Refinement of camping gear

I’ve noticed that in all sports requiring certain amounts of gear (or stuff) there seems to be a never ending evolution taking place. I am currently in the Neolithic stage of canoe camping gear refinement. Some of the general targets are “smaller, lighter, warmer”. More specifically, single burner versus two burner coleman camp stove, throw away the stone axe/knife/blunt implement, smaller tent etc.

What about:

Axe or folding saw or both?

Full size therma-rest or ¾ length?

Extra tarp/fly/shelter?

This question does not relate to “car camping”. Trips where all must fit in the boat, possibly numerous pack/unpack sequences. Time frame of 2 to 5 days.

I’m looking for any (pertinent) suggestions and ideas for more compact gear. One more curiosity, do any of you actually weigh the packs and gear carried in your boats?

Thanks in advance for your replies.


– Last Updated: Jan-09-04 3:55 PM EST –

i'd say folding saw only unless you plan to build a fire for like 10 people, although if you've got a room an axe could be handy up north. definitely go single-burner with the stove. i use a cheapy coleman that burns on fuel or gasoline. it's a little heavy, but it was cheap and it works well. you didn't say where you were camping or if you were using a canoe or kayak. in the everglades we have to take water, and that amounts to many, many extra pounds. think of what you need vs. what you think you'll need. i've often taken a few changes of clothes only to realize that i didn't need them. same thing for three towels and even food.

Aw Wes…
I thought you go bigger with canoes…

until the canoe gets smaller !
Yours will definitly require a refinement of YOUR gear !! ;o)

BTW email me regarding those paddles I mentioned.

Think like a backpacker…
What about:

Axe or folding saw or both? – Neither. Look for deadfall that you can break up with your feet or hands, if you must have a campfire.

Full size therma-rest or ¾ length? – In warm weather, a 3/4 pad is OK, you can put your extra clothes under your feet for cushioning and warmth. Colder weather, I prefer a full-length. Perhaps more important is how thick a therma-rest. Thin is OK for insulation, but thicker would be more comfortable, and a good night’s sleep is worth the extra weight.

Extra tarp/fly/shelter? – I’m assuming you already have a tent with fly for shelter, and that the area where you are canoeing requires this for rain/bugs/wind. An extra tarp can be useful for protecting extra gear, or providing a sheltered cooking area, but this could be left home if weight is a key concern. Regardless, bring 30-50 ft of 1/4" nylon rope – useful for clotheslines, bear-bagging, and the like.

Stove – look for a compact backpacking stove. Coleman makes a nice one – not the lightest, but good price and easy to use.

Fun topic

– Last Updated: Jan-09-04 4:39 PM EST –

It's fun to have all sorts of gear, but it's also good to be able to reduce your load and bring only what you need. Even in a boat it is often nice to have the lightest load that's practical.

For boat camping, I would generally bring a tarp unless sandbar camping, where setting one up requires the need for even more "stuff" (or else you must cut support poles and anchor stakes). Even a cheap woven tarp will fold up small enough to tie under the seat, etc. If you need a big tarp for a group, there's still pretty good overall economy of weight because only one person needs to have one.

For me, the axe/saw decision depends on the weather and how badly I want fire. When I want to pack light or "leave no trace", I usually forget the fire and go with the stove. If you want/need fire, being able to split small logs can be the one thing that allows you to light it quickly in wet weather. But without the saw to section the wood, you really can't split it either, so you really need both tools. A good-quality hand axe will do the job; no need to make like Paul Bunyan. IMPORTANT TIP: There's no good reason to ever swing the axe, even if you are good at it. It's best to hammer log chunks onto the axe to split them so it will never be possible to seriously hurt yourself when you are far away from help.

People who use Thermorests swear by them, but I have yet to get one (maybe because I've never tried one!). I use the lightweight, closed-cell foam kind. A full-length "Ridge-Rest" pad only weighs about 325 grams, so for boat camping, the weight is no concern, but rather just the space it takes up. Since it is so light, you can put it anywhere without affecting the boat's trim, so that's not much of an issue either, except with a kayak.

