Relaxing on the side of a river, just you, your companions, and the wilds. It can be a soul changing experience. Wilderness camping is a good time in itself. Combining a wilderness adventure and a fishing trip into one epic outing makes it epitome of outdoor adventure travelling, in my opinion anyway, whatever that’s worth to you.
Can you believe I fit 4 days worth of camping gear IN the hull of my CoosaFD - Red Deer river 2018
Preparing, and gearing up for multiple overnights on the river or canoe route in your fishing kayak can be a daunting task to some whom have never experienced it before. I’m going to cover a few things in this blog and provide my gear lists and sample menu at the end. This may work well for you, it may not. There’s always some trial and error. After a few trips you will figure out what your wants and needs are and how best to accommodate them. Most people I’ve met pack way to heavy there first time out. Treat it as a learning experience to grow as an outdoor adventurer. I will touch on clothing, sleeping gear, food , cooking and the importance of waterproofing.
Clothing. I like to pack light in all aspects, just because it fits, doesn’t mean you need to bring it. Not many people I know are doing overnight wilderness trips to make fashion statements. I’m sure some are in this newer social media culture but, being fashionable is the least of my worries. You should look at clothing for warmth, dryness and sun protection. NRS makes some great SPF 50 clothing to keep you protected while on the water and some great base layers to keep you warm. Having clothes that breath will allow sweat to evaporate keeping you cooler. Quick drying synthetics are a great choice for this. Please leave the sweat holding cotton at home as it will absorb moisture and take longer to dry then synthetic fabrics or fleece. (while I say that, a pair of jeans or sweatpants for around the campfire can be super cozy.) Second-hand stores can be a great place to find some tripping clothing on a budget. Nothing makes a trip more fun then some 1990s fluorescents. Check the list at the bottom for what I bring.
Sleeping gear. Includes a tent, tent footprint, tarp, ground pad, and sleeping bag. A tent with a full fly will protect you from the elements better then one that doesn’t. If your tent did not come with a foot print a simple tarp will do. This will help protect the bottom of the then and will extend the life of your gear. A tarp or two can be used for a multitude of things from a sun shelter to extra waterproofing over your tent if it gets torrential. A small inflatable ground pad will keep you off the ground, warmer and more comfortable at night. One of the blue foam ones will work two but the don’t pack as small. Tip of the day, setup up and check your gear before you leave to make sure its in sound condition. If its really old, give it a shot with the hose to make sure its still water resistant.
My tiny island paradise on the Battle river -2019
Food and Cooking. As for food, a little prep can go along way. Planning meals to be nutritious and calorie rich will be beneficial as you will be burning more then on your average day. Foods that needs to be re-hydrated are lighter and easier to pack. IE jerky, pasta, rice, dried vegetables, Kraft dinner. But, being on a boat, you may bring canned goods or a cooler if your space allows although doubtful you’ll be able to replenish ice anywhere and you will notice its weight if there portages involved. I find it best to forgo the cooler and bring foods that don’t need to be temperature controlled. If your budget allows they do make prepacked meals that are designed for back-country trips. Some even contain a reheating method via chemical reaction. I’m not a big fan, but they will do in a pinch for a last-minute trip. Making your cooking needs fire dependent can be tough if you just want a quick boil up or hot lunch along the river. A small one burner stove works great for this. You can do ultralight homemade penny stoves, multi fuel stoves, wood burning solar charging stoves. I prefer to use a 20-year-old single burner white gas Coleman stove. I love the nostalgia aspect of it, and its tough as nails. Just make sure your comfortable using it before you leave on your adventure. Having enough fuel for what ever stove you use is key if you want coffee on your 5th morning. Having a clean source of water is vital for human survival, you can accomplish this through filtering and / boiling. Using a charcoal style filter (pump or gravity fed) that will remove chemicals and viruses is best for river travel. Just make sure you know how to use it before your leave. Lastly on this subject, hanging of food. Don’t forget to hang your food, fishing bait, and anything that may attract wild animals over night out of the reach of local critters. It will ensure you still have a food and boat left in the morning to continue in with your journey.
My Coleman making some noodles for lunch
Waterproofing. The old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure stands true in this aspect. We all know how being wet is not fun for long. Being on the water exposed to the elements can end in soggy nights if there’s rain, or if you capsize. Having all your gear waterproofed (even if its in the hull) will make for dry days and nights for the duration of your trip. NRS makes some wonderful drybags from 5L up to the amazing Bills Bag that can hold a huge amount of gear. If you’re on a budget, I learned a trick years ago from the Girls Guides of Canada that were visiting an outdoor center I was working at at the time. Its awesome and involves a tarp and small rope. Both things you need to pack anyway. You can check out a video I found on the subject here. If you’re in a pinch you could always double or triple bag your item with garbage bags, there not durable and rip easily but will work in a pinch. Another tip on staying dry is checking your gear for waterproofness before you go, set up and double check your gear to make sure its in good shape.
