Packing LIGHTER for paddle-in trips

Hopsing and I went on a few paddle-in trips this year; we just got back from 3 days on Round Pond in the Adirondacks (via Little Tupper).

Each trip has been a learning experience, but, we have to learn to pack lighter.

I know Hopsing’s downfall is he packs too much food. On our most recent trip to the Adirondacks, he packed enough food for 2 days more than we were there. He loves to cook, and we don’t do the dried meal thing. So I know that’s his “thing” that keeps him interested and busy. But really, he just brings too much in his food stores, and his kitchen stuff combined, when it is just the 2 of us.

My downfall is I pack too many clothes (including rain gear, fleeces, hats, gloves & jackets). I’m always thinking one or both of us will get wet via rain or a spill, and need a change of dry clothes.

We also need to address the water and wood issue. We have been packing water in using a hard plastic reuseable container that looks like a big green gas can. Granted, the container is much lighter when we paddle out! I know a purifier or filter is the way to go, but the choices are confusing, and I don’t know where to start looking. As for wood, we usually bring one bundle of store-bought kiln-dried wood to cook on (within places where no quarantine exists, of course) because Hopsing says you can’t cook meat over pine (which is what we seem to usually find as downed wood) without the food getting that piney taste. So far we seem to have been able to find enough scrub wood just for fires for warmth and light, but little hardwood.

Curious how everyone dealt with these specific issues?

Any input from personal experience that you may have?

What’s your downfall for paddle-in camping?

Far too much…
movin’ picture makin’ equipment. 60 - 70 lbs. of camera, batteries, Pelican box an’ tripod. Too much grub too ah’ reckon’.


We just got back from the Adirondacks
and on the clothing issue did the exact same thing.

Unfortunately in that neck of the woods there is no getting around it, unless you want to wear the same clothes for several days which I would do if I were by myself.

It can be like Florida weather or it can be cold and rainy.

Look into a Katadin Filter which we used all over Alaska, and you won’t need to bring any water with you.

I call it “Squishing water” !

On the food, why not give up the fine dining and go to packaged dry stuff that you just mix with hot water.

I guess if you are young and only go camping once in a while, the camp fire is a must, but I hit the sleeping bag as soon as the sun goes down so I can paddle bright and early the next morning.

Our little single burner stove runs on butane and is about 4 inches in diameter by about an inch thick when it is not opened up

Did my time with eight kids and camp fires for many moons and don’t need or want one any more.



Go Lightweight

Be sure to visit a site dedicated to the principles of someone with a name similar to your own: Nessmuk is named after Nessmuk, the pen name of George Washington Sears. In the 1880’s, Sears wrote about lightweight canoe travel, self-direction, and environmentalism. This website follows his pathway with a goal to provide information about lightweight canoe and kayak travel, while advancing wilderness protection through growing paddlesport participation. It also promotes self-direction with a strong emphasis on the do-it-yourself culture growing in the modern sport of paddling.”

You’ll get lots of good ideas for lightening your own load there. Good Luck!


Don’t skimp on clothes

– Last Updated: Sep-14-08 9:58 PM EST –

for inclement weather. Cold & wet are not good. But, as stated above, over time, upgrade to lighter weight materials. Also, only take 1 or 2 of each piece of clothing depending on what the conditions are going to be.

I would definitely invest in a water purifier. Hauling water is way too much work. Hauling wood, too, is not something I would do unless I absolutely had to.

I am gradually upgrading my stuff to light weight materials, such as sleeping bags, tarp, etc. It will add up over the years if you use your holiday & birthday chips wisely. ; )

When I went to BWCA I packed way too much food. But, I had my son with me so I envisioned us running out. I am going way lighter on food next time.

I was going to recommend the above website as well. Very good. It is fun to keep trying to get lighter.

I’m also looking to lighten up
Not sure why not but I’ve never considered taking a water filter. I just looked up one of those katadyn filters as mentioned above, only $60 for the model I saw. I usually take a gallon per person per day. I usually do 3 day solos so thats over 25 lbs starting out plus the space it takes up. Might not be a bad idea to carry some water even if you do have a filter in case the filter malfunctions or gets lost or broken.