Go light!
Check out the Ultralight backpacking comunity online. Leave it at home, you do not need it. If you must have it, bing the smallest and lightest you can find. You do not need to buy a lot of things if you plan to not bring them.

2 Bags
I fit everything I need into two Duluth Packs. One pack is for cloths, sleeping bag, tent(which has its own drybag). The full length sleep pad(Slumberjack)and tent pole bag get tied to the top of that pack. The second pack includes food, water pump, flashlight, small axe with a hammer head on the opposite side of the blade, first aid kit, fuel bottle, stove(Peak 1 that is something like 20+ yrs old and works like a charm), and all other esstentail gear.

I’ve had this setup going on 4 yrs now and I’m pretty comfortable with. I’m not frothing at the bit to buy anything new so that tells me this works for me. The thing I did upgrade were the flashlite(Petzel, much lighter and smaller then the old one I had). I’m currently using a 4 man tent and am looking for a two man but I do like to have room in the tent so that is one thing I don’t complain about.

The one piece of equipment I always bring even if I don’t use it is my tarp. Not hugh and not that heavy but I’ve put that thing to 100 different uses. Well worth having along.

For a week long trip I figure I carry anywhere from 50-80 pds of stuff but a lot of that is food and what food I bring depends on the trip so… And my thinking is that, hell, I’m in a canoe, I don’t really care that much about weight cause it aint on my back!! :slight_smile:

Sawvivor and nylon tarp
are two things we like. We have used the saw and are making a tarp soon. The hubby has the info on where to get materials if you want to drop us an e-mail. Simple rectangle w/tab loops. You can add bug netting if you need it.

We also like the Coleman single burner stove.

At our size…

– Last Updated: Jan-09-04 5:16 PM EST –

At our size I vote for the full length mat. When canoe camping it's easy to bring much more than you'll ever need and weight is generally not a challenge (at least for me in the Encounter). A few quick thoughts...

I've several different camp set-ups. Ultra-light gear for warm season backpacking. Midweight for winter trips. Mid to heavy for multi-day canoe trips and base camp heavy for car camping (like at Raystown). I simply try to match the gear to the trip but there are a few "must haves" to make things comfortable.

Must haves:

Tarp plus several old tarp scraps - keep you dry, or cool, or serve as a wind break. Can sub for a tent, supplement the tent or serve as a ground cloth. Very little weight for its versatility and functionality. If canoe camping, makes a great cover over your gear.

Lines & duct tape - a generous bag of assorted lines and a flattened roll of duct tape. A few lashings and knots and you can make many a useful device.

Stove - choose the type appropriate for the weather. I only use two burner jobs when car or canoe camping.

Water - I save the bags from wine boxes. They are a very light weight container that is highly durable and compressible once empty. Search for the old style rubber valve (not the twist spigot style) silver mylar bags (they'll also reflect heat away from the water).

Light weight 1st aid kit - bandages & butterflies, tylenol, antiseptic wipes, bug repellant, elastic wrap (i.e. ace bandage).

Libation - something to top off the end of the night.

Have fun...

PS. I almost forgot the fishin' gear, but I don't need to tell you that...

Canoe camping = car camping lite

– Last Updated: Jan-09-04 5:18 PM EST –

And I don't mean that as a bad thing.

One of the things I like about canoe camping is that, unlike backpacking, you don’t have to carry everything. That allows for a lot more luxuries than backpacking. Now kayaking, I second the “think like a backpacker” notion. Every time I’m in a canoe without really having to “go without” I end up thinking to myself, “now THIS is the way to travel.”

I use a Primus Yellowstone Trail Lite stove that is tiny, burns well, and has served the needs of two people for over 5 years now, without pause. The stove fits into my cook pot.

I prefer an axe, but I think that’s just a personal preference thing. I like to have a small campfire if I can. I just prefer the way an axe splits the wood. I think it makes for a better fire, but that’s just me. I currently use a small Estwing that I got at Home Depot. Nice axe. And I definitely second Guideboatguy’s recommendation—no need to swing it.

