camping routine on expedition

Suppose you’re on a 2-3 week trip where you’re trying to cover max distance in minimum time, what are some things you can do to make your out-of-boat duties more efficient? Include such things as selecting campsites before dark, pitching camp, eating and preparing/managing food supply for next day, maintaining clothing and gear, bathing and personal hygiene, resupply, preparation for unexpected emergencies and anything else necessary to support your time on the water. How many hours should you plan for each day for this camping routine?

Single most time consuming task
in camp is probably cooking. Hanging the rain tarp, hanging the hammock and bug net, offloading the boat, setting up camp can take less than 1/2 hour if well organized. Selecting campsites for a hammock is a lot easier than finding a level clear spot for a tent. I’ve even hung my hammock astraddle of a stream, and anchored one end to a boulder face.

Cooking and cleaning up takes another 1/2 hour to 1 hour if you’re actually cooking. If you’re using one-bag meals that you dehydrated at home and cooking on a Jet Boil then cooking and cleanup can be done in 5 minutes. If you’re cooking on a fire then the firebuiilding chore can consume a good bit of time, anywhere from 15 mintues to an hour depending on how wet everything is and how far you have to go to get firewood and kindling. I carry a small drybag with kindling and starter sticks, get that going while sawing and splitting more. Filtering water can take from 1 to 5 minutes.

If using the Katahdyn Base Camp just fill it and hang it in camp and it’s good to go within an hour or so and will last for 1-2 days. It can be used as a dromedary during the day, and can even “shower” with it hanging from a tree limb.

Depends a lot on where you’re going and what kind of weather, too. Sunny beaches with abundant dry driftwood are easier than muddy, brushy river banks in a pouring rain.

Food planning/cooking
Do all your food planning at home before the trip!!! Look into freezer bag type meals where you only have to boil water at the camp site. Have all your meals into freezer bags with labels on everything, example would be for a bag to say: breakfast, add 1 cup hot water, cozy 10 minutes. (I write with sharpie pen right on the baggie) Then have all your Breakfast’s together in a larger water proof bag. Other meals would be grouped into their bags, like lunch and dinner and snacks. Then you just would pull out a days supply and have them handy throughout that day. That night in camp, go through your food and make up another bag for the next days travel. If you’re able to have a resupply drop then pack it up the same way, along with extra fuel for your stove. Always pack one extra meal for “just in case” situations.

One thing the voyageurs did:

– Last Updated: Dec-20-08 2:53 PM EST –

Folks mention cooking as being a real time-eater. I understand that the voyageurs killed two birds with one stone, when it came to minimizing this kind of wasted time. They would get up before dawn, load the boats and start paddling. Then once the sun came up, they were hungry and already feeling in need of a a rest, so THAT's when they would stop for breakfast. This way they crammed more paddling hours into the day and also made those hours more effective by adding a rest break which was not "wasted" doing nothing. I think that kind of schedule would take a lot of the fun out of a trip in my case, but I still find it interesting.

Oh! I should mention that one thing like this I HAVE done, which for me saves SOME time, is to get a "relatively" early start on paddling, then stop for breakfast an hour or so later. I find that packing up seems to go quicker if it's the first thing I do in the morning and I have no other concerns. For non-morning folks like me, fixing an easy breakfast "feels" a lot easier once I've gotten past my initial sluggishness too.

I think that one natural thing that happens on a group trip, is that people fall into the pattern of doing "their" chores. This helps establish an efficient routine more than constantly changing what everybody is responsible for.

camping routine on expedition

We paddle sea kayaks 25-30 miles a day in 2 marches of 4 to 5 hours. Our kayaks are typically packed for 20 days, and most often we finish 4-5 days ahead of our food. We are fortunate in being able to paddle with two or three other people who share our perspective regarding time on water and light-weight camping. We don’t resupply on trips because it takes too long to go into and out of a village and we can pack 25+ days of food in our boats. If delays happen, we can always reduce rations.

Over time my wife and I have settled into an efficient routine for setting and breaking camp. Our mantra is “first things first” and, after a particularly long 2nd march looking for a campsite, that phrase is voiced on the beach. I can’t give times other than to say we are usually paddling in the morning within 90 minutes of waking. That time can be cut in half if necessary, and sometimes does when there is a point to round or a tidal current to catch.

A few suggestions for touring in remote or wilderness. Get rid of the stuff you don’t really need and pack the rest in small easily accessible dry bags. Nothing takes up more time than loading and unloading a too full kayak. Know where everything is by labeling the bag or color-coding with a list.

