Equipment

This page describes our most essential pieces of equipment and includes some commentary on each item.  Our focus was on finding the most economical gear that would do the job.  With just a couple exceptions, which are noted below, the gear we chose worked well.

 

Kayak Related

-paddles

Pearl's paddle was a Werner Camano, 240cm ($200 on sale from REI).  David's paddle was a stock aluminum and plastic Folbot paddle, 260cm.  The spare paddle was also a Folbot 260 cm.  Both Folbot paddles came with the kayak.  Although the Folbot paddle was heavy at 48 oz. (compared to Pearl's Werner at 29 oz.), I didn't find the weight objectionable and liked the length and ample blade area.  It worked fine except for the foam grips, which tended to slide on the shaft when wet.  My solution was to secure the grips to the shaft with plastic cable ties.

-paddle tethers

These I made from quick release buckles and 1/8" parachute cord. 

-bilge pump

Stock Folbot pump.  Came with kayak.  I added 18" of flexible plastic hose to the discharge end of the pump and secured it with plastic cable ties.  This made it possible to have the pump over the center of the boat, yet discharge the water out of the boat.  Without this modification the pump was almost useless, but with it the pump was very useful for getting sea water and rain water out of the boat.    

-siwash anchor

A simple and very useful piece of gear during lunch stops.  The continual rising and falling of tides requires that at lunch stops one must frequently tend the loaded boat, either pulling it up or pushing it out.  This makes napping or relaxing for very long a challenge.  A siwash anchor solved the problem.  We already had a 15' bow line secured to the kayak with a slip loop in the end.  We made a siwash line by making a slip loop in each end of a 50' length of 1/8" nylon parachute cord (75'-100' would have been even better).  We would secure the slip loop in one end of the siwash line over a fist size or somewhat larger rock, then secure the slip loop in the end of the bow line to the siwash line just above the rock.  We'd balance the rock on the bow of the kayak, then with stern of kayak facing seaward, push the kayak away from shore.  When the kayak reached the end of the siwash line, the rock would fall into the water and sink, becoming an anchor.  Then we'd fasten the loop in the other end of the siwash line to a large rock near shore.  After our break, we'd pull in the siwash line to retrieve the kayak and daisy chain the line to prevent tangling.

-repair kit

Stock Folbot repair kit, seldom used, fortunately.  Came with kayak.

 

Camping

-tarp

10' x 10', gray plastic ($15 at local outdoor store).  One of our essential pieces of gear for rain management.  We set the tarp up above the tent nearly every night of the trip.  We'd set up the tarp first, then erect the tent under it.  Not only did it provide space for taking off rain gear, etc. before entering the tent, but condensation in the tent was minimal as noted above and the tent stayed dry throughout the trip.  No small feat on the rainy coast.  It also helped that we almost always camped in the forest, away from blowing rain.  We rigged the tarp with six 12' guy lines of 1/8" parachute cord, white for visibility.  We usually set the tarp up A-frame style over a tight ridge line of 1/8" parachute cord.   

-tent

REI Quarter Dome ($260 on sale from REI).  We were quite happy with this tent.  Before leaving, we set it up just before a 1-1/4" downpour.  Not a drop came into the tent.  At 4 lbs. it's heavier than we like for backpacking, but was fine for sea kayaking.  Setup is quick and easy.  We seldom needed the free-standing feature.  Condensation was minimal, partly due to the tarp which allowed us to keep the rain fly over the doors open regardless of rain. 

-sleeping bags

North Face Aleutian ($50 each from Sierra Trading Post).  We purchased these synthetic bags due to concerns about getting our down bags wet.  Despite a 20F degree temperature rating, we both slept cold early in the trip in 45 degree temperatures.  The loft was only about 1/2 thick in many places.  In hindsight, we probably should have taken the down bags we already had.

-pads

Thermarest ultralight, 3/4 length.  These have served us well for 12 years, but that's apparently their life span, as early in the trip the foam inside one of the pads began to separate.  By the end of the trip the other pad was also coming apart.  Both were still somewhat usable, but we'll be replacing these with identical ones soon.        

-water filter

MSR Sweetwater Microfilter.  Water filtering was a pain throughout the trip.  Apparently most of the water along the coast is high in organic matter, because the filter had to be cleaned frequently, usually after pumping just a liter or two.   

