Adventures With Lloyd

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Gear and Kit


Canoe Packs for Portaging and Wilderness Travel

Storage devices and backpacks are one of the most important things to think about on a trip. I have seen people out on the lakes and rivers carrying gear in garbage bags or just loosely in the bottom of their canoe. That is going to mean a lot of lost gear in an upset, and that could spell disaster for your trip. I always pack lighter than water, so even in the worst upset at least my gear all floats. It is also a great idea to make sure nothing that would generally sink like a rock, (like your axe) is loose in the canoe. Be sure to secure it to a backpack tightly. All this preparation in packing very, very, well, will come in handy on the portage trail when you only have a couple of well balanced packs instead of a nightmare of loose objects.

Internal and External Frame Packs
Even if you have old 1970 external frame backpacks or hikers packs, you should be able to bring all of your gear in one or two packs. While they do not conform to the canoe as well as a canvas pack internal frame packs are more comfortable on long distance portages and some people prefer them. Many companies make excellent backpacks that are very comfortable. 

Canvas Portage Packs
My monstrously huge canvas portage pack is large enough to put everything in for a month long adventure. A guy made fun of it in Algonquin park one time until he realized that I was going to do the whole portage trail in only one carry. He never did catch up to me again. Although canvas is not as easy to carry it sets down better in the canoe, is easier to fix and repair and will

last a lifetime. Canvas also breaths so moisture will not get trapped inside. If equipped with a waterproof liner or stuffed with dry bags they are excellent for canoeing. Canvas packs may look a bit dated in this day and age with all of the new fabric and plastics on the market but it is the environmental choice, and it is prized by serious canoeists for its longevity and versatility. Canvas packs cost a lot of money! It's true, they are expensive but after a few trips you will have your moneys worth. A canvas pack is so easy to fix and repair or modify. A rivet lets go just replace it, a leather strap breaks, sew on a new one, wear a hole in it just sew it up or patch it. The repair kits for canvas gear are best found at a leather craft store, or Tack and Harness shop. Waxed linen thread and needles and a couple of leather straps should be carried in an emergency kit on trips. A couple of quick rivets are also a good idea, as they can be set relatively well using your axe as an anvil and a good rock for a hammer.

My old pack, I made on a sewing machine from a few yards of canvas, leather, some brass buckles, a few quick rivets and a lot of hole punching and hand sewing leather. It holds a lot of stuff and I have never quite been able to fill it up. at the end of the day it cost me about $30 to make it but I got the canvas for free. If I had to buy the canvas it would probably cost about $60 or $70 to make. That is still a lot better than paying over $300 at Duluth Packs. Cost is the only downside to canvas packs so unless you do a lot of tripping canvas may not be cost effective for you.


Duluth Packs   Frost River Packs   Woods Canada Packs

Plano Watertight Storage Box
This little box is great! I own four, and so does my friend Tim. They are all throughout my photographs and at a campsite they have a thousand uses as chairs, benches, tables, etc. They retail for about $20 and also come in green and white. We got ours at the end of fishing season when they were marked down for $4 each! They are quite tough and resist animal chewing (so far) and are lockable. They have an internal O-ring which prevents them from taking on water but I don't trust it completely. With a few
wraps of duct tape around the outside however, and now I trust it. It must be noted however, that the O-rings deteriorate with the amount of use that I give them as they were not meant to be chairs and benches. You can probably get another ring that fits quite cheap, or just replace it with a nice bead of silicon around the inside lip of the top cover. There may be better systems out there but for what I have invested in my Plano boxes, and the abuse they take, I won't be switching for quite a while. They are small enough to go into most canvas packs.
Canoe Barrel
This type of barrel is becoming popular. It looks like you are hauling toxic waste in your canoe but this is a pretty economical way to get your load down to one or two items for portaging. The thirty liter model is almost nine full gallons of storage space. That also means that it will displace almost ninety pounds of water if lashed in properly. The sixty liter model is almost sixteen gallons and so would displace one hundred and sixty pounds of water if swamped. Of course they have to be lashed in tight if you are going to use them as extra flotation. The barrels are not bear proof but are quite tough otherwise. The closing mechanism is a steel band with a spring clip closure. If treated well it should last for quite a while. The handles too are quite rugged but inevitably stuff with moving parts will break. The great thing about this system is that you can buy spare parts from the manufacturer, which means you won't have an expensive plastic garbage can if you lose the top or break the clip. The thirty liter barrel retails for

about $50 and the sixty liter barrel for about $70. Spare parts like tops, handles and closure rings range between $5 and $20. This system can also be rigged for the portage with custom nylon web gear.  This harness system is almost necessary if you do any portaging. You can put a lot of stuff in even a small barrel, and they are awkward to try to carry about when the load inside is shifting, like when you try to heave it up onto your shoulder. The manufacturer, Recreational Barrel Works has a lot of nice options as far as harness systems go, there are also numerous inserts and accessories that can be added to this barrel system to make it more functional. I do not use plastic barrels however I include them because of their simplicity and function. While they have no class the get the job done, and do it well.
Five Gallon Buckets
Many canoe trips involve the ubiquitous five gallon bucket. I have a few and they still see service. One will fit perfectly in my internal frame backpack, and I can fit two in my canvas portage pack. They are cheap, tough, easy to

turn into chairs and tables and they pack surprisingly well into canoes. They also displace fifty pounds of water each if lashed in tightly so they double as extra flotation if you get swamped. I don't think they will ever stop being used by new people or by the experts for that matter. They don't however make portaging that much fun if you have a lot of them. It is awkward to carry more than two at a time. If you can fit them into a pack however they make an excellent waterproofing system.
Dry Bags
Dry bags come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. You can even get them with little clear windows so you can see what is inside. Personally I like the smaller ones. I stuff them into my canvas portage pack filled with things like sleeping bags and clothes. I don't usually have a lot of them but they are a fairly handy way of waterproofing the essentials. They also act as a compression sack for crushing stuff up tight.

All the gear that I will need on a trip is will fit into one large canvas pack or two normal sized ones. The gear I bring varies from trip to trip but I have found it is a good plan to get into the habit of packing like you are doing a lot of portaging with fewer and larger packs. Even if there is no portaging to be done the canoe will be clean and tidy and there will be less chance of lost gear and setting up camp will go much faster at the end of the day.

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