Define tasks and stick to them (first things first) this usually means while one person sets up the tarp and fluffs the bivies and bags as soon as you reach the beach the other preps for dinner, gathers wood ( we cook breakfast and dinner over a fire) or treats water. Once the tarp is up and the boats are tied to a living tree the evening becomes yours. You can eat in the fading light. A kitchen tarp may or may not be a priority given the weather.

Chart your position at the end of each day and project a lunch and camp-site for the next. Don’t be foolish about those projections in the truth of the coming day.

Know what you are going to have for dinner either by using a menu or making the decision while you are on the water. I alternate trips with a pantry of basic quick cooking carbs and protein with pre-mixed dinners in baggies that can be cooked in the fire pot. The latter is faster, but the former is more fun. We eat well on these because we have the time to do so. Eat the same thing for breakfast every morning. Get rid of your coffee. We switched to loose tea a couple of years ago and were able to leave all of the coffee paraphernalia at home.

My wife can and will bathe in any stream along our route. She does this while the rest of us are stretching or filling up our water. Once a week – on a sunny day – we will stop early and build a makeshift shower from rocks and drift wood. A fire provides hot water for evening ablutions.

Stop and enjoy a beach for a half-day if the sun is out or the water is too rough to paddle. Use that time to repair gear, read or relax.

fat wheel portage cart helps, too
install the portage cart while the kayak is still in the water then roll the loaded boat right up to the campsite. Works perfectly for beaches and gravel bars but not always possible due to terrain or undergrowth and boulders, so next best thing is a big mesh bag with shoulder straps to haul all the drybags to campsite in one trip.

Cooking breakfast and lunch on the trail has the added benefit of less cooking in camp, especially for smelly things like fresh fish.

I usually prefer to get up leisurely and cook breakfast and make soup in a thermos for lunch. that way I don’t have to unload the cookset and meal and wash dishes for lunch, just wash the empty thermos with the evening dishes.

I have never been one for max distance
in minimum time. When I am able to get outside,I want time to absorb it , not just blow through it. For years, I hiked with a group who only saw the trail between their boots. We were fast, but you can do that in town.

But that wasn’t the question.

Carry-all bag
If you take a large but not too bulky bag such as a lightweight duffle, mesh, or Ikea lightweight tote bag, you can reduce the number of trips you make hauling gear to and from your kayak. Just put several smaller drybags inside it to carry.

I used a giant drybag (it is very sturdy) and was grateful to have received this tip from someone else.

Color-code your dry bags so you know whats in them OR make a writen list of all gear and what dry bag its in. You can write all this down on a tiny piece of paper if you need to.

Dont be picky about camp locations. I usually paddle till the sun hits the horizon which means it will be DARK in about one hour after. I do everything in that hour no problem and thus am in bed before i even need to flashlight etc.

One one two month trip I cooked 99% via fire. What i did upon landing to shore was start a fire and pull my food bag out and prepare a meal. I usually built the fire within a very short distance of my boat and also close to the water. No need to carry a heavy food back 100 feet from shore. Close to cleanup and also putting gear back in boat quickly. I have never hung food due to bears and Ive been paddling 30 years.

Ive brought a small dutch-oven type cooker…more of a handled cast iron pot with top. I make one pot meals…put in hot coals. Figure a non-drain of water meals…i.e just the right amount of water for pasta or rice…never drain etc. While this is ALL cooking on the coals, I set up my tents and wash, change cloths, do boat chores etc. WIthin a 1/2 hour after doing ALL this…dinner is ready…no waiting ever. Eat-clean-put stuff away…ALL this in an hour.

In the morning i usually eat quick non-cooking foods or just add water stuff etc. Ive made small pancakes in the mornings which I use as bread and make honey and almond butter sandwhiches etc.

If I use a camp stove and NOT a fire I usually set up camp then get the stove out and cook. Always make one pot meals…eat out of the pot you cook it in so there is always only ONE thing to clean! Use only foods that you DONT need to use a knife. In the 30 years of paddling I can only recall using a knife ONE time. Why risk cutting yourself…just bring foods that you can break, crumble, twist, snap, shred…no knife needed

Picking camps …again…I look for a flat spot for a tent notihing picky usually noting scenic since Its going to be dark in less than an hour…i typically paddle 10-17 hour days during expedition trips just because i like to put in a lot of miles and I’d rather paddle than stare at a fire. SOmetimes the camp spot is within a few yards of the water. Its hard to get in a really fast routine during a two week trip but I’ve noticed on longer 1-month+ trips Ive been able to do the entire routine of cook, clean, put away and set up tent and eat in about 45 minutes. I’ve had some really aweful camp locations because I waited a little too long to spot a local and it was either a survival or stealth camp (ones where you camp after dark where you’re typically not suppose to or not ideal and are up and gone by daylight. Ive had camps 6 feet from busy railroad tracks, been hidden within forested areas of huge cities without anyone knowing my existance, been within 200 feet of rageing forest fires, and been to some really remote quiet places where you feel you’re the only one in the world.

mostly same as the rest
I carry 2 big bags. 1 has all my personal and camping stuff seperated into clothes/camp/food/misc personal.

