The list of gear needed to spend a somewhat comfortable week or two in the glades can seem pretty daunting…if fact most people just over-pack, and worse they pack items that require special care and let me tell you that in the backcountry the last thing I want to worry about are the “special needs” for my gear: It either stands up or it doesn’t.
With that in mind the simplification of gear is what I strive for, every item in my kit MUST serve at least two purposes or it is merely taking up space as an amenity. Example: Heavy-Duty Emergency Blanket – serves its initial purpose and also works as my tents floor-saver, a clean surface to lay down my gear, and in an emergency can be fashioned to catch and/or hold water. There is no room on a kayak for nonsense on a long trip! It’s supposed to be rough out there and that is really the beauty of it all…it’s simple, primal, basic.
So what do you need? Here are the basic items in the 4 basic categories:
- Tent (preferably a one-person back-packing tent with a No-seeum mesh -IMPERATIVE!
- Sleeping Bag
- Sleeping Matt (Therma-rest is the way to go)
- Camp Chair
- Flashlight or Headlamp
- Waterproof Matches
- First Aid Kit
- Cold Weather Clothes
- Rain Gear
- Spare Rope
- Bug Spray (100% deet, anything else is just a marinade)
- Wash Kit and Soap
- Duct Tape
- Sven Saw (makes gathering firewood a breeze)
- Fire starter (A simple flint and striker set-up will do)
Paddling and Navigation
- Compass (Bring at least 2, I bring 3)
- Tide Chart
- Running lights (Incase you have to paddle at night)
- Skirt (Don’t ever attempt a trip without one)
- VHF Radio (for weather updates)
- Spare Paddle
- PFD and Whistle
- Bilge Pump and Sponge
- Paddle Float
- Painter (for tying off your Kayak)
- Dry Bag(s)
- Storm Cag
- Spare Rope
Cooking & Cookware
- Stove (MSR’s Pocket Rocket is about as small as it gets)
- Cookware (I prefer Titanium as it does not rust and conducts heat much quicker than steel thus less cooking time and less fuel used)
- Filet Knife and cutting board (fresh fish dinner)
- Snacks (when you can’t get out of the boat to cook i.e. Cereal bars)
- Collapsible Bucket (For washing cookware, Seattle Sports Kitchen Sink is a great choice)
- Food – This can be done simply or with a bit of extravagance, it all depends on your level of commitment to properly storing your food. I find that anything requiring refrigeration is a huge hassle as you have to bring a cooler and once you’ve consumed the food the cooler is still there and now serves no other purpose but to take up space in your kayak. Canned foods are good choice but can be rather bulky as well, dried food is better but avoid uncooked rice as it takes so long to cook that much cooking fuel will be consumed in the process.
- Water - The heaviest thing in your kayak! Collapsible nagaline or Mylar-lined bags are the way to go. Additonally to those I pack as many plastic water bottles as possible into the little spaces left in my kayak after its been loaded down. You should have at least 1 gallon of water per day, water weighs 8.3lbs per gallon so a loadout for an 8-day trip will have almost 70lbs of water! I prefer Mylar to Nagaline as it doesn't leave an odd taste in your mouth and more importantly it can store wine or liquor! Bring extra water with you if you don't plan on washing yourself in the blackwaters of the ENP.
Most kayaks I see on the waterway are touring boats, I have yet to see a fishing kayak deep in the backcountry (mothership trips are an exception) but that doesn’t mean there isn’t good kayak fishing back there…its probably the best fishing gets out of a kayak.
- 3 rods, I feel, is a minimal approach to seriously fishing the backcountry: You don’t want to retie all the time and different areas will call for different presentations…I prefer being prepared.
1. 8-12lb Light rod with 20lb Leader and an 1/8th jighead tipped with a soft plastic (all around rig for casting all day)
2. 12-16lb Medium rod with 40lb Leader and an 3/8th Bucktail Jig (snook killer)
3. 8-12lb Light rod with 30lb Leader and an DOA Shrimp (when a soft presentation is required)
4. Shark Rig – I know I said 3 rods…but this one can go packed away. I usually pack a big spinning reel (7500 or larger) with at least 300-400yards of 50lb braided line. The rod can be stored along the side of the kayak under the rigging, this set-up will come in handy on beach sites along the waterway…there are so many sharks out there the bait rarely sits for more than 10 minutes.
- Spare Line
- Fish gripper (makes life much easier)
- Bait Knife
- Small cast net (comes in handy but not at all a requirement)
- Wire Leader and Big Hooks (Sharks)
You will notice I have not mentioned a GPS and there is a good reason for this: Never trust your life to something that runs on batteries! A GPS can come in very handy but I would never trust my navigation to a GPS alone. A compass and chart should always be close at hand and you should be able to navigate with this alone.
These are all items I would never venture into the backcountry without, each serves multiple purposes and all will help to make life out in the sticks just a little bit easier and most importantly, safe.