Going heavier

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In the last few years because of backpacking with my son, I've been trying to carry a lighter load, e.g. one pot meals in a jet boil, lighter sleeping bag, lighter sleeping pad, etc. On a recent trip to the BWCA, I came to the conclusion that I would have been more satisfied with my meals and had better sleep, if I would have not worried about the extra weight, and brought better food and cooking system and my cot with a pad. Next canoe trip, I'm bringing the comforts and taking my time on the portages, and leaving the light stuff for the backpacking. Anybody else have a similar experience?
 
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When we do the Allagash the trip is called 'Allagash Heavy'. It's an easy trip and there's only one carry, it's our week to vacation in the woods. We take it all, folding camp chairs, coolers, cots and we eat like kings, to include baked goods. Plus we usually have a high percentage out the younger generation so instead of leaving them to their on devices we have lots of Backwoods types things for them to do.
 
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Maybe I am getting stubborn in my old age but... while I do appreciate the light weight, I more so appreciate simplicity. And I mean that for all aspects of my life, not just camping.

I'm constantly trying to figure out how I can make more of less. The constant headache of keeping track of hordes of gear too much for me at times. So bad in fact, I got a little sloppy in trimming down my gear on the last couple trips and wound up losing a couple things, and that rarely, rarely happens.

We mostly do overnight to 3 day type trips, so having a gaggle of gear for something like that doesn't make sense.

For longer voyages I can see it making more sense... I'd never get my wife out for two weeks on the lightweight setup - she'd break down after 3 nights, guaranteed! I'd probably not be so happy after 5 nights if I am going to be brutally honest. We all have limitations.
 
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Long Island, NY
The thought of backpacking and carrying everything myself, all the time never appealed to me. With the canoe I can bring more comfort a lot more comfortably.

I like that.
 
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I backpacked all over Northern New England for 40 years. My cousin introduced me to canoe tripping and I have trouble finding my pack now.
 
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I can't abide by any single dogmatic rule.

If I want to enjoy the remoteness of Woodland Caribou or another north Ontario area, I am going to have to think like a backpacker. Yes volume matters and weight matters. I will not take furniture there. Portages are a fact of travel there.

If I am in the Everglades hauling insane loads of fresh water for two weeks, I will leave the cast iron home. Yes weight matters. Bulk maybe so. I don't want to founder with an overloaded boat in the Gulf of Mexico.

If I am doing a trip on the Current or the Buffalo I just make sure I can stuff it all in the boat. Who cares about weight?

Same for Lake Superior.

Base camping on Little Tupper. I will bring as much of my house as I can including a heating system. The Allagash is a series of pleasant day trips with furniture supplied. Carry as much as I want.

As always in all things canoeing the correct answer is Maybe.
 
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I can't abide by any single dogmatic rule.

As always in all things canoeing the correct answer is Maybe.


Good points. However for me, I may carry different loads for different canoe trips, but weight no matter the canoe trip will not play as an important consideration as when I backpack.
 
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Oct 12, 2012
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Alburnett Iowa
I just got back Wednesday from the BWCA and have been contemplating my trip. I am 55 years old with a shaky lower back. At 6'2" and 210 lbs I'm over weight but not what I would call obese. I prefer to paddle a tandem canoe solo. I like the space and the stability. I have to double port, it's a fact of life for me here on out. I have a canoe pack, blue poly barrel for food, day pack that is my misc catch all bag. and a canoe to portage. I go in the off season to avoid the crowds so I need to carry warm clothes along. I couldn't shed enough lbs in my outfit to single port and still carry all those things any way. I don't have enough arms either. I am lazy when it comes to cooking so I make the best of one pot meals. But I am comfortable in camp. I take a bag chair along and sleep in a hammock on a thick therma rest. I like my Coleman single burner as it has the ability to simmer but it's the heavy steel one. Can't find the lighter alum model any more. I slide a folding buck saw in the bag chair bag as I find my smaller folding saw practically useless after using a folding buck saw. I guess what all this blathering comes to is this. As long as I can still double port the whole outfit, every thing comes along. Dave
 
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Jul 31, 2011
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Aberdeen, MD
I can't abide by any single dogmatic rule... As always in all things canoeing the correct answer is Maybe.

I've gotta agree with YC here... It all depends on the purpose of the trip.