The other bag has food and some camping gear which is also in other stuff sacks etc. Paddle until i decide to stop…usually about an hour until dark, or less. All i need is a small patch of flat, or sorta flat ground. Make the boat safe/tie off etc. Put water on for whatever I’m eating and a cup of coffee. Decide whether to tarp it, or tent it. May not need either and usually don’t bother, but have it close just in case. By the time I figure out camp, time to eat. Sometimes I’ve changed into other clothes, sometimes not, but after dinner I will. After dinner, I wash, make a cup of coffee and settle in with my book, or IPOD. I know some of you don’t like this, but it really helps me decompress and relax listening to some Jazz, or a book on tape. Usually after about 20 minutes I feel drowzy, turn off the ipod and go to sleep. I usually wake up about an hour before dawn, coffee in the stove, change clothes and pack sleeping bag etc into bags. Everything into the boat including coffee and off I go. I can usually get in a couple hours before I want something to eat. My key like most is keep it simple and accessible. Organizing and practicing(using) your systems lets you keep making changes to make this part easier. Food is just energy to me and sleep is time for my body to recover and feel good the next day so I can paddle comfortably.

Many voyageurs died
Its kind of neat to read of them perishing on a remote portage and then finding that portage.

They carried 180 lbs.and often succumbed to disease. They did stop every hour just long enough for a pipe. If the weather was good they did not camp every night.

My camp routine is one and a half hours to set up and cook…and its not fancy cooking and one hour to break camp. My normal paddling day is six to twelve hours in lake country…about 15-30 miles total and that usually includes two miles of portages (x 3 trips on each)

My time waster or saver is portages. For three weeks solo everything has to fit in two bags…one I can carry along with the canoe and the other can be heavier. A three trip portage is a no no.

Howver if you go to the Barrens, that thinking is stinking…you need backups and heavier tents so a “race” is for the foolish.

If you are trying to make time…take the least possible for your safe trip. In the summer too many clothes are often a cause for too much stuff. One extra change suffices.

food bag
I use a Northwater Sea Tec Provision Pack. After dinner I pack all of the food and cooking supplies for the next day in the Provision Pack. I organize the meals and snacks in the Provision Pack, as well as the stove, fuel, and utensils. It takes a bit of time at night, but it makes things run a bit smoother in the morning and the rest of the day.

One other thing I do is divide up the food into about 5 small meals/large snacks.

Like others I have separate dry bags for different things (and they are color coded). Sometimes I organize stuff in small drawstring bags inside the dry bags. I can be pretty particular about where everything goes and how it is stored. This is way to organized on my part, but I like to have ‘systems’ for each task. The tasks are as small as possible and can be grouped together into larger ‘chores’ - sort of like object oriented programming if you are into that kind of thing.

The biggest thing you can do to save time is keep things simple and don’t rush or hurry.

One other thing you can do to cover a lot of distance is either start out with low miles and gradually increase (don’t forget the rest days). Or, build up your endurance before the trip. An important part of preparing for trips is to acclimate your body to paddling for several hours several days in a row. Paddling a long day once a week doesn’t get your body ready for day in day out paddling.

sea water question
is a good one in this context because water is the elixr of life. Use seawater to wash dishes or scrub them with wet sand, then rinse with hot fresh water that has a small amount of bleach in it. Getting fresh water, or carrying enough, is often the limit of how far you can go on the sea. I know one guide in Southwest who carried 8 gallons of water for a 7 day trip. That’s nearly 60 pounds of water alone, then add the camping gear, clothes and food/kitchen bag. Sure don’t want to portage that load very far. I’ve usually been lucky enough to paddle up a stream to filter fresh water but when I have to I carry 4 gallons in front of my feet and plan on using less than 1 gallon per day.

zombie start
You know, I think a lot of the African explorers did this also on land. Of course, they were partly constrained by the fact that they usually tried to end each day’s march around noon due to the heat, and they couldn’t start too early because they need daylight to find the trail and watch for dangers. But they would get up before dawn and break camp quickly, then march at first light for a few hours when they would stop for breakfast. Then they’d march on until finding a good spot to make camp around noon.

Trying to simulate things in my mind, I think that kind of schedule would be doable. That’s already kind of how I like to do my driving, when I start out on a camping trip. I get everything ready the night before, then get in the car and start driving immediately upon waking, and have my first cup of coffee on the road.

