Friday, July 20, 2018


A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable. --- William Wordsworth

The wake of a distant motorboat gently rocks the dock and boathouse. Boompah, boompah, boompah creaks the dock as it rises and falls with each wave mildly rubbing each canoe and kayak chained to its side. It lasts for only a few moments and before the rocking subsides and lake recaptures its stillness.

Lake Jenkinson and Sly Park Recreation Area is an idyllic setting nestled in the Sierra foothills near Pollock Pines, California. The lake and its fine fringe of tall pines remind me of lakes of the Northwoods similar to Wisconsin, Minnesota and far up into Canada. There are two main parts to the lake divided by a channel. The larger rounded lower lake is home to the speedboats, picnic and campgrounds and swimming beach, while the upper lake is more narrow, much quieter due to a 5 mph speed limit and nostalgic.

"Canoes, too, are unobtrusive;" wrote American writer John Graves, "They don't storm the natural world or ride over it, but drift in upon it as a part of its own silence."

In our frenzied lives, Graves warned, the chances for being quiet nowadays are limited. So it's a bargain at $20 dollars an hour for single kayak and $30 dollars an hour for a tandem or canoe to slip away on to the lake by renting a boat from Sly Park Paddle Rentals. For some the trek around the bend to a hidden waterfall is a sentimental trip to help regain their youth after not paddling for years or even decades. While for others, it's a reminder that life can be an off-line adventure when sitting in a canoe for the first time.

Working at the boathouse is like a return to summer camp as I watch the canoes and kayaks come and go across the emerald colored water of the lake with every paddle stroke leaving a twisting trail of whirling swirl of whirlpools in their wake. Down the way, I hear splashing and laughing of children at the beach, while across the lake, hikers are in their track in awe as a bald eagle swoops down over the water to catch a fish. Looking out over the lake. I couldn't find a more peaceful utopia.

"When you sit tranquillity," wrote contemporary Turkish novelist, Mehmet Murat ildan. "You set a great example to the people who rush around in panic and thus you show the crazy waves the beauty of being a calm lake!"

Over the Bow is a feature from Outside Adventure to the Max, telling the story behind the image. If you have a great picture with a great story, we would love to see it. Submit it to us at

Friday, July 13, 2018


When a man is part of his canoe, he is part of all that canoes have ever known. ---Sigurd Olson

My dad used to say, there are two happy days in the life with you in your boat.
The day you buy it and the day when you sell it. Of course, he was right about the day I brought my Perception Prodigy 14.5 tandem home. Back in Minnesota, it opened up my summer with endless possibilities.

I purchased the tandem with the whole idea of taking my daughter's dog Mazie camping while she was working that summer in a Boy Scout camp. I can remember taking a number of trips that summer. Heading off across the lake to my favorite boat in campsite, Mazie a chocolate Labrador was a great companion. Over the summer, she excelled at becoming a "water dog" with little trouble climbing in and out of the boat and not rocking it too badly.

I can recall taking friends and family boating with it over the years. It was great for family campouts and getting folks on the water for the first time. My kids could bring friends along and paddle to tour lake without leaving anyone behind. Usually called a divorce boat, the tandem boosted in the courtship of my wife Debbie. It took only a little practice to get our stokes in sequence. It was the only boat we used when crossed the country while moving to California. On a stop in Colorado, we got stuck in a late afternoon thunderstorm while on the lake together. We ended up soak while rushing back to our campsite.

Like that storm, a deluge of memories rolled back through my head as I watched the tandem being loaded onto a couple's vehicle, strap down and tied off before driving away forever after being sold. A bittersweet day indeed.

While many people think of a kayak as a simple mode of transportation for a fun day on the lake or river, for many of us, our canoes and kayaks are connected to our souls. We give them names and almost human personalities. Your boat automatically states a lot about you as a person. In fact, they become a reflection of who we are.

