My kayak and all the gear I carried on the first leg of my trip.
Here is an evaluation of equipment I used on my trip. Items that have no comment by them were used frequently and performed as expected. Items that performed exceptionally well or badly have comments indicating their suitability for expedition kayaking.
THE BOAT AND ACCESSORIES
Easy Rider Eskimo Expedition 17 foot Kayak - I have owned this boat since 1985 and have used it on all my sea kayaking trips. It performs exceptionally well in rough water and is very fast and stable. It uses a foot operated rudder system that centers itself when pressure is released. The cargo hatches are large and the high volume will carry all my gear INSIDE the boat so I don‘t have to lash down extra bags on my decks. My next boat will be the same model in the 18.5-foot length.
Werner Kaliste graphite paddle - This two piece paddle handled perfectly, and is super lightweight and strong.
Extrasport Retro Sabre PFD - This life preserver is comfortable with lots of adjustments and big pockets. One pocket held my EPIRB and the other my Sea Life camera.
Extrasport Neoprene spray skirt - fit tight and shed water well.
Aqua-Bound Manta Ray 4 piece take apart paddle - This was my spare paddle that I did not have to use. In testing before the trip, it handled well. I was able to store it taken apart right next to my seat inside the boat.
North Water expedition deck pack - Although not designed to be waterproof, it held everything I needed during the day including my charts. Things that I wanted to keep waterproof were stored in a small plastic box inside the deck pack.
Ritchie X11-Y deck compass - The small markings on this little compass were sometimes hard to read, particularly when rain drops clung to the housing and obscured the letters.
Charts - I printed my own charts using Maptech Chart Navigator Pro and Digital Ocean software. This was very expensive but buying the paper charts would have cost just as much. I printed them on standard 8 ½ X 14 inch paper and laminated them back to back in waterproof plastic sheets.
Waterproof Bags - I used mostly Northwest River Supply’s see-thru Ricksack bags and Seal Line See Bags. Both worked well. For the second leg of the trip, I modified them with nylon straps and buckles that attached to the existing quick release buckles and passed under the bottom of the bag to increase compression and thereby take up less space in the kayak. I used two large See Bags for clothes, a medium Ricksack for the sleeping bag and the fold open bag, and an x-small for the Sony camera. The charts were stored in a thin nylon bag with a roll down closure. I put the clothes I wanted to change into when I landed, which was also the clothes I had changed out of when I got dressed to paddle, into a small Ricksack bag. This was usually the last thing put in the boat and the first thing taken out.
Note: I selected electronic products that worked on AA or AAA batteries whenever possible so that I would not be restricted to having to depend on recharging odd types of batteries and carrying the recharging wires with me. The only two electronic products I carried with me that did not operate on replaceable batteries were my cell phone and my Palm Pilot. For these I did carry the charging wires but also an Energizer “Energi to Go” portable battery charger that works on AA batteries.
EPIRB - ACR Terra Fix 406 with GPS - Although I did not have to use this personal locater beacon, just having it with me in my PFD made me feel safer. I would not paddle solo without it. EPIRB batteries must be replaced every 5 years.
Magellan Explorist 500LE GPS - Worked perfectly throughout the trip giving me the coordinates of every campsite. I did not use it to track my route as I paddled because it was unnecessary, and it would have used up too many batteries.
Midland Nautico 1VP 5 watt VHF Radio - Picked up weather channels wherever I was. I used it twice to contact the Coast Guard and it worked perfectly. This radio uses AA batteries.
Palm Pilot - This held my tide and current information digitally so I did not have to carry bulky tide charts. Tide Tool software is available on the internet and can be downloaded to any PDA. This is definitely the way to go for tide and current information.
Sanyo Cell Phone with Sprint service - I was able to make calls from every campsite on the first leg of the trip except one. In the more remote areas I paddled on the second leg, there was less frequent ability to connect.
Sony Cyber Shot Digital Camera - I used this camera for photos from land only and did not expose it to water while paddling. It worked flawlessly and I even got some good videos of a Humpback Whale breaching. This camera uses AA batteries.
Go-Pro Digital Hero 3 Camera - This camera was a mixed bag. I used it exclusively while I was on the water paddling during the first leg of the trip keeping it attached to my PFD with a short cord. Although I did get some good photos with it, many were so bad that I just deleted them when I got home. Some days it would not work at all and then it would start working again the next day. None of the videos I took with it came out. You cannot tell if you got a good shot because there is no screen to review pictures after you have taken them. There is also no time / date stamp on the photo files so you have no record of when you took them. The camera is very small but at $140.00 also very expensive for what you get. This camera uses AAA batteries.
