Packing for my French River Kayaking Trip

Last year I went on a few trips that were a couple days longer than weekend trips.  As I camp so often, I try and make 3 and 4 day weekends with my vacation time, instead of taking an entire week or two off at once. That way I can enjoy being outdoors much more, in my opinion.  One of these trips was a 4 day, 3 night trip to the French River, somewhere I’d always wanted to go.  This trip would only have one very small 190m portage, and therefore I would take my larger kayak of the two I own, my Delta 15s. The trip got cut short and ended up being 4 days and 3 nights due to high winds, but originally I did pack for a 5 day, 4 night trip.

As many people have asked me the last few years about packing for a trip, I filmed the entire process of packing everything at home, then putting it into bags that would then be shown being packed into the kayak.  This post, is about that process and to show what I take on a 5 day kayak camping trip with little to no portages.

Just a note that the packing I did for this trip is very different from the packing I would do for a similar trip by canoe in many ways. I also had the luxury of bringing many things I wouldn’t normally bring on trip, as the items would only go into my kayak and mostly stay there and wouldn’t have to be carried on land except to where my tent would be set up etc.

This has been a post I’ve been wanting to write for quite some time and as mentioned, I’ve had a lot of requests for this.  In my opinion, the video is a bit easier to follow, however, I wanted to also write a blog post for those of you that prefer reading the posts instead of watching them on video.  Let’s get started!

This trip would be taken in August, 2017. The forecast was warm but very very wet. We actually had a tornado warning when I was out the first day, but had no idea it was in effect.  I have quite a few items of camping clothing that I just use for every trip which makes packing easy.  I generally try to pack a lot of underlayers, like a tank top for each day and then 2 long sleeves (in case one gets wet) a warm fleece, a warmer fleece and a rain jacket.

For the bottom layers for this trip I had 3 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of sleeping shorts (no food scent), one pair of sleeping tights (no food scent), two pairs of pants and a pair of rain pants.  In addition I pack several pairs of underwear, one sports bra (one is worn in), a few pairs of socks and one or two bathing suits.  I always pack a hat as they are priceless when it rains and also good to keep the sun off a burnt face or keep a face from getting burnt.

All of these items are then packed into a dry bag with the exception of a few things.  My thick fleece and thinner fleece usually get packed in their own ziploc bags.  This is so that I can easily take them out and ensure they stay dry no matter what.  It is also convenient for the morning or evening to be able to keep one of them separate from my clothes bag, in a day hatch or behind my seat in case i need it avoiding unpacking my entire clothes bag which is generally buried in a hatch.  I also always keep my rain coat and rain pants in their own bag, also easily accessible if the weather turns.

There is nothing worse than being caught in a downpour and having rain gear with you, but buried in a hatch that you are not able to get to.  For this reason, I keep them separate and accessible along with my hat and whatever other item I may need during the travelling part of my day.  This usually includes a thin long sleeve or bug shirt to protect me from bugs, scratchy branches if I have to portage, sun burns, cool air. etc etc.  The rest gets packed in the dry bag and it’s put with the other gear.

Once the clothing is packed I move on to the other items.  For this trip, I laid out all my gear for the entire four days on my dining room table.  Again, just a note that I have only one 100m portage on this trip and have no need to pack lightly so some of the gear is not something I would take, let’s say, on a canoe trip where I’d be doing 6 portages in a day.

I do my best to separate my food into categories.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks, seasonings and other smelly items that may not necessarily be food such as sunscreen and bug spray. On the photo on the top left I have my breakfasts.  A few packages of oatmeal with some dehydrated apples and strawberries, 2 different types of scones for one breakfast each, an english muffin, 2 eggs and 2 pieces of bacon for one lovely breakfast of an bacon egg muffin sandwich.

The photo above shows my snacks for the 4 days.  Yes, there are a lot and I believe in doing my best to eat every few hours during the day and spread out my energy. I also have colitis so my snacks are not always the most nutritional as many of those items have a large amount of fiber, so I try and mix it up a bit.  I have 2 granola bars, another one will go in my pocket on the morning of take off.  There are chocolate covered almonds, a bar of chocolate, a few chocolate chip cookies, some dehydrated apples, corn chips and a few baby snickers for a quick pick me up.