"The first thing you must learn about canoeing is that the canoe is not a lifeless,  inanimate object," wrote paddling guru Bill Mason, "It feels very much alive, alive with the life of the river. Life is transmitted to the canoe by the currents of the air and the water upon which it rides. The behavior and temperament of the canoe is dependent upon the elements: from the slightest breeze to a raging storm, from the smallest ripple to a towering wave, or from a meandering stream to a thundering rapid.”

As you can see, I have plenty of great memories the camping trips, moonlight paddles and all the fun we had in that kayak. But, the thing is, I've not been using that boat as much in these last couple of years. It was pretty much just sitting on its side inside our garage being unused and forgotten serving only has a hideout for the cat. A sad fate for a vessel of its caliber.

So it's nice to see that the tandem, now has a new home a young couple who will use it more than I did. They studied the boat with glee as I showed the different features of the boat and retold its past adventures with me. They, in turn, told me how they planned to take their dogs along and looked forward to getting it on the area's lakes. For them, to paraphrase Bill Manson, the acquisition of this boat is a way to journey back to what’s left of the natural world and a voyage of discovery.

But I was a more than a little sad to see it drive away and know that I would miss it. Afterward, I told a fellow boater that I had sold the tandem, she sent a back a message of condolences, like I lost a dear friend.
"I would be sad if I were you too," she texted, But, you still have the memories. Glad the boat found a really nice home."

A nice home and a better life, where it will be used to have more adventures and make even more memories. As the couple drives out of sight down the road, Jerry Vandiver's song True and Deep serenades inside my soul.

I hope the waters you cross are calm and still and take you to where you seek.
Should the wind start to blow just where it will, May your paddle be true and deep.
I hope the skies above you are always blue and your journey will flow downstream.
Should the current rise up to challenge you, My your paddle be true and deep.

It's was a wish for the young couple of course, but mostly it was for my faithful yellow tandem kayak.

Friday, July 6, 2018


You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.  --- C. S. Lewis

It's the first and most common question I get from every excited, but nervous first-time kayak newcomer, usually as they are filling out the release form in the parking lot.

"We're not going to go upside down are we?"

"We'll try not to make that happen," I will reassure them, "Our boats are pretty stable."

But then I'll pause and issue caution, "I'm not going to guarantee it can't happen. If it does we'll get you right back in the boat. But, I think you'll be alright."

Kayaking is an intimate relationship with water. You can feel pretty vulnerable sitting in your boat, with only a few millimeters of rotomolded polyethylene keeping you dry and protected. Everyone who sits in a kayak for the first time, feel they're at the mercy of the water. The biggest challenge for most beginners is just getting used to the kayak during the first few minutes they’re inside of it. They've all seen the extreme videos of some kayaker blasting down some Class V waterfall and rolling in its foam only to pop up on the other side. For some, that is their thinking of what kayaking is all about.

"I’ve always been an “outdoorsy” person, and at one time I thought that I would be a forest ranger. I used to canoe when I was young and always looked forward to doing outdoor adventures when I had the time…and now I do!" said the first-time student, Joyce Molthen, "However, I was a little more nervous than I thought that I would be. But I was immediately put at ease through the guidance and humor of our instructor."

Offering the more peaceful perspective of gentle waters while experiencing the wonders of nature, our Current Adventures Kayaking School & Trips class
reminds them by staying stay calm, relaxed with the flow the water and have fun. Fellow instructor Kim Sprague told the group, "We just love paddling and hope everyone else will love as much as we do."
It's our goal as instructors to take away any fear and instead instill confidence.

Emphasizing basic kayaking techniques and water safety, our groups receive dry land instruction before hitting the water. The eager newbies are shown parts of a kayak, parts of the paddle and a demonstration of the different strokes that can be used on the water. Again, with water safety being the most important part about kayaking experience, all paddlers are outfitted with PFD's.

Lakes are a great place to learn to kayak. In the comfort of Sacramento area's Lake Natoma, our paddling rookies push away from the shore and test their newfound skills of paddling. Boats steer from the rear we remind them as they bump into each other in the lagoon of the lake. I still find it amazing that after just a little practice of front and back strokes and turns that they are paddling almost like pros.