Sea Life ECO shot / SL321 Digital Underwater Camera - I used this camera to take all the photos from the water on the second leg of the trip. The LCD screen allowed me to see if I had captured a good shot and the time / date stamp permitted me to sort all my photos by the date taken so they would all be in chronological order. It was convenient to know the date and time of a photograph so the location could be identified later. The camera remained waterproof the whole trip and was stored the entire time in my life jacket pocket. It is a lot more camera for just a little more money than the Go Pro. This camera uses AA batteries.
ACR Strobe light / flashlight - This stays attached to my PFD. Uses AA batteries.
Headlamp - Uses AA batteries
Element flashlight - This tiny high intensity flashlight uses only three AAA batteries.
Olympus Digital Voice Recorder - Although I did not bring this with me on the first leg of my trip, it was very useful on the second leg. Besides using it to record some journal entries, I found it useful to record weather forecasts for playback. This allowed me to start and stop the weather forecast so I could make detailed notes of pertinent sections. Uses AAA batteries
Anemometer - La Crosse Model EA-3010U - This tiny little hand held device would tell me wind speed, air temperature, and wind chill. Uses a watch type battery
Moss Starlet Tent - I have used this tent for years and it has always worked fine. On the first leg of the trip, it started leaking with every rain. Either this was due to the tent being constantly wet, or it had just lived out its useful life. I replaced it for the second leg of the trip with a
Mountain Hardware Spire 2 Tent - This is a highly wind resistant four-season tent with no mosquito netting walls to let in cold drafts. It worked perfectly and was waterproof, lighter weight, and more compact. I used it with a nylon footprint to protect the floor.
Kelty Noah’s Tarp rainfly - I used this tarp on the first leg of the trip and it did not work well at all. Rain would blow underneath it, and it was time consuming to get set up properly. I replaced it on the second leg of the trip with the
Fly from a Dana Design Nuk Tuk (pyramid shaped tent) that exceeded my expectations and performed incredibly well in both wind and rain. It was also very easy to set up in any location. I frequently just used the pyramid tent and a bivy sack instead of the tent.
Outdoor Research GTX Bivy Sack - Although I did not bring a bivy sack on the first leg of the trip, I used one extensively on the second leg. Some campsites were so small that finding a level spot to put up even a small tent was impossible. At least with the bivy sack and the pyramid tent I could stay dry on even a sliver of level beach.
Stakes for tent and fly for both gravel and sand or dirt surfaces. Make up some three-foot loops of string to use instead of tent stakes with rocks or logs when the ground is hard or stakes will not hold.
8X10 blue plastic tarp - I used this for a floor in the pyramid tent.
40° Synthetic Sleeping Bag - A high quality semi-rectangular style sleeping bag with a hood.
Stuff Sack Pillow - with fleece liner on the inside. Turn inside out at night and stuff with extra clothes.
Three quarter length Thermarest Sleeping Pad with a stuff sack.
Space Blanket - This came in handy for multiple uses.
Bear Vaults - I brought two large ones to hold my food. They are made of clear lexan plastic with screw on lids. Although no bears tried to get at my food, they supposedly are bear proof. These are very convenient but not waterproof. When I would hang them in a tree at night, they were always in a plastic bag to keep rain from entering through the threads around the lids. I added a loop of string around the center to make them easy to carry but would take it off on occasions when I could not hang them. I did this so a bear could not drag them away.
Alcohol Stove, windscreen, fuel bottles - An alcohol stove has many advantages over white gas or propane types. The fuel will not explode, it leaves no soot on your pots or hands, and the stove has no moving parts to break or malfunction. Denatured Alcohol (or Methyl Hydrate as it is called in Canada) is available in one quart or one-liter plastic bottles at most hardware stores and many marinas. One quart will last about a week.
Cookset - Mine consisted of two nesting pots with a lid in a carry bag. Store a pot lifter, small knife, bic lighter, insulated cup, paper towel, alcohol stove, windscreen, and stove support inside.
Blue heavy-duty paper towels - These handy towels stand up to multiple uses then you can throw them away with your other trash at the next port. Pull them off the roll, fold in four, and then store in a zip lock bag.
