What advice would you give?

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Jul 25, 2012
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The years have rolled by and we've learned things: About canoes, paddling, canoe camping and the woods. About lakes, rivers, streams and portages. About the nuts and bolts of setting up a camp, cooking something you can eat and the effect of the out of doors on our souls. And of course so much more.

So.....if you could go back to a greener time in your life, perhaps when you really needed it, what advice, words of wisdom would you give yourself?

"There's no point in getting old if you don't get canny."

Rob
 
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Feb 1, 2013
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Well, first thing on my list would have been to tell myself not to carry all those huge loads on ports. I routinely carried a grumman white water 17 footer and a heavy pack. When not carrying a canoe, I would carry two or three packs. Now the body is rebelling.

I've never been a gear junkie, but i have made some unwise decisions buying "the best" things for canoe tripping. Some of my best trips were in a Canadian Tire 30 dollar tent with a blue tarp chucked over it. One doesn't have to spend a fortune to get into canoe tripping, and when those snotteries paddle buy with their several thousand dollars worth of kit, just ignore them, and paddle past them when the going gets tough.

I probably shouldn't have drank so much around the campfire, but those monumental hangover mornings when a 30 or 40 k paddle was in front of me really worked at building character, although apparently I didn't learn anything. Just ended up with a lot of character.

And lastly, don't base marriages on whether or not the woman will accompany you on trips. Only took me three times to learn they will either go or not go, be happy with both decisions.
 
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Spend more time outside in woods, field and stream around home, and less inside.

Learn the places you trip and keep at that: their flora and fauna, geology and history.
 
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Just do it. Don't overdo Internet research on the "right stuff". Aside from knowing the principles of keeping dry and warm, the stuff doesn't matter when you are young. Our first kit was a Grumman , a couple of pieces of wood that sorta looked like paddles, horsecollar lifejackets and jeans and a floorless tent and trash bags and external frame packs. Computers were some twenty five years off.

Also be nice to your mother in law. Sometimes handy for babysitting while you take a trip with the two of you.

You know it took time to become a snotter. And most of it was due to aging! Now pardon me while I go drill my toothbrush handle!

O btw.. a sure sign of a snotter is a Tilley hat on the head.. except mine is mildewed and the copper eyelets have turned green.. I don't trust anyone with a Virgin Tilley.
 
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Dodgeville, Wi
One thing I learned was it is ok to base camp and rest or explore at an area. I used to feel like If I only had 10 days or so, I better get to X amount of lakes, and X amount of miles. I learned to remind my self that when on a trip, I am on vacation. So now I plan a place to get to, then rest, fish, explore for a day or two, then I get moving again.

I also learned I need to travel with antibiotics on my longer trips. I messed up my knee one year and the ensuing infection go pretty bad. I had lots of hydrogen peroxide, but still had a tough time fighting off the infection. My knee is oddly shaped to this day because of that event.

Bob
 
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Appleton, Maine
"what advice, words of wisdom would you give yourself?"

Don't worry about mileage or how many days out on the trail, make every trip enjoyable to yourself.
Explore that back bay, sleep late, go to bed early if it feels good, quick easy dinners gets more canoe time afterwards to fish, explore, think.
 
G

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Spend more time outside in woods, field and stream around home, and less inside.

Maple, one of the quotes that has long hung on my office wall is from a local writer, a farmer, paddler, hunter and outdoorsman.

Spend as much time as possible
on mountains, in small boats,
or otherwise out in the weather;
if you never get wet, cold, exhausted or scared,
you won’t properly appreciate
being dry, warm, rested or safe.
(Peter A. Jay)

I used that for a time, with the author’s permission, as my sig file. When I spoke with him he only vaguely remembered writing it, but it has stuck with me through the years.

One of the things I would go back and tell myself is to be both more and less aware of the weather.

To be more aware and better educated about forecasting weather with my senses – watching the clouds and realizing what they portend, what wind shifts and fronts will likely bring, smell that snow coming, feel that dewpoint drop, etc.

Of course that weather awareness and education comes best from being out in it.

To that end I would also tell my younger self to be less concerned with the weather while it is happening. Aside from some occasionally unsafe decision making many of the best and most memorable trips have been in the fugliest weather.

I've never been a gear junkie, but i have made some unwise decisions buying "the best" things for canoe tripping. Some of my best trips were in a Canadian Tire 30 dollar tent with a blue tarp chucked over it. One doesn't have to spend a fortune to get into canoe tripping, and when those snotteries paddle buy with their several thousand dollars worth of kit, just ignore them, and paddle past them when the going gets tough.

No doubt starting on with a Grumman, Feathercraft paddles, orange Kapok PFDs, a canvas Boy Scout tent, poncho and tennis shoes built character and memories. I wouldn’t go back and change that for anything. And I kinda feel for folks who missed that opportunity.

I do see the value in high quality paddles and well-made composite boats, but that has been a long evolution. I have bought only a few top of the line pieces of gear (all from Cooke Custom Sewing) and most of my kit is mid-range stuff that is well worn and patched but still serviceable.

I’m sure a Hilleberg tent is the bees knees, but I’d rather buy 3 MSR’s for different seasons and uses. No doubt my old patched Goretex could stand to be replaced, but it still works. A Gransfors Bruks small forest axe would look cool in camp, but the little Gerber does just fine.

Most of the time a Honda will get you there just as well as a Lamborghini.
 
Joined
Aug 22, 2013
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Red Lake, Ontario
Hmmm, interesting topic.

