You need decent gear to be cozy in the worst imaginable conditions, and then a bit more. It’s important to travel in comfort and style while kayak camping. The synergistic relationship between looking good and feeling good needs to be paid attention to. When you look good, you feel good; and when you are feeling good, things go better.
Camping in the temperate rainforest, during rainy conditions, think “creature comforts” and get the tarp up, fire up your stove and get some soup going.
SELECTING YOUR CAMPSITE
Choose a site from a low-impact point of view, thinking of a worst case scenario -a downpour-when you are cold, tired and wet. Choose a well-used site on hard ground rather than a carpet of moss. Avoid placing your tents at the bottom of a hill where the water could rush down. Place your kitchen tarp and fire about 50 metres away from your tents in bear country. Always tie your boat down at night to something that is immovable and doesn’t float. Make sure your paddle is secure.
A key to camp comfort is having a kitchen tarp and one for each tent in the group. The largest tarp covers the kitchen and living room, erected a safe distance from tents. You can cook and eat in comfort and style. 10×13 feet is barely adequate and 13x 15 feet is recommended for sheltering a group of six. With just two, 7×10 feet is just adequate, but at least 9’x12’ is preferable.
Having a tarp over your tent door means you can get out without having to slither into all your rain gear while crouching in the vestibule—or worse, trying to sit on your bed without getting it wet.
Lightweight siliconized nylon tarps made by Integral Designs come in 5×8’ and 8×10’ and pack to very small sizes. They are great for over tents. Most “guide” tarps are of 400-denier nylon tarp with an undercoating and grommets every 30-cm (12″) for hanging or attaching to another tarp. Curved tarps are less likely to catch the wind or allow water to pool for an unexpected dowsing.
200 feet (60 metres) of braided nylon rope is required to cut into appropriate lengths to secure the tarp properly for a strong wind. The extra line is handy for clothes-drying lines and tying boats to trees when the bowlines aren’t long enough.
The tarp is the first thing up and the last thing down at camp. Put the tarp up where it will be safe and an open fire won’t melt it (or burn any of the vegetation).
Pitch and take down tents under the tarp if it is raining. This helps keep your tent from getting muddy and prevents rain soaking into the mesh tops of the tent. Put the fly on and move the tent to your sleep site and stake it down. Do the reverse when you break camp.
Pack your tarp for fast access. On a portage-type trip, like the Bowron Lakes, pack the tarp on your back deck along with your kayak wheels. Otherwise, snuggle the tarp in your hatch below the neoprene cover and avoid having “gust-catchers” on deck. This also helps keep gear below dry in heavier seas.
Your tent must be waterproof. This is your ace in the hole. When all else fails, you get into the tent, and crawl into your warm, dry sleeping bag. Having two doors and vestibules can maintain civility on an expedition, as you don’t have to climb over your mate every time you need to pee.
Choose a tent that is quick and easy to set up. Anticipate adverse conditions-rain, strong winds and blazing sun. Make sure your tent has an adequate fly, good vents and vestibules to store your gear. Bring your old tent up to snuff by treating it with Nikwax Tent and Gear Waterproof. For around $15 you can spray a 2-person tent. Choose a groundsheet that is the size of your tent and doesn’t extend out to catch water from your fly. If the bottom or your tent is suspect, put the groundsheet on the inside. Snow stakes are good for camping in sand-under $2 each.
SLEEPING BAG. Make sure your sleeping bag is a synthetic fill, rather than down-filled. If the unthinkable is ever to occur, and your tent is breached by rain, at least you will be warm. Sleeping is a rather moist affair at the best of times in a wee waterproof shelter, so your bag will slowly get damper during the week, especially if you are breaking camp early in the mornings before the sun has a chance to dry things out.
Bring a fleece pillow case to stuff with clothes for a comfortable pillow.
Thermarests are the old standby, but nothing is as comfortable or as warm as an Exped Down mat. Rolls up smaller than a TR. Has a built-in hand pump.
CLOTHING. Forget about bringing cotton on paddling trips on the west coast. It’s just not worth it. As the weather begins its inexorable slide towards dampness, cotton gets heavier and becomes useless as an insulator. By the end of the week you’re lugging around a bag full of deadweight. Far better to select a simple wardrobe of wool or synthetic clothing that will wick away moisture and dry quickly like polar fleece, nylon, lycra and polypropylene.
Rain gear is key to comfort while coastal camping. They don’t call it the rain coast for nothing, so go for waterproof but light—namely, brand-name, high-tech. My preference is for old-school, heavy duty salopette-style pants, paired with a lighter rain jacket.
But the real secret to comfortable beach camping is gumboots. Call them what you will—gum-tuckers, rubber boots, Wellingtons, Wellies, mud boots, snake boots—just be sure to bring a pair. With a warm, dry pair of socks, good rain gear and boots on, you can laugh at the fury of the gales, dance down the beach during a torrent, and generally remain cheerful during any adverse conditions. They also mean no more detours around streams when beach-walking, and they make dish- washing and tooth-brushing in the intertidal zone downright civilized.
Equally important is having an extra set of dry clothes to get into at the end of the day. Under no circumstances should you ever allow yourself to wear some of your dry clothes the following day, under the pretext that you’ll dry them out at some point. Take a deep breath, and slide back into your wet clothes in the morning—you’ll be glad you did at day’s end. In really wet weather, nothing gets dry; it’s a one-way descent into wetness. Your job is to slow the rate of decline in any way you can, so that you can maintain the expedition standards of comfort and style until the end of the trip.
For the inevitable glorious days of sunshine, bring a pair of water sandals, a pair of nylon shorts or pants, one long-sleeved cotton shirt (did I say that?), your paddling shades and sun hat.