Lexan - Bring a fork, tablespoon, teaspoon, and mixing spoon in a net pouch.
Cups - Insulated plastic coffee cup and light plastic drinking cup.
Water bottles -I used two one-gallon plastic jugs and kept them stored behind the kayak seat. The heavy-duty kind that iced tea comes in is perfect. Two one-quart Lexan bottles stored in the boat and two ½-liter Listerine mouthwash bottles that stay on deck under the shock cords.
FOLD OPEN BAG - 12”L X 9”W X 7”H
I found that a light but strong nylon carry bag with a top that opens wide makes a perfect carryall for the many small items that have to be accessible while on shore. It can be slid into a medium sized waterproof bag while in the boat or during rainstorms on shore. I put electronics that I wanted to make sure stayed dry in Lock & Lock plastic boxes or zip lock bags inside the fold open bag.
Here is a list of what I stored in this bag.
Midland VHF Radio, Magellan GPS, Palm Pilot, La Crosse wind meter / thermometer, Sanyo cell phone, Olympus digital voice recorder, flashlight, headlamp, extra batteries, eye glasses, battery charger wires, log book, passport, wallet, business cards, multi-tool, watch, instruction manuals, waterproof note pad, pens, pencils, and Sharpies, mirror, hair brush, ibuprofen, antacids, cash and checks, SD cards, nail clippers, band aids, Energizer “Energi to go” chargers for phone and Palm Pilot, magnifying glass, assorted spare zip lock bags, and numerous silica gel packets to absorb moisture.
On the water
NRS neoprene wetsuit - Some people like dry suits but my wetsuit kept me comfortable the whole time. On hot days, I wore it with just a nylon shirt and polyester underwear underneath. When it got cold or rainy, I could put on a GTX paddling jacket over it. If it got very cold, I would ad a fleece underwear top under the paddling jacket.
NRS neoprene booties - These were essential to keep my feet warm and protected from rocks and barnacles. I wore them with wool socks.
Patagonia GTX paddling jacket
Patagonia heavy weight Capilene zip turtleneck - Worn under the jacket when cold.
Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero - Worn when it was cold or raining.
Fingerless paddling gloves - during warm weather.
Articulated neoprene gloves - These saved my hands during cold weather.
Polarized Sunglasses - Bring a second pair as a back up.
Fleece ear band
Stretch fleece neck gator
Rubber gloves and fleece glove liners for very cold, wet weather.
Patagonia heavy weight Capilene underwear - zip turtleneck top and bottoms
Fleece stretch tights
Fleece baggy pants
Fleece pullover sweater
Fleece watch cap
Three pr. Capilene underwear briefs
Two pr. Wool blend socks
Two Polyester T-shirts
Marmot GTX rain parka
Patagonia GTX paddling pants
Keen sandals - I believe a pair of rubber muck shoes would have been better suited to this trip than any type of sandals because of the cold, wet weather.
Blue Jeans - A lightweight poly / cotton blend. These were good for onshore when the weather was nice and for going to town.
HANDY EXTRAS - Don’t leave home without them.
Crazy Creek Chair - this will give your back some rest after a long day of paddling. Use it under your legs for insulation while sleeping.
Kneeling Pad - designed for gardeners, they weigh almost nothing and come in handy for kneeling on rocky shores while you shove gear bags into your boat. Place in the cockpit under your legs while paddling.
Deck Watch - attach under deck bunjies so it is visible while paddling.
Cockpit cover - use to cover you cockpit at night to keep out rain and amphipods.
Bailer and sponge -These were handy for removing water from cockpit and hatches.
Net bag with shoulder strap - Use this handy, lightweight bag to carry all the small items when you load and un-load your boat. REI sells a good one.
100 feet of ¼ inch braided nylon rope - for hanging food containers out of reach of bears.
Mosquito repellant with DEET - I did not use this even once on the trip but others might.
Mosquito head net - Store this in the deck pack so it is available at all times.
MSR water filter - Have at least one Nalgene bottle to screw on to it.
Bear spray in nylon holster on nylon belt.
Boat repair kit - fiberglass patch kit, duct tape, marine goop, seam grip, string, bunjie cord, extra Bic lighters. Store it all in a gallon size plastic jar. The kind that protein powder comes in is perfect. Tie a string around the neck to help retrieve it from its storage spot at the rear of the boat.