I also like home cooked meals on my trips but thats starting to wear thin, to much work and weight for one guy. Might try some of that dehydrated food. I always stay an extra nite at a state park after I take out, I’ll have my big home cooked meal there.

I always take extra shoes and socks, especially in winter. One extra article of every piece of clothing in case I fall in the water, especially in cold weather.

One thing I’ve noticed is that some tent stakes are quite a bit heavier than others.

When I get home I go through my camping list and make note of what I did not use in case I might want to trim the list down to save weight.

Have you looked into a bigger canoe ? (If portaging isn’t an issue).

Just kidding, but not really. I have gone from a Wenonah Sundowner to a Bell Northwoods for tripping because it has higher capacity and paddles better loaded.

When going luxury camping (real food, not freeze dried) I carry a small portable gas grill and two bottles. It’s ligher weight than the wood your carrying along and probably smaller too.

We build small fires for entertainment if wood is available that you don’t have to walk through poison ivy to get to.

I always bring my own water along as I don’t like/trust filtering enough for my use.

Clothing wise I have pared things down and the only cotton is one tee shirt to wear in camp at night for comfort. A light weight breathable rain jacket and a couple fleece things of various weight are usually all you need in the summer. I don’t change my clothes twice a day (or even once a day) to cut down on whats needed and I think I still carry twice what I would ever need.In spring or fall I would obviously bring more.

Dry Soup mixes

– Last Updated: Sep-14-08 10:04 PM EST –

I like dry soup mixes b/c they are light, easy, hardy & fairly quick. Last trip-Bear Creek Minestrone on a rainy night. My son loved the flavor-we all did. Took lots of water which was good for us. Devoured all 8 cups between 3 of us.

I do take the water tabs if the filter is bad but yech!

Oh, & I agree on the socks. I have done more hiking than canoeing in cold weather, & I would never give up nice warm wool socks & a nice warm wool hat. A hat is the best thing you can have on you.

Water weighs too much.
We might bring along a couple of bottles that double as ice in the cooler but that stuff weighs way too darn much. When my filter hopelessly clogged during day 2 of a 1 week trip we reverted to the back up, Micropur tablets by Katadyn. Kills all the bugs and has no noticable taste. $13 for 30 litres of drinkable water.

We are packing for a 6 day trip for 2 at this very moment and the food pack is at 34 lbs. The few things in the cooler will probably add 10 lbs total at most. Yes, it all gets weighed, otherwise it’s easy to go overboard. We try to set a conservative weight limit and usually go over a bit. Most of our cooking is done on our Coleman dual fuel single burner or open fire. Wood isn’t an issue where we travel. You might save weight by bringing some charcoal to cook directly over. We have the individually wrapped & sealed blocks that you can light with a match (sometimes??) for short day trips that we cook out on. Not much weight with them and no smelly lighter fluid needed. Make a pan to place them on out of aluminum foil so you don’t ugly the place up.


hope I never get over my weak spot…
beer! One (OK…two or three) keeps good company around the fire each night.

To offset the weight, I never carry much water but have used the First Need purifier for years with no problems.

I just got a Steripen UV to test out next month in the ADK’s.

I hope to live long enough to see someone invent a great dehydrated beer!

Pasta and Rice Packets
Don’t overlook these:

An excellent compromise between complicated and time-consuming ‘homemade’ dinners and expensive freeze-dried backpacking meals. Only a buck-and-a-quarter at your local grocery store, just add a small can of tuna, chicken, or shrimp to these pasta or rice packets and you quickly have yourself a modest meal for two, or a satisfying dinner for one very hungry paddler.


I never carry water

– Last Updated: Sep-15-08 2:17 AM EST –

Lots of ADK residences use lake water..why not you.

There are many water filters out there..just choose one. I have used the same MSR Mini Works for an average of six weeks a year since 1991. Had to finally change the cartridge..they do wear..guess I got many years out of it.

