Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Packing for a Canoe Trip; My Opinion

A packed and balanced canoe
Canoe camping is a great way for people who are a little leery of "roughing it" to get started in outdoor recreation.  I see it as a perfect next step after car camping.  It is also a way for experienced outdoors folks to hone their skills and push their abilities.  Hiking a pack with the bare essentials does indeed take skill, but paddling a canoe across a bay with a 20 mph breeze 4-points abaft your larboard beam?  That is poetry in motion! (Plus you get to say things like "20 mph breeze 4-points abaft your larboard beam")

In this post I am going to cover what I took on my last Boundary Waters canoe trip.  Did I pack light?  No. Why?  Because I am big for one, and because I didn't have too because we only had three short portages to worry about.  At the end of this post I will go over the items that I did not use and would leave behind next time, as well as the items that I did not use but would take again anyhow.

Our gear

In the above photo you can see the three packs that my wife and I took along on our trip.  The grey one on the left was our food pack and you can see our bear ropes daisy-chained and carabiner clipped to D-rings on the front of the pack.

The red pack in the center is a water proof dry bag made from a rubberized canvas type material that my wife used as her personal pack.

The green pack on the right is a "Duluth" style pack made from a East German Army duffle obtained from Sportsman's Guide that the Amish added leather closure straps and buckles to convert it.
Shelley's pack~33.8 lbs
My wife carried a vintage Eureka Timberline tent (oblong green bag), poncho liner (camo), sleeping bag (beneath tent and poncho liner), toiletries (in zip-lock bag), compression sack with clothes (black), and Thermarest sleeping pad.

To pack the dry bag I first loosely rolled the sleeping pad up then inserted it vertically into the bag and allowed it to unroll again.  The sleeping pad then forms a tube in which the rest of the content of the bag goes   The sleeping pad acts as a barrier between your back and oddly shaped, hard items like mess kits, camp stoves, etc.  Works really slick.  That is a trick I learned in the Forest Service.  At the bottom of the pack I placed the compression sack with the clothes and the sleeping bag, next was the poncho liner, followed by the tent, and topped off with the toiletries.  

When packing up your gear be sure to put the last thing you will want first, and the first thing you will want last.  The tent is left near the top so that if you are setting up camp in the rain or after dark it can be the first thing you lay your hands on.  If it is raining and your tent is on the bottom you will have to lay everything else out in the rain in order to access it.  Bad idea.

My pack~40.8 lbs
 The contents of my pack included (clockwise starting at top left), tool kit bag (made from brown cargo pants leg), first aid kit (zip-lock bag), heavy green wool blanket (beneath & first aid), mess kit, 12'x12' green Etowah tarp form Ben's Backwoods, dark blue wool sweater, Cabela's 25" x 76" sleeping pad, tent poles (orange bag), tent stakes (small brow bag), my lovely axe, 3 sticks of dynamite (kidding, they are flares), black compression sack with clothes, rubber poncho (under flares & compression sack).

The wool blanket is folded into a thick rectangle, roughly the length and width of the pack. It is then laid in first to act as a pad between my back and my gear. My compression sack and mess kit go in the bottom, followed by the tool bag, and tarp, then the first aid kit and my sweater and finally the poncho.  If the weather gets cool I can easily fish out my sweater to add a layer, and if it begins to rain the poncho is on top to throw over myself, or my gear.  We used the poncho to cover our firewood when it threatened rain.  When I solo camp and have my hammock I lay out the poncho on the ground beneath it  to keep my feet clean an dry when getting in and out.

The axe, tent poles, and sleeping pad were all tucked under the three leather straps that close the pack up.
The food pack and Lil' Bastard...
  And then there was the food pack.  I will go a little bit into our favorite dish on the trip in a future post.

Items taken and to be left behind next time:

  • Some extra clothing was superfluous.  I wore the same thing the entire trip and washed it every night. I had an extra set of lighter weight clothes that I only used as a pillow at night.
  • Snacks; for some reason when I am in the woods I do not get as hungry as often as I do at home.  Leaving behind trail mix and the like would have greatly decreased the weight of our food pack.
  • File and stone for axe/knife; I need to invest in a small, lightweight, high-quality stone for sharpening in the field.  Any suggestions?
Items taken, not used, to be taken again:
  • First aid kit; fairly self explanatory I think
  • Flares; the flares could be used for signaling, or starting a fire in an emergency
  • Sweater; bulkier than it is heavy, if it had gotten cold I would have been happy it was taking up space.
  • Tarp; had it rained on our trip the tarp would have been priceless.  It can be stretched over the cooking area to provide cover.  If you have ever spent rainy days trapped in a tent you will understand why it is worthwhile to pack a rain-fly.
Items we wished we had:
  • Water purifier; we boiled the entire time which worked out well because our trip itinerary was so laid back.  It might have been nice to have a purifier on our day trip though.
  • More pizza ingredients!  This will make more since later...


Bill Giles said...

I carry a DMT DuoFold diamond sharpener in my pocket. For my work knives I use a 325/600 grit, for my good knives I use a 600/1200 grit. Water with a drop of detergent makes a good cutting fluid, but I usually use these hones dry.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bill,
I'll look into those.

Eric The Cleric said...

Its not huge but a little hefty. I use a stone like this to touch up my axe and sometimes my knife in the field. I also own the Fallkniven D4 which i like but seems a little small for a axe but works better for knives.

Anonymous said...

I have a Lansky Puck which is similar to the Woodsmens Stone. I have heard a lot of positive about Fallkniven's sharpeners. I'll keep that in mind while I search.

Thanks for the comments guys! It is nice to know someone is reading my blog even though I have been doing a poor showing in post frequencies.

BornRandy said...

Lansky also makes a diamond rod that telescopes back into the case and is the size of a large ink pen. The rod has a flat portion that you can use to touch up knives or axes. There are other diamond rods made by other companies too.

Custom Lanyards said...

Thanks Bill.Your work is very clean and professional.

Anonymous said...

Ah how I miss canoeing. One of these days I would like to find one of the old aluminum canoes. The addition of a small axe is a good ideal. People have forgotten how great and axe can be in the back country. Glad to see one in your set up.