Equipment

This page describes some of our most frequently used pieces of equipment, along with some commentary on each item.  We knew what we needed, based on our 2009 trip and overall were quite satisfied with our gear choices. 

 

Kayak Related

-paddles

Pearl used a 240cm. Werner Camano paddle.  On the next trip, Pearl will probably get a 260cm. paddle as she felt that the 240cm. length was too short for a 34" wide kayak.  David was once again content to use the Neanderthal-era 260cm. stock paddle that came with the boat.  This aluminum shafted, plastic bladed behemoth weighed 48 oz., compared to the Camano's 29 oz.  David didn't find the weight objectionable and liked the length and ample blade area. 

--inflatable seat cushions

We used REI Lite-Core 1.5 Sit Pads on top of the block foam seats that came with the kayak.  These were a big improvement in comfort.  The top and bottom of these inflatable pads came apart within the first week, but continued to function well.  

--bilge pump

Stock Folbot pump.  Came with kayak.  I added 18" of flexible plastic hose to the discharge end of the pump and secured it with plastic cable ties.  This made it possible to have the pump over the center of the boat, yet discharge the water out of the boat.  Without this modification the pump was almost useless, but with it the pump was very useful for getting sea water and rain water out of the boat.    

-siwash anchor

A simple and very useful piece of gear during lunch stops.  The continual rising and falling of tides requires that at lunch stops one must frequently tend the loaded boat, either pulling it up or pushing it out.  This makes napping or relaxing for very long a challenge.  A siwash anchor solved the problem.  We already had a 15' bow line secured to the kayak with a slip loop in the end.  We made a siwash line by making a slip loop in each end of a 50' length of 1/8" nylon parachute cord (75'-100' would have been even better). 

To use it, we would secure the slip loop in one end of the siwash line over an elongated rock that was a bit larger than fist-size.  The slip loop in the end of the bow line was then secured to the siwash line just above the rock.  We'd balance the rock on the bow of the kayak, then with the stern of the kayak facing seaward, we'd push the kayak away from shore, quickly playing out the siwash line.  When the kayak reached the end of the siwash line, the rock would fall into the water and sink, becoming an anchor.  Then we'd fasten the loop in the other end of the siwash line to a large rock near shore.  After our break, we'd pull in the siwash line to retrieve the kayak and daisy chain the line to prevent tangling.

 

Camping

-tarp

10' x 10', gray plastic tarp.  One of our essential pieces of gear for rain management.  We set the tarp up above the tent nearly every night of the trip.  We'd set up the tarp first, then erect the tent under it.  Not only did it provide a dry space for taking off rain gear, etc. before entering the tent, but also allowed us to leave the rainfly doors open, so condensation in the tent was almost non-existent.  The tent was usually dry throughout the trip, which is no small feat on the rainy coast.  It also helped that we almost always camped in the forest, away from blowing rain.  We rigged the tarp with six 12' guy lines of 1/8" parachute cord, white for visibility.  We usually set the tarp up A-frame style over a tight ridge line of 1/8" parachute cord rigged about 5 or 6 feet above the ground.   

-tent

REI Quarter Dome.  This tent worked well for us on the 2009 trip, as well as on a coast to coast bike trip in 2011.  At 4 lbs. it's heavier than we like for backpacking, but is fine for sea kayaking.  Setup is quick and easy.  We usually camp in the forest, so seldom needed the free-standing feature.  As noted above, condensation was minimal to non-existent, largely due to rigging a tarp over it if there was even a hint of rain in the forecast.  The tarp allowed us to keep the rain fly doors open regardless of rain. 

-sleeping bags

After the 2009 trip on which we used synthetic bags and sometimes slept cold, this time we took our 25 year old North Face Blue Kazoo down bags.  They were easy to pack, warm and never got wet, or even damp.  This was because at night the tarp over the tent insured a dry tent and thus dry bags.  In the morning, we put 2 garbage compactor bags in the sleeping bag stuff sacks before stuffing each bag, twisting the top of the inner compactor bag and tucking the twisted portion in before doing the same with the outer compactor bag.  The stuffed sleeping bags then went into dry bags.

-pads

Thermarest Prolite Small.  These worked well and were a good choice for their light weight and comfort.  On one of the pads, the top and bottom of one pad separated from each other near one end, but it still worked well enough.            

-water purification

On the 2009 trip we used a filter (MSR Sweetwater Microfilter) which was a total pain.  Due to the high organic matter in coastal streams, it would clog after filtering just a liter or two. 

