boat packing/paddling tips?

I’m either going to applaud my success or have a good swamping story to tell here…

Test packed my boat last night for the upcoming weekend’s self supported adventure.

Everything seems to fit, including three 4 liter drom bags of water and the required folding shovel. I’ve got lots of drybags!

I read some basic rules of packing that discussed weight distribution, putting heavy things (those bags of water) closer to the cockpit etc.

Any other useful tips those with experience care to share?


Dun’t fergit de terlet paper…

– Last Updated: Apr-21-09 9:48 AM EST –


Oh, an' fer better water resistance wit yer dry bags - fold de top corners of de opening over foyst before ye fold de rest of de top down.


Weight distribution change
General rule of thumb for keeping the kayak in trim is to load twice as much weight behind you as in front. This 2:1 ratio is needed since the front storage area is actually located so far forward in the kayak. Usually this is done by putting most of your water just behind you.

However, as your trip progresses, you will lose water weight and can end up with a front heavy kayak that will weather-cock badly. Have a plan for moving some gear from the front area to the back for the last days of the trip when you might be getting out of balance due to the loss of that water weight behind you.

Have a great time. Don’t forget to post a trip report and pictures when you get back.


How to pack
Here’s a short article covering many of the topics you ask about, along with my packing/gear list:

Another good one here:

You’re indeed generally better off keeping heavier stuff like water, food, and cooking gear nearest the cockpit, and down low to keep your center of gravity low and stable. But depending on conditions, I will often load either slightly bow- or stern-heavy, in order to trim the boat for either headwinds or tailwinds. Here is a recent thread on that topic:

After returning from each trip, try to assess what items might be left home next time. Here is a good source for weight-saving simplicity info:

Have a good trip!


Required folding shovel?
Is this a GCA trip?

A shovel is like an axe, just an invitation to do unnecessary damage.

It doesn’t matter too much where you put the packs, but always make sure the wine flask is close at hand.

If possible, have an observer watch you as you put your canoe on the water and do a trial loading so that they can tell you if the boat is reasonably trimmed. Move things around until the boat is level, or perhaps very slightly bow light. Sometimes I pack so the canoe is slightly bow light, but leave one pack in a position where I can push it forward with my feet to quickly retrim the bow slightly bow heavy depending on wind conditions (if you don’t have a slider seat).

You may want to tie a single tether line to all of your packs so they can’t float away from the boat if you dump. Some folks lash them in, but then if you dump, you have to untie everything and empty the canoe just to dump the water.

If burying waste is the required goal, you certainly don’t need a metal folding shovel. How about a very light plastic trowel such as sold in garden departments . .if it must be true camping gear, Campmor sells em for a couple bucks.

Could be
don’t know where you paddle but I always take my folding shovel in its case and I take a pulaski too, though it has to ride on my back deck. The USFS requires axe, bucket, shovel during fire season.

Better yet, leave it home and…
use moss !

Nothing like nice moist moss. Just make sure there is no rough stuff in it.



Having taken many dumps

– Last Updated: Apr-21-09 1:56 PM EST –

in the back country, a shovel gets the job done. No chipping away with one of those little hand held trowels while pinching off a loaf. Just pop a divot, do your business, replace said divot, and you can barely tell there's a cat hole there. Of course you can aspire to the mystical no shovel, no soap, always clean hands level; walking off to take a poop with no supplies whatsoever and coming back squeaky clean, but this takes many many years of back country travel to achieve...

Those Gerber tri-folding jobs are money...

Not in Georgia.

Also judge frequency of use
Heavy items closer to cockpit, but also more frequently-used ones. Otherwise, you have to pull bags out just to get something in the bow or stern ends. In the case of food, I take out the day’s expected rations and stash them separately from the rest of the food.

“Night things” get packed together, “emergency” things are in the day hatch…you get the idea.

keep magnetics away from compass
If you have a bow mount compass, beware of where you store that shovel,as it may affect the compass readings

guys, not really sure
how much “data” are you “downloading” at the “bush cybercafe” (aka as “laying cable”) that you need a massive steel shovel.

No wonder weight distribution becomes a real concern with items like that…

How about something a bit more reasonably sized like this:

Have been using one for a while and I find the Ipood® does the job when I need to check my “emails”.

The plastic little shovels don’t cut it though…

thank you all for the tips!
Yes, FatElmo, I’ve got environmentally friendly TP : )

JackL - err, seaweed? Many things growing on the coast of Georgia might cause some serious discomfort - not too much fun to sit.

Mjamja - good point, I’ll have to repack differently as things get used.

Delphinus - good links. I appreciate the info about how a boat’s personality changes heavily loaded from not loaded, I’d not really read that thread. And - now I know how I’m going to get that bottle of wine stowed!

G2d - no,not a GCA an AAP trip, even though there is a GCA presence. Shovel, or “Ipood” (ok, it looks more like a gardening implement than a shovel) is required where we are camping.

Pblanc - Its a kayak, but your advice about trial loading and having someone check it out is good. And the wine - yes…

DesertDave - wait, EVERYTHING is metal, everywhere! Ut oh. I know aluminum isn’t magnetic, but jeez, how much metal can cause a compass to be off?

Pikabike - good point. If I was packing for a longer trip, I could see the advantage of having things accessible by time of usage.

This is actually just my shakedown for longer future trips. We are only paddling a short distance, setting up camp and then going wandering. Really, I’m doing this to make sure that other planned adventures are possible!


I try to pack so
the tarp, groundcloth, tent roughly in that order are packed in last. If it’s raining you can pull this out and close the hatch then set up and come back for the rest, instead of having to drag gear out in the rain to get to the tent.

I also draw a diagram of the boat ond note each bags location and it’s key contents. The balance is always the same and I can find stuff without unloading the whole boat.

Good Luck


useless stuff
I see those plastic shovels sold in the hiking/camping stores and wonder WHO can dig through Arizona dirt and caliche with a plastic trowel???

Better take a poop-tube than try to dig while you are clinching your cheeks.

the u dig it

best wishes


“File” incompatibilities
The iPod is great for playing MP3s, but the iPood only handles BM#2 files.

And don’t ask to see the transfer “log” …

The U dig It
Is much more aesthetically pleasing than

the Ipood.

But - it’s stainless, and is stainless

magnetic and therefore a problem for a commpass? JK!!!

I don’t think I’m gonna be upgrading my shovel anytime soon : )