Like most trips, whether by air or by land, most people have a destination in mind. Getting there is part of the journey. There is always some sort of planning, and ensuring you have the right items packed along – as well as a few extra things you really don’t need. Planning a kayak trip is very similar in ways – although some of your resources may be a bit unique. Today, I will talk about how to plan an overnight/multiple day kayaking trip, and just how to use the resources available to you.
Before heading to a destination for a put-in location (the place one launches a kayak) – it would be best to see if it is indeed possible to launch from your “ideal” spot. One way to do this is to research your planned trip – use the web, ask fellow paddlers, or read some books about various destinations. More than likely, there has been someone who has done the trip you really want to do. “Scouting” a launch and landing spot is ideal and if you live close enough, much of this can be done while on land. For times where the water’s edge can not be observed by land (either because of elevation, vegetation, private property, etc…) using wither Bing or Google maps may assist you. Many times, one can zoom in and actually see where there may be obstructions in the water, rapids, or sometimes how low the water may actually become. One can also map out the distance along the route (Bing maps has this option if you right click on the map). If heading along the coastal waterways (Great Lakes or Oceans), and need an actual chart – a few pages to get you started are https://www.oceangrafix.com/search/map and https://www.charts.noaa.gov/ChartCatalog/MapSelect.html The second location allows one to download the image in PDF format which can be then laminated and placed on the front deck for use. This is assuming one can read a nautical chart, and understand what the symbols mean (that will be a future blog).
Great, you have got some information for the planned trip, and know the distance, the launches and landings, some possible hazards in the water, and also have talked to a few fellow paddlers who have first hand experience about this trip. That is one step out of the way, on to additional planning.
Understanding the type of water conditions will be an item in which you really need to be concerned about. Both large bodies of water (Great Lakes and oceans), and moving water (rivers/creeks) have their own dynamic responses to the environment – and are ever changing. These changes can happen hourly, or within days. Paddling in water in which is above your comfort level is dangerous, especially if you are not mentally or physically ready for what lays ahead. I will provide some information where you may obtain certain water conditions (both rivers and open water locations).
For the river kayaker – American Whitewater provides a quick viewing summary for the level of the water (Red – low water, Green – running water, and Blue – high water), as well as normal classification type (Class ! being the lowest on the rapids scale). Click on your state, and view the rivers – this is an alphabetical listing of most, if not all the rivers in each state.
Another site which is helpful is a site from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Once selecting your state and the desired river, a graph will load, displaying the past and current water levels (and one may see how it compares to flood stage).
For open water (Great Lakes will be described here) I like to glance at the NOAA page to see trends, current, and what they have predicted – although I have found the accuracy not the greatest (about 75% accurate). It does have many options in which one may view (winds, waves, current, surface temps) – as well as place the data in an animated state.
I really like the following site for data – as I first became aware and used this for about two years now, and have found the predictions (for about 6 days out) to be at least 90% accurate, and for the actual hour of paddle to be 98% accurate. Although it doesn’t have the data for the currents, like NOAA – the information WindFinder provides has exactly what I need, and I CAN trust it, completely! When going to the main page, just type in a city – once there, click on forecast for detailed information (one can save the location as a favorite, and quickly navigate next time)
Great, now you have a destination, planned out the route, and know what the weather and water action will be like. Ensuring you have the right kayak for the right trip is yet another essential key component for a safe trip (please review my blog http://tinyurl.com/yy4gng6v to ensure you have the right yak for the right water). I will be referring to packing a sea kayak, and some items to bring along for an extended trip in the following paragraphs.
When planning on what to pack – think about if you really need it, or will use it during your trip. There are essential items in which you will need, depending on your route, location, time of year, water temp/air temp, and length of trip. Kayak tripping is much like ultra-light backpacking – keep it light and well balanced. Since there are numerous items on the market, the intention of this blog is not to inform you which item is better than the other – but please do your own research around either kayak or backpacking specific items. Don’t under pack safety equipment or rescue items – and have them easily accessible. Food and water filtration devices are wonderful to have along and will provide you the energy and nutrients needed throughout your journey. Cooking items can be a challenge, as there are various items and systems out there to choose. If attempting to safe room and weight, dehydrated meals might be a good option – just as long as one has access to water. Clothing should be lightweight, yet warm – synthetic is a way better option than cotton. Sleeping gear should include your tent, sleeping pad/mattress, and sleeping bag. Dry bags are key items to place all your items into – to ensure these do not get wet. The bags serve a dual role: storage (both inside the yak and in the tent) and transportation of the items (from yak to camp site)
Packing the items in the yak does take time and some prep work. I like to lay out everything next to my yak at home on the grass and divide it all in two fairly equal weight groups, so the yak is balanced. For the items which I know I will not need until I get to the actual campsite, and I will tend to pack these items first into the ‘nose’ of both the bow and stern. For safety related items, I will place these into the day hatch, and let my fellow paddlers know what is in there (usually the first aid kit, repair kit, flares, smoke, etc….) I tend not to place anything on my deck, except for my spare paddle, compass, chart, and camelback water bag, as I reserve this space for preforming kayak assisted rescues.
Once I preform a dry run packing the items in the yak a few times and figure out what works, I will then place all these items in dedicated IKEA-like bags, and place them in the car. When I get to the launch spot, I will bring the yak down to the water’s edge, then bring all the bags, packing the hatches with the dedicated bags. When arriving to the campsite, it is just a reverse process. When possible, I try not to drag (or carry) a loaded yak up onto the shoreline (unless the landing spot is really not an ideal unloading zone because of terrain, waves, or winds). If I must, I will aid the assistance from someone else to help carry each other’s yak up onto solid ground.
Yes, there is a bit of research and planning for overnight trips with a kayak. When done correctly, and time and time again – you learn what works, and what doesn’t. Even with the best packing, sometimes Mother Nature places a damper on the actual camping experience. Although this reduces the fun factor, it allows one to make a mental note of that ‘one item’ which may have all the difference for next time. I was on a multi-day paddle trip years ago and our group decided it would be best to each carry a Duraflame log over to the island (and these are not a lightweight item). I fortunately had space, and agreed to carry one. It was actually nice to have these items a few days later, as the evening rains made most of the tree branches difficult to light on fire for our evening camp fire. I have adapted this notion to a smaller fire starter, as well as reduced the weight – it is still nice to have the ability for a camp fire, even with a light rain. It makes all the difference… as hopefully these tips did too..
For the Paddler Within……