Living the Paddling Lifestyle
Alex Hunt from kayakcritic.net was kind enough to offer us this guest post. He has some great information on his site. We were recently asked to help with one of his camp cooking blogs so we are glad to have the chance to accept a guest blog in response. With any luck we will seeing more of Alex, but until then enjoy the following.
Walt -Paddle NC
5 Things to Consider When Camping with a Kayak
Camping is a great way to relax, explore, and gain appreciation for the great outdoors. For paddlers,
kayak camping just means you are not done enjoying the outdoors after a few hours of paddling!
For one, it’s really not much different from backpacking, in that your capacity to carry gear is limited.
In many ways, kayak camping is actually easier, because you don’t actually have to carry all the gear,
so weight is not as much of an issue. That being said, space is definitely still limited, so keep that in
Whether you’re new to kayak camping or a seasoned veteran, we have compiled some useful kayak
camping tips to make your next trip a good one!
Plan Your Gear
Sit down with the people you are going camping with, and brainstorm ideas. Make a list of the gear
you need. Not an experienced camper? This list of camping essentials is a good place to start.
Make your own list, then eliminate things that aren’t essential or are inconvenient to transport on a
kayak. Tent, sleeping bag, cooking tools, food, etc – those are essentials. That portable DVD player?
Not so much…
Load Before You Leave!
Always, ALWAYS load up your kayak with all your gear before you actually head out the door of your
home. That way, you can make sure everything fits, and that the weight is evenly distributed. Place
heavy items on the bottom of the boat, as central as possible. Keep in mind that kayak hatches are
oddly shaped, so fitting everything in might be a challenge.
Some things can be strapped to the outside of the boat, but keep in mind that those things will get
wet. And, it will be hard to balance the weight of the boat if you strap things to the deck of the yak.
It’s best to fit everything in the hull, if possible.
Also – think about what items you might need to access while out on the water, or while en route to
your final destination. Certain things such as snacks, water, sunglasses, first aid kit, etc. should be
kept within reach, so you don’t have to dig through all your gear to find what you’re looking for.
Don’t Count on the “Waterproof” Label
Long story short… don’t trust waterproof hatches. Even if you’ve never had a problem with water
getting into your storage compartments, it’s always a possibility.
The last thing you want is to arrive at your destination with a hull full of soaking wet gear. Then again,
some things can get wet with no issue – things like tent poles, packaged foods, canned goods, etc. can
be placed wherever they fit, even if that’s in a place that will get wet.
Figure out what needs to stay dry, and protect those things. Sleeping bags, clothes, first aid kits, fire
starters, etc. are things that absolutely need to stay dry.
So how does one keep that important gear dry? Two words: dry bags.
Dry bags are the only way you can know for sure that your gear will arrive safe and dry.
Unfortunately, due to the size restrictions of kayak storage hulls, you really have to pay attention to
the size of the dry bag you use. Instead of buying one huge one, get 2 or 3 medium ones!
Other things that you want to keep dry but are less essential can simply be placed in trash bags, and
double bagged if necessary.
Hydration is More Than Just Water Bottles
Don’t forget to think about water. If you’re going to have access to fresh water, a water filter setup is
a good way to save room in your boat. But, if you’re camping in an area without a fresh water source,
you’re going to have to bring your own drinking water.
If your destination requires you to bring drinking water, think ahead and pack smart. Bottled water is
convenient, but it takes up a lot of space and creates a lot of unnecessary waste. It’s a good idea to
use water bags/bladders, because they are lightweight, reusable, and flexible – meaning they can be
squeezed into whatever empty space remains in your boat once it’s all packed up.
Food & Camping Meals
It’s important to bring enough food, but it’s also important to bring the right kinds of camping meals.
Especially if you plan on doing strenuous outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, etc. you need
adequate food to create adequate energy.
Proteins are essential. For short trips, you can safely bring fresh, frozen meat with you. It will take a
day or two to thaw, and until then it will stay at a safe temperature so you don’t have to worry about
refrigeration. After that first 2 days, canned meats are a good alternative.