This time we used Aqua Mira Water Treatment drops, which were a vast improvement over a filter.  Their convenience, effectiveness on all microbes and light weight made converts of us.  It's unlikely that we'll ever go back to using a filter.       

-stove

Svea 123.  This white gas stove has been my companion on backcountry adventures since 1970.  We bought a gallon of white gas ($15) in Ketchikan and filled 3 one liter fuel bottles.  At Glacier Bay we were able to refill one of the bottles, so the total fuel use was about 4 liters for 74 days.   We used the stove for heating tea and coffee water at breakfast and then again for our simple dinners. 

-bucket

A 3 gallon plastic bucket with a multitude of uses.  We did laundry in it, used it to dip water out of streams for bathing and as a pee bucket when on the water.  While loading and unloading, it was also used to carry small items between the kayak and the camping area. 

  

Clothing

-rubber boots

Standard black rubber boots ($15 per pair from local feed store).  These come to just below the knee and worked well for us. 

-rain jackets/pants

Sierra Designs, pants and jacket.  Simple, very lightweight, coated nylon garments, we normally use these for backpacking and they worked well for kayaking also.  Preventing condensation was largely a matter of wearing the right amount of clothing underneath the rain gear.  Most days that was nylon pants or long underwear and a long sleeve synthetic shirt.  We wore the rain pants every day for paddling and often the jackets as well.     

-hats

Pearl used an Outdoor Research Coastal Sombrero and I used a similar Mountain Hardwear hat.  Like the boots and rain jackets and pants, we considered these essential rain gear.  We much preferred these to hoods because they were less restricting and better ventilating.  Like miniature umbrellas, they protected our heads from rain  without needing to use the jacket hoods.  

-gloves

We tried a variety of gloves, but found nothing that worked well.  Fortunately, by mid-July the weather was often warm enough that we didn't need gloves.   We tried rubber gloves with gauntlets and liners.  The gauntlets were good as they kept rain and spray out of jacket sleeves, but the 2 glove combination was cumbersome.  It was also cold when the liners became wet or if we didn't use the liners.  Also, the gloves gave off a stench after several days of use. 

In parts of Glacier Bay, where we encountered the coldest temperatures of the trip, we experimented with using 1 gallon zip lock bags as pogies over breathable synthetic gloves.  This combination was a significant improvement in warmth over rubber gloves.

Based on this experience, we'll probably use pogies on the next kayak trip. 

-other clothing

We had one set of paddling clothes and a complete extra set of dry clothes which were used only in the tent or while washing the paddling clothes.  We were happy with our clothing choices.  We each had the following items: 2-3 pr. synthetic briefs, 3 pr. wool/synthetic socks, 2 sets polypro long underwear tops and bottoms, 2 fleece jackets, 1 pr. nylon pants, 1 pr. nylon shorts, 1 nylon shirt, 2 lightweight balaclavas.

- wetsuits

We took our shorty wet suits along, but never used them and finally sent them home from Gustavus.  In the past, we've found wetsuits to be either hot or cold, depending on conditions and used only on longer crossings.  Given the exceptional stability of our kayak and our careful attention to weather forecasts, we weren't overly concerned about capsizing and in fact never came close to it.  We'd also practiced self rescuing and knew that we could be back in the boat quickly in that unlikely event. 

    

Electronics

-SPOT

My brother Steve got this tracking device for us just before we left on the 2009 trip.  It allowed friends and relatives to track our position online, superimposed over a Google map.  Although it didn't tell us our position, it was fun to know that others were enjoying tracking our progress.  We turned it on while paddling each day and it updated our progress every 10 minutes throughout the trip.  One set of AA lithium batteries was still going strong at the end of the 74 day trip.   

-VHF radio

Midland Nautico 3.  We used this for receiving weather forecasts.  It received weather channels WX 1 through 10 which allowed us to pick up forecasts all along our route.  Reports were broadcast 24/7 and updated several times a day.  There were only a couple places on the entire trip where we didn't have coverage.  We usually listened several times a day throughout the trip and used 2 sets of AA alkaline batteries.  We only used the transmit feature a couple times, once to talk to a friend on another boat and once to alert a cruise ship to our presence.  

      

Navigation

--guide book

Guide to Sea Kayaking in Southeast Alaska by Jim Howard, 1999.  Although this book is dated, most of the information is still relevant.      

--compass

We used a portable backpacking type compass, which was needed only a few times on the trip and then only for short periods.  

