A guest blog by Scott Moses (LiveOnceLiveWild)
There is nothing quite so refreshing as being out on the water on a cool morning in early spring, watching the river run by you as the quick current from the recent snowmelt runoff pushes you effortlessly through the water. Around one bend you come across a doe and her newborn fawn sipping from the stream-bank and they don´t notice you until you have almost come upon them.
For canoers, kayakers, and other types of river boaters, there is something addicting about being on the water; an almost surreal type of peace that allows you to escape from the rush of everyday life and enjoy what is truly important in life. As all river boaters, kayakers and canoers know, however, if you don´t have the right gear, a quality trip can pretty quickly turn into a nightmare if you´re not prepared.
Trying to paddle through a rushing river during a thunderstorm without a poncho to keep you warm and dry, or having to settle for drinking scorching hot water because your cooler did not keep the drinks cold can ruin a perfectly good trip.
To best prepare for your next boat trip down the river, we have looked through the top 10 pieces of gear that is both lightweight, practical, and affordable. With these ten pieces of gear that easily fit into any canoe, kayak, or other type of river boat, you´ll be ready for any surprise that comes around the river bend.
1. The K-Pak Folding Boat
Before we get into an analysis of the best types of gear, we had to offer our top pick for the best type of kayak for any trip. The K-Pak Folding Boat is an extremely lightweight foldable boat that allows you to be prepared for the water even off the beaten path. At only 21 pounds, this small water vessel can be taken with you on a backpacking trip, allowing you to hike up over the mountains and into the valleys where you can then explore the rivers.
While this foldable boat can be your sole vessel for navigating the rivers, you can also carry it along with you during a canoe trip or a trip on a larger boat to help you explore some of the smaller creeks and offshoots from the rivers.
2. A Quality Cooler
Whether you´re heading out to explore the Boundary Waters of the Northern Minnesota wilderness for a three week kayaking trip or you´re only meandering down the local creek that runs through your backyard, you need to have a cooler with you. There are dozens of different types of coolers on the market that you can choose from, and the best option for you will depend on how long you´ll be gone, how much stuff you´ll be carrying with you, and other specifics related to the context of your trip.
You can check out the article titled What Are The Best Coolers on the Market Today for more information on the best coolers out there. However, a great all-around cooler that can be taken with you on pretty much any trip is the Arctic Zone Titan cooler set. There are a number of different options you can choose from, but all of the different types of coolers come with top of the line features including great insulation and waterproof features.
3. A Tarp
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but you´d be surprised how often people leave home for a several day wilderness trip on the waters with no way to protect themselves from a monsoon. Weather is unpredictable, and there are few things as frustrating as being soaked by the water from above and from below as both the rain and the river waves combine to freeze you to near hypothermic conditions.
For multi-day trips, you´ll obviously want to bring a tent, but having an extra tarp along that can be quickly set up as a makeshift shelter is a great way to stay relatively dry during those afternoon rainstorms that sometimes only last an hour or two.
4. Barrel Pack
One of the advantages of kayaking, canoeing or river boating over hiking is that you don´t have to carry everything with you on your back. This allows you to pack in a few extra pounds of comfort foods, that extra bottle of wine for late night campfires on the shores, and all sorts of other creature comforts. However, you will want to keep your stuff dry from both the rain and the river itself.
Instead of haphazardly throwing everything into your old canvas duffel bag, a barrel pack is a completely water proof and seal-able pack that can hold all your stuff and promise to keep it dry, even if you accidentally overturn in the water. One of the best barrel packs on the market is made by Duluth and is a reasonable price to pay for a dry set of socks after a long day of paddling.
5. Spray Cover
While getting a little bit wet from spray during a hot summer day on the river is usually refreshing and desired, getting constantly hit with freezing cold water spraying up for the rapids during a near freezing day in early spring can be a bit miserable. A simple spray cover to put around your kayak or canoe seat is an easy way to keep your legs, feet, and lower torso dry during those trips when, despite the cold, you still had to get out onto the water.
6. Standup Paddle
For long day trips or overnighter trips on the water, one of the most common experiences, especially for people new to the world of kayaking and canoeing, is a sore bottom and cramped legs. While you will definitely get plenty of upper body exercise from paddling, the old legs can get a little bit antsy and your rump might get tired after sitting all day.
A standup paddle allows you to give your legs and butt a rest as you can stand up and paddle during long stretches of calm water. Not only will the change of position do your body good, but you´ll also enjoy the change of vantage point which allows you to see the river and the banks from a new perspective.
7. A Quality Protective Case
If you are planning on documenting your trip through photographs and have a pretty decent camera, chances are that you won´t feel comfortable carrying your camera with you through rolling waters without having some way of protecting it from the elements. A quality protective case will protect your camera, phones and other pieces of sensitive technology from rain, bumps, falls, and pretty much any other disaster that might be lurking around the next bend in the river.
The Pelican 1400 Protective Case is one of the best, and most affordable, cases on the market. It is said to be virtually indestructible as it is chemical and corrosion resistant, airtight, watertight, dustproof and crushproof.
8. Dry Suit
If you are planning a boating trip on the river during spring time or other times during the year when excess rain fall and snowmelt promise some fast rapids, you might want to consider investing in dry suit. Capsizing is never fun, but it is something that pretty much every canoer and kayaker will experience at some time during their travels. A dry suit will keep your warm and dry even if you go under and will help you to feel comfortable enough to get right back into the water instead of drying off for an hour or two in front of a fire.
9. Dutch Oven
After several hours on the water, hunger begins to set in and there is nothing quite so satisfying as sitting down to a good meal on the shores of a softly gurgling river. Most kayakers and canoers only bring a small camp stove, which while useful, also limits what you can cook for dinner. Consider taking along a small Dutch oven which you can find at almost any supermarket and enjoy some home baked goods after a long day out on the river. You can almost smell the cinnamon buns combining with the smells of the early morning river water.
10. Camping Hammock
This last piece of gear might not be essential, but it sure adds a priceless feeling of comfort. After a long day of sitting in the water, there is nothing quite so relaxing as stretching out the old bones in a hammock that is placed next to the bonfire. On warm, rainless nights, a camping hammock will most likely be all you need to get a restful night´s sleep under the stars.
Gear Up and Get Out
Once you've got your basic supplies (and a few extra creature comforts) all packed up, it´s time to get out and enjoy the water. Whether you´re heading out for a month-long adventure or a two-hour late afternoon jaunt down the river, these ten essential pieces of gear will ensure that your trip is a memorable one.