Canned foods in general are a great thing to bring camping. They can get wet without issue – although
it’s a good idea to mark them with a waterproof marker, because labels can come off and leave you
with a bunch of mystery cans. Cans don’t need to be refrigerated, plus they can be crushed down to a
smaller size to make removing your waste easier.
Dried foods are also great! Things like dried vegetables, dried fruits, and dried meats (jerky) pack a
lot of nutrition into a small, lightweight package.
Hunting, fishing, and foraging can be a great way to supplement your diet while camping – but unless
you have full faith in your skills, don’t rely on it. It might seem like a good idea to go camping with
only a fishing pole, a bag of rice, and a rifle – but it’s really not.
Alex Hunt | kayakcritic.net
Recently I received an email asking:
“What are the 3 easiest meals you personally recommend to take on a weekend camping trip?”
I thought it was a good question and would make a good blog post, so here was my answer.
This is a loaded question for me, and I certainly wouldn’t call it easy. I am a chef by trade, but only cook at home now because I’d rather work in the kayak industry. Because of this I like to eat well on camping trips. When I started camping out of boats, I had been backpacking for a long time, and I was thrilled at the extra room in a sea kayak and the fact that a little extra weight for good food wasn’t such a big deal. So rather than just give an answer about what three meals I would take, I will talk about how I take food on trips and give a few tips.
1. Do as much cooking at home as possible.
This is easy to do. Preparing food in a commercial kitchen, and at home, takes most of the time needed for a good meal. If this were not the case, every time you went out to eat, you would have to sit for hours for the meal and restaurants would only be able to cook for a few tables all night long. If most of your food is prepared ahead of time you just have to throw it together once you’re in camp. When I first move to the island of St. John USVI in 1999 I lived in a small eco cottage that was made out of wood, used sail cloth for a ceiling, and most of screen walls. My kitchen was composed of nothing more than a small sink and a two burner Coleman stove, yet I was able to cook full meals and entertain guest with that small set up. That kitchen is basically the same as what you have camping. The trick it to come with everything made at home.
2. Have a designed menu for the entire trip.
This will keep you from over packing in the food department. I am the worst at bringing to much food. When I used to backpack sections of the Appalachian Trail, I would always have to leave dried food at shelters, for unprepared hikers, unless I wanted to pack it out. This is a common practice on the trail and I am sure it is a welcome site for those needing to do a town stop. When you are sea kayaking this is not so practical. Any extra food you bring will have to be packed back out, so make sure you only bring a little bit extra for emergency situations. Prepackaged dry goods from the store are great for this. I always liked flavored rice and noodle dishes. All you need to prepare them is cook in water and you have a nice hot meal. If you have any experience with outdoor living, a hot meal can be the best thing for moral, even if it’s simple. Your menus should consist of three meals a day, and snacks. Going a little heave on the snack is never a bad idea and it usually gets eaten even if you don’t expect it will. Desert is also a nice treat.
3. Package foods accordingly.
For dry goods, mix the ingredients together and package them before you go. Store them in zip lock bags. Don’t use bags that have the handy plastic zipper. Inevitably your bag will open and the contents will wind up on everything. Use ones that are manually shut by pinching the seal together.
A good way to make extra room and ensure the bag doesn’t open is to vacuum seal them. This can be done using a straw and your lungs. Simply seal the bag with a straw sticking out of the corner. Suck all of the air out, and then seal the bag as you remove the straw (keep sucking air as long as possible when sealing the bag). It’s not as good as an actual vacuum sealer but works great if you don’t have one. If you don’t have a straw just stick your mouth in the corner and do the same thing. It’s not fool proof but it works in a pinch.
For meats and sauces freeze them beforehand and bring in a small cooler or dry bag. I always double bag these items in case of leaks. Make sure the opening of the inside bag is at the bottom of the outer bag. This will give you just a little bit more protection. All of the goodies you freeze will act as ice for everything else you want to keep cold. If you have the time and space freeze all of your water too. When it thaws it is good and cold and ready to drink. A frozen gallon jug of water is the same as a store bought block of ice. Just don’t buy the cheapest gallon of water in the store because the jug might split in the freezing process.