--charts

We used NOAA Booklet Charts, which divides each of NOAA's nautical charts into about 15 pages that can be printed at home for free on 81/2" x 11" paper.  This works well if done right, which we didn't.  Here's what we'd do next time:  Print only on one side of each sheet, then cut the margins off each page, except for sides representing the outside edges of the chart.  With sheets facing up, carefully align adjacent sheets and tape them together using clear packing tape.  Flip the taped chart upside down and tape all the edges on the bottom also.  Printing in color makes the charts easier to read.   

 

Food

We prefer simple cooking on backcountry trips.  We mailed food ahead at only one point during the trip.  Otherwise, we did all our provisioning at grocery stores along the way, including Coffman Cove, Port Protection, Kake, Sitka, Elfin Cove, Gustavus and Hoonah.  Selection varies greatly from one community to another.  As a rule, higher population correlates with greater selection and lower prices and vice versa.  Everywhere though, prices were higher than in the lower 48 and except in the larger towns, the lack of selection often required creative meal planning.     

--breakfast

Granola and powdered milk, followed by tea or coffee.  If we needed to get an early start, we would skip breakfast and just eat granola bars while paddling.

-lunch

Bagels with peanut butter and jam.  Dried fruit.

-dinner

Knorr pasta or rice dinners, cheese, wheat thins and dried fruit.  Cookies and tea for dessert. 

We didn't fish on this trip, due to the large number of bears we camped with.  Sometimes though, we steamed mussels or ate limpets, either raw or steamed, as well as beach greens, beach asparagus, goose tongue, salmon berries and thimble berries.   

  

Miscellaneous

-dry bags

We used 3 19" x 38" dry bags.  Each of us used one dry bag for our sleeping bag, pad and extra clothes.  The 3rd dry bag was for the tent.  These helped keep our sleeping bags and extra clothes dry.  We first put gear that was essential to keep dry into a trash compactor bag that was inside a nylon stuff sack.  We then squeezed the air out of the bag and twisted the top several times, folding the twisted neck over on itself and securing it with a short piece of cord and a cord lock.  Only then did it go into a dry bag.  We also used this technique for tent and pads.  Our technique for sleeping bags is described above.  This worked well and our extra clothes, sleeping bags, tent and pads stayed dry throughout the trip.          

-dry boxes

Snapware in various sizes.  These clear plastic boxes have waterproof, positive closure lids and proved completely waterproof and reliable throughout the trip.  The camera box in particular was opened 5-10 times a day every day of the trip and never failed.  They are a fraction of the cost of Pelican boxes or other water-sport specific boxes.  We used a 4.3 liter box for charts, a 1.7 liter box for miscellaneous repair and fishing gear, two 1.1 liter boxes for radio, camera and binoculars and two 0.48 liter boxes for waterproof matches and spare batteries.   

-bear line

As noted in our 2009 trip report, our bear line went through several iterations before evolving into its present form.  The current version worked well throughout the 2013 trip.  It consists of two 50' braided nylon ropes and a heavy duty pulley.  The end of the first rope is attached to the thimble of the pulley.  The second rope goes around the pulley sheave. 

In use, we'd fasten a fist-size, elongated rock to one end of the first rope, then throw the rock over a suitable branch.  The rock should sail over the branch, trailing the rope, which then descends to the ground.  Pulling on the end of the rope raises the pulley up to the branch.  This rope is then made fast to a nearby tree.  Both ends of the second line are now suspended from the pulley to the ground.  One end is fastened to the food bags and the other end is pulled to raise the food bags. 

There are many subtleties to rigging a bear line.  Finding a suitable branch is generally the most time-consuming part.  It should be live, at least 3-4" in diameter and around 18-20' off the ground.  There should be no obstructing branches under it.  Successfully throwing a rock on the end of a rope takes practice and there are many ways it can go wrong.  The rope can get fouled up in brush, the rock may not go where you intend it to, the rock may not be heavy enough, or too heavy, etc.  Nonetheless, with practice it goes fairly quickly.  

Each morning after we took the bear line down we daisy-chained both ropes to prevent tangling.     

-Leatherman tool

We took an old Leatherman tool, which proved useful for all sorts of things.  The most useful tools on the Leatherman were needle nose pliers, wire cutters, screwdriver blades and knife. 

-head nets

Although we had bugs at most campsite on the trip, our bug nets were used only a few times.  We were more inclined to look for a breezy place to eat or to use repellant.