I think the advantage is that you get moving while you’re still going through that semi-zombie state of waking up. Travelling in a mode that you’re very familiar with is something you can handle largely on auto-pilot while still being fully efficient, and on top of that it’s pleasant. By the time you’re fully awake, you’re well on your way, and what’s more you’ve set a pattern for the day.

If, instead, you try to focus on a variety of chores to make breakfast and prepare things for the day, then your semi-zombie state is a disadvantage, and you have to stop and think how to do simple things, and you may be prone to slacking off.

Not that there’s anything wrong, on a normal trip, with slacking off early in the day. In fact, my normal camping procedure is to loaf away those glorious first few hours of the day. I love to get up early, rekindle the fire if it’s still a bit chill, make coffee, watch the sunrise, take some pictures in first light, and plan out the day.

But there’s always plenty of time for trips like that. If I’m in a race, I think I could see my way to breaking camp and getting underway inside of 15 minutes, assuming I had finished all my chores the night before. (I think that’s key - you need to have everything ready for departure before going to sleep.) Then paddle on a minimum of 1, maximum of 3 hours while looking for a breakfast camp, and then make the breakfast stop in 15-30 minutes.

max distance in min time
I can see as much at 4 mph as I can see at 3 mph. My boat runs smoother at 4 mph than it does at 3 mph. I don’t fish for recreation so for me spending time paddling is more pleasurable than spending time sitting around camp wondering what I’ll see around the next bend. I’d rather just go see.

Sometimes speed is essential if you want to see the whole river or the whole coast line and you only have a few days off from work. Especially farther north sometimes once you get on a river you can’t get off till the next take out, which may be days away. If you want to see that river and you have limited vacation time then speed becomes relatively important. For instance I’d rather see the whole Missinabi River, headwaters to the sea, than just the first half of it.

I only know a couple paddlers who go out there just to burn up the miles and they do it for the same reason some of us speed hike the AT, because it’s fun and because they can.

Most of the folks I paddle with consider 25-30 miles in 10 hours is adequate to work up a good appetite. One paddler I know says he’s not happy unless he’s doing 40 miles in 12 hours. He’s young yet, he’ll slow down in a couple decades, like I did. But, before he does slow down he’ll see a heck of a lot of country that most of us might only dream about seeing. Paddletothesea is a good example of that and there are others on this board who think nothing of spending weeks alone in some distant place.

light cooking in transit?
Does anybody have any ideas about how to arrange a cooking sytem that lets you safely (and comfortably - not breathing fumes) cook while in transit? I was thinking about something like the Jetboil PCS set-up, which apparently mountaineers use to cook on a cliff face.

The goal isn’t necessarily full meals, but just to be able to make a cup of coffee or a bowl of soup, or maybe to warm up a small sandwich packed ahead of time for the purpose.

Assume minimal waves and wind, but not total stillness.

If you can’t do it while underway, how about while stopped and secured in place, but without having to get out of the boat (i.e., having to find a suitable place to disembark)?

yeah, good point
I use both the Jet Boil PCS and the GCS in camp but in the boat I use the PCS to make hot tea on a cold day and to cook oatmeal while paddling. I precook my bacon before leaving home so when the oatmeal is almost done I break up a couple slices of bacon and drop in the pot to reheat and rehydrate. Then I put a bagel on top while the oatmeal is boiling so my bagel is nice and steamy hot when the oatmeal and bacon is ready. If I’ve got fresh berries drop in a handfull of those or a couple tablespoons of Strawberry Preserves and about 4 ounces of real Maple syrup. Yummy!

Why would I cook while paddling? Because sometimes I’m a mile offshore or in the middle of a mile wide river and I don’t want to paddle all the way over there just to stop for lunch.

Water/waste arrangements?
If it’s a trip like along the Maine islands, the trip has to include stops to replenish your water (you’d be carrying it for the most part) and dump some waste. If fresh water is readily available with no more issue than having to filter it, and you can do cat holes or similar all along the way, it’d affect your time in camp rather than your routing.

What kind of arrangements for these fundamentals are you assuming?

Cooking with seawater
It was mentioned and I am curious. If not straight seawater perhaps a 50/50 mix?

don’t pee in the tube.
Heard a very funny story about a tour in australia where they set up/buried a tube and screwed a toilet seat onto it with the only admonition that you don’t pee in the tube.

that said, a few days into the tour, the assistant guide who was in charge of the “tube” had a loud pop coming from his cockpit and by the look of his face it was apparent what happened. the story goes that he just did a slow motion roll and got out of the boat and let the ocean do the rinsing.

And of course the inevitable question: “Who peed in the damn tube?”

I would love to find a toilet seat arrangement that screwed onto a pvc tube. anyone have any ideas?