Maybe I’m daydreaming, or maybe we’ll get lucky this year. But best to be prepared right?
Expedition kayaking, I’ve discovered, is mostly about packing. Keeping your boat as light as possible without skimping on the bits you really need (read: condensed milk).
What drybags to use? Stowfloats or a number of small waterproof bags? There are benefits to both. The Palm Ozone drybags are awesome as you can see through them – useful for people with a memory like mine. I’ve also had a really great experience with the Palm Ultralite bags. Even though they are not fully submersible, they have kept my clothes dry for many days over the years in the back of my kayak. I like them because they are so squishable. I use up to two 12 litre bags each side. Any bigger and they get too cumbersome to cram in the back. For comparison, the Watershed stowfloats are 19 litres and although bombproof, are quite a fiddle to get in and out of the stern when full.
I also find it useful to compartmentalise kit into warmth/shelter/food so you know exactly where things are. Top tip – spread weight between the ends of the kayak rather than loading it all centrally. It makes lifting and carrying way easier.
- Under the stars with or without bivvy bag is my favourite. Mozzie face net is useful.
- Tarp – Make a shelter by tying your throwbag between two paddles wedged upright, throw your tarp over the top, and attach corners to rocks with paracord. Ta daa! Don’t rely on your mate’s car cover – these are not at all as waterproof as they seem.
- Hammock – For anywhere that involves jungle this is the only way to go. Keeps you off the ground away from snakes/creepies. Don’t forget to pack a machete.
- Tipi – These have transformed my overnighters. Really light for their size, they come with one central pole which you can swap out for a paddle, splits or stick. You could even swap out pegs for rocks if you’re really tight. They sleep two to four people and kit. Split the tipi between two people (one carries the pole, one carries the material) to share weight. They often don’t come with a groundsheet so in cold wet environments I double up with a bivvy bag.
- Tent – you can get decent one-man tents, but they still take up a large amount of space and weight for just one person. If you have raft support, however, it is nice to have personal space.
- Sleeping bag – remove from stuff sack and shove it loose into your drybag. Use your feet to push it as deep as it can go. I only have down sleeping bags which are not great in damp conditions, but I’ve survived so far.
- Air mat – also remove from stuff sack and bung into gaps in your drybag. I have seen loads of people use the lightweight and puncture proof z-fold mats but they seem to take up a lot of space – can anyone change my mind on this?!
I take my Palm Tsangpo onesie everywhere. Even if I’m not wearing it under my drysuit I will take it for sleeping in. Let’s face it, even if I’ve worn it all day kayaking, I’ll still sleep in it. For hot weather trips I pack a waterproof jacket, pair of leggings and a long sleeve top for evenings. That’s it. On cooler trips, I wear my onesie constantly with an oversized Vantage jacket so I can fit buffalo AND down jackets underneath. I hate being cold! Plus woolly socks and crocs (social suicide but unbelievably lightweight).
Food and water:
Generally, me and my chums split ingredients between us rather than carry individual sets. For trips of up to a week, this tends to consist of raw veg, rice/lentils, dried meat or cheese, oats, and my emergency tin of condensed milk! On longer trips from two up to four weeks I have been lucky enough to have raft support. Taking your own raft allows for a bit more luxury, but not much – the portages become even more brutal. Planning a stop at a village within hiking distance is useful for replenishing fresh food. Don’t forget to do a bit of research on whether firewood might be available each night if you are not carrying a stove.
Dehydrated meal bags – these are great, but bulky and very expensive in large quantities (four bags a day if, like me, you won’t compromise on pudding). The good thing is that you can cram them under your seat, behind your footrests or hip pads. Not so much with carrots.
Water purification – I carry puritabs for short trips. If you see chunky bits, a higher standard is to filter your water through a t shirt first. In heavily silted rivers we use a gravity filter bag plus ceramic pumps but the gravity bag must be set up overnight as it is SLOW. Things like the LifeStraw are great for personal use.
Finally, throwbag, pin kit and lap bag (containing med kit and snacks) go in-between my legs or just behind my seat in easy reach.
Overnight kayak trips are just the best! Living the simple life eating, bathing and sleeping at the river. Good luck for your next adventures – however big or small, and wherever they may be!