kayak camping, the right gear?

Question: Are there any disadvantages (other than speed) in using a recreational hull for the follwoing trip?

I am planning a portage free trip to the BWCA. We will be starting from the Western end of Lac La Croix and will follow the U.S. side all the way to Bottle portage, where we will be picked up by an outfitter and towed back to Crane Lake. It will be a follow-the-shoreline, paddle-when-calm, wind-at-our-back:), warm-water-August trip. We will be out 7 days.

I will be with another adult, an 11 year old, 12 year old, and two 14 yos. Each of us in our own boat. I am paddling my wenonah solo canoe, and we have two Old Town Loons, (a solo and a tandem. We will be renting, borrowing or begging three more boats.

I find the loons very stable and the kids like paddling them. I am a novice kayaker having spent all my on water time in canoes.

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Kayak camping, the right gear?
I have read and reread your post, trying to figure out what your real question is, and I am still not sure!!!

You say 7 days, but how many miles will have to be covered per day? How much gear will need to be carried? Which would determing space and weight consideration of gear, and load capacity of boat, and paddling capability of each person to paddle loaded boat. What is performance characteristic of the chosen boats when loaded?

You ask about disadvantages of a particular hull design other than speed, when planning a 7 day trip with two adult, and 4 youth. If I assume, that the others are not accomplished paddlers, adult or youth, whether in canoe or kayak, they probably need low performance (slow and Stable) boats. They probably would not be able to take advantage of a faster hull design or appreciate higher performance or load capacity.

Have you paddled with these particular participants before to know their strengths and weaknesses? Will the weakest member be able to make the required distance to each days reserved camping site? Will the rest of the group be willing to accompany the slowest paddler?

If the group were to split up, at best you would have one adult per two youth, which if a situation continued to occur requiring adult supervision, would result in a seriously deficient ratio. And at worst if an adult was disabled, you could be in real danger.

So your real question may be, are you crazy to even be considering such a trip? Especially if you have to ask the first question, in the first place!!! The question I would ask is what is your “Exit Strategy”???

I looked at the area on map, and the descriptions indicate that there are large areas without adjacent road access. Will you have radio or cell phone communication to request extraction prior to scheduled pickup. The best laid plans are scheduled to get screwed up.

I am not familiar with the BWCAW, and I assume you are to some degree. So what I say, may be totally unrelated to your trip. However, I have done multiday camping trips with highschool and Junior high groups, up to 25 individuals. This was car camping and day hiking, and I would never do it again without having a very high ratio of adults to youth, and certainly not take them out on the water without some serious training and familiarizing. BTW are these your children, or rec group?

You might consider doing what is called a French Start. This dates back to the voyageur days, where the trapping party would go a very short way from civiliztion and set up a primitive camp for a few days. This would give them a chance to check their provisions and gear, and most importantly their ability to get along and survive in the wilderness. That would allow you to check out the boats you rent, beg or borrow, and your other gear, and then go for five days down the lake to a scheduled pickup point that is not to big a stetch for the weakest member. Then if necessary, you can also turn around and go back to start point without to much difficulty!

I found the kids had just as great a time in the local creek bed catching crawdads as going out on an endurance hike, or as in your case “paddle.” And all of this says nothing about all the other required gear, not just the boat.

You say it is “follow-the-shoreline, paddle-when-calm, wind-at-our-back:), warm-water-August trip”. Sounds like wishful thinking to me. I have been on a number of warm August trips that turned cold, with an off land wind that blew you away from the shore and kicked up large waves, where I had trouble making any headway. And the water can always be cold resulting in hypothermia. Does everyone swim? Hopefully PFDs for all, and also wetsuits! Do they know how to wet exit, or roll?

You might even consider that instead of planning on going down-wind, commit yourself to upwind. That way you could return easier to start, than committing to a downwind trip and an unknown pickup time and point, and unable to return to start.

I don’t know whether you’re crazy or not, but be careful, and have a great time! Don’t become another statistic! TnT

My take:
I see nothing wrong with using those rec kayaks for a trip like that, but…

First are the two young ones capable of doing it, which I doubt very much, unless they only have to paddle a couple of miles each day.