I went through an "ultralight backpacking" phase about 2001/2-ish. I was in my late 30s, back was starting to give out, I was still in somewhat good physical condition (lived near the Smokies and dayhiked a lot, and had gotten out of the military just a few years before). But I felt I was working too hard. So, in due time, I got my "base weight" (from skin out, minus food, water, and fuel, since they vary by the number of days out) down to about 12 lbs... add back food at 2lbs per day, 2 qts of water (4lbs), and some fuel, and I could do a 3-day weekend on under 25lbs.

At some point, I took my daughter canoeing locally, and eventually built a stitch and glue canoe with her, in 2007, I think... Then, in 2008, I took her to the Adirondacks, on the Bog River, on her first multi-day camping trip... since I was carrying almost everything, and doing most of the work in paddling, and she was pretty young (and small), I kept it as light as possible... This was good, in that it taught her to pack light (which she still does, mostly).

But I realized just how much I could have carried easily, and over the years, I've relaxed a bit and my 'base weight' has crept back up into the teens. I now carry a Magellan air pillow, a larger hammock tarp, quite frequently (even solo) a HUGE 14x20 cooking tarp, more food/snacks, sometimes a small dutch oven, saw/hatchet, and a few other odds and ends.

Not a huge load, as I still prefer to single carry on portages. But I tailor it to the trip now... for the St Regis route into Fish Pond, I'll rent a PBW RapidFire and go back to being ultralight again... for that same trip, but only doing Hoel, Slang, Turtle, and Long, I'll break out the big tarp and the wannagen box. For Low's/Bog River, it's about the same... one simple, short portage. For many of my local waterways, I can load up with chairs, dutch oven, etc...


So, bottom line, it depends on the trip... the only constant is that as I'm getting older, I try to do less and less work on said trips.
 
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Feb 29, 2012
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Hmmm,
You guys (and lady) bring up some good points.
I bring what I need and not much more, switched to a Kelly Kettle years ago due to weight of a pack stove and the extra fuel. All dehydrated meals, mostly because I'm not interested in cooking or carrying extra equipment.
Small, solo BA tent, new thermarest pad, one of those 12 oz things, down bag. My strip canoes are nearly as light as similar commercial composites (but easier on the eyes).

With all that said, I have my pleasures, I guess they're called that. I always bring an old Coleman camp stool with a back, it's only 12 oz and long ago I tired of squatting on rotten logs for breakfast. And my camera and lens alone weigh over 3 lbs!!
And the aging thing, well, as much as I want to say it has no effect, it there. I'm 57 and still can make weight as a welterweight, but I'm not the same 147 lbs that I once was, even if I do still wear the same 30" waist pants...it ain't the same.

The bottom line for me is that I often paddle and carry where few travel, think of bushwhacking with a full pack and canoe overhead. Whatever I have to do to continue that kind of activity I'll do....whether it be biking 2,000 miles to stay fit, staying stretched, or continuing to get lighter gear as I get weaker...whatever it takes.
 
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Jul 25, 2012
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Well, for me it's kind of fun, this push and pulling, back and forth of what do I bring and what do I leave. Not only is weight a factor but the lure of the traditional vs. the modern combined with a real feeling of attachment for some bit of gear that I've had for a long time. And then of course, a body that's becoming more and more strident in it's demand for comfort.
Curiously enough, although we're talking about weight and gear, it seems to me that underlying it all is our own philosophical approach to canoeing and camping. At an earlier time goals were the thing for me, but when I reached them they were never quite the reward that I'd imagined. Living now as I do, a good bit in memories, what sticks seems to be the process not the end point. Getting there, is to me, way more than half the fun.
So, my aim is for a trip, is one that will provide me with memories like smooth polished stones found in a stream and saved away to remember.

Best Wishes,

Rob
 
Joined
Aug 22, 2013
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Red Lake, Ontario
It's about comfort. You want comfort in camp AND comfort on the ports. I've done solo trips where I 5 carry portages, mainly because of bringing a chainsaw and guns along, but my goal is to do a double carry....comfortably. Trying to navigate down a wet rocky grade with 100+ pounds on my shoulders is not something I want to do allot of. Or navigating over a single wet log that traverses a rocky fast flowing creek with a canoe AND a 50 pound pack is also something I don't want to do more than I have to.