Day Pack - An ultra light one for shore excursions came in very handy.
Multi Tool - This was something I should have left home. It was very heavy and I did not need it at all. A pair of forceps and a small scissors would have been more useful.
North Water Paddle Float - for re-entry after capsize. Attach to rear deck with quick release buckles and bunjie cords.
Back Up by Roll-Aid-Safety - Although I did not have to use this ingenious little device on my trip, just having it attached to my deck increased my level of security. After a capsize, it can be deployed if a roll attempt fails. The paddler pulls a handle attached to the device and a CO2 cartridge inflates an air bag. The paddler then uses this bag to right himself. For more information on this device go to http://www.roll-aid.com/index.html#top_main
Sea Wing Float - This handy little device attaches to the rear deck right behind the seat with one quick release buckle. If you end up in the water, attach three more buckles and inflate two air bladders with a few breaths in each. The resulting out rigger arrangement allows you to re-enter the boat and maintain stability with the cockpit full of water. Your hands are free to pump out the cockpit, re-attach the spray skirt, and paddle to shore with the air bladders still in place. It worked well while practicing but I have never had to use it in an emergency.
Seal Line Waterproof Pack - I attach this to the upper back of my PFD to store survival gear I may need if I end up on shore with no boat. Inside I carry a smoke flare, Bic lighter, iodine tablets, Cyalume light sticks and Space emergency bag.
PFD - aka Life Preserver - In the pockets I carry an ACR TerraFix 406 EPIRB with internal GPS and the Sea Life waterproof camera. These two items stay connected to the PFD with leashes. An ACR Firefly strobe / flashlight combo is attached to the top of the left shoulder strap with the light facing forward and the strobe facing the rear. A Kershaw diver’s knife is attached high on the left side so I can easily reach it with my right hand.
Bilge Pump with Float - to empty a cockpit that is full of water after capsizing. Store inside cockpit and secure with short cord.
Aqua Bound four-piece take apart paddle - store inside the cockpit between the seat and the side of the hull and tied in place with a slipknot.
Bow Line - a 1/8 inch line around 25 feet long. Leave one end attached to the bow, roll up the rest, and secure under deck bunjies.
North Water Expedition Deck Bag - Attaches easily with an ingenious Velcro panel that fits under the deck bunjies. Charts to cover the day’s route are secured in place with a set of bunjies. Inside I carry a Lock & Lock waterproof box which holds Nikon Trailblazer waterproof 10 x 25 Binoculars, a Silva field compass for checking the deck compass for accuracy after the boat has been loaded, spare glasses and sun glasses, neoprene paddling gloves, a Sutherland Small Craft Nav-Aid, cash, business cards, blue paper towel, toilet paper, Bic lighter, and sunscreen. In the zippered net compartment, I have Ibuprofen, reading glasses, and a Sharpie pen to mark my charts with tide information and launch / land times.
Carry a washcloth in a lightweight plastic jar, like a peanut butter jar, with a 2oz. Nalgene bottle of bleach inside. After wetting the cloth and cleaning up, put water and a few drops bleach in the jar using a Nalgene eyedropper and shake it with the washcloth inside to disinfect it. Rinse once with fresh water. Wring out the excess water and put it back in the jar and it is ready for next time. It works well with salt water and creates no trash that has to be carried out.
Toilet paper in a zip-lock bag with a Bic lighter to burn the paper after use, tooth brush, tooth paste, floss, razor, stick deodorant , bath soap, skin cream, cotton wash cloth, and synthetic towel.
Flip flops to wear in public showers will keep you from getting athletes foot or worse and weigh almost nothing.
Store personal hygiene products with strong smells in the bear vaults. Don’t bring them into your tent at night.
FIRST AID KIT
Antihistamine - This multi-purpose medicine effectively treats the effects of a cold, a rash, or an allergic reaction to insect bites.
Ibuprofen - For headache and muscle pain
Imodium - For diarrhea
Nauzene Tablets - For upset stomach.
Advil Cold and Sinus - For bad colds and sinus headaches
Vicks Nyquil and Dayquil Liquicaps - For relief from cold symptoms
Dramamine - For motion sickness
Benadryl Itch Stopping Cream - For relief of itching
Miconazole Nitrate 2% Antifungal Cream - for treatment of the athlete’s foot you might get in a public shower.
Dentemp - Repairs loose caps and lost fillings in teeth.