Secondly will you be able to do the miles each day that gets you to your take-out on time?

With two kids that young, I think you are biting off more than you can chew, and I would start with a one nighter and see how it works out.

It is nice to be a hero dad, but make yor first trip with them one on which they will be begging for a second one.



Flaot bags
If one of the Loons goes over because the kids are messing around, not an unlikely scenario, even close to shore you could have a heck of a time getting it up if it fills with water. There should be a float bag in each end to make sure that you can at least get it upright without pulling something in your bag, better yet the gear bags that are storage and float bags.

That said, I am having a hard time envisioning spending that amount of time relying on Loons for camping and extended paddling however close to shore. In addition to appropriateness, they could be quite tiring to paddle over distance because they are wide and don’t track. But I don’t know the area of the planned trip so can’t comment well.


Safe, warm, dry, repaires, light, small

– Last Updated: Jan-12-05 1:42 PM EST –

I won't tell you about my past disasters as a novice and the rubble heap I accumulated. Suffice it to say a little knowledge is dangerous and the saying what ya don't know can't hurt you can hurt you. Agree with others here about necessity of learning for you first, and then about the kids, and on a small trip. I use the perspective with young folks, what would each parent say to me when it goes wrong, would I do as much as them and maybe even more, with what I am being entrusted with, including finding out from experts what is involved.

OK, answer to your question. The more weight, people and gear the slower the boats, so weigh is a big deal. It can help with stability, at least initial stability. However, once rocking the more weight the more momentum so over ya go. Better lighter.

The most obtimal blend in camping gear, especially for multi day trips with distance is the lightest most compact, most easy to store, repairable stuff that ensures all will be fed, warm, dry, and protected.

There is a multiplication factor here. The lighter the boat, the gear and the people, the less work is needed to go X distance. This means people are less tired, get in fewer accidents, require less recovery, need less food, need less fuel to heat the food, etc. LIght is good as long as the other factors maintained.

It is possible to (do it regularly) take 7 day trips with only 25 lbs of gear including food for two people. This is not possible without all the above being integrated but you can see going in that direction is possible.

Discover what works for you and the kids on the base camp or short circular route that you will all come back from wanting more.

Have done a fair amount of camping and paddling with Scouts over the years, including week long paddles on the Current River and 70 miles of canoeing and portaging in BWCA. The latter were considered high adventure trips, and limited to age 14 and above. They went extremely smoothly, but we always did a significant amount of planning, swimming & paddling certification, real-world practicing, and at least one weekend “shakedown” with full gear, prior to the main event. The practice and shakedown should answer most of your questions. I’m not sure how you will carry your tents, equipment, personal gear, and a week’s worth of food in the boats you have listed. Another option would be to work with an outfitter, possibly making your first trip with tandem canoes; gives you a lot more load capacity, and a lot more options for combining more/less skilled paddlers. I’m not familiar with the area you mentioned, but I can highly recommend Sawbill Outfitters in the area near the North Shore of Minnesota/Superior. Cliff Jacobson has several excellent books on BWCA paddling and camping, including extensive experience leading youth groups. Please consider that a week in BWCA is a team endeavor, not just a dad taking his kids for a paddle. If properly trained and involved, they will have a great time, make you proud, and possibly save your butt.

don’t think i am crazy.
Thank you all for advice and the good questions.

To put you at ease: I don’t think I am crazy. I have logged thousands of miles in BWCA and Quetico over the last 30 some years in canoes, so I know the risks and how to manage the risks relative to canoeing–not kayaking however. That is what I guess I am trying to learn. I am an EMT and am also certified in Outdoor Emergency Care. I am sort of a safety nut in the Wilderness in terms of use of tools, hydration, sun exposure, water temperature, use of PFDs, hypothermia risks, water purity, etc. I don’t take this stuff lightly. We have all done canoe trips together, so I know the limitations of the youngest well enough to realize that the tandem kayak will probably contain him at some point with another adult. We have a cabin in northern MN so we are familiar with the area and will be able to do a couple of dry runs. The U.S. side of the Lac La Croix is part of the BWCA, but the Canadian side allows motors and there are fishing and guide boats to be flagged down in an emergency.