4. Eat well on the first night.
If you want to save on weight at least eat well on the first night. This is a real treat, and empties your sea kayak of extra weight for the rest of the trip. Remember thought that if all of your food is dried you will have to have enough water to make it. If fresh water is not available you might as well bring the food fresh.
5. Bring desert.
If you paddle in cold water instant deserts are great. This includes Jell-O brand instant deserts and puddings. Simply mix them in a double zip lock bag and put them in the water to chill/set. If this is not your thing, or can’t spare the space then a few squares of chocolate will make you smile. If you are one of the rare people who don’t like chocolate then stop reading and see a specialist.
6. Use dried over canned.
This is so you don’t have the extra weight of cans and have to pack them out. I make a great Thi coconut curry dish when camping. It is all made in one pot and tastes fantastic after a long day of paddling. It’s basically a bunch of fresh veggies and meat cooked in a spicy coconut milk curry sauce with rice. My big secret is real curry paste from a can, stored in a bag for the trip, and powdered coconut milk. This can be found in any Asian supermarket. You may think you don’t have any of these markets around you but most likely you do. Look on line or the phone book. If you don’t know what that is, it’s this big thing we used to use to get phone numbers out of when I was a kid; the phone book, not the Asian market. Who knows once you try going in an Asian market, or any international market you may find yourself drawn to them on a regular basis.
So a typical menu for me might look like this the first full day out:
Breakfast – Scrambled eggs with cheese and herbs (the eggs are usually beaten at home and frozen, kept in a plastic egg container.
Lunch – Deli style sandwiches, made at the break spot or made at breakfast time and eaten on the water, with chips.
Dinner – Premade and frozen chickpea curry with naan bread (it doesn’t squish easily) and rice, and rosemary lamb steaks cooked over a fire. A premade salad is also nice and no work. Just open and add dressing. For desert I really like instant Jell-O cheese cake, or their instant Reese’s pie.
My snacks usually consist of nuts, dried fruit, granola bars (the original power bars) and anything that catches my eye at the last country store we pass.
Personally I like to bring at least one weird or new food just to try and see how it goes. In the past this has consisted of many different kinds of canned meats or fish with varied results and I almost always bring some kind of bread and cheese.
With all of that said, try to eat well on your next camping trip. Eating poorly while camping is not “just the way it is” so take the extra time at home to make sure it is a great experience. You will enjoy the food more and the trip better. In all of my experience I have never heard one person say after a trip, “the food was great but the trip was lousy”, but I have heard lots of people say “the trip was great except for the food”. So when camping cook good healthy food, it will make all the difference in the end.
I talked in the last blog about finding your inner paddler. I thought that for this one I might give a little advice on upping your game once you’ve picked that inner paddler. Here are some tips, but remember the main thing is to have fun, even if fun for you is acheing arms, or bugg infeste sleepless nights.
If you want to specialize in a particular type of paddling, or if you want to start “upping your game” in a particular type of discipline, here are some suggestions.
For All Disciplines In General:
· Get some instruction. Take a class, go to symposiums, get some one on one in the pool, the amount you spend will nothing compared to what you gain.
· Learn about the gear, how gear design works, and try it out to see what paddling gear works best for you.
· Stretch. OK so yoga isn’t for you. That’s ok but you still need to learn some stretching techniques. It just goes hand in hand with the sport.
· Learn about your environment, the water, weather, tides, currents, and the like. Paddling is an outdoor sport, learn about conditions. Just as rugged indoorsman know how to turn up the heat, you should know what cloths to wear.
· Just because your vessel is small does not mean you are not a boater. Learn the rules of the road, and how to interoperate them into your surroundings. Don’t be the one on the water making the mistakes and screwing it up for other boaters. You learned the rules of the road when you learned how to drive a car, do the same for the waterways you travel.
· Remember this is a sport. You don’t have to be in the Olympics to be an athlete. Taking care of your body will make for a more enjoyable experience all around.
· Go out with friends. Find a local paddling club, and join a bunch of groups. This will present many opportunities to try new places and get you out more.
