Most of the time when we dream about our paddling adventures, we dream of what we will see, how the water will run and how big of a fish we'll catch. Seldom do we sit and let our mind wander to the planning that takes place beforehand- how we're going to pack our gear, where we're going to drop in, are we going to camp or not. These details may seem a bit humdrum when our minds are really longing to be out on the water. But, those details are the key to having the best time when we finally get out on the water.
1. Camping or Day Trip?
Deciding on the length of your trip is the squarest of square ones before you can start to prepare for your paddling trip. Obviously, a multi-day trip will require more involved packing and probably a bit more planning, so making that call early is key.
2. Deciding your drop-in/ take out points.
This may seem like pretty common step, but for those of us who live flying by the seat of our pants, this is something that we actually must force ourselves to do. This doesn't mean you must have a rigid, inflexible trip. Plotting your drop in and take out points can help you in the rest of your planning and packing. Having them in advance can also help an outside party track your trip in the event of an emergency.
3. Mapping your stops
Especially if you are staying overnight, mapping out your stopping points can be key to smooth sailing (see what we did there?!). If you're camping overnight, it's good to get eyes on the sites (even if they are just potential sites) ahead of time. This way you can be fully prepared for the course ahead, and have options for any unplanned stops that may occur.
4. Checking the Weather
Another preparation step that may seem like a no-brainer for some is an important step that many people miss. We all have our friends who are constantly checking the weather leading up to a big trip. But for as many of those friends that we have, we also have those who are going to wear shorts and a tank top and live on a prayer. Being mindful of potential weather situations, no matter how minor can help you to be ready for anything on your trip.
5. Planning your Meals
Did you know that planning out what meals you're going to make works out better than just taking random ingredients that you like 100% of the time? OK well we don't know that for sure either, but we can say with certainty that planning meals makes it easier for you. Meal prep makes for food you love while saving you space. When you know what you're going to make, you can pack just what you need without a lot of excess.
6. Checking Your Gear
Especially at the beginning of a new season, it's important to give your gear a good check through before heading out to your location. At the end of a long paddling trip you don't always feel like doing a quick repair job on a tear or puncture. If you go through all your gear at home you're more likely to be able to get a good repair in on any damaged gear before your trip.
7. Choosing Your Clothing
If you've been out on paddling trips before you know that dressing for the occasion can be trickier than it seems. You're always safest in layers, even if you don't think you'll need them all. The weather can change quickly even if you have done you're homework and tracked it before your trip. In the hottest of places, the temperature can still make a significant drop when the sun goes down or the wind picks up. We suggest having two additional lightweight layers to what you already have packed in a waterproof bag. (Nothing worse than getting your warm clothes wet before a cold night!)
8. Gathering Safety Gear
Safety gear is always a must. This isn't the area of gear that you want to wait until you need it to get it. ( Maybe that would be bananas or something). Water is always unpredictable even in the safest of situations. Do yourself and your crew a favor and gather up your safety gear ahead of time with at least the minimum on-water safety gear.
9. Minding All the Extras
This step comes after you've got everything together that you think you want to take with you. Go through your trip in your mind and try to think of each of the activities you're planning and see if you forgot anything. If you didn't, and you're prepared all the way from paddles to band-aids, then throw in an extra pair of underwear for good measure. Not better ever lost on having extra undies.
10. Purposefully Packing
We're almost ready to go I promise. Here's the most important part- packing. Purposefully packing your boat can make a huge difference in the comfort and safety of your trip. How you pack your gear in your boat effect how the boat sits and can take a toll on your trip if you don't do it correctly. So really take some time here and make sure the weight and bulk is distributed correctly.
We can't wait to get out on the water this summer, and the more we go over our pre-trip strategy, the easier it becomes. We also don't mind that it make the trip feel a little longer when we tack on a few days at the front with planning.
What are some of your fool-proof pre-trip rituals before you get out to the water?