Layers...its a common error to bring too many clothes. I paddle in one set every day. Does not matter if the trip is one day or one month. Second set for laundry day or in camp.

A months of clothes ergo should fit in a 20 liter dry bag including your insulating layer (fleece) but not raingear. Shoulder season should be treated with more respect and since warmth is critical, sometimes I pack an extra wool shirt so give it 30 liters for clothing. Get a compression dry sack; it works wonders.

For next week when I expect it might be cold enough to snow but hope it doesnt for a week long trip I bring:
1 nylon long sleeve shirt
1 merino long sleeve wool top and bottom
1 cool max long sleeve shirt and nylon pant (wearing those)
1 toque
1 pair WOOL mittens.
1 wool shirt
1 rain jacket
4 pair wool sox and 3 pair silk sox liners
camp shoes big enough for sox
I will be wearing Merrill Waterpros for paddling shoes. Not quite cold enuf for seal skin sox which arent very durable but warm
1 pair extra nylon pant
1 extra long sleeve top
1 rain pant

you really dont need all the contents of your closet.

Baby wipes keep you clean smelling

Food..well I dehydrate everything and do not depend on a fire. But you need your pleasures and I cant help you there. Two weeks fits in a 30 liter barrel easy for me. I dont miss steaks and lettuce and love shrimp and coleslaw and veggies all of which dehydrate well.

Off to the daks next week to do some paddlin and portaging..might have everything down to single carry for a three day trip.

No I dont take likker..takes too much space. Except when the Red Sox are in the Series. Then I have to take the likker and the radio and the chair then bye bye to single carries.

A few suggestions

– Last Updated: Sep-14-08 11:46 PM EST –

Two days of extra food isn't a bad idea for a longish trip. Was it two days extra for a 3-day trip, though? How about bail-out options? If you have no bail-out options in an area with iffy weather, the extra food might not be such a bad idea even for a short trip. Go for more compact food, though. The issue with kayaks is more one of volume than weight. For example, one lb of small simple pasta shapes (orzo, elbow macs) is more compact than a lb of spaghetti or fettucini. I love crunchy salty snacks, but potato chips are out of the question for these trips. Think "Corn Nuts", which also have the advantage of being practically indestructible.

Try to make clothes do double duty. An extra set of long johns can be use as sleeping wear. A spare pr of socks can be used as mittens. Bring quick-drying convertible pants and/or capris instead of separate prs of long pants and shorts. Convertible shirts with sleeves to roll up and secure when it gets hot.

Clothing choice depends on climate and season. Don't skimp too much if it's a wet, cold area. But when at Lake Powell last year, though I brought other clothing, I ended up wearing the same quick-dry t-shirt and shorts for 10 days in a row--I washed them every day and then wore them as they dried out in the warm, dry desert sun right on my body. The water temps there were so warm that separate paddling wear was not necessary (though I had brought one shorty wetsuit just in case).

Switch to a ThermaRest Prolite sleeping pad if you haven't already done so. Perhaps a down sleeping bag. Switch all or some of your drybags from PVC to coated nylon or polyster. They are more compact and slide into tight spots better than PVC bags. I made all these changes (reluctantly--cost more $$$), and they were the right decisions for me.

Buy a water filter and then you can filter daily so no need to carry more than a gallon or two each. I have been very pleased with a $50 Sweetwater unit highly praised in a Backpacker Magazine review. I think it is now under MSR, but the price is similar. Store the filtered water in a collapsible bladder-type container instead of a hard-sided one which is heavy and takes lots of space.

Wood...the only times I've had a fire when kayak-camping were when I found dead wood at the site. Wood takes a lot of room...but if cooking over wood means so much to Hopsing you may want to keep it as your luxury item.

Well, that was more than a few suggestions! I think a water filter should be your top priority because each gallon of water weighs 8 lbs.

My downfall was bringing an SLR camera and two heavy lenses on the Alaska trip. They rode in two medium-size Pelican boxes (hey, I didn't bring a tripod like I normally would use). After that I began bringing a Pentax Optio 43WR instead. But the picture quality isn't nearly as good so I might start bringing the SLR again, at least for land-based shots.