· Think about why you like doing paddling. If it’s all about the birds get a good bird guide like The Sibley’s Guide To Birds, and remember to read the “how to use this book” part. If it is for the solitude, seek out hidden spots and out of the way places. Remember to talk to the locals, the right ones know everything. A good conversation over a beer or glass of wine with your new paddling buddies about what they like most will most likely enlighten you.
· Learn to flip over, and be comfortable with it. If you’re always afraid of tipping the boat over you’ll have less fun.
· Learn basic recovery skills. Even recreational paddlers need this. Some people think this should be mandatory before you can buy a boat it’s so important. It could save your life, your friend’s life, or both.
· Take a class, or lots of them. Yea I know I said this up top, but nothing will make you learn faster.
· Become a member of the ACA (American Canoe Association), BCU (British Canoe Union), or both. Most countries have a paddling organization so if you’re from New Zealand join the New Zealand Canoe Federation.
· Watch videos. Your local library has a few, I grantee it. Better yet, buy some from your local paddling shop you will want to watch them over and over anyway.
· Read books. I recommend Gordon Brown’s Sea Kayak a Manual for Intermediate & Advanced Sea Kayakers, and Doug Cooper’s two books Sea Kayak Handling and Rough Water Handling to start, but there are many great books out there by many great authors. Ken Whiting has quite a few books and has a great philosophy of kayaking.
· Every time you go kayaking, SUPing, or canoeing practice your skills, try new strokes. Sometimes the most fun is making up new stroke combinations even if they just look cool.
· Paddle as much as you can. There is no substitute for water time.
Greenland or Traditional Skills Kayaking
· Yoga, not Yoda. Like most people I can lean more in the direction of the later then I can to the floor but flexibility is more important than power.
· Get the gear. Let’s face it; you won’t be mastering all thirty five Greenland Capsize Maneuvers in your SOT fishing kayak. Besides its fun and looks cool.
· Get instruction. Symposiums are a great way to meet others in the Greenland kayaking community. This will also help you make some good friends with similar interest.
· Get into the history; learn the proper names and why each skill was needed. It will enrich your experience.
· Try rope gymnastics. If you don’t try it at least watch it on YouTube, its neat.
· Stretch, again it’s just that important.
· Start eating dried seal meat. OK, you got me. This one isn’t important.
· Get out on the water. A lot.
· Paddle for fitness as much as for fun.
· Find friends that want to put in the miles with you, or learn to enjoy paddling on your own.
Just make sure you are ready for the risks and prepared for everything.
· Add weight to your kayak, canoe, or SUP. Gallon jugs filled with water work great, and the more you drink form them the lighter your load gets.
· Go paddling.
· Learn to pee from your vessel. Yes this goes with the last one. If you’re a guy in a boat it takes practice. If you’re a woman, there are devices on the market to help, but it takes more practice. If you paddle a SUP, I’m green with envy.
· Kayak camp, canoe camp, or SUP camp until its second nature. If you repack your gear when you clean it after every trip it really helps. You can go at the drop of a dime, and tell work you suddenly came down with the flu every time the sun is shining.
· Learn how marathon runners train.
· Customize your kayak, and get comfortable.
· Find your perfect kayak food. This really is what works for you. I like hard boiled eggs with salt, and food bars, homemade are the best but store bought is fine.
· Learn and use good technique. This helps keep injuries away.
· Go paddling some more. Feel free to paddle until you get sick. Once you do, you’ll feel better and the shark that’s been following you for the past five miles will thank you for it.
· Retire, just so you can paddle.
Granted these are all incomplete lists, and there is a lot of cross over. This should be enough to help you get an idea of what you need to achieve your goals, and I hope it wasn’t too bad of a read ether. I didn’t mention balancing games, like kayak wobble boards and slack lining, in any of the lists but these can be a lot of fun. They can also cause broken bones if you fall so just be careful if you take them up for a side sport. Palates as well as Yoga really do go hand in hand with paddling along with many types of martial arts. The real trick is to find out what you like, and the rest will fall into place. Until our next blog, happy paddling.