After we paddle across the lake the fun begins. We lead the group into the backwater of the lake. They find when quietly paddling along the narrow and winding channels of the slough, they get to see wildlife up close and personal in a way not possible from shore. Beaver and rivers otters can be seen peeking their heads just above the surface of the water, while turtles sun themselves on the logs before plopping into the water when we get to close. The wetlands also harbor many species of birds including a convocation of American bald eagles nesting along the high bluffs of the lake. For our student paddlers, there is a sense of stillness and solitude reminiscent of the peace found in remote natural areas.

"I’ve always enjoyed the quiet moments of life, and I can’t think of a better way to spend my day," said Molthen, "The complete serenity of the kayaking experience and enjoying nature in the midst of a large city is a dream come true for me."

On the way back the students are now relaxed and having fun.  Their paddling skills have dramatically improved since first getting into the kayak as they cruise back to the beach. And while they are a little worn out from the water workout, the experience has also sparked a new enthusiasm for kayaking.
"By the end of the 3-hour class, after we learned the basics," said Molthen, "I was confident in my basic skills, so much so that I wanted to go right out and buy a kayak and go to the lake every day. I’ve already signed up for another class."

But the best quote comes from another student, I overhear while I'm loading the boats back on to the trailer, "I thought I was going to drown today, but it was easier than I thought."

What to go... Current Adventures Kayaking School & Trips offers an array of kayaking classes for adults in the Sacramento area. Learn to Kayak- Discover Kayak Touring is designed as the first step in learning to paddle touring and sea kayaks. Learn about proper equipment selection and basic paddling safety and techniques.
Adventure and exploration are not just for kids. Discover why kayaking is the new activity of choice for baby boomers and beyond in the popular Learn to Kayak for Boomers 50+. Kayaking is great for fitness and easy on the body on a stress-free outing that will rekindle your youthful enthusiasm for many years to come.

Friday, June 22, 2018


Thus situated, many hundred miles from our families in the howling wilderness, I believe few would have equally enjoyed the happiness we experienced...You see how little nature requires to be satisfied. Felicity, the companion of content, is rather found in our own breasts than in the enjoyment of external things; And I firmly believe it requires but a little philosophy to make a man happy in whatever state he is. This consists in a full resignation to the will of Providence; and a resigned soul finds pleasure in a path strewed with briars and thorns. ---Daniel Boone

Legendary early American trailblazer and famous woodsmen Daniel Boone was constantly exposed to daily dangers and perils of frontier life. Survival meant living off the land and evading Indian attacks. He would often disappear into the forest for weeks and even months on long extended hunts before returning home to his family. According to author Robert Morgan, "Boone sought oneness with the wilderness as a mystic seeks union with the creator or a lover yearns to merge with the beloved."

There is a story about how a hunting party heard an odd sound coming from the woods. Upon investigating, they came across Boone, lying on his back in a little clearing singing to the clouds, trees, and passing birds. Singing for joy. Singing for nature. For Boone, life in the wilderness was a sublime combination of fear and delight mostly experienced by traveling alone.

My solo kayak trips have bestowed that same familiarity for me. In the far off distant land of Minnesota, I use to strap my kayak on to the roof of an old Chevy van packed up my camping gear, some freeze-dried food along with a notebook and pen, then escape for an overnight, maybe a weekend or if I was lucky enough an extended trip lasting several days. Of course, the dangers were minimal, outside on falling off the roof of my van while unloading my boat.

I would slip off into some corner of the wilderness just around the bend from the boat ramp. Like at Lake Bronson State Park in northwest Minnesota for my first solo trip to a boat in camping site on an island. Paddling on the lake that first trip I had a great feeling of exhilaration, followed by terror coursing through my body. The dreaming and planning finally turned into a reality outside of my so-called comfort zone. Still, it wasn't long before I was feeling those mystic powers of the lake exercising my self-doubts.

"There is magic in the feel of a paddle and the movement of a canoe, a magic compounded of distance, adventure, solitude, and peace," wrote canoe guru Sigurd Olson, "The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness and of a freedom almost forgotten. It is an antidote to insecurity, the open door to waterways of ages past and a way of life with profound and abiding satisfactions. When a man is part of his canoe, he is part of all that canoes have ever known."