We will travel between 0 and 10 miles a day, sticking close to shore and to each other. We will be carrying two four man tents, and typical light weight sleeping bags, pads, cook kits, etc. If the wind is strong we will not move, period. But given the shoreline characteristics, we will be shielded from the prevailing SW winds (which will mean the wind will be from the NE).

I don’t have time to respond more now, but I love all the discussion of the risks because there are issues mentioned above that I have not anticipated.

Please keep commenting and raising concerns and suggestion. Thank you all.

thank you
for all of your advice. (see my response below to general safety issues) I need safety over performance for the kid’s boats. They will be carrying their own sleeping bags, clothes, and personal items (not a lot of weight) and we will travel between 0 and 10 miles a day. The other adult (in a tandem kayak) and myself (in a solo canoe) will carry the cook gear and tents. We have a lot of time prior to our trip to prepare. We own most of the necessary equipment, except for dry packs. For canoe trips we have always relied on big Duluth packs with plastic liners. I’ll carry two of these in my solo, but the rest of the gang will have to stuff the dry sacks.

The French Start idea is fantastic, I will basically be doing this via a two day (close to the car) trip in July.

This is what I am hearing:

Prepare: 1)Make sure we have the proper floatation devices for the boats. 2) Well before the trip, fill the boats with the approriate gear and have all involved paddle in a variety of weather and water conditions. 3) Make sure all can do wet exits, self rescue and assist in rescue (this is a common practice for my canoe trips, as well). Do you think knowing how to roll is required?

I have access to additonal OT Loons. If my current boats test out well during our planning process, do you think I should look at any other boats?

Everyone knows how to swim, but for youth and myself I require the constant wearing of PFDs on my trips (it makes being rescued and rescuing easier). For a spring or fall trip I would consider a wet suit, but the water temp in August usually makes for good swimming. At what water temp should one consider a wet suit? I had not thought of this necessity.

As I mention below, I am a safety nut. But I also like adventure, and my kids have a lot of experience on trips up to 4 days (in canoes). They love being in kayaks though (low to the water, stable) and they love paddling their own boats (a great feeling of independence). This is the background which created the idea for this trip. Also I know this lake and the scenery is simply spectacular and the south shore is full of protected bays and islands, yet help is very close by if needed (on the canadian side).

Once again, thank you for your ideas, suggestions, and concerns. It is invaluable.

It is a no go.
Someone reminded me that the BWCA only allows four boats.

Also the idea of getting strung out and having a storm blow in scares the hell out of me. No matter how hard you try to stick together, 6 boats get strung out. No way to really manage that risk with the age of my kids. Time to rethink. That is what winters are for. Thank you all.

best to
plan a shorter trip with younger kids along. How bout a weekend on a slow wide river? My friends and I take the kids camping along quiet no motor boat lakes and let em paddle all they want. Too much work or misery and they will end up hating paddling. If you are really set your type of trip I would have atleast as many experienced adults as kids along. Just my 2 cents.

Why not just double up and use three canoes instead of kayaks? The two adults can each be with one of the younger kids, while the older two should be able to handle a canoe together.

we do that
We do tandem canoe trips every summer. We are looking for a new adventure. The kids are looking for some independence. Even if the BWCA allowed 6 boats, I think the 11 and 12 yo will not be able to keep up with the 14 yo and will force us to be strung out–this not acceptable. The 14 yos are pretty strong paddlers. We might do two canoes and two kayaks. Depending on the conditions, the kids can have their own boat. The purpose of the trip isn’t to cover a lot of ground, but fishing, shoreline exploration, and learning new skills. We might do a kayak trip with only the older kids, and do a separate canoe trip with the younger. We might go out west and tandem canoe the MS river through the “Scenic River” area. We might, we might, we might… Lots of possibilities. Thanks

the old town
loons are fun day tripping boats but full of camping gear they are a bear to paddle. I had a trip with one that was only 8 miles when I first got into kayaking and it was hard for me to even get to the island we were heading to. I would think a young kid would have difficulty.

I would think pairing up with the kids in canoes sounds like a better plan. Or just pack those kayaks very light just clothes and sleeping bags/pads.