-stove

Svea 123.  This white gas stove has been my companion on backcountry adventures since 1970.  We also had a homemade alcohol stove which wasn't used.  White gas was available by the quart at Port Hardy, Shearwater, Prince Rupert and Ketchikan, whereas alcohol wasn't available at Shearwater.  We used the stove for heating breakfast tea water and dinner and consumed about 2-1/2 quarts of gas during the 59 day trip. 

-bucket

We bought this 3 gallon plastic bucket in Port Hardy and it had a multitude of uses.  We did laundry in it, used it to dip water out of streams for bathing or filtering water and also for peeing in while on the water.   While loading and unloading, it was also used to carry small items between the kayak and the camping area. 

  

Clothing

-rubber boots

Standard black rubber boots ($15 per pair from local feed store).  These come to just below the knee and worked well for us. 

-rain jackets/pants

Sierra Designs, pants and jacket.  Simple, very lightweight, coated nylon garments, we normally use these for backpacking and they worked well for kayaking also.  Preventing condensation was largely a matter of wearing the right amount of clothing underneath the rain gear.  Most days that was nylon pants or long underwear and a long sleeve synthetic shirt.  We wore the rain pants every day for paddling and usually the jackets as well.     

-hats

Pearl used an Outdoor Research Coastal Sombrero and I used a similar Mountain Hardwear hat.  These are pricey, but we found them on sale.  Like the boots and rain jackets and pants, we considered these essential rain gear.  We much preferred these to hoods because they were less restricting and better ventilating.  Like miniature umbrellas, they kept rain from getting in our eyes, on glasses or down our necks without needing to use the jacket hoods.  

-gloves

We tried a variety of gloves, but found nothing that worked well.  Fortunately, by mid-July the weather was often warm enough that we didn't need gloves.   We tried rubber gloves with gauntlets and liners.  The gauntlets were good as they kept rain and spray out of jacket sleeves, but the 2 glove combination was cumbersome.  It was also cold when the liners became wet or if we didn't use the liners. 

-other clothing

We had one set of paddling clothes and a complete extra set of dry clothes which were used only in the tent or while washing the paddling clothes.  We were happy with our clothing choices.  We each had the following items: 2-3 pr. synthetic briefs, 3 pr. synthetic socks, 2 sets polypro long underwear tops and bottoms, 2 pile jackets, 1 pr. nylon pants, 1 pr. nylon shorts, 1 nylon shirt, 2 lightweight balaclavas.

- wetsuits

HD Sports, 3mm Shorty ($20 each from Play it Again Sports).  We found the wetsuits either hot or cold, depending on conditions and only used them a few times for longer crossings.  Given the exceptional stability of our kayak and our careful attention to weather forecasts, we weren't overly concerned about capsizing and in fact never came close to it.  We'd also practiced self rescuing and knew that we could be back in the boat quickly in that unlikely event.  We spoke with other paddlers who used dry suits and they found the non-breathing ones to be hot and prone to condensation.  The Goretex dry suits got better reviews, but even these were very hot in warm weather and quite expensive.       

    

Electronics

-SPOT

My brother Steve got this tracking device for us just before we left.  It allowed friends and relatives to track our position online, superimposed over a Google map.  Although it didn't tell us our position, it was fun to know that others were enjoying tracking our progress.  We turned it on while paddling each day and it updated our progress every 10 minutes throughout the trip.  One set of AA lithium batteries was still going strong at the end of the 59 day trip.   

-VHF radio

Midland Nautico 3.  $60 new on Ebay.  We used this for receiving weather forecasts.  In received weather channels WX 1 through 10 which allowed us to pick up Canadian and Alaskan forecasts all along our route.  Reports were broadcast 24/7 and updated several times a day.  There were only a couple places on the entire trip where we didn't have coverage.  We usually listened several times a day throughout the trip and used 2 sets of AA alkaline batteries.  We didn't intend to use the transmit feature and never did.

      

Navigation

-guide book

The Wild Coast 2 by John Kimantas. This was an invaluable guide along the Canadian part of our route, especially for finding campsites.  We highly recommend it.     

-compass

Our deck mounted compass went overboard while sailing early in the trip.  We replaced it with a $5 compass in Shearwater, which worked adequately for the occasional foggy day during the rest of the trip. 