I brought my daughter's chocolate Labrador the next summer for a trip to Scenic State Park, near Bigfork, Minn. I had been dog watching Mazie all summer while my daughter was working at a summer camp. She was a natural water dog and enjoyed riding in my tandem kayak. I had brought her along for a few over-nights already. She would scare off any raccoons just by being in camp, kept my feet warm at night, and ate my leftovers

We paddled around the esker, a long ridge of sediment left behind by ice age separating Coon Lake and Sandwick Lake. From this point, I could see that the park lived up to its name. A group of black and white patterned loons was fishing nearby taking turns diving and disappearing into the water. The silence was then broken by one's tremolo, a wavering call of alarm announcing our presence on the lake.

Campsite #6 overlooks the Sandwick Lake. Several large pines had fallen into the lake camouflaging the site's boat entry. It was a spartan site, to say the least, equipped only with a fire ring and grill adjacent to a grassy spot to set up my tent. It would be my base-camp for that next couple of days while staying at the lake. My home away from home.

“To wake up on a gloriously bright morning," wrote American geologist and explorer Josiah Edward Spurr, while leading an expedition mapping the interior of Alaska, "In a tent pitched beneath spruce trees, and to look out lazily and sleepily for a moment from the open side of the tent, across the dead camp-fire of the night before, to the river, where the light of morning rests and perhaps some early-rising native is gliding in his birch canoe; to go to the river and freshen one's self with the cold water, and yell exultingly to the gulls and hell-divers, in the very joy of living."

"You alone?" questioned came from a group canoeists floating by my campsite on the next year's solo trip on the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"Always," I said. Which wasn't really true. I would take my kids along on lots of camping trips all the time. I loved sharing my adventures with my family, but my solo trips were special. They were my chance to get-away, to feel the joy of a vision quest and to be a modern-day Daniel Boone.

By day I would paddle around the lakes or rivers, exploring hidden coves and bays. I'd follow streams until my path was blocked by a beaver dam or stop just before the rush of some rapids and contemplate paddling on to the sea.

While at night, with the kayak beached, the tent set and campfire burning, I would enjoy some freeze dried stew with a bottle wine and watch the world come to a standstill, as the sun would either burned up in the black silhouetted pines or dissolved in a fiery glow into the lake. There I would melt into the warmth of my campfire under the stars, listening to the haunting reverberation of the loons. My thoughts of past and worries of the future would fade into the peace of the present.

"One day I undertook a tour through the country," said Boone, "And the diversity and beauties of nature I met with in this charming season, expelled every gloomy and vexatious thought."

Because being alone wilderness you can find the silence and solitude that can fill your heart and soul.

This article was originally published in Outside Adventure to the Max June 9, 2017.

Friday, June 15, 2018


For the past decade, Northern California's North Fork of American of the River and its Auburn Whitewater Park has been mostly passed over by the area boating community. More often than not, lock gates and difficult access or several miles of flat-water paddling have made passing through the decommissioned dam site and man-made rapids less than ideal for paddlers.
However, the Auburn River Festival team wants to change all that by showcasing that portion of the river and its waterpark.

“We want to celebrate the beauty of the American River,” said Alex Wolfgram, the director of Auburn River Festival told The Mountain Democrat,“This is a festival to make people aware of the whitewater park and a celebration of a free-flowing river on the site of a decommissioned dam that’s been repurposed for recreation.” 

Who doesn't love a whitewater festival? Last weekend's event brought together some 60 whitewater paddlers from throughout the region to compete in a variety of river competitions. For spectators, it was a free community party, that also featured six live bands, food vendors, community information booths,  a silent auction and activities for kids.

The main attraction, of course, was the river. Located downstream from the North Fork and Middle Fork confluence at the former dam's foundation, the whitewater park features a continuous series of five man-made drops that become increasingly difficult from start to bottom. A special release was negotiated with the Placer County Water Agency provided an extra surge for surfing waves.