I like a full-size thermarest. In canoe camping, I think a nice, thick one is worthwhile. That is, unless you go with a hammock, then you only need one for insulation, and I think a closed-cell pad will do that job.

I think it’s always worth taking an extra tarp. Most people I know enjoy the “sittin’ around after dinner” part of canoeing almost as much as they love the paddling. If everyone (or even only a couple) brings an extra tarp, then even in foul weather you can rig a reasonable shelter and not have to dive for the tent (or hammock, or sleeping tarp). You can get sil-nylon ones that are very light weight and packable, and yet are completely waterproof. An extra tarp can serve a number of needs and they really don’t add much to a load. I truly enjoy sleeping under a tarp.

I’ve found that one thing that can be cut out is clothes. For a 2-5 day trip in spring-fall, I’d pack one set of paddling clothes focused on water temp. I pack one set of comfortable “after paddling clothes.” These I wear between getting done with paddling and bedtime. I always try to pack enough socks and underwear to have a change for each day. But that’s just me. Minimal cotton (I usually toss a t-shirt in). Also, I usually try to pack a pair of some sort of boots, because I inevitably end up tromping through mud or climbing hills to check out waterfalls, etc. And I have this great rain shell made by Red Ledge--really inexpensive and similar to Marmot’s Precip, for about half the price. Packs into it’s own pocket (not that I’ve ever been able to pack it that way, but it did come that way).

One place where I’m a little different from my friends is they like to go all-out on the food. Tenderloins, wine, pasta, the works. For some reason, I always end up going with “minimalist” food—meaning food that doesn’t require elaborate preparation. I can see why some people like the fine feasts, but it’s never at the front of my thoughts, and I never miss it when I’m out there. For my lunch and mid-day snack, I typically pack a couple of sticks of pepperoni and a block of mozarrella (if there's a cooler handy). I just cut hunks off every so often, and it keeps me going. I guess I make up for not having the best food by having the finest bourbon (and other enjoyments) that I can get my hands on.

Thanks for the replies…
I’ll risk pushing one step further.

When I backpacked some 25 years ago the evolution of gear was obviously behind today. I strove for a pack no more than 50 lbs. In a canoe this is not so crucial though if any portage is required it would be great to keep it reasonable.

Only one response mentioned weights. I’m thinking (based on my realistic boat capacity) of not more than 70 lbs. Of course this will include some luxury food (libation) items.

The other consideration is space (in solo canoes). I like the two bag approach/goal. Someone mentioned tent/tarp poles separate. This makes sense, they don’t care if they’re wet! Great tip.

Anything else? Soft coolers? Compact fishing gear (Alan you knew that was coming)?

This is greatly helpful. Thanks again.

still working on it, but . . .
Full length thermarest. It doesn’t take up much more space than a 3/4 length and is a lot more comfortable.

I’m still trying to find a middle ground between the minimalist approach and the everything plus the kitchen sink approach. For warmer weather, I really don’t want to have more than two packs, one for food and cooking gear and the other for everything else.

Backpacking stove instead of the two-burner coleman that I use when car camping. I use an old Coleman Peak 1 that nests inside a two-piece cooking kit.

Easy to prepare food, generally some of the noodle or rice meals that you can pick up at the grocery store. I bring along some protein powder to help my muscles recover after a long day’s paddling, and usually lunch stuff that requires little or no preparation. I’ve taken to carrying a few gel packs in my thwart bag for quick energy just in case I start to fade too far away from my stopping place.

No axe or saw. I usually just break up small stuff for a fire if I decide to have one, but I’m usually just as happy without.

Tarp. Definitely. I just started using one this year, and it was sure great when it rained.

Still trying to get away from bringing too many clothes. I didn’t carry many extra clothes when I backpacked, and am trying to get back to that.

Campin’ gear
I have a strong bias towards folding saws. Axes in the northwoods are a romantic carryover, but with a high possibility of injuries. I was almost taken out by a flying axe head up in Kippawa Reserve on a high school trip. The aforementioned Sawvivor has served me very well.