This is why we waterproof. Incoming torrential rains at Jackson Lake Alberta, Lakeland canoe circuit - 2019
Now a few odds and ends. First aid kit! Better safe then sorry and have the training on how to use it. Next would be toilet paper (waterproofed in a Ziploc) and basic personal hygiene stuff. You don’t need that one litre bottle of body wash for your trip. A simple eco friendly bar of soap or small bottle of camp soap work well they can also double as dish soap. A small pack able lawn chair makes the campsite more comfortable, but if your fishing kayak has a raised seat, that can work instead, and you can skip bringing a chair. A solar charger or pre-charged battery banks to keep any electronics you may use charged for pictures and staying in touch with the outside world. (cameras, GPS, phones etc.) A headlamp is vital for making your way in the dark and can turn any wide mouth water bottle into a lamp for a game of crazy eights. Books, journals, deck of cards small games to keep yourself occupied at camp at night, if the stars and nature don’t provide enough. Fishing is legal 24hours a day in most places throughout Alberta and that tends to be my hobby when camped for the evening.Bear safety is a thing, bear spray and or bear bangers and the knowledge on how to use them can be a lifesaver when in the backwoods.
Now lastly my list. Below is an example of the checklist I use to pack for a trip. Broken down into a few categories to make it easy. See below.
A Summer Kayak Fishing River Trip Gear List and Menu for Four days and nights on the River.
- PFD / rescue knife
- Throw bag / bailer / whistle
- Extra paddle (small canoe paddle or 4-piece kayak paddle)
- Boat seat
- 12 ft of rope (painter) to tie off boat when parked
- Kayak cart (optional if there’s portages)
These carts make the portages at the Lakeland Canoe Circuit dreamy.
- Two to three rods
- Tackle crate with tackle
- Bump board (for measuring fish)
- Rod holder(s)
- Fish finder and Batteries (optional)
Camping Gear and misc.
- First aid kit
- Small one-two person tent with full fly
- Tent footprint or groundsheet
- Tarp for rain and sun shelter
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- 2- 12 to 15ft cam straps and or pieces rope for lashing gear and putting up shelters and hanging food at night
- Camp chair (optional)
- Drybags (enough for all gear)
- Flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries
- battery bank or solar charger for electronics
A lunchtime boilup, and drying out from previous nights rain.
- 2 short sleeve t shirts
- One long sleeve t shirt (spf 50)
- One hoodie or warm sweater
- One pair of shorts
- One pair of pants
- 3 sets of undergarments (gitch and socks)
- One water / windproof jacket
- Rain paints
- One Wide brimmed hat
- One pair Comfortable shoes (I prefer runners)
- One pair flip flops or sandals for around camp
- One toque
- One small towel
- Toothpaste / toothbrush
- Deodorant (optional)
- Camp soap
- Tylenol or equivalent painkiller
- Benadryl for allergic reactions
- Personal medication as needed.
- Bug spray
- Toilet paper in Ziploc bag (enough for duration)
- Hand sanitizer
- Single burner stove
- Extra fuel and fuel bottle
- 6-10 1 litre water bottles
- Water purification system
- Small nesting pot set
- Fork / spoon / spork
- Small brillo type pad for cleaning
- Camp soap
- Salt / pepper / spices
- Can opener
Goldeye on the Red Deer RIver - 2018
Here is a sample menu for a five-day trip, with the first and last days being half days. Canned food and slightly underripe fresh fruit and vegetables can be brought if there’s no portages, frozen meat should last for at least one day for use on the first evening. If there are numerous portages, dried food options will be lighter, and your back may thank you.
Snacks and drinks for duration
Trail mix, beef jerky, granola bars, fruit leather (snacks high in protein will keep your energy levels up) , juice mix powdered or liquid concentrate work best. Instant coffee or grounds and either small French press or collapsible pour over style and filters.
Dinner – Steak and Potatoes (frozen meat will last a hours when wrapped & stored in hull of boat.)
Breakfast – bagel, cream cheese, dried fruit
Lunch – salami and cheese wraps
Dinner – Canned stew
Breakfast – oatmeal dried fruit
Lunch – Mr noodles
Dinner – spaghetti and vegetables
Breakfast – Bagels / cream cheese
Lunch – salami and cheese wraps
Dinner – Beans and Rice (fresh fish if caught)
Breakfast – Powdered eggs and bacon (ready crisp or bacon jerky)
Waiting on my post trip ride with my Jackson Bite - Battle River, 2019
The above is what I have found works well for me through trial and error. You’ll need to figure out what works best for you. Get to know your gear and learn how to use it before you head out. The simple small steps one can take before embarking can make your time in the wilderness enjoyable, regardless of the weather conditions you may meet while out and about. Opinions on this subject matter vary greatly and these are my two cents. I covered some main things but there can be so much more or less depending on your needs. There’s lots of blogs, videos and lists on the topic spread around the internet. I’d recommend reading a few, it will help you find what works best for you. Don’t forget to do a prepack test. Make sure everything fits and ask yourself if you really need it, if not, pitch it. Trip planning, river safety, first aid, are all things you should learn and get experience with before you head out into the great beyond. There are tonnes of resources on google, and I suggest going with someone more experienced you first time out.
By Andy W.
Here are some great resources and links for trip planning