In the 1991 film Dead Again Robin Williams plays an ex-shrink. In his first scene he says “Someone’s ether a smoker or nonsmoker. There’s no in between. The trick is to find out which one you are and be that.” This line’s stuck in my head since I saw it in the theaters. Not because I am a smoker but because of the definitiveness of it. Luckily when it comes to picking a paddling discipline we don’t have to be quite so absolute, but sometimes we forget this, and sometimes we want to be the paddler we think we should be rather then the paddler we like being.
I’ve met a lot of people in the past few years that are searching for their inner paddler. In many cases they look up to instructors, leaders in their local paddling community or friends, but very often they forget to look at themselves. When at kayak symposiums or club outings they see others and think about someone’s great paddling form, or how well they roll. They may daydream about exotic trips and becoming an expedition kayaker. What’s being overlooked is how others got to that level. Just as often they don’t realize a slight change in their paddling behavior can make all of the difference in the world. I have seen people paddle for years at a recreational level and as soon they decide to kick it into high gear their skill level goes through the roof.
Every time I go kayaking I work on my skills. My objective is to become a better technical paddler, coach and instructor. I still love to go on trips and explore, but at the moment messing about in boats is about working on technique. This “technical paddler” is my current inner paddler. Something else that helps me with this is watching other paddlers. Watching people helps me see different styles and define my own. I’m able to learn from their experiences and decide what I want to try next. Kayaking is so diversified, and personal that we can change our style over and over again and never get borded. I have learned there’s no one way to do anything in kayaking, just as well as in life. There are tried and true techniques and safe practices, but new stroke combinations and techniques are being discovered everyday by people like you and I who love to spend time on the water playing with our kayaks, canoes, SUPs or whatever water toy strikes our fancy.
I am a multi discipline paddler. One day I would like to go on grand expeditions, and put miles upon miles behind me in the course of a day. I would like to become an expert at Greenland rolls, and when I slow down advance to bird watching lily dipping trips in a big fat comfy recreational kayak. It’s easy to look at other kayakers and think that they’re better at rolling, or at putting in the miles, but when the time comes for me to become an expert at traditional skills I’ll do that rather than playing in the surf. After my kids are a little older and I can take a few weeks to kayak the fjords of Norway I’ll concentrate on putting in the miles. I know I have to pick one thing at a time to prioritize when I get a chance to go out. Until my next change of discipline I just love to paddle and in the words of a good friend, “give me a log and I’ll paddle it”.
When trying to find your inner paddler, don’t be disappointed if you haven’t mastered every type of paddling, put in twenty miles every time you go kayaking or wish you were a better kayak surfer, if counting birds gets you on the water. Remember the Robin Williams quote “The trick is to find out which one you are and be that” and if I might add, be happy with it.
The first time I remember going paddling, I sat with my sister in the middle of a 17’ aluminum canoe between my parents. We were on a narrow strip of flat water with lush green trees, and dark foreboding water. My sister and I shared a paddle and spent the time grabbing it from each other and dragging it next to the boat. I don’t know if this is actually the first time I went paddling, but it’s the memory stuck in my head and I cherish it. As the years went by my sister and I became accomplished recreational canoeist, and I consider those early experiences the basis for my love for all types of paddling.
I got my first job as a sea kayak guide in 2001 on Orcas Island in Washington State. For the next year and a half I paddled constantly. When I wasn’t kayaking for work, I was kayaking for relaxation or fun. This was when I started living the kayaking lifestyle and I’ve been chasing that life ever since. After Orcas I traveled with the seasons, learning the styles, techniques and philosophies of paddlers all over the US. I have been lucky enough to have been a sea kayak guide in Maui HI, Yellowstone National Park WY, Jupiter FL, and in the winter of 2005/2006 I started Hidden Reef Eco-Tours on the Island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands.
Last year two major events happened in my paddling carrier. I received my American Canoe Association (ACA) level four (L4) Open Water Coastal Kayaking instructor certification and Paddle NC was awarded the paddling concession for both Carolina Beach State Park (next to Wilmington NC) and Hammocks Beach State Park (in Swansboro next to Emerald Isle NC). With the opening of Paddle NC and the launching of this new web site I want to share with you some paddling thoughts, philosophies and truly incredible adventures. I hope this sparks some good discussions from you in the process and helps you enjoy, as much as I do, living the paddling lifestyle.