Expedition Kayaking

Place to Kayak

East Coast   Everglades National Park: The 99-mile Wilderness Waterway connects a series of backcountry campsites that leads through the tidal mangrove forests of the west coast of Everglades National Park. While the Wilderness Waterway provides usually sheltered paddling options, more experienced paddlers may access backcountry campsites on secluded barrier islands along the Gulf Coast. Everglades National Park: 305-242-7700 or www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm.   Maine Island Trail: This over-300-mile trail connects wilderness islands along the rugged coast of Maine. Some islands are sheltered and easily accessible, others require a higher level of paddling skills. For more information, contact the Maine Island Trail Association at www.mita.org. For help in locating an outfitter, try the Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides at www.maineseakayakguides.com.   West Coast   San Juan Islands, Washington: Killer whales, sea lions, rugged coastlines and quaint waterfront communities are enough to make an extended paddling trip to the San Juans a must. Here you have the option of paddling town to town and staying in a B&B or camping. There are a number of outfitters in the islands. For more information, try www.gosanjuans.com or www.guidetosanjuans.com.   Tamales Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore, California: Teeming with wildlife -- particularly birds and marine mammals--Tamales Bay is a wonderful place for a short expedition. Point Reyes National Seashore: 415-663-1092 or www.nps.gov/pore/.

Expedition Gear

Packing your expedition kayak

  • Do not depend on watertight hatches to keep your gear dry. Pack everything you want to remain dry in waterproof dry bags.
  • If possible, pack everything inside the kayak. Items on the deck raise the boat's center of gravity (making the kayak less stable), may be washed overboard, and may catch the wind (making it more difficult to steer).
  • Place heavy items (like water bottles/bags) as near to the seat as possible. Keeping the weight near the boat's pivot point keeps the balance more natural and makes the kayak easier to maneuver.
  • Pack snacks in the easy-to-reach pockets of your lifejacket or sprayskirt.

What do you need to take on your expedition?

It's up to you, but you'll want to keep it as pared-down, multifunctional, compact and light as possible. Mountain Safety Research of Seattle (MSR), a leading manufacturer of trekking gear, suggests:

Cooking Stoves
Cooking can be a life-or-death situation while living in extreme conditions, and a source of comfort when you're spending more than a day in the wilds. The XGK burns hot, strong and fast at high altitudes, in cold temperatures--even in severe wind. The large fuel line is unsurpassed at burning different types of fuel, including white gas, kerosene, aviation gas, stoddard solvent and auto gas.

If you go camping very often, you might want to consider the WhisperLite stove. The international version has a larger fuel line and burns the same fuels as the XGK, although it burns more quietly. The flexible fuel line allows you to fold it up into a compact unit. Meanwhile, MSR's heat exchanger fits neatly around both 1.5- and 2-liter pots to increase the heat efficiency of the stove by 25 percent.

Cookware BlackLite Gourmet Cookset
The BlackLite Gourmet Cookset is the lightest nonstick aluminum cookware on the market. The 1.5- and 2-liter pots, 7.25-inch fry pan and lid nest compactly within each other. Aluminum's excellent heat dispersing properties make whipping up a meal a piece of cake--no matter where you are. For more than a mundane camp-out meal, try Mountain Gourmet--organic, vegetarian meals. Just add boiling water, stir and wait. Each package is carefully portioned for two (or one really hungry camper).

Water Filter WaterWorks II
If you're camping out for days at a time, it's difficult to carry enough potable water for your needs--and drinking from even the most crystal-clear stream can be dangerous. A clean water kit takes up little space, but it can easily become the one item you can't do without.

The combined longevity, efficiency and field-maintainability of MSR's WaterWorks II make it a filter you can depend on. Equipped with the MSR Marathon 205 Ceramic Element, it removes all water-born pathogenic bacteria, protozoa (including Giardia and Cryptosporidia) and viruses that attach to particles that are 0.2 microns or larger, as well as other particulate matter. The carbon core inside the ceramic element removes many dissolved chemicals (including iodine and chlorine), unpleasant tastes and odors. A MiniWorks is also available.

Hydration Bags Hydromedary Bag
Even with a clean water kit, you're going to need to carry some drinking water with you. The Hydromedary System is designed to fit in a hydration pack or backpack, so you keep your hands free and let your back handle the weight. Both the 2- and 2.5-liter bags are made from lightweight but incredibly tough 200-denier nylon, lined with food-grade polyurethane. The high-capacity, 40-inch drinking tube will stay soft and flexible even in freezing temperatures, and the Bullet Bite Valve will not leak.

Shelter Titan GT
Made by Moss, the Titan GT is a top-of-the-line four-season tent for two to three people. Features include a 180-degree view from panoramic windows, removable mud mat to protect gear in the vestibule, large hooped vestibule with a clear window, inside gear loops and storage pockets, ZipGate field-repairable zippers, Breaux clips, three poles with Grip Technology and 50d fabric for strength.

For more information on these or other MSR products, call 800-877-9677 or go to www.mountainsafetyresearch.com.


A former sea kayaking instructor and guide, Kip Koelsch is a member of Team Environeers.com Adventure Racing and a two-time member of the U.S. Canoe/Kayak Marathon Team. He lives in Sarasota, FL, with his teammate and wife, Jessica.

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