"They delivered. I really want to thank those guys, " said Wolfgram, "The paddlers showed up. Which is what we wanted and I think the water showed up, which was great. I think everyone was pretty blown away at the level of whitewater and the awesomeness of the event.  Everyone was really stoked. I think it definitely pushed the limits for some of our paddlers "

For whitewater boaters, the Auburn River Festival was special. It was an excuse to see the old crew and meet new friends, paddle a new stretch river, catch some big water and simply celebrate the act of kayaking.

"It was awesome." said Grass Valley, paddler Caitlin Scheder, "It was all-around a good day. There was really fun paddling. There was a lot of good stoke. Everyone was really excited. I spent most of my time on the water, but I heard the music too. And it sounded really good."

The festival had three traditional kayaking competitions including a downriver race, slalom races, an Olympic event and the fan favorite, whitewater rodeo, giving everyone a taste of the river.

"The water park was really fun," said Scheder, "I don't live that far away, I wish it were open more. You can surf all the waves. You can practice your salmon.  There are not many salomon courses around so it's really cool. It was really fun and I'm really happy!"

Festival organizers look toward the future hoping to make this celebration an annual event to help create awareness of the recreational opportunities in the Auburn State Recreation Area.

"We had a great turn out today," said Wolfgram, "I say maybe 1,000 people. It was a lot of work, but it's great for getting people together to help protect the river. Hopefully, we can have a successful event like this in the years to come."

All the profits from Auburn River Festival will be donated to Protect American River Canyons (PARC) whose organizational mission is to "protect the natural, recreational, and cultural resources of the North and Middle Fork American River Canyons for all to care for and enjoy." For more information on the Auburn River Festival check out

Friday, June 8, 2018


Ever go to a restaurant buffet and you're almost overwhelmed by the selection of items? There is American, there is Mexican, Asian, and Italian. There is seafood, fried food, barbecue and even pizza. I mean there is something for everyone and so much to sample, that there is no way you can get everything all on your plate for just one sitting.

That's what it's like when it comes to Sacramento area and the American River. It's a year-round paddling smorgasbord for everyone's taste and appetite that will leave you stuffed yet craving more.

Adrenaline junkies will lick their chops for whitewater delicacies of the three forks of the American River, only an hour away from Sacramento. During the spring and summer, the North Fork, Middle Fork and South Fork are the area playgrounds for whitewater kayakers and rafters of all different levels. Commercial whitewater rafting outfitters offer a wide variety of river experiences, while The River Store, provides a cafeteria of boating supplies,  boat demos and kayaking instruction.

"There are multiple runs of varying difficulty," says area paddler Martin Beebee, "All of which are easily accessible: from moderate Class I and II rapids, perfect for learning to navigate whitewater, to Class V runs with plenty of challenges. So there’s a variety to choose from, depending on what kind of adventure you’re in the mood for."

The South Fork of the American River
The South Fork dishes up a recipe for some serious fun in its first five miles from the Chili Bar access filled full of exciting Class III whitewater with rapids with scary names like Meat-Grinder and Trouble Maker. The so-called easy section serves appetizer through the valley consisting of several Class II rapids including Barking Dog, before gorging down "The Gorge", the river's most challenging series of Class III rapids descending at 33-feet per mile toward Folsom Lake.

For area sea kayakers, Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma are hors-d'oeuvres of delight while prepping for a big trip to San Francisco Bay or Tamales Bay, while the rec and SUP paddlers will revel in the classic comfort of both lakes' bays and sloughs.
Folsom Lake

Forget summer weekends. Come to Folsom Lake either mid-week or wait until late fall or early spring to escape the speed boat and jet ski crowd. Out in the open, it can feel like the ocean with the wind and waves, but there are a few quiet and scenic spots like on the lake's north arm worth exploring. You might have to choke down the Delta Breeze, but you will savor the sunsets.

