With the right gear, sea kayaking is about the life style—the simple act of living, one day at a time. It is by far the most natural way to travel in comfort, at least compared to backpacking, whitewater rafting, and horse packing. We can stuff our boat with enough gear and food to travel for four weeks of wandering before we need to find a place to resupply.
For us, it’s also about the journey. While we have a final destination in mind (and we have diverted from it), we tend to select and fine-tune our route en route.
I thought others might be interested in what we consider to be essential sea kayaking gear. Lothar leans towards minimalist. I like to think I’m practical. We travel in comfort without being overwhelmed during the up to 170 gear carries (up and down the beach) we’ve done in a trip.
Top 7 Gear Items on the List for Sleeping & Resting
1. Silicone Tarps
Silicone tarps (also know as silly tarps) are so light and versatile that I prefer two, one for daily use and the other for a security blanket. If it’s pouring rain when we arrive home for the evening, we set up one tarp, and then we unload the boat with a rain-free place to put our gear. Next, we set up the second tarp and then we set the tent up underneath it.
One tarp is good enough for the gear minimalist. Experiences of weeks on end of rain while doing bear research hang in my memory so I vote for two. You can decide what works best for you.
Our tarps are almost 10 years old and still going strong. You can find a newer version of the MEC Silicone Guides Tarp at Mountain Equipment Co-op.
2. Three-Season Tent
For those who know the coast well, a three-season tent probably seems obvious. However, if the west coast of BC and Alaska is a novel experience, I can appreciate why a hard-core adventurer might be tempted to take a bomb-proof four-season tent: not recommended.
I have witnessed a few wet, cold and eventually miserable friends as they eek out a coastal living in a four-season tent. The problem is ventilation. Often coastal air is laden with humidity waiting to transform into liquid on something warm. Parts of the west coast are called the Very Wet Hypermaritime for a reason.
Somewhere, I read a sea kayaker’s account insisting that a hammock was the only way to go on the BC coast because finding flat ground for a tent was near impossible. Nevertheless, we decided that single hammocks weren’t for us. Why give up body heat? In 2011, we met a couple traveling with a double hammock. They seemed happy with it, but still not for us.
We decided on a MSR Hubba Hubba for it’s relatively tiny footprint, airy netted tent panels, and full coverage fly. On our Gingolx (at the mouth of the Nass River) to Bella Bella trip, we were occasionally challenged to find suitable camping locations that would accommodate a tent. Sometimes we paddled for longer distances than we would have if we had discovered an earlier option, notably along some sections of the Inside Passage on BC’s north- and mid-coast, all manageable though. Based on our track record to date, it’s relatively easy to find suitable campsites on the outer coast of north- and mid-coast BC and the inside passage of Southeast Alaska. Developed campsites along the south coast are common.
Now we are on our second version of the Hubba Hubba. The first one easily held up to 365 days of coastal camping. It’s life span was shortened in a flood incident but that’s another story. You can find the next generation, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX Tent, at Mountain Equipment Co-op. You might want to check-out gear reviews.
We have one of the traditional full length, regular sized Therm-a-rests and another smaller, tapered Therm-a-rest. The set-up works (not bad) but, when it comes time to replace them, I’ll be looking for two full-length, rectangular (or almost rectangular) Therm-a-rests. With this set up, bedding would be more likely to stay dry if the tent floor gets wet. I sewed a couple of webbing straps into two loops, each, so that we can slide a loop over the ends of the pads to hold them together.
4. Silk Sleeping Bag Liner, Double Width
Our double width silk sleeping bag liner was the absolute best, a cozy cocoon for a couple. It lasted for more than 10 months of paddling plus other assorted trips. Last year, I patched it up with a silk scarf but now it’s so tattered that I don’t think there is much more I can do to resurrect it. We bought it a Mountain Equipment Co-op but sadly they don’t carry doubles anymore. I’m busy searching for a replacement. I’ll report back here when I find one.
I’ve read conflicting reports on the Internet regarding the thermal qualities of wet silk. I’ll just report our experience. We keep our bedding in a waterproof stuff sack. On rare occasions, the liner has been damp or even a wet in places. So far with a bit of wind, it’s been easy to dry on a rainless day.
5. Synthetic Sleeping Bag
We just take one Mountain Equipment Co-op barrel-shaped sleeping bag (rated to -7oC). We use it like a duvet over our silk sleeping back liner. A down bag just needs to look at humidity and it gets wet, particularly on a long trip. We both have pretty good capability when it comes to thermoregulation. One sleeping bag works great for us; it saves space too. Some couples might want or need a two sleeping bag system.
6. Waterproof Compression Sack
We just stuff our sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner into a waterproof compression sack. We’ve been through a couple since we started sea kayaking. Now we have an Outdoor Research Airpurge Compression Sacks. It seems like it should stand up to the abuse for longer than our last one. You might want to check out the gear reviews.
7. Therm-a-Rest Chair
My Term-a-rest chair is an original, original (circa 1994). Some people insist they don’t need a chair so they don’t bring one. Funny that whenever I’m not sitting in mine, inevitably someone else is!
Mountain Equipment Co-op now has the Therma-a-rest Trekker Chair Kit.
Watch for More Gear Tips to Come Soon
Over the next couple weeks, I’ll post some more essential gear items for sea kayaking (at least from our perspectives) for clothing and cooking.