how to plan distance for a float trip

Hello all I’ve just gotten into kayaking and I’m planning a 2 day overnight camp float trip on a local river/creek but my problem is trying to determine distance per day for the group. On one hand I don’t want to end up at the island destination to early and have the others get bored, on the other hand I don’t want to short our time to prepare camp and get firewood together etc… I’ve asked for feed back from 2 of the guys but have not heard a thing from them yet on how far they’d like to go on day one. Day 2 will be a short paddle to the finish for pick up and time to go home and unpack etc… I’ve floated 13 miles of this water in 4 1/2 hours with very little paddling so question to all you seasoned float trippers how far would you recommend for day 1 starting at about 9am or should I plan for 11am or noon start time.

Start at 9:00 AM
and then go about 15 miles.

Stop for lunch along the way, and then a butt break here and there.

Works for us !



Assuming from your other posts…
That you will be on Swatara Creek, you can do the entire creek from Pine Grove to the mouth in Middletown in 15 hrs. with moderate paddling at levels of 2.5 at the Hershey Gauge. I did it last October and it was a long day but not grueling. Where will you be camping? The Islands below Ono rd. are large, relatively flat and free of “No Trespassing” signs. It also appears to be a fairly remote section of creek. I usually start at Pine Grove and Commando Camp in the State Park ( it’s undeveloped and underused so I don’t feel bad about it.) After all, it is part of the water trail and besides the noise from I 81, a great place to camp. Tell me where you are putting in and taking out and how hard you like to paddle and I can tell you within an hour how long it will take. I generally paddle solo so I tend to move alot quicker. Hope this helps. PWS

Some thoughts on planning
It is a different thing planning for a small (3 or 4) person trip than a larger group.

If you know everyone well and know how they paddle and camp, planning is easy - just set your pace to the slowest of the group and your set-up/departure time to the slowest camp setter/breaker.

Faster folks can be convinced to become leisurely much more easily (and with less ill feeling) than slower folks can be hurried. The goal (presumably) is a)safety and b)for everyone to have a good time. Nothing will wreck that goal quicker than for someone to feel pressured and get grouchy about it. Grouchiness can be contagious. A failure of “b” can, at worst, result in a failure of “a”.

I find larger groups to always be slower than the slowest pace I imagined during planning. There are always more unexpected “pit stops”, missing tent pieces, minor injuries, and such delays. This isn’t to place blame or disparage anyone, but simple acceptance during planning of the fact that the more folks there are on a trip the more possibilities for delay there are.

Any one of us can, at any time, experience the occasional unexpected delay. If the group is to remain a group, that delay is to the whole group and will be in direct proportion to how many of us there are.

Its also not a bad idea IMO to allow a little extra time for delays due to weather or, if need be, to allow tents and clothes to dry after a rainy night. Leave at 9am if you can, but when planning set your distances as if leaving at 11am or noon. You can always find a way to make an extra goof-off break enjoyable, but it can be much less enjoyable (for everyone) trying to get a group or a member of a group to “make up lost time.”

You can’t foresee all possible combinations of delays. If, for example, someone has a minor injury and there is a delay, that doesn’t mean that there won’t also be a thunderstorm after hours of headwind. In other words, try to allow extra time and, if possible, try to “give yourself an out” to cut the trip short if the worst combination occurs.

Just some thoughts…

i have found
that the two factors to consider are:

  1. length of boat
  2. age/sex of paddler.

    I went on a trip…

    I had a 12’ dirag

    Mike had a 10’ Mallard with little gear. He is youngest by 15 years.

    Harry had a 14’ Loon

    Joann was oldest by 10 years and had a 10’ mallard overloaded with water.

    Mike powered his boat and easily kept up with Harry.

    Both left poor Joann behind!

    Even after I took 45# of ehr water for my own, she barely reached the campsite before dark!

    long boats go fast!

    older people go slow!

    women go slow!

    that is what I work around.