I have gone BACK to a 3/4 Thermorest, and an old CrazyCreek chair for padding if needed. I found that the full-sized Thermo would crush out under my shoulder, and my legs would not exert sufficient downforce. And the foam CCchair can be abused at lunch while the Thermo stays safely tucked away.

Also, I feel a tarp is indespensable for cooking and lounging.


Paddle camping wants, needs and what-ifs
Wants (radio, lantern, barcalounger, etc.)stay home for the most part. Bring a few small “comfort” items to pass the time or just imrpove morale. I usually bring my pipe and seem to always forget the flask though I actually mean to grab it. Needs (food, water, shelter, clothing) stay as minimal as possible. Food is mostly dehydrated or instant. My stove is the Svea alcohol stove and mess kit combo. It boils water great and that’s all I want it to do. Only a couple liters of water are packed just in case and the balance is purified on the way - that idea did screw me on the last trip as the DNR had just dumped lampricide in the river the week before. A poncho is my shelter. I prefer a full length bodroll because my feet tend to get cold easily. I’ve used a version of the Crazycreek chair as a 3/4 bed mat and it worked nicely, but I had to pad my heals (felt like ice by 2am). I wear clothes that I expect to get wet (ie: coolmax, neoprene, and treker pants or shorts). I pack one set of warmer clothes for the evenings including boots for trompin’ around in. What-ifs stay minimal as possible too, but this is where I tend to overpack. I typically make sure there is a tarp in the group for a hastey shelter. Paracord is a beautiful thing and tucks in almost anywhere. Somebody in the group usually has a pack axe or a machete. I prefer to use a machete (GI version, not Walmart special). I usually don’t carry a flashlight as I prefer to let my eyes adjust to amibient light. Here’s one area I expect we’d pack different. I use a kayak. I like to pack modularly in smaller bags (food and mess kit in one, clothes in another, sleeping and shelter in another). If there’s a portage, I can dump them all into an army duffel bag and make one trip, then reload the compartments quickly by just chucking the smaller bags back where they came from. The duffel then gets rerolled and stowed in a nook. If I used a canoe, I figure I’d pack everything in a large, compartmentalized ruck and call it good. I like to keep my gear down below 35 pounds including food and water just in case there’s a decent portage or, like the last trip, dry ground for a camp is a fair walk from the water.


I think for 70#…
…you can pack a LOT of gear. One thing that I would include is a comfortable chair. I’ve been able to be reasonably comfortable in a “crazy creek” type chair, but I wind up constantly adjusting and envying my friends with larger chairs. I don’t know if there’s a good compromise–an older guy I paddle with uses a Sling Light chair ( It’s the type of thing that would send Coffee into apoplexy: a chair that weighs 18oz costs $99. I tried it out on a recent trip and it is indeed very, very comfortable, strong, and absurdly lightweight, but I just don’t know about a hundred bucks (without the headrest) for a camp chair. But they are of indisputable quality.

This has turned out to be a really cool thread. One difference I noticed–since 99% of my trips so far over the years have been river trips, I don’t think about portaging. That would change things. I’ve never been to Quetico or BWCAW. But if I did, I’d probably go back to “backpacker thinking” mode.

Like Longshadow said, I also carry a few liters of water, and then filter the rest. Unlike backpacking, you stand a pretty good chance of being near a reliable water source without too much planning.

With a 70lb limit you could carry a decent size cooler and still be in good shape (I guess it depends on the kind of shelter you pack–I usually don’t use anything but a tarp).

The heck with the weight

– Last Updated: Jan-10-04 1:26 AM EST –

In a smaller kayak, volume is more important than weight when it comes to camping gear. I mean, nobody's trying to decide between an 8-person, stand-up-height "family" tent and a bivvy sack. The weight difference just isn't going to be huge between the more likely comparison of a 3-person dome tent and a 2-person low-profile tent.

