Storm Creek apparel looks great on the golf course and in the board room, but is it tough and functional enough for a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters? I put a few items to the test when I recently spent four days in this wilderness area with seven other women.
About the Boundary Waters
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is roughly a million acres of forest, rivers and lakes in the northeast section of Minnesota. Set aside as protected wilderness in the early 70s, it’s known for its pristine lakes, 2,000+ canoe campsites and hundreds of miles of portages that connect the 1,000+ lakes and rivers.
The National Forest Service provides oversight with strict guidelines for the number of people allowed in your group (up to nine), the number of boats in your group (up to four), when and where you’re allowed to enter (you need a permit) and what you’re allowed to bring.
Packing for canoe trips means a balance between bringing what we need and not bringing too much to carry. Everything gets carried across portages from lake to lake: canoes, packs and paddles. Our goal was to put two people into one “personal” pack, including sleeping bags and pads, all clothes we weren’t wearing and toiletries.
We also brought a food pack for all our meals and a smaller snack pack. Food has to be kept separate because the Boundary Waters is bear country. Food packs get strung up in tree branches overnight and any time you’re away from your campsite. Finally, we had a separate equipment pack for the three tents, cooking kit and kitchen supplies, tarps, a couple of folding camp seats and other miscellaneous items.
Apparel That Works Well in the BWCAW
Canoe trip apparel needs to be several things: Quick-dry, lightweight, comfortable, durable and will perform as needed.
To keep pack space and weight to a minimum, we chose one set of clothes for paddling and portaging and a second “dry” set for camp. Knowing the weather forecast is vital for wise packing. While it can be unpredictable in the Boundary Waters, we found the forecast was pretty dead-on for our trip—some rain, cold nights and cool days.
Here’s what I wore and/or packed for this trip:
- Quick-dry capris/shorts for paddling and pants for at-camp (my shorts stayed in my dry bag for most of the four days)
- Wool socks (3 pair)
- Quick-dry tees (2), lightweight long-sleeve (Naturalist Shirt), midweight long-sleeve (Sidekick Crew)
- Packable insulated jacket (Traveler Jacket)
- Fleece leggings for extra insulation in the evenings and mornings
- Gloves (I brought 3 pairs: one for paddling, a fleece and fingerless pair for at camp) and a knit hat
- Rain gear is always a necessity, even if no rain is in the forecast! I opted for a hooded rain poncho that’s big enough to double as a tarp. It packs into its own small bag when not in use. It fits over everything else, including my life jacket, so it’s easy to put on even while in the canoe—and it’s big enough to cover my legs.
- I threw in hand and toe warmers almost as an afterthought—I used them all and shared some with my friends! So glad I packed them.
- One pair of shoes for the canoeing/portaging (I usually wear my Chacos, as did several others in my group) and another pair that stays dry in the pack to wear around camp. I like waterproof trail running shoes for my “dry” shoes.
Everything I didn’t wear was put into smaller dry bags to be packed into the bigger pack along with my packmate’s clothes and gear.
How Did Storm Creek Do in the Wilderness?
First, it’s a great feeling to wear clothing I know is eco-friendly into a protected wilderness area like the Boundary Waters. Storm Creek’s dedication to sustainability rings true especially in environments like this.
The Leave No Trace ethic is vital to keeping the BWCAW as the precious natural resource it is. And the fight to help eliminate plastic bottle waste goes right along with that ethic. It’s all part of protecting our wilderness areas and the planet in general.
But outdoor performance clothing is meant to be worn for outdoor adventures! How did these items do?
SIDEKICK CREW—I literally wore this shirt 24/7 for the entire trip! I wore it for both our paddling and at camp—and even slept in it each night because I needed the extra insulation.
It’s one of the most comfortable shirts I’ve ever worn! So soft, lots of freedom in the shoulders for paddling and throwing up canoes to carry. It’s long enough to cover but not too long to get in the way. The non-banded bottom hem is great for both work and sleeping. When it got wet while on the water, it dried quickly.
Because my life jacket offered good core insulation, I wasn’t cold while paddling and portaging wearing just a light tee and my Sidekick—even in some brisk wind. And yet I didn’t get too warm when the sun came out. So it seemed to manage both warmth and breathability well in our cool temps.
(NOTE: I opted for the Crew over the Hoodie because I didn’t want the hood getting in the way of anything, including my rain poncho hood and pack straps. It was a good choice.)
TRAVELER JACKET—The only time I didn’t wear my Traveler Jacket on this trip was when we were on-trail paddling and portaging, and when I was inside my sleeping bag at night. The ability to pack itself into its own pocket makes it super handy for stuffing into a dry bag.
The Traveler is very comfortable with lots of freedom in the shoulders. I love the zipped pockets, including the one near the left sleeve cuff (which works great for chapstick). Since everything we bring out there is necessary, zippers mean I don’t have to worry about losing small items.
It fits nicely over my Sidekick without being too snug. And it fits nicely under my rain poncho without being bulky. It being water-resistant and windproof is huge for any outdoor adventure.
NATURALIST SHIRT—Because of our weather that week, my Naturalist stayed stuffed on the bottom of a dry bag the entire trip. However, the day after we came out, a couple of my trip mates wanted to hike Eagle Mountain (Minnesota’s highest point, and less than an hour from our campground). By that time, it had gotten a tad warmer, so I pulled this one out for our 7ish-mile hike (which is also in the Boundary Waters).
The Naturalist is advertised as quick-dry and wrinkle-free. I can attest that all the wrinkles fell out within a short time of pulling it out of my dry bag. I could hardly believe it! Its 4-way stretch means comfort and ease in taking the day pack on and off.
One feature that stood out: When I rolled my sleeves up soon into our hike they stayed exactly where I rolled them throughout the rest of the day. Wow—I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that in a shirt before! Very impressive.
My only complaint is the buttons—they’re tiny. If my hands had been cold I would’ve had a tough time working with them.
The Bottom Line
All in all, I was really pleased with the performance of my Storm Creek apparel. Putting them through the “wilderness test” included lots of potential snags from tree branches for all three of these items. But they all passed that test, too. And the sleeves were long enough for me—something that’s rare (sorry to you women with shorter arms!).
It’s so important to be confident in our gear when it’s the only gear we have on wilderness trips like these. I look forward to my next excursion with my SC stuff—as well as wearing them around town where they look great and perform just as well.
[NOTE: I’ve been blogging for Storm Creek since Spring 2023. I paid for the items I brought on this canoe trip and have tried to make my opinions here as honest as I can!]