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Recommended packing list for the Explore Program at Prairie and Frontier Lodge.


You do not need to buy all of your winter wilderness clothing and gear prior to arriving for Explore.

We do, however, recommend that students purchase the majority of their fall wilderness equipment prior to their arrival at Prairie. We will take students on a short shopping trip for last-minute items, but students will likely find better pricing and selection if they arrive with equipment purchased.

You will also have opportunities throughout the year to purchase some equipment with the guidance of staff.

Frontier Lodge Gear Rental

Equipment such as backpacks, sleeping pads and sleeping bags can be affordably rented on a per-semester basis. To reserve items on the gear rental program, click here and submit your request by August 1 to guarantee availability.


  • Bible and personal journal
  • Bedding for single bed (pillow, sheets, blanket, etc)
  • Towels
  • Toiletries
  • Any medication (please notify the Explore Director)
  • Alarm clock
  • Laundry bag
  • Calling card – calls need to be charged to a calling card or placed to a toll free number
  • Extra spending money (Debit/Credit card) – CDN.
  • Camera

School Supplies

  • Journal
  • Note taking supplies (pens, pencils, highlighters, whiteout, stapler, binders and note paper) *
  • USB Flash Memory Drive
  • Laptop Computer


  • Casual wear for fall and winter
  • Sunday clothing
  • Running shoes (both indoor and outdoor)
  • Athletic clothing (for running, hiking and swimming)
  • Wilderness Clothing Shell layer (top & bottom, ie. Goretex) Must be waterproof and breathable
  • Insulating Layer (top & bottom) such as fleece, wool and/or down vest/jacket
  • Base layer (top & bottom) synthetic/wicking long underwear
  • Gloves (3 sets) waterproof & warm ski gloves/mitts for winter, mid weight with leather palm for belaying/active use in winter, fleece/wool liner pair
  • Toque/Beanie
  • Gaiters: Waterproof protection to cover the top of your boot and lower leg so moisture doesn’t get in
  • Socks: Insulating (ie. wool/synthetic) and liners (ie. polypropylene), at least 2 pairs of each
  • Hiking boots: Leather can be water-proofed, broken in. Suitable for 7 day fall trips on mountainous terrain
  • Winter boots (ie. Sorrels) insulated for winter trips
  • Durable water shoes or neoprene booties for canoeing and river activities. (If you want, you can just use an old pair of sneakers)
  • Backpack Cover: To protect your pack from the elements
  • Optional: Down Booties, to keep your feet warm around base camp on winter trips

Wilderness Gear

  • Backpack: For trips up to 5 days, 65-80 L/4000-5000 C.I.
  • Day Pack: For day trips, 30-40 L/ 1800-2300 C.I.
  • Sleeping bag: Approx. -20 to -10 C or -4 to 14 F. Note: A fleece liner is a cheaper option to add warmth to a bag
  • Sleeping pad: such as Thermarest or closed cell foam pad
  • Head lamp
  • Water container(s): equivalent to 2 liters (ie. Nalgene bottles). Make sure that these seal when shut and do not leak
  • Whistle, lighter, pocket knife,
  • Compass get one that can be used for orienteering
  • Bowl, plate, mug, fork, spoon, knife for backcountry meals
  • Optional: trekking poles (strongly recommended for those with any joint problems)

Optional Miscellaneous Items

  • Musical Instruments
  • Personal Sporting Equipment (ie. Mountain Bike, back-country skis, etc)
  • Small cooking stove
  • Tent
  • Cell Phones

*At Frontier Lodge and in Prairie dorms, we do have a “student phone line” that students can use to call long distance when using a calling card. Some student use pay-as-you-go cell phones to stay in touch with family, some rely on online communication services and some put US/Canada plans onto their phones. Choose the option that is best for you.


Frontier Lodge supplies technical equipment and group gear such as canoes, skis, harnesses, camping stoves, tents, etc. It is not necessary to purchase your own.

You may wish to drop off or ship some of your belongings straight to the Frontier Lodge:

PO Box: Frontier Lodge
Box 1
Nordegg, AB
T0M 2H0, Canada.

Please put your name and “Explore” in the address line. Shipments must be properly marked and sealed. Parcels may also be mailed to you throughout the year as needed.

A Tip For Purchasing Gear

If you are looking to be economical in your gear purchases, keep in mind that the “essential equipment” (backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, hiking shoes and a waterproof rain shell) is important to buy for comfort and durability. Other items like hiking clothing do not need to be expensive and can even be purchased at thrift stores!

At the bottom of the page we have also included a list of online gear resources, some of which offer good discounts on outdoor equipment.

Information About Equipment

Layering of Clothing

Layering of clothing is important, as it allows you to quickly adapt to weather conditions by adding or removing layers.