I love my full-length, thick ThermaRest Camp LE for car camping. So much that it has spoiled me for what I used to sleep on, a thin closed-cell pad. But it is majorly bulky. Luckily, I found a comfortable compromise that packs nicely into my kayak: a folding Z-Rest (lightweight, thin closed-cell-foam egg-shell pad) PLUS an original ThermaRest (short, narrow, and kinda thin). The combo provides good padding and insulation, backup in case the inflatable pad gets punctured, and versatility. The Z-Rest by itself does not provide much cush, but it is at least 6' long. Put the inflatable on top of the folding one, and I get enough cush for the top 2/3 of my body, and some insulation from the cold ground for my legs.

Best of all, the Z-Rest does not need a dry bag and can be carried either inside the hatch or on top of the rear deck. It makes a nice seat, too, when folded in different configurations.

Think carefully about your food choices. My husband and I took some pasta that we could have downsized in volume but NOT calories by taking a different type, for instance orzo or alpahabets or the ones that are very short, narrow tubes. Vaccum-packed canned corn gives you all the food without the liquid, in a smaller can. Anything that has a container within another container should be considered for packaging differently (noodle cups that are packed in cardboard frames, for example). Put peanut butter in squeeze tubes. Bread takes up lots of space but Triscuits do not...that kind of thinking.

Canoe Trip

– Last Updated: Jan-10-04 7:12 AM EST –

1. Full lenght ultra-light thermarest,and a good
sleeping bag.

2. Single burner ultra-light stove (for boiling)
most cooking is done on the fire

3. A "good" bow saw, and a "good" machete, don't
use surplus store tools they are more frustrating and dangerious to use. The machete will clear your campsite and cut wood better than any hatchet. (learn how to use it properly or leave it)

4. First aid kit.

5. A good small tent, no need for the wilderness

6. A water supply, either a filter or canteens.

You don't need much more than this, part of the fun is getting by without all the amenities. Bring as many personal extras in your kit as you think you can get away with but keep it very simple, including the food. The tent and sleeping bag are key...getting good rest will make or break your trip. Yep two bags totaling anound 70 lbs or less sound about right. In the old days we would have at least 80 lbs. of beer and ice and one pack of hotdogs

Even though I posted on the other forum.

– Last Updated: Jan-10-04 7:27 AM EST –

Posted by: coffeeII on Jan-06-04 4:40 PM (EST)
First off- What type of gear do you want?

Expensive, name brand, have to have cause all the paddlers have it?


Less expensive, durable equipment that will serve the purpose and serve it well!?

My suggestion is goto & and apply for their FREE catalogs. You will get one almost immediately & then every month from then on for FREE!!!! They have exellent equipment @ affordable prices (for the "blue collar worker").

Equipment? Just a breif list:

Knife, multi-tool, cook stove, canteens &/or hydration-pak, sleepingbag, tent or tarp, flashlight, lantern (?), sleeping pad, binoculars (?), 1 change of clothes (multiple socks & underwear), dry-bag(s), matches &/or lighter, compass &/or GPS, map, & a first-aid kit.

Those would be a must & essentially all you really need. As far as "optional":

signal mirror & a whistle.

Anything else is "ENTIRELY" up to you!! As far as routes & all I am not from TN so....... Anyways, that is the best I can give you. Have fun!

My equipment for hiking/camping & kayak/camping runs right around 63#-65# including food water & packaging weight.

Paddle easy,


P.S. Longshadow & I have camped alot together over the past 20some years & his ideas & mine are similar and work great! Sometimes I wish I could pack more like him, but I like to pack some "un-necasaries" at times.

Milan & I don't see "eye-to-eye" on ANYTHING, but I must say this: From the sounds of his potst to this thread, I have to agree with about all the advise he gave. AND one thing he said made me think him & I are "actually" alot alike-

And I quote: "And I have this great rain shell made by Red Ledge--really inexpensive and similar to Marmot’s Precip, for about half the price."

What about paying ALOT for quality, Milan? LOL, Just giving you alittle humorous sh*t..... Paddle easy Milan.

65 pounds?
Are you including your boat?