Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Seems like not that long ago...

That I was packing my kayak to make sure all the gear would fit for Alaska. This was a test pack I did before switching to a tapered dry bag. There are a few other pieces of gear that got changed out before that trip as well.

packfast from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

Frequently on big trips people will stop and watch me load my boat, and more often than not people will say something along the lines of "I didn't think it was all going to go in there!" I remember as a student on my first NOLS course being really nervous packing the boat. I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to get all the gear that was my responsibility into the boat. I still sometimes get nervous - usually on the first few days when the load is at its biggest, but I also find it really exciting to see how much I can get into the boat. One of the reasons I picked my delta was because of how much gear it could carry, and still be a lot of fun to paddle even when empty. The only boat I have seen carry more is the Prijon Kodiak which is an absolute monster in terms of storage.

I do break a couple of rules. A lot of people will say use a lot of little dry bags. I tend to use bigger bags because they are easier for me in terms of organization. (The argument is that if you use smaller bags you end up packing less air). I also don't put a couple of things in dry bags that most people do, My tent and sleeping pad I don't put in dry bags. My tent is usually wet anyway - because I tend to paddle in cold wet places - and my sleeping bag has never come out of the hatch wet.

There is also the debate of 'compress it really small, so it takes up less space' vs. don't use a compression sack so it is a little bigger, but is softer so it can be molded into the available space. I favor the latter. I only use a compression stuff sack on my sleeping bag.

Historically I have liked sealline dry bags, particularly the kodiak window with the air purge valve. It is a great dry bag, and a little slippery so it is easy to get it into and out of the boat. But recently I have been using more and more Sea to summit dry bags. It started with the compression sack for my sleeping bag. Then the taper bag. Then I started using a small sea to summit bag as my deck bag - a suggestion from a reader, and I will never go back. People really need to design better deck bags! - And then finally the bags I bought for the three 13 pound ration bags were sea to summit.

A big part of my kit is trying out different things and seeing what works. I always watch the way other paddlers pack their gear or organize their gear looking for new ways to do things. Everyone has something to teach.


  1. A better deck bag! I have been sea kayaking since 1978 and I agree there are few that make sense.

    I am now using Pakboats Pakpod which they say is triple use as a deck bag, a paddle float and a day pack. With a minor simple modification I did that one better and made it into a poor man's Roll-aid Backup self-rescue device. See here

    The modification was to simply add a loop of nylon webbing strap with a piece of PVC pipe as a handle between the two front D-rings. This creates a nice strong handle. If you have trouble righting yourself using a rescue roll you unclip the Pakpod and hold both the rear handle and the new added handle and it rights the kayak just like the Roll-aide Backup does. Without the need to rely on the self-inflation mechanism of the Backup.

    Cons to the Pakpod are 1. It is big (for me this is a benefit but not everyone agrees). 2. It is easy to use but with cold fingers the buckles can be somewhat difficult to unsnap. 3. It sticks up from the kayak and could make rolling more difficult.

    Pros are 1. It serves 4 distinct purposes and does each reasonably well for a cost of about $100. 2. It is waterproof and nothing I put into it has ever gotten wet. 3. It is large enough to hold everything I want on deck including snacks, jacket, gloves or pogies, water bottle, glasses, etc. 4. It had high floatation. 5. When I pick up my mail drop it can carry much of the food and do so comfortably on my back. I no longer have space eating day packs, fanny packs, paddle floats, rescue aids. 6. My deck is neat and clean with only the Pakpod, spare paddles (expeditions only), throw/rescue/tow bag and line, Pump, and sometimes a water bottle.

    I do not paddle a pakboat. I paddle a Prijon Kodiak and it works just fine on Marlinspike.

    No, I don't work for Pakboat nor am I sponsored by them. I just like things that serve multiple purposes reasonable well.

    Mark Sherman

  2. That definitely sounds interesting Mark, I would like to see some video of it in action. Particularly of it inflating.


    1. Ok, here is the website with photos and the essential skinny. Look at the photo of the Pakpod with the compass. All I did to modify it was to remove the compass and strap and replace it with a couple of loops of wider webbing strap inserted through a piece of PVC pipe about 5-6" long which attaches to the same D ring to which the grey compass strap attached. I attached the webbing to the D rings with carabineers. In essence, where there was a compass there is now a handle.

      Actually I was just dinking around with a piece of webbing strap from a long ago recycled childs carseat. So it was heavy and about 2" wide. My end results were a bit off kilter but all I needed was a handle on the front end so it has never been changed. The dry bag roll top closure is the rear handle - you need two handles to make it work as a BackUp style rolling aid.

      It is always inflated. It is semi rigid and provides good protection to items within. It works well as a paddle float (it is the best I have used). It is a good backpack for picking up groceries since it is waterproof.

      If you still can't envision what I did let me know.


  3. How did I not include the website?