Packing Tips For Camping or Canoeing

14 Jun

Okay, I know that what you would need to bring on a camping trip may seem obvious, there are A LOT of things that are easily overlooked.

I’ve been camping many times in my life and I’ve been on canoeing and hiking trips a few times as well. I’ve always had someone with me who knew what gear to bring and what was important for survival.

But it really depends on where you’re camping. If I’m at a campground that pretty much consists of lot beside lot of campsites then there really isn’t a lot to think about in terms of survival. There’s usually public bathrooms with showers, water pumps with clean, running water, and an in-site store with all your camping needs.

If I’m camping or canoeing in an area where I’m pretty much fending for myself, then there’s a lot more to consider, especially when you’re canoeing to your campsite (an island) leaving you with little access to anything except what nature has to offer.

I’ve been on a canoe trip in high school to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. But, I had teachers who knew what equipment to bring and basically what was necessary for survival. I also met two amazing people that I ended up becoming great friends with.

That was three years ago. Now, three years later, those two friends, one other person, and myself decided to start our own tradition – a yearly canoe trip.

This May we did our ‘trial’ run with only four people. Each year afterwards we’ll add more and more people and hopefully start a tradition that lasts a long time.

It was a success, that’s for sure. That success was definitely based off of being prepared with proper equipment.

Luckily, my friends Steven and Chris had done our school’s yearly canoe trip every year that that attended high school, so they had a good idea of what we needed.

Anyway, here is an idea of what you should pack if ever participating in a trip similar to the one I made.

The Basics

Backpack: Obviously. The thing that sucks about going on a trip like this is that although you will be likely going for a week or less, you need more space for packing than you would need for months of backpacking. Three reasons: sleeping bag, food, and extra equipment.

Clothes: Especially warm clothing for the night! It gets really cold. Don’t forget a bathing suit too because you’ll be bathing in the lake most likely. Also, don’t forget a waterproof jacket.

Shoes/Sandals: If you’re going canoeing, you will have to portage no matter what. Sandals won’t cut it. So bring shoes that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty because they will get wet and they will get dirty. Sandals are good for around the campsite.

Tent: Self-explanatory I would think. My only advice would be to bring a tent that is as light as possible. Ours was a BIG ASS TENT making it really heavy and awkward when it was packed in its bag, which was terribly difficult to carry when portaging during the first day before setting up camp and when heading home on the last day.

Food: Carbs. Carbs. Carbs. Sugar. Sugar. Sugar. And lots of it. Canoeing and portaging will drain your energy so incredibly quickly.

– Lighter, matches, pots, utensils, flashlight, bug spray, sunscreen, sleeping bag, life jacket, carabiners, water bottle, toiletries, towel…

CANOE and PADDLES: If you forget these, then I’m not sure you’re cut out for canoeing.

The Not-So-Obvious

Water-purifer: If worst came to worst, you could boil water if you had a pot, but if you don’t want to drink hot water then you should bring something to purify the lake water. If you have some extra cash, then a water pump works great. We were on a budget so we just bought some iodine tablets. Although the water didn’t taste very good, we didn’t get sick once so I would say that they worked great.

Tarp: In case it rains. We put all our bags under the tarps every night. It actually did rain on one of the nights and all of our stuff was dry in the morning.

Stove: Only if you want to cook food, which you will.

Back-up stove: In case you need to boil water in emergencies or in case your primary stove doesn’t work. The type of ‘back-up’ stove you should get is good because it doesn’t involve propane/gasoline. Instead, it uses warming gel. Ours was a compact, folding stove . You light the warming gel and it heats — albeit slowly — your food! Pretty cool invention.

Fire starters: You light these and use them to help start a fire. Makes it a lot easier.

Rope: Multi-purpose. You can use it to tie things, use it as a clothesline, and, most importantly, to hang up your food at night! Bears WILL come if you leave food around. Don’t be stupid and forget to hang your food. Use carabiners to create a pulley type of system to hang the food.

Dry bag: Also for hanging your food. If it rains at night and you don’t hang your food in a dry bag you’ll wake up to wet, soggy food, which will suck big time. A dry bag will also come in handy if you have electronics. When I was canoeing I usually kept my camera around my neck because I was confident that our canoe wouldn’t tip, but when we were canoeing on windy days I kept it in my 10 L dry bag.

Saw: We brought a mini saw with us. Got wood? How else are you going to chop fire wood?

Map and compass: This is 100% necessary for a canoe trip. Unless you’ve completed the same route several times, you will need a map to navigate the lakes. A compass is essential even if you know the route well.

Walkies: If you’re traveling with a pair or more canoes bring walkie talkies. We got so much use out of these (especially when we were portaging) because everyone goes at their own pace so it’s easy to get separated. Also, you can pick up signals from other people in the area who have walkies, which would come in handy if you were lost or in some kind of trouble. A whistle would be good for this purpose as well.

Yoke pads: For portaging. The wood of the canoe takes a huge toll on your shoulders and yoke pads relief that pressure.

Bug net: Other than the obvious fact that bug nets are extremely fashionable, as much as you think you won’t need one because you have bug spray, BRING a bug net. Even if you won’t get bitten much while wearing bug spray, mosquitoes and black flies will swarm around your face, guaranteed, which is super annoying. Every time we had to get out of our canoe to portage, they would swarm around us. Every time we had to get back into our canoe after portaging, they would swarm us. It is not a good feeling. My bug net was a lifesaver.

And that’s how I made it through my first self-organized canoe trip through the amazing Algonquin Provincial Park. It was difficult, but highly rewarding, and being prepared made it that much less stressful.

On another note, don’t forget the booze! Nothing better than sitting back with good friends, drink in hand, while viewing a sunset after a long, hard day of canoeing.

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