Clothes can double as a pillow too.
I bought a pair of quick dry convertible pants last year. They were 3 sizes too big for me but they were 8.00. Clearance of the clearances! They have a waist tie so I can wear them. I love these things. I wore them every day in the BWCA & dried them like you describe. Perfect for a swim in July; dries super fast.

Corn nuts rock! :wink:

Do a few long BACKPACKING trips. You will soon weed out what is dead weight and useless.

Less is more

Taking too much can take the joy out of a trip.

I never bring wood in the ADKs there is always wood along the shore away from campsites.I take my empty canoe and forage or gather some on the way back form day trips.Bring a small light saw.

I aways cook over a wood fire or with my small light stove which burns small twigs ect.Bringing a stove and fuel is a lot of extra weight.

Water is like lead! I only bring 2 full water bottles for the paddle in. A friend of mine who was wary of drinking filtered water became a beliver after looking at filtered and his tap water under a microscope. If pumping a water filter bothers you there are gravity ones you just fill,hang and let run into another container.Just be careful not to spill any unfiltered water into the filtered stuff.Also when using hot water for cooking or coffee,if you boil it for 5 minutes first you can use water right out of the lake and save your filter and the work.I find I enjoy the different flavors of lake and river water and they get my more in touch with the location.

As for food it’s a great help to plan the meneu and portion out and separate your meals in advance instead of bringing full boxes and bags and take most back home.A cooler and ice are obviously real heavy,with a little improvisation you can eat well without refridgeration.

When packing clothes I tend to forget to count what I am wearing.Also especially if base camping fleece and nylon are easy to dry to use again.Washing clothes to wear again helps also.

But the thing that works the best for me in general is to make a list right after you get home or even when still camping of things you don’t need and improvments for next time so you don’t repeat your last mistakes and excesses.It’s an evolutionary process. We all have our own tolerance for what’s too much weight and bulk to weigh aganst what is necessary for us to enjoy the trip.



When in doubt, Thoreau it out.

This is what I take to the bwca.

clothing- 1 rain suit, 1 fleece jacket, 1 extra set of clothing (pants,shirt). Enough clean underware for how many days you are staying, 1 rain hat, 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 set of long underware, lightweight tennis shoes for camp, clean socks for everyday, and 1 baseball cap. Whatever I wear going into the bwca is what I wear most of the week. Yes I smell but so do the other people Im with.

Water- We use a purifier and take no bottled water.

Fire- We only use firewood if we want a campfire. We have gone to other campsites to scout for wood or just go further into the woods at our campsite.

Food- Pre bag everything. Talk to outfitters. I did and they told me how much trail mix they pack per person, etc. I carry dehydrated meals for the extra day’s food. If we are windbound the extra day’s meals come in handy. Regular food that you cook at home can be cooked in the woods. Just portion everything out before hand. For breakfast we eat loaded oatmeal cookies. I bring 1 per person. They have oatmeal, rasins, and nuts in them.

For each meal I label a ziplock bag and put all ingredients into the bag for each meal along with the recipe. I pack my backpack according to the day we are eating the meal. This year I had the extra day’s meals left over plus a handful of trail mix. For 2 people for 7 days my bag weighed less than 30 pounds. In addition to the food, I had 2 cans of gas, cook pots, stove, utensils, coffee, water purifier, and a small table.

It is super easy to lighten up. Make a list of what you use each time and cross off the things that you never use. For me, I never use my 3 legged stool so I dont bring that anymore. I have a 2 man tent for 1 instead of a 3 man tent that I used to carry. Camera stuff is my weakness so I cut down on weight by not bringing what I dont absolutely need and bring my cameras and different lenses.

Another vote for Nessmuking
He sets the bar pretty high for lightweight tripping, a heigth I have yet to attain. And he is willing to reduce his backup clothing to, well, pretty much nothing.

So far most of the info offered is quite good, with me disagreeing on one item: I shall never abandon my Thermarest pillow. Don’t weigh much, and the filling of small foam chunks is sooooo comfy that my head thinks it is at home.