And if Folsom Lake is a little too hard to swallow, all paddlers will gobble up Lake Natoma.
Lake Natoma

"Lake Natoma is great for many reasons," said local paddler and photographer Tom Gomes, "Living in the Sacramento area, we are so fortunate to have such easy access to such a resource that offers incredible views. It’s big enough to get a good exercise paddle and there are no power boats to compete with."

This narrow and popular 5-mile lake is the main entree of the area's paddling venues. It's an a-la-carte of racing shells crews, outrigger canoes, SUP paddlers and kayaks and sailboats sprinkled over the waterway. Outfitters use the lake for classes and moonlit tours while racing crews have been known to hog-up much of the lake a few weekends a year.

Want just a taste of the lake's fare? Kayaks and SUPs are available for rent at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center. Sit back and enjoy the sun or go a nature safari while exploring the lake's sloughs.

Lake Natoma
"It’s very scenic with more wildlife than anywhere else," added Gomes, "I paddle the Natoma sloughs quite often, but it never ceases to amaze me how removed I feel from the real world while realizing that I’m right in the middle of a densely populated urban area. I feel like I’m Huck Finn, exploring uncharted waters with abundant wildlife, just waiting for the alligator to swim by."

The lake with its three California State Parks' access points is lined with biking and hiking trails encompassing its shores. Bird watchers will feast one's eyes at sightings of geese, herons, egrets, cormorants and bald eagles flying and nesting along its banks. The lake is home to many established rookeries to nesting colonies while migrating birds arrive in the spring and stay throughout the summer.

Lower American River
The American River is a sweet treat for everyone. This 23-mile recreational waterway meanders through the heart of Sacramento along The American River Parkway. Seasoned with a good mix of fast moving currents, along with some slow and lazy flows to satisfy every water enthusiasts cravings. Not just for paddlers, more than 5 million visitors annually indulge in this wildlife and recreation area.

"I love paddling on the American River especially in the off-season when the wildlife is stirring around and the people are not," said Sacramento paddler  Lynn Halsted. "Early morning or late afternoon and evening are always my favorite times. Watching river otters and beaver swim around and doing their thing while I watch from a distance is magical."

San Juan Rapids
Just downstream from the Sunrise Access, San Juan Rapids spices up the river for boaters and summer-time rafters. A constant Class II rapid stretching out more than halfway across the river creates a long and vibrant wave train and chaotic churning eddy that can scarf up unsuspecting paddlers.

Further down, the river is peppered with a few ripples, but mostly it's an easy slow baked urban paddle all the way down to the Sacramento River,  serving up views of bridges and large pleasure boats to mark the progress to Discovery Park and the confluence of the two rivers. From there, nothing is stopping you from having a pie in the sky dream of going on a paddling binge all the way to the Golden Gate.

Lower American River.
So whatever boating you have might a hankering for, in Sacramento,  you'll be able to fill your plate and come back for seconds again and again, to satisfy your paddling hunger and nourishment.

And don't worry about taking too much. There is enough for everyone.

This article was originally published in Canoe & Kayak, May 7, 2018.

Friday, June 1, 2018


Loon Lake

Your adventure begins here...


Kayakpacking floats happily at the corner of backpacking and adventure cycling. It contains elements of both short and long distance backpacking adventures with the additional range and solitude and locations that can only be achieved by kayak. Kayakpacking is going places on rivers, lakes, swamps, oceans, fjords and waterways carrying everything you need to survive in the wild.


By Outside Adventure to the Max Guest Blogger John D'Amelio

If you already have the gear you need for an overnight campout you are 90% on the way to your first adventure.  Start by using what you have, pick a short and safe flatwater route (7-15 miles) on a lake or calm river nearby and borrow or rent a kayak.  You'll learn everything else as you go knowing you are never far from a bailout. The best kayak to use is the one you already have or can borrow from a friend or relative. Add a few dry bags to your kit and you'll be almost ready to paddle. Our primary focus is on 'Sea' or 'Touring' kayaks but kayak packing doesn't necessarily rely on boats with dry storage bulkheads. Additionally, you can search your local or regional craigslist for used kayaks, personal flotation devices (PFD's) and paddles.

