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Monday, June 18, 2018

Why backpackers should try kayak camping

You are a skilled backpacker. You have your gear wired. Your weight is just right. You know your systems and they work well, and most importantly you can cover ground with ease. You should try transitioning to kayak camping. Why? Here are ten reasons:

1) No crowds. You want a taste of real wilderness without having to travel across the globe? There are far fewer people kayak camping than there are backpacking. The A.T. has seen 155% growth in the past couple of years. Backcountry campsites are full. So many people are hiking and backpacking that LNT.org is recommending that people put rubber tips on their trekking poles to prevent damage to trails. As a kayaker you will have campsites to yourself.

2) You already have the gear. Yes, you need a boat and paddle and pfd, but other than adding some dry bags (and there are even ways around this!) you are good to go. Just about any backpack is smaller than the storage of any kayak. All of your backpacking and camping gear will transition nicely to kayak camping.

3) Ready for adventure? You are used to walking on a trail, that even in the worst rain is usually predictable (with the occasional mudslide not withstanding). Transition to the water makes everything a little more exciting. Adventure awaits.

4) Float and gloat. This is the reason I transitioned to kayaking. I was tired of carrying a heavy pack. In the early 90's my pack weight was 52 pounds, and at the time it couldn't really get any lighter than that. I used an 85 liter pack. Today I am using a 48 liter pack and my pack weight is 32 pounds with real food (not freeze dried.) But in a kayak I just have to get my gear to the water line, I am making distance without carrying any gear on my back. I can also go further, the max for a backpacker is about ten days of food and fuel, and even then the load is monstrously heavy. I kayaked 21 days on the Inside Passage (though we had food and fuel for 30!) and it all fit easily in my Kayak. The boat was a little slower, but actually more stable when loaded. How big is your backpack? 65 liters? My boat can hold a little more than 215 liters of gear, and more importantly, none of it is on my back!

5) The food is better! When weight isn't an issue I can eat whatever I want for dinner. I generally make pasta with a sauce from scratch. I don't have the skills, but I know people who bake in the backcountry. Which can be cakes, or pizza from scratch. And let's not kid around, you want a glass of wine with dinner, pack in a bottle. It will fit perfectly in the bow of your boat!

6) Big, exciting, epic trips are closer. It is far easier to do an epic trip in a kayak. A week of paddling on the NC coast where you see dolphins and not another soul is easy to make happen. Similarly - also in NC you could hike the Grayson highlands where you will see wild ponies - or as I call them, land dolphins! - but you will do it with a crowd of people around you. I think the path from novice paddler to extended trip is shorter in a kayak than it is in the backpacking world.

7) It'll make you cool. All your friends are backpacking. (and you can still backpack with them!) but you can also be the person that goes on amazing paddling trips. Far fewer people are doing kayak trips, so you will stand out in a crowd.

8) A different perspective of the world. When I am backpacking I feel like I spend the day looking at the ground, three feet in front of me. I have to think about taking time to look at the view. But in a kayak you are paddling while looking up and all around you at all times.

9) It will push your skills as an outdoors person. You will learn about water and tides and more about weather and wind and rain. It will kick your navigation skills to the next level and lets not forget that you get to learn all about propelling and controlling a kayak.

10) It's easier on achy knees and problematic backs. If you think kayaking is a sport of arm power you have never been taught how to paddle a kayak. Kayaking is at first about core strength, and eventually with practice and skill about leg strength. That is where the real speed in a kayak comes from. What kayaking will give you is amazing core strength and good posture. All without straining your tired knees. If you have back problems, make sure to support your back in the beginning, but soon you won't need the additional help. Think of Kayaking as cross training. Your backpacking workout is very "legs and lungs" but kayaking is back and core.

Bonus 11) It's fun!