Above on the left I have my drinks,  a bottle of berry mio and  a few shots of coconut rum in the vitamin bottle. I also bring a bag of teas in case I need to be warmed up, just a few varieties and a few sleepy time teas for at night.  Next to the teas are Off wipes which are great in leui of heavy bottles of liquid bug spray. They are like moist towelettes soaked in bug spray and I find they work quite well.

In the photo directly above I have a bottle of sunscreen (tylenol bottle) and a nalgene bottle with some biodegradable soap along with a small salt shaker. I don’t eat pepper so I just put salt in both sides.

I also keep my toiletries in the bear vault with the food as some items are scented. In my personal hygiene ziploc I carry unscented deodorant, a very small container of clinique face lotion, a travel toothbrush, a travel sized toothpaste and some dental floss.

The above photos show my lunches for the 4 days.  There are wraps, laughing cow cheese that I use in lieu of mayonnaise, one vacuum packages of salami, one vacuum package of proscuitto,  a piece of kielbasa, some old cheddar cheese wrapped in cheese cloth and some crackers which I put an elastic band on in each direction to help keep them from breaking, which surprisingly, they did not.

For one dinner I have 2 noodle nests for a pasta that I make with dehydrated morel mushrooms, dehydrated asparagus and butter.  For the first night I have a frozen steak and asparagus that will go just go into my day hatch wrapped in ice and newspaper.  For the third dinner, I have peameal bacon, marinated in maple syrup and mustard and then frozen and a bun which I planned to cut into slices of bread to make 2 sandwiches with.  You can see the peameal bacon meal here and the morel mushroom pasta meal here if you are interested.

As I had at this time, been taught to clean a fish on my own and was bringing fishing gear with me on this trip, I also had my emergency fish meal kit coming with me.  This included a ziploc bag of fish crisp inside a larger bag that I could use to put the fish into and coat the fish in, some olive oil for one of my other meals and also backup oil to fry the fish in.  This kit also includes a half a package of mashed potato mix that just needs boiling water added to make a full meal.  Just in case. 🙂  (I did end up catching, cleaning and cooking a pike on this trip and you can see that video here if interested!).

All of the items food related and scented get stacked into my bear vault in order of use with the food that I need first at the top and the meals I will eat last at the very bottom.

Some other gear that I will require for my trip is above and will get packed into tote bags from here.  On the top right, my tarp as I  was expecting a lot of rain, (there was actually a rain warning in place for up to 50mm), my thermarest mat, my tent and poles and my sleeping bag, rated -9 as I get very cold at night and would rather be comfortable than cold.

The tote bag above includes items that are for my kayak and will go on the decks or behind my seat.  It includes my deck compass, my billage pump, my paddle float, which will double as my pillow at night (super comfy with a t shirt over it) and my tow rope, which also doubles as my emergency rope required for my kayak.

The thin tote bag above carries some gear that I am always grateful for on trip.  There are a few plastic cutting boards which I use for a huge variety of things. They are great for preparing food on, sitting on when the ground is wet and fanning the fire are just a few of the uses.  In the thin tote bag, I also keep a small light grill in case I want, or need to cook on the fire and a few sheets of foil because you never know when you might need foil and it is extremely small and light to pack.  When I canoe camp, this bag fits nicely in the back of the pack and takes up next to no space.

Some other needed gear above that I take is my Sven Saw , my fishing knife that my dad gave me on our daddy/daughter fishing weekend,  my Moriknav knife that I use for batoning wood and as an extra backup knife and a small plastic shovel in case a privy may not be available.  These items would get packed in the tote bag where I keep my pot set and kitchen items.