What to look for in a Kayak

No matter the type of water your adventure finds your best bet for any multi-day kayak packing adventure is a kayak that will be comfortable to sit in, easy to steer, and has ample room for your gear to be reasonably dry and secured. Sea or touring kayaks are built for this purpose. They have a seat that you can be comfortable in for long periods of time, storage bulkheads that remain mostly dry and keep your gear secure and most have either a rudder that is controlled with your feet or a retractable skeg that aids in keeping the craft true and stable.

Other features to look for are a craft with a long length (typically 13'-16') and a beam that is not more than 24" both of which make sea kayaks easier to paddle long distances.

Other things you'll want to consider when setting up your kayak packing kit:

1. Safety

Somewhere some lobby somewhere decided that the term 'life vest' was just too inadequate or potentially litigious to fully embody its function or protect itself from financial ruin.  We expect the later.  Enter 'Personal Flotation Device' or 'PFD'.  By whatever term you use this is not something in which to overlook but you need not spend a small fortune on either, plus there are many products that feature storage pockets that keep essential gear like bug spray, navigational aids and snacks within reach as you paddle throughout your journey.

2. Dry storage

Just assume that everything that you pack – food, cooking gear, shelter and clothing – is going to get wet.  Its one of the undeniable truths of outdoor adventures and even more so true of kayak parking.  Fear not, this is something we can manage through waterproof 'dry bags', ziplock bags and Tupperware.  We'll help you decide what absolutely need to keep dry and those items in your kit that can go without any extreme protection measures.

3. Hydration

'Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink' bemoaned the Ancient Mariner.  Unfortunately, this may not only be true of salt water routes as many freshwater routes may have unfilterable water due to AgChemical and other environmental runoff.  Fear not. Filter if you can but thankfully there are many options for hauling along what you need ranging from stainless steel bottles to multi-liter bladders.

4. Accessories

There is a wide variety of accessories specific to kayak packing that will help you be both more efficient in your storage and comfortable in the cockpit.  If your kayak lacks specific storage bulkheads there are deck bags that can strap to the bow and stern to expand your touring capacity.  Map cases come in many shapes and sizes and help to keep them dry and close at hand. And not to mention cupholders that can keep one of the most important items – coffee – close during your morning paddle.

Camping gear

Kayakpacking shares a lot with its backpacking cousins when it comes to gear.  Most certainly the lighter the better holds true when it comes to efficiently packing out your kayak, but it's somewhat less important than if you had the same items strapped to your back or bike.  Sure, a lighter kit is easier to handle in upper-class rapids or on the occasional portage (when you have to drag or carry your craft overland) but there is no need to take out a loan to get everything before your first adventure.  Start out with what you already own or can borrow and then update your gear as you gain more experience.

Our budget camping and gear recommendations: 

Loon Lake


Paddle + spare
NRS cVest mesh back PFD
Bilge pump
Spray skirt
SeaLine Dry bags
Signaling whistle
Large sponge
Compass or GPS
Sealine map case


REI Half-dome 2-plus tent
NeoAir XLite MAX SV mattress
Streamlight 66318 MicroStream
Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleep Bag


Eno Doublenest hammock
Chill Gorillla tarp
Chill Gorilla mosquito net


Etekcity camp stove (2x)
Stove fuel (2x)
Solopot 30oz cook pot
CRKT Spork

John D'Amelio serves as the Executive Editor of  When he's not dreaming about, planning or editing kayak adventures he is a freelance designer and writer. He calls central North Carolina home where he lives with his wife of 28 years.

Launched in late 2017  is a resource specifically devoted to longer distance kayaking adventures. Their goal is to give paddlers the tools and materials you need to follow published routes while inspiring you to seek out and plan your own adventures.'s route system has grown in a very short time to over 600 miles of documented flatwater (0-II class) trails and counting with over 400 more miles currently in development. Check out their getting started series. It walks you through everything you need to know to plan a simple overnighter to a full-blown multi-week kayak packing adventure.

Outside Adventure to the Max is always looking for guest bloggers. Contact us at, if you are interested.