will I need to be comfortable while out of doors in British Columbia next week?  The trip involves a day of sturgeon fishing on the Fraser River, and the rest of the week will entail a series of day expeditions in a small boat trolling for salmon in the Haida Gwaii, the official name for the Queen Charlotte Islands.

In a conversation this spring, local attorney Allison Crowe explained that when her father went salmon fishing in that area, his Tilley hat was coveted by everyone as protection from the glaring sun.  Based upon my reading of weather reports for the northern coast of B.C., mentioning that glaring sun seems rather like my mentioning to visitors the tornadoes that hit the Little Rideau each year on the first night after our boat cleared the lock at the Narrows, three years in a row.  Those three freak tornadoes in May or June of ’82, ’83 and ’84 do not make Rideau Lakes Township another tornado alley, though it seemed that way at the time.  Similarly, I think it would be unwise to expect a lot of sunlight on the water off Graham Island.

But the guy I asked at Princess Auto told me that when he was up there fishing in early July a couple of years ago, they wore T-shirts.

Mindful of my teenage experience as a box boy at Genge’s Red and White where I actually saw skis and snowshoes in the trunks of New Jersey cars coming for summer vacation, I looked for better evidence.  The Queen Charlotte Lodge, our destination, maintains a dated online gallery.

June 19th photos have the captors of large salmon arrayed in flannel shirts under sweatshirts, tucked into waterproof overalls.  One Japanese man of about my age showed long underwear at the neck, as well. From the photo archive it looks pretty cold there in early summer if you are out on the ocean.

Apart from my utter lack of experience at packing, the catch is the 25 lb. limit on luggage for the helicopter ride to the resort.  Resort management explains in the information package that they provide lockers at the airport for guest’s surplus belongings, but: “We will help you repack your luggage until the weight is down to under 25 lb.”  The document further asks for my sizes for outer garments and boots which they will assign from their stores at the lodge.

My host Tony doesn’t want to be bothered with questions about clothing.  But he’s a Scotsman, one of a line of sturdy men and women famed for their tolerance for lousy weather.  Tony ignores my pleas to buy a winter snowmobile suit and tries to ice fish in light ski attire. Then he complains, “Your Ranger is too damned cold.  It needs a cab and a windshield.”

I’ve explained to him until I’m blue in the face that, unlike his life in various air conditioned rooms and vehicles, Bet and I spend most of our time outside.  The coat rack for our activities covers a ten-foot wall.  Neither Bet nor I would consider facing the day without at least three sets of outdoor footwear with which to match climatic conditions.  There are even four pairs of rubber boots inside the front door for guests.

Do you see my problem?  I need it all, but I can’t take a coat rack on a 737.  Do I pack shorts or jeans? t-shirts or sweaters?  Do I take along the large waterproof parka Bet and Charlie bought me or leave it and pack my laptop?  (No.  I’m taking the laptop.)

In two weeks I will know a lot more about this subject.  More likely by then I also will find it too trivial to mention.  But for the moment it fills my mind.


4 Responses to “Shirt or sweater? shorts or jeans?”

  1. Roz Says:

    Ignore all the times I’ve shown up ill-prepared for the action at the farm, and make a last-minute trip to MEC for some merino wool shirts. They’re not cheap but they work like magic: it’s almost impossible to get too hot or cold when you’re wearing them as a base layer. It has something to do with the way they draw moisture away from the skin:

    You don’t get sweaty, so you don’t get chilled. I’ve worn the same merino shirts snowshoeing and in California.

  2. Martin Says:

    Layering is key when packing efficiently. When I’m backpacking I typically pack a t-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, a mid-weight fleece, and a light raincoat (all synthetic, they dry much faster than cotton or wool). Various permutations of the above will suit almost any weather condition. For lowers you should be fine with long-johns, good hiking pants (not jeans), and waterproof pants.

  3. Tony Izatt Says:

    Oh my god … you actually have people commenting on your obsession !
    When you die and you go up to the pearly gates St Peter meets you there and has a spreadsheet which itemizes how you’ve spent your time on earth. I’m sure you will have wasted a good 5 years of your life on just getting dressed. This would include buying all the stuff in the first place, then all the time spent choosing what wear, boots and clothing, and then putting it all on and taking it off when you’re done. It does you no good either from what I see, as you normally you scurry back into a warm place (truck or house) chilled to the bone regardless of what you’ve worn.

    As for the Ranger. You subject yourself needlessly to a windchill blast of -50 for no reason at all, except to justify the fact that you’ve spent 15 mins getting dressed to do it. Instead, you could of saved all that time getting dressed up by buying a windshield. And the ride in your Ranger has no bearing on how I dress to ice fish. I could outlast you ice fishing in jeans and a t-shirt with you wearing your “outfit”.

  4. rodcros Says:

    To casual readers who may at this point feel they have walked into a major argument:

    Remember the opposing spring principle? It was developed in the 18th Century with the watch. Not coincidentally, principles of democracy (a metaphorical opposing spring system) emerged as well at that time.

    As the reader may have observed, Tony and I often take the roles of opposing springs. Individually as fishermen we are each competent, but considerably less effective than when we work as a team. Yes, we often differ in our opinions and hunches, but the differences balance each other out and more often than not, produce considerable success.

    But if you were to ask Tony he would complain about the time I hit him on the head with a 2 1/2 lb. bass I hooked too aggressively 30′ from the boat, or the time I broke my fishing rod over his back when the line snapped on another hook-set.

    It’s been an interesting 26 years fishing with the guy.


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