LED headlamps. My favouriites are the Petzel Tikka and Zipka that last 150 hours on 3 AAAs. Although the light may be diffuse after a while, they are still going 140 hours after every other light is dead. Cartridge lanterns that fit on gas canisters give lots of light.
Dry bags are packing essentials. I use a taper bag for clothes (fits in front of bow) and a 10 litre dry bag for jackets and camp outerwear. I carry my sleeping bag in a compressible dry bag inside a 20 litre dry bag that is in front of my feet in my cockpit.
When the sun shines, may provide at least a lukewarm shower in the wild. Collapse. Carry on deck of kayak on sunny day.
COLLAPSIBLE SAW AND NIBBLERS
When camp sites are minimal and especially with a large group, make a new site. Finding something level and above all tide levels is paramount. Good places to start are under trees with low branches where removing a few large branches can provide a good site easily.
CAMPFIRES and STOVES
a. Smokeless Camp Fire. Don’t dig a pit surrounded by rocks as both prevent oxygen from getting to the fire and a fire that is not getting enough oxygen produces more smoke. Find a large rock with a flat surface and stand upright with the flat area facing the fire. Put an open circle of rocks (with gaps between) leading out from this large rock. Oxygen has lots of places to access the fire and the smoke that forms hits the face of the large rock and rises straight up, not following people around.
b. Starting a fire: use greasy foods, pine needles for kindling and create chaos not pyramids, slowly adding more with bigger pieces. Wrap wooden matches in tissue and dip in hot wax – very long lasting and wind proof.
c. Dakota Fire Hole. Dig two holes about 12″ in diameter and about 15″ deep close together. Connect the 2 holes across their bottom – one hole is for cooking and one is for venting. Collect wood mostly sticks the length as the holes are deep. Light the wood with vaseline soaked cotton balls. The wood lasts longer, stealthy (flames are underground, low impact (replace the dirt when leave). This is not the best sort of fire if need to keep warm or if you need a signal fire.
d. Swedish One Log Fire. Split one log into four relatively equal parts and tie them back together with bailing wire. Force open the top opening and push sticks 6″ down so the fire doesn’t go all the way down. Start the fire on top with paper kindling. Can cook on top. Produces lots of heat with little smoke.
c. Pizza – Cook over open fire using a pie iron. Use coals, not flames.
d. Hot Ash Stove: Double combustion stove using sticks and twigs to produce lots of heat. Nested design.
e. Solo Stove: Uses sticks as fuel. Double wall (gives a secondary burn) stainless steel. Comes with 2 pots and tripod for soups or stews. Gives a camp fire experience.
a. Bison Bag hammock/sleeping bag system where the bag wraps around the hammock and no need for a pad.
b. Glider hammock system with rain water retention. Uses Amphiskin, a patented water proof material that is very thin, durable and light reflective. Water is funnelled down specially designed tie downs into water bottles.
c. Pop-up tent in three sizes for 2, 3 or 4 people, 2 entrances and vestibules, LED tent pegs and lights, an available canopy and a solar panel.
d. Siesta 4 tent: Has silver, ultra-reflective fly, a fan that fits into special port in wall and a fly that gives complete coverage.
e. Backpack/bivi sac/tent: This 1.5lb, 40 litre back pack is completely waterproof, has side pockets. Has large collar that rolls up to make a bivi sac. Use rain jacket over head.
f. Kammok: sleeping bag with interchangeable baffles that allows choosing the shell, insulation and baffles. Has ties to tighten bag.
g. Wind rather Air Pad 2: has novel way to inflate using a large air-tight bag and a tube.
g. PVC frame “tent” for box of truck. Use holes in sides of box. Use 2″ white PVC. Tuck tarp between cab and box, tie down with bungy cords.
Almost all frequently used campsites will have their own bunch of mice. And often a lot of mice. They get into everything and anything left out will become contaminated by their feces and licking. The worst I have seen was along the Green River with 10 heavily used camp sites. Recently, I was camped on Willis Island in the Broken Group on Vancouver Island’s west coast, and the mice were everywhere.
The solution is actually very simple and easy to do. Use a plastic container (2 litre plastic juice containers, gallon milk jugs) and cut the top off. Fill half with water, add some sweet juice or lemonade and tear up a small amount of bread to float on top of the water. Put the container with the brim of the cut out bit at the level of a “runway”. It is a little gross listening to them drown. This is a very efficient way to get rid of a lot of mice: I had 13 in one camp site on the Green and 7 at the camp site on Willis.
a. Insect Trap. Cut plastic bottle in half and invert the top into the bottom. Add warm water with 1-2 tsp of sugar or yeast dissolved as an attractant for flies and yellow jackets.
b. Store toilet paper in old coffee can
c. Laundry detergent for hand washing.
d. Tictac boxes for spices
e. Cinch ‘n Clinch: Simple way to attach gear such as water bottles, alcohol and tools.
f. Grayl Water Purifier: one bottle system.
g. Coolest Cooler: has 12V rechargeable blender, Blue Tooth speaker that detaches, battery can recharge by USB, lights in lid, Wheels, tie-down bungies. places for starage plates nd glasses, knife, cutting board, has a wet side and a dry side, wide wheels, bottle opener.
h. Bucket toilet: garbage bag in large plastic bucket, use water pipe insulation on rim for a “seat”. Put paper towel on metal handle of bucket.
i. Connect two pieces of rope with a water knot – makes a sliding loop that can adjust to fit around neck of jars to carry multiple jars.
j. Homemade Thermos: wrap aluminum foil around glass bottle. Cut plastic bottle in half to fit on outside of bottle. Hot glue bottle together.