Other items include my Beacon which is an emergency device in case something happens to me. I file a trip report with them before each trip to let them know where I plan to be, using what type of equipment etc, so the can locate me if I press that help button.  My headlamp, but shirt, and whistle which I always wear around my neck to use as a signalling device, again, in case of emergency.  To the right there are 2 of the 3 chargers I brought on this trip.  They are used to charge my iphone 7 which I use for everything on trip, including making videos and taking photos and also to charge my gopro.  Also above the white charger is my new gopro which did not survive the trip unfortunately and is now in the bottom of Georgian Bay. I wasn’t really that fond of it anyways.

Above is my emergency backup camera which is waterproof. I use it for taking underwater photos and also in case something, heaven forbid, happens to my iphone.  Beside that is a compass and my first aid kit and some waterproof matches.

I did not unpack my cook set when filming the video that goes with this post.  The pot set is from Woods Canada which I got at Canadian Tire and so far it has been good to me.  It contains a frying pan and 2 pots, 2 cups, my backcountry stove from Primus which is awesome and has been with me since 2002.  A small bottle of Purinize drops to use as a backup in case my filter has any issues or if I’m out and just need to treat some water on the go, a dish towel, a few bandannas which come in handy for many things, a j-cloth which will be relocated into the bear vault once used and some extra ziploc bags.  In the small bag to the left of the kit is my utensils, a spatula, fork, knife and spoon and also the pot handles.

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Pictured above is my Katadyn gravity water filter, which I absolutely love and holds 10 liters of water.  The last trip I took it on, it spring a small leak which I repaired easily with duct tape, hence the bottle of Purinize I was also taking as backup.

Above is my collapsible fishing rod I purchased many many years ago at Canadian Tire which is awesome. It shrinks down to a very small size making it easy to have on trips with me.  To the left of that is a pair of needle nose pliers in a ziploc bag and below that is my small fishing kit containing lures, hooks and my fishing license.  That pretty much covers all the gear for this trip.

What I do next is pack everything into certain bags so I know what is where. The pot set goes into a red cinch bag I have and also inside of that I put all the sharp items such as my knives, shovel, tent pegs and saw.

The clear drybag pictured above is used for what I call my camping purse. This contains all my main essentials that I may need at a moments notice and I keep it handy in my kayak so I can always access it if need be.  Inside of it I pack my toilet paper, (at least one roll), my portable charges and cables, my cameras, compass, first aid kit, my beacon and my bug shirt was put in here as I wanted it somewhere handy where I knew I could easily grab it.

My sleeping bag first gets packed in a plastic bag, then in it’s carry bag.  It then gets squished into a tote bag with the other soft squishy items such as my Therm-a-rest NeoAir Trekker , my Aquaquest sil tarp, my water filter, 2 cans of fuel and my rain gear.

In the next tote bag I put my clothes bag in, my green flat tote bag which holds the grill, foil and cutting boards and my tent poles.

In the next tote bag I pack my kitchen bag with all the pots, pans etc and all the other items I packed into the red cinch bag, my tent and my fishing gear which I put into a plastic bag that will go behind my seat in my kayak for easy access and use.

The last bag contains the items I will put on my kayak decks, my compass, pump and paddle float along with my tow rope that will go behind my seat.  Along with those items I pack my camping purse and the bear vault.

And that is all the bags for my trip. There are 4 tote bags and I can easily sling 2 bags on each shoulder to carry them from the car to the boat and back and on the small portage I have on this trip which is less than 200m.

From here I will take these bags to the car and then load the items from the bags into the kayak when the kayak is in the water and ready to pack just before I take off for my adventure. In the video that goes with this post, I actually show myself packing the items from each tote bag into the hatches.  Check my youtube channel to see that video if you’re curious to see more.

I apologize for the photos in this post as they were mostly taken from the videos I made for the youtube video on this topic.  I had not originally intended on doing a blog post along with the video, but in hindsight I decided it would be a good idea to be able to explain things a bit more and put some links in the post to some of the gear that I use regularly.

If you have any questions or comments or just want to say hi, please leave a message.  I hope you enjoyed this post.

Happy Packing!

Camper Christina

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