Canoe Camping Adirondacks Trip – Part 3 Lessons Learned

by PennPaddler

Canoe Portaging Mistakes Made

Taking a Break on the Canoe Portage

Read part 2 of this canoe trip report.

Wilderness canoeing is not as simple as you might think. Just as a hiker needs to be fully prepared before heading to the trail, a canoeist needs to be prepared with the proper gear and knowledge before heading off to a Wilderness canoe trip.

Below is a list of mistakes I made and lessons learned on my recent Adirondack Canoe Trip. Read my lengthy Adirondack Canoe Trip Report Part 1. I’ve been canoe camping for over 20 years but the fact is that wilderness canoeing takes preparaton beyond the average canoe camping trip and it takes a few trips and maybe even some investment in new gear to get it right.

  1. Boat Design - On past trips I managed to portage my 67 lb canoe without any major issues except for the thwart resting on my shoulder became painful, but I managed to correct that by wrapping the thwart with a towel for extra padding. However on the last Adirondack trip the portages were much more challenging and the weight of the canoe and pain from the thwart became nearly unbearable. My lesson here is that on my next trip I will have a lightweight canoe designed for extensive portaging, and/or a canoe cart.
  2. Food and Food Containers – I’ve have a lot of experience packing for downriver canoe trips that enable me to carry a boatload of gear, but on portage extensive trips you need to keep the weight to a minimum. That means relying mainly on dried food. Go light on the frozen and canned food, and forget special meals requiring a lot of preparation, forget bottled water (buy a water filter and drink from natural sources),  use a lightweight stove (Jetboil and MSR Reactor are good choices), forget hard coolers because even my small lightly packed beverage cooler was a serious hinderance to my portaging. Watch the video on how to pack food for an eight day canoe trip for some food ideas.
  3. Dry Bags and Backpacks – You have to be meticulous when packing gear for these types of trips because even something as simple as a broken shoulder strap on your backpack can cause you a world of discomfort. I lost my shoulder strap for my dry bag but managed to rig a shoulder strap from another strap and some rope but unfortunately it was a painful fix as the rope wanted to cut deep into my shoulder with every step I took up the portage trail.
  4. Waterproof Clothing – Too little clothing can mean a cold miserable trip but too much might mean the misery of carrying five extra pounds, and that may not seem like a lot of extra weight but it is when you have to carry several miles with a canoe on your shoulders. Investing in some waterproof weather approriate clothing such as neoprene, splash pants and Muck Boots will increase your chances of keeping warmer and dryer throughout the trip, and that means you get to pack and carry less clothing.
  5. Quick dry clothing is a great way to go for shirts and pants because  it helps you stay cooler in hot weather and warmer in cooler weather. But another great advantage of quick dry clothing is that when you get wet from rain or sweat the quick dry shirts will normally dry in a few minutes and that enables you to pack less clothing.
  6. Synthetic sleeping bags are the best option for these trips because they dry fast yet do maintain their warmth when wet. My synthetic sleeping bag got wet just from rolling it up our third morning but I easily dried it by hanging it over a line later that afternoon.

Go on to part 4 and view the Adirondack Canoe Trip photo gallery.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

DVN September 10, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Sounds like a lot of the same mistakes I’ve made in the past. What I’ve finally figured out is that no matter how much you are tempted to bring with you, since you have a canoe/kayak to put it in, it’s always important to think in the same mindset as a a lightweight backpacker, because eventually all that weight will end up on your shoulders. Sounds like a great trip though!

Albert September 11, 2010 at 11:10 am

It sounds like packing for wilderness canoeing is much different that packing for the average camping trip that I;m used to but I think some of the information in your trip report will make things a little easier for me. Thanks for the information.

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