Hydrogen Peroxide no drip gel - To disinfect wounds.
Prescription Antibiotics - For bacterial infections - leave in original bottle
Band-Aids - Bring an assortment including long ones to cover blisters on fingers.
Medicated lip balm with sun block.
Tweezers, forceps, needle and thread
My first aid kit is a clear plastic jar with a screw on lid. It is waterproof and you can see all the contents easily. Throw in a few Silica Gel packs to absorb moisture. Use zip lock bags to organize small items.
CHARTS - One of the biggest decisions I had to make was what kind of charts to bring on the trip. Should I use the traditional paper charts or the newer digital chart computer software, which would allow me to print out my own charts? After some preliminary investigation, it became apparent that the cost of charts was going to be high no matter which direction I went.
One problem I found with paper charts is that they come in many different scales and sizes. These different scales make it hard to visualize distances to be paddled. This can create confusion. For instance, some charts are printed at a scale of 1: 20,000 and others at 1: 229,376. When traveling from one chart area to the next your distance perspective will be dramatically different.
The chart sizes can be very large creating a problem with storage. The paper is prone to disintegrate if it gets wet which is almost guaranteed to happen with all the rain on the North West coast. Charts can be so cumbersome that it would be necessary to mail charts ahead to keep from having to carry a ten-pound bundle of paper from beginning to end.
When I added up the cost of all the charts I would need to complete the entire Inside Passage, the price was close to $1,000. It was time to investigate plan B.
Digital charting software is available that can be used to print out full color charts for the entire Inside Passage route in almost any size scale. By keeping the size scale consistent over the entire route, visualizing distances to be paddled is simplified. One inch traveled on today’s chart will represent the same distance on next weeks chart.
I printed out two sets of charts for my trip, one at 1:100,000 and one at 1:400,000. The 1:100,000 scale charts were the ones I used to navigate on a daily basis. I would usually have out on deck one or two 1:100,000 scale charts that would cover the days route along with one of the 1:400,000 scale charts that would give me a look at the big picture. As it conveniently turns out, one inch equals one statute mile on a 1:100,000-scale chart. Since I printed the charts on 8 ½ X 14 paper, each chart covered an area 8 ½ X 14 miles. I marked the monofilament line on my Small Craft Nav-Aid at one inch intervals which gave me a very handy measuring device to figure out how many miles I needed to cover to reach my next destination and how many miles I had covered on any particular day.
The digital charting software can be used to select the scale, and then drag the chart across the screen using the mouse. You can literally follow your whole route across the computer screen with each chart seamlessly stitched together with no chart borders in the way. I used this feature to print out ninety-five 8 ½ X14 charts at the 1:100,000 scale. I then put them back to back two at a time numbering them in sequential order and laminated them using an Ibico hot laminator. This gave me 48 individual waterproof chart two packs that covered the entire route from San Juan Island to Skagway Alaska. I also printed out and laminated twenty-two 1:400,000 scale charts using the same method, which gave me a good overview of the entire route.
Another great feature of the digital charting software is that you can digitally mark your route on the chart before printing so that your intended route shows up on the printed chart as a black line connected to whatever waypoints you select. You can also print out a route summary, which will give you the exact distance between waypoints down to 1/1,000th of a mile. The compass heading for each leg of the route is given. This can be helpful for long open water crossings.
The laminated charts held up incredibly well on the entire trip. After all they went through they essentially look like the day I made them. Every evening I would use the Tide Tool program in my Palm Pilot to look up the tides for the following day, I would then write them directly on the laminated chart with a Sharpie pen in a spot that I did not need for navigation. By using this method, I had all the tide information I needed for that days paddle right in front of me at all times.
All my laminated charts for the entire route weighed 3 pounds 12 ounces and fit in one plastic folder less than one inch thick.
I used MAPTECH CHART NAVIGATOR PRO software, which came with charts covering all coasts of the US including Alaska, Hawaii, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Separately I purchased software that covered the west coast of Canada produced by DIGITAL OCEAN that works with Chart Navigator. I should mention that the software covering this small area of Canada cost the exact same as the entire Maptech Chart Navigator Pro software package including all of the US. All together, the software to print my charts cost me $1,000. The cost for laminator sheets and printer ink was probably around another $100. I justified the cost by understanding that I could print out as many charts as I would ever want for the entire US and the west coast of Canada. For the complete scoop on digital chart software, visit WWW.MAPTECH.COM