So it is a quest to achieve the most comfort at the least amount of weight. I am always tweaking my gear set ups to try to achieve this. I make notes on my trips and then refer to them before my next trip to see if there is something I can do without, or something I ought to bring along despite the extra weight. In that vein I am now considering adding one of those lightweight chairs to my list of equipment. I won't jeopardize safety though to do this. I have certain items I never use but always bring because if I feel if I end up stranded they would be essential. And I agree with my namesake, that carrying and using the traditional gear has a certain draw. But in the same vein, I am also a bit of a gear and gadget junky. Ugh, I need to build a new outbuilding to organize and store all my gear now.

I am also envious of those who take portage free trips. Would be nice to bring the cast iron cook set, the 3 burner coleman propane stove and fresh food along.
 
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If solotripping were a car, I’d have flattened it’s tires long ago from all my tire kicking. Maybe someday I’ll get out alone. In the meantime even with tandem tripping, the puzzle of old gear vs new gear, less and lighter gear vs more and heavier gear, is turning into a life long experiment for me. My assortment of stuff is starting to pile up. I’m sure most of you have way more gear than I do, but what to do with it all? What I’ve discovered is, more variety means more options. A lazy slouchy kinda trip with heavier gear, and few portages, is like an all- inclusive holiday (una cerveza pour favor!), while a slimmed down trip is like an adventurous foray into “the wild” (the portage is around here somewhere?).
Regardless of type of trip chosen, the reward remains the same, to connect with nature, in some comfort and with some adventure. Choosing how much or how little are the options.
 
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Jun 12, 2012
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Appleton, Maine
I've gone on group trips where the amount of gear was staggering, the portages endless and the work around camp never ending.
Then I've gone on group trips that where lean, fast and relaxed, where meals where quick solo efforts, no one had to carry anyone else's gear and I really enjoyed the company.
I've done trips where the food was great, the help around camp eager and the extra weight was well worth it.
My trips with my family where no lightweight affairs and every ones needs where met. We never really did many portage trips.
Today, when I go on a group trip I will only go if I can tag along as a solo camper, no group meals, my own gear and cooking plans.
When I go on a solo trip, I have trimmed my outfit down enough to be able to still paddle a heavier canoe than most people and be able to 2 trip portage most of the trip. My meals are easy and quick, the tent small, the tarp just big enough, and no chair.
Now when I bring my canvas tent with a wood stove, look out, it's cot time, lawn chair, fresh food, reading material and cigars to top off the evening with my favorite beverage.
 
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Dec 1, 2012
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Altoona, Pennsylvania
I agree it's situational. I too do lighter style backpacking, but those are fairly short trips. This weekend I was in Dolly Sods WV and man was that pack light. That pack was so light that I was able to add a 4.5lb. growler of mico brew and still be under 21lbs. But none of that gear crosses over into my canoe tripping kit. I generally know during planning if I need to be weight conscious or not primarily by the required speed of travel and portage density. I always double portage and trip with a dog. She doesn't help with the paddling or portaging so in the boat, she's essentially 90 lbs. of dead weight. Total kit weight with food for an average trip is about 120-140 lbs. over two packs. The canoe gear is not ultralight in most cases, but it is more durable, spacious (tent/sleeping bag), and comfortable (two 4" thick sleeping pads). I take a tarp canoeing and live confortably even if I get weathered in.

I figure if you have appraised the portages involved and are willing to carry it across, by all means take it. Never forget the optimum capacity of your boat though.

Cheers,

Barry
 
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Aberdeen, MD
Today, when I go on a group trip I will only go if I can tag along as a solo camper, no group meals, my own gear and cooking plans.

Brilliant! My one group trip (outside of Scouts, a club out of a nearby large city) was my last... I portaged my own gear and canoe (it was only around a waterfall) in one trip, and helped others... then someone asked me to lend a hand with another (aluminum) canoe... 4 guys were already trying to move it (full), and the someone and I joined in... these boys were carrying everything but the kitchen sink... never again.
 
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Sep 2, 2011
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Today, when I go on a group trip I will only go if I can tag along as a solo camper, no group meals, my own gear and cooking plans.

I think Shearwater is still speaking to me. We did a paired solo trip together but I did the meals as he flew and that was one less hassle to bring on a plane. At least he was quiet and diplomatic about my dehydrating attempts.

I would again do a paired solo. I too have no real fondness for group trips. Partly because the movements are often those of an ant army.
 
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