What model loons are we talking?

talking about a loon 138
and tandem loon 160. We can’t have 6 boats (BWCA rules–read above) and because of safety reasons (read above) we are planning different type of trip. I am going to pack the boats with gear and see how they handle, though. Without gear they are roomy, stable, manoeverable, and fast enough.

with 7 kids
in the family I grew up in, that 1 to 1 ratio would have meant a lot of couch time.

Good advice
I’ve got three kids who have paddled (or have been paddled) since each was about 3 or 4 years old.

My oldest is now thirteen and a very competent paddler, but he is just now getting to a point where we can take multiple-day trips – and that would be in a double.

My other two kids are 7 and 10 – they love paddling and I’ve taken both of them on several single nighters, and even then, I have to be prepared to do all the paddling (again, in the double) because they simply don’t have the strength or the stamina to paddle any great distances. Incidentally, you can’t push kids too much once they get close to the end of their physical limitations – unlike adults, they simply can’t keep going. If you do try to push them on, it will be miserable not only for them but for you as well.

Although you might enjoy a week long stint of paddling to schedules, setting up and tearing down camps, putting up with unknown weather conditions, bug bites, and other variables, it’s doubtful that the kids will walk away from the experience with the same thoughts as you will – short trips are the way to go.

It’s very sound advice from JackL (and others), to do shorter trips with kids – keep them wanting more (and if they enjoy the experience, they will ask for more). If you don’t achieve a good experience, you risk them not wanting to go paddling any more at all.

Keep the experience pleasant and fun for your kids and you’ll have paddling partners for life.

Kayak camping?
Hi Mjmcgrory, I am impressed by the SIG response to your post, and your apparent sensitivity to the thoughts of this group. With your credentials, and your awareness of the risk, I would think that there would be some way to take your youth on a very satisfactory outing. Sounds like you have some experience together, so maybe that part of this trip is not crazy!

I envy your apparent access to the BWCA, and the endless paddling opportunities. If I was a 14 yo, I would think that it sounds like a great idea, but then that is why you are the adult. I certainly did not want to discourage you from a real adventure trip, just remember that their idea of adventure probably entails about a fourth as much travel as yours. If you planned on going only 3 miles a day, with lots of fishing, splashing, and general exploring along the way, they would be happy. Remember that for every mile they go, you will probably go 3 trying to keep them together.

Then when you get to camp, depending on how competent a camper they are, you will have to do about 5 hours of camp chores, again while chasing them around the woods. Now this is where you go crazy if you weren’t crazy to start out!!!:open_mouth: SCREAMING CRAZY

One last thought I had was concerning your statement about putting most of your gear in your boat, and the other adults. Assuming that you are both strong paddlers, you may find that your boats are still very slow and unresponsive, and in a rescue situation, you may not be able to respond as fast as needed. Of all, you need to maintain your flexibility to respond. It may seem counter-intuitive, but put more gear in their boats to slow them down, wear them out, and generally make them easier for you to manage.

But then you may find that they can not manage the particular boats you plan, which gets back to your original question. They are probably the wrong boat for the mix of other gear requirements and paddler capabilities, and the trip planned.

Only you can answer that question, and again I recommend a French Start to find the answer for yourself. Whatever, have a good time, enjoy them cause they grow up real fast and are gone out on their own great adventure. Maybe they will even come back to you at some time in the future and tell you that that trip you did together was one of the favorite memories of growing up. Be sure to keep it that way. TnT

The older we get, the wiser we get.
Congratulations on getting a bit older!



A little blown away by your post
I will admit I am a little blown away by your post. Since I don’t want to ever to talk down to anyone, I would have liked to have known your expertise as well as you are a novice in SOME ways.

From my own experience, I have a WFR, leadership training and experience, helping professional, lots of experiene with kids and adolescents. Much of that generalized to kayaking when I was a novice and helped me. That said, it was a VERY VERY good thing I tested out my ideas with other kayak experts and leaders with kids because some of my knowledge did not generalize, and looking back I would have made some big errors.

So, honestly, you might (not for sure) but might just be over estimating your skill and knowledge set here. Test it out, maybe you got it together, the kids are equally capable and motivated etc.,

Hope I and rest of us are not too knarly and being apart of a community here.