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Preparing for a Paddle Trip

Christmas has come and gone, and no doubt you got a REI, LL Bean, Dick's, or Cabelas gift card for Christmas. What to use the card on you ask? Well, if you have some extended paddling trips scheduled this year, like Paddle Oregon 2015, now is the ideal time to start thinking about the gear you'll want to bring on that paddle trip.

If you kayak, it might be time to think about getting rid of that Coleman two-burner propane stove and replacing it with a MSR Whisperlite or Coleman Peak stove, something that will fit in your kayak's dry hatch compartment. If you canoe camp, by all means keep the Coleman two-burner propane stove, but you might need to downsize in other areas, especially if the canoe trip is going to require portaging.

Weight is more of a critical factor with kayaks than it is with canoes. Most kayaks have at most a 350-lb limit, which includes gear and paddler. Canoes, on the other hand, can carry anywhere from 600 - 1,300 pounds depending on the type of canoe. Royalex canoes can carry more gear than a wood and canvas canoe and most fiberglass canoes.

So what to consider downsizing? First, consider the sleeping bag. While a down sleeping bag is super light and compressible to the size of a softball, all right I know that’s a slight exaggeration, they offer little warmth if they get wet. And where will you be placing that sleeping bag? As most kayakers will tell you, while the dry hatch will keep much of the water out of the compartment, the hatch isn't fully waterproof, and neither are dry bags, which is why it is best to double-bag critical gear like sleeping bags and clothes. There are good bags out there made of synthetic fibers that compress really small so the bag will fit through the hatch. And should the bag get wet they will still offer warmth and take less time to dry. Make sure the shell and inner lining are polyester and not cotton. Cotton, while it feels comfy against your body, won't keep you warm if it gets wet, and it will take a lifetime to dry.

Second, look at your tent. Tents, depending on the type, can be heavy and bulky. If you have a kayak, you might be limited to a two-person—three at the most—tent. While a canoe will allow you to carry the old canvas outfitter’s tent, the kind Teddy Roosevelt used to use, they are extremely heavy and bulky. Of course, if you’re like the Duggar family with their 19 kids, you might have to stick with the large canvas tent. Modern tents are very light, a benefit for kayakers. They’re also made of nylon, which dries quickly if it gets wet. I never place my tent in a dry bag because it dries quickly if it gets wet.

Next, consider downsizing your stove if you have a kayak. While a canoe will practically allow you to bring along your four-burner, gas barbecue grill, a kayak will not. There are some really nice single-burner stoves on the market that allow you to use propane, white gas, or both. I prefer stoves that burn white gas because you only have to carry one small gas can that will suffice for a week trip instead of packing along several propane canisters.

Transporting fuel is another weight consideration. While a tank of white gas weighs more than a similar-sized tank of propane, you’ll have to carry more propane canisters to equal the amount of burnable fuel you get from white gas. The weight of all those propane canisters adds up.

And now to water, the last major weight component. I carry a five-gallon drum of water in my canoe. Besides providing me with ample drinking water for three days, it also serves as ballast. Kayakers, however, don’t have the luxury of bringing along a five-gallon container of water. A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pound. So my five-gallon container weighs almost 42 pounds. If you were to carry that much weight in your kayak, you’d be bumping up against the 350-lb weight limit in no time. So what do you do? There are three options. You can purchase water purification tabs, which work nicely and take up little space in your boat; buy a water filtration system, which is the best device for ridding water of microscopic critters that can make you sick but also are somewhat bulky; or boil water, which is good if you want coffee, hot tea, or cocoa, but not the best way of purifying water if you want a nice cold drink.

Lastly, consider your food. Don’t bring canned foods with you. For one thing, you have to haul the empty cans out with you, and cans are not compact. There are a lot of packaged foods out there that come in plastic pouches. You can also bring freeze dried foods. Some freeze dried foods taste pretty good, others taste like you’re eating cardboard. The nice thing about freeze-dried foods and foods packaged in pouches is that they take up little space.

Well there you have it. I tried to touch on a few ways you can reduce space and weight in your boat. The following video presents additional ideas as well for packing a canoe. Some ideas are useful for a kayak as well.


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