  • Base Layer: Layer of clothing that sits right up against your skin (ie. long underwear top and bottom and personal undergarments) The base layer must be capable of wicking moisture away from your body, allowing it to evaporate and keep you dry. For your base layer to perform most effectively it should be form fitting rather then baggy. Materials commonly used include polypropylene, polyester and silk.
  • Insulating Layer: Keeps your body warm in cold temperatures Again, it is important that the material be somewhat capable of wicking moisture away from your body. Materials commonly used to insulate include: fleece, wool, down, and other synthetics like polyester and polypropylene. Just remember, no cotton! Wet cotton is unable to insulate your body and will not dry quickly. Other materials like fleece and wool, retain most of their insulating value when wet and dry very quickly. Down is a great outdoor insulator because it packs down small and insulates very well. The only problem is that it does not insulate when wet and dries very slowly.
  • Shell Layer: Protection from nature’s elements of wind, rain and snow The last layer is the shell layer. It is important to have a waterproof and breathable shell that is capable of keeping you dry in rain and snow and is also able to breathe, allowing your body’s moisture to escape, therefore, keeping you dry. Materials commonly used in a shell include Gore-Tex, Triple Point, or other waterproof and breathable materials.

Hiking Boots

There are many types of boots on the market made by different companies. Consider the following when making your purchase:

  • Comfort: When comparing fits and sizes, consider a boot that is comfortable. An uncomfortable boot may always be uncomfortable. Take time to break in your boots well before you come to Explore. This often takes a while, so start wearing them for short periods of time so that you can gradually increase duration until you can walk comfortably for about 8 hours a day. Remember, the heavier the boot, the longer they will take to break in.
  • Fit: Make sure the size of the boot allows for a thick pair of socks. Your toe should not hit the end of the boot and your foot should be secure and not sliding around. Be sure to note the heel as it should not slide up and down.
  • Support: We recommend a mid to heavy class hiking/backpacking boot, something that will offer good support. Make sure the boot is capable of keeping your foot dry in wet and snowy conditions.


There are two main styles of backpacks: external and internal frame packs. However, over the years we have found that the students prefer internal frame packs.

Internal Frame Packs: These packs will secure your load for technical hiking and are often very comfortable to wear. The disadvantages are that it can be tougher ta access gear and there is less airflow between your back and pack.

  • Fit: When you buy your pack, ask an employee to fit and size your bag for you. Look for a bag with well-padded shoulder and hip straps. When your pack is loaded, it should not sway from side to side as you move.
  • Capacity: For our purposes we recommend a 65-80 L/4000-5000 C.I. bag. Don’t assume that the bigger the bag the better because if your bag is too big, it becomes easy to end up carrying more than you really need.

Sleeping Bag

There are two fills commonly used in good winter sleeping bags: synthetic and down.

  • Synthetic-filled bags: These bags are normally cheaper than down. They are capable of insulating when wet and dry quickly. The disadvantages are that they are heavier, bulkier and likely to wear out sooner than down.
  • Down-filled bags: Down is one of the best known insulators. It is lightweight, compressible and long lasting. The disadvantages are that they lose all insulating ability when wet and they take a long time to dry. Down bags will also commonly cost more than a synthetic bag of a similar temperature rating.

Sizing and Temperature: Make sure the bag is the right length and has a well fitting hood. We recommend that the temperature rating be approximately -20 to -10C or -4 to 14F. When buying your bag, also remember to consider your own body’s temperature gauge, and adjust accordingly.

For extra warmth, a fleece liner can be an inexpensive way to add 5 to 10C temperature rating of warmth to your sleeping bag.

Sleeping Pad

Sleeping pads are important for comfort, warmth and protection from ground moisture. While camping in the winter, insulating yourself from the ground can make a huge difference in keeping you warm and dry.

There are two main types of sleeping pads: closed cell foam and self-inflating mattresses.

  • Closed-cell foam: This is inexpensive, durable and a good insulating device. The disadvantages are that it is not the most comfortable and may be space consuming.
  • Self-inflating pad: These are good, comfortable insulators and some may pack down very small. The insulating value of a self-inflating pad is higher when the pad contains less air and more foam. The disadvantages are that the self-inflating pads are more expensive and may be punctured by sharp objects.
  • Cost: When determining which sleeping pad to buy, consider cost, comfort, insulating value, durability and packing size.

More Information and Purchasing Options

If you would like more information on how to choose what type of gear that would best suit you, consider looking at www.rei.com or www.abc-of-hiking.com/. They all have large “learn” sections, which discuss methods of gear selection and other helpful information.

If you are wondering where to buy wilderness gear you may want to start by checking out the following sites:

You may also wish to look for inexpensive items (such as socks, shorts, shirts, gloves, etc) at Army Surplus stores, Value Village, Wal-Mart, gear swaps, and used gear stores.