-charts

We took 13 paper charts, 10 Canadian ($20 apiece) and 3 black and white reprints of US charts ($6 apiece from Bellingham Chart Printers). I prefer paper charts to GPS as I enjoy navigating and also don't trust electronics not to fail.   

 

Food

We prefer simple cooking on backcountry trips.  We did all our provisioning at grocery stores in Port Hardy, Bella Bella, Prince Rupert and Ketchikan.

-breakfast

Granola and powdered milk, followed by tea.  If we needed to get an early start, we would skip breakfast and just eat granola bars while paddling.

-lunch

Bagels with peanut butter and jam.  Dried fruit.

-dinner

Knorr pasta or rice dinners, Wheat Thins and dried fruit.  Cookies and tea for dessert.  We often caught a rockfish in the evening, which we filleted, cut into cubes and cooked with the pasta dinners. 

-fishing

In addition to store bought food, we also frequently enjoyed fish.  At a tackle shop In Port Hardy, we bought 3 buzz bomb lures and a 25 yard spool of 12 lb. test monofilament line.  The fishing technique recommended by the proprietor was simple and we almost always caught a fish within a couple minutes.  Just before dinner, we'd paddle out to the edge of a kelp bed, drop the buzz bomb over the side of the kayak until it hit bottom, then jerk the lure up rapidly a couple feet, let it settle back down again and repeat until a rockfish took the lure.  We filleted them, diced the meat and put it in with pasta or rice.  Delicious! 

  

Miscellaneous

-dry bags

3 Seattle Sports Hydro Block 19" x 38" bags ($20 apiece from Sierra Trading).  These helped keep our sleeping bags and extra clothes dry.  We first put gear that was essential to keep dry into a trash compactor bag that was inside a nylon stuff sack.  We then squeezed the air out of the bag and twisted the top several times, folding the twisted neck over on itself and securing it with a short piece of cord and a cord lock.  Only then did it go into a dry bag.  We also used this technique for tent and pads.  It worked well and our extra clothes, sleeping bags, tent and pads stayed dry throughout the trip.          

-dry boxes

Snapware (under $20 for 6 boxes from local department store).  These have waterproof, positive closure lids and proved completely waterproof and reliable throughout the trip.  The camera box in particular was opened 5-10 times a day every day of the trip and never failed.  They are a fraction of the cost of Pelican boxes or other water sport specific boxes.  We used a 4.3 liter box for charts, a 1.7 liter box for miscellaneous fishing and repair gear, two 1.1 liter boxes for radio, camera and binoculars and two 0.48 liter boxes for waterproof matches and spare batteries.   

-bear line

It took us awhile to arrive at a satisfactory technique for lifting our heavy food bags out of reach of bears.  Initially, we used 100' of 1/8" nylon parachute cord.  However, several weeks of food proved to be too much weight to lift at once, so we divided up the food and hauled it up using two separate lines.  Within a couple weeks the lines broke and we replaced them with 1/4" polypropylene rope we found on the beach, but in time this also broke.  Eventually, we were able to purchase two 50' lengths of 1/4" braided nylon rope and a small pulley.  We fastened a rock to the end of one of the 50' ropes and fastened the pulley to the other end, then threaded the second 50' line through the pulley.  Throwing the rock over a high branch, we then raised the pulley up to the branch and secured the other end to a tree trunk.  The line through the pulley was then used to raise the food bags.  The pulley eliminated much of the drag in the system (as compared with pulling a rope over a branch) and it worked well, even with heavy food bags.       

-camp saw

Gerber sliding blade pruning saw ($11 from REI).  This was a poor piece of equipment.  The teeth broke early in the trip and then the blade broke in half.  On another trip we would instead take a pair of hand pruners.  These would be quite handy for clearing campsites.  Pruning the native vegetation isn't something we'd do in most places, but the fecundity of the rainy coast soon eliminates signs of our presence.

-Leatherman tool

We took an old Leatherman tool, which proved useful for minor repair work on the kayak, removing fishhooks from fish, etc.  The most useful tools on the Leatherman were needle nose pliers, wire cutters, screwdriver blades and knife. 

-head nets

Sea to Summit Head Net ($8 from a local outdoor store).  Very compact and lightweight.  We didn't use these bug nets often, but were grateful for them when we did.  Mainly when hiking on Campania Island and camping along Grenville Channel.