I am no gear snob, but truly believe that quality gear improves the overall enjoyability of a trip. For instance carrying a 100 pound $300 Coleman is not nearly as enjoyable as carrying that Kevlar Fusion canoe. But quality gear isn't always expensive gear. So to that I say, research your purchases, ask others what their experiences are with the piece of equipment and buy the best piece you can afford to buy. Buy once and not crappy gear twenty times. Sometimes the best gear is used older style gear. Nothing beat a good ol' canvas canoe pack with leather straps. But also think that until you have used a Ostrom Pack you will hover understand how it is indeed worth the $500 for single pack.

The other piece of advice I would give is to not rely on others for your safety and survival. That is not to say to do your own thing on group trips, but be prepared, understand the route your are travelling, carrying your own maps and be prepared to be self reliant in the event of emergency situations.
 
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Feb 14, 2013
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First and foremost - I would tell my younger self, "get a canoe...now". Oh - and, "why did you stop sailing, dummy?"
 
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Aberdeen, MD
What I'd tell my 18 yr old self:

-You will eventually get over this awkward/shyness crap, and a lot sooner than you think.
-Get a canoe. Any canoe. DO IT NOW!
-Don't be afraid to go alone... if it's not important enough to people to get outdoors regardless of the weather, they're probably not made of the right stuff, and you'd probably end up babysitting them anyway... So when they back out, leave 'em be, go alone, and don't invite them again.
-Save up money for your better future canoe(s)... eventually, you'll want a good solo tripper for the kinds of places you usually go. Don't hurry though... with age comes income and savings. You can't have everything right away.
-Buy good stuff once... quality lasts... Get a Norlund hatchet and ax, and a good 24" bucksaw. You won't take them every time, but when you do, they're good tools. If you can afford a 32" bowsaw, it's worth taking on easy trips.
-Don't bother with a fancy cookset. You don't like to cook anyway, so just learn to dehydrate stuff and boil it in one pot. Don't waste time with the little sub-quart-sized pots... you'll need a bigger one to boil dishwater and to keep a pot going over the fire after dinner for soup, cocoa, and tea anyway. Best of the lot is a German Mess Kit. and make a pot chain for it. Find one lexan spoon you like, and rig up a Kool-Aid jar for a bowl/cup, with a cozy for them. You CAN make bacon in a frying pan, but it's good on a stick too, like marshmallows, and the stick doesn't weigh anything.
-Have a backup stove, but you were taught to cook over a fire for a reason. That backup stove should be an MSR Pocket Rocket. While we're on "Fire", learn to make a flame in any weather conditions, and keep the materials for it on your person at all times. Nature is not going to care if you die of hypothermia or not... so there's nothing wrong with "cheating", as long as you are competent the "hard" way. Flint and steel, firesteel, and bowdrill are critical.
-Forget that whole tent thing. Go straight to a hammock, underquilt, and good tarp.
-Clothes. Don't buy anything special, and don't carry so much. Use a good USGI poncho for raingear... forget trying to keep your legs and feet dry, just like the Army. You don't need clean or dry pants. Just rinse out what you have while wearing your longjohns. Same with an outer shirt. You don't need an extra one. In t-shirts, one synthetic for daily wear and one cotton one to sleep in are all that's needed. Take two extra pairs of high-quality/high loft wool socks. You may eventually decide you only need one extra pair. Oh, and bring a stocking cap in addition to the brimmed one. A spare pair of underwear is not essential, but may be useful. A wool base layer can't be beaten. You only need one extra "layer" over that. Below 40*, stay home. Above that, the USGI wool field shirt, or a fleece, is plenty so long as you're moving. Your poncho can double as a wind breaker. If still cold, saw and split more wood (see below).
-Backpack. Keep it simple. One single compartment, comfortable straps, maybe a couple water bottle pockets and a zippered exterior "junk drawer".
-Water. Polar Pure/sublimated iodine crystals. You'll get over the iodine taste. Man up, or be forever tied to a filter.
-Camp setup, after you unload your gear, tie off your canoe (both ends!) and secure the PFD and paddle(s):
First job is to set up the tarp and get your hammock under it and gear up off the ground. That way you have somewhere to go if it starts to rain. This should take you about 10-15 minutes at most.
Second job is to find a 5"'-7" standing dead maple, saw it into 6'-8' sections, and carry it back to camp. Spend some time immediately in processing about 3'-4' of it into quartered or eighted splits about 9" long, and get it under cover. This should take about an hour. Spend a few more hours over the next day making more. (You can make your first meal at this point.) Do not chop at night.
Third job is to arrange your firepit/kitchen comfortably/conveniently. Make a spot to put your chair/seat, with the food pack/wannagon up off the ground (even on a couple pieces of round softwood, so rainwater can run under it) nearby. Find a 1/2" stick with several forks cut short, maybe 2" per branch. Drive this near your foodbag/wannagon as a dish rack. Rearrange the fire pit, with a log or rock reflector about 2' tall for the smoke to climb, so it isn't blowing in your face the whole time. Lay down logs, splits, or rocks to support your grill/pipes if you have them, or make a tripod for the cookpot chain. Level a spot next to the fire to set your pans on, up out of the dust, so nothing gets kicked into them. If you carry a wannagon, the lid works well, especially if it has a raised lip around it. On the other side of the fire, make your wood rack... half-splits 12"-16" long for campfire wood at the far end, 9" quarters (or even finer) for making cooking coals closer at hand, with kindling/tinder on top of that pile. Two rounds of anything about 3'-4' long will do to keep it all up off the ground (and out of any rainwater), and 3 sets of 2 stakes (left, right, center) will keep them organized. Look for tinder whenever you're away, replenish often, and bring back whatever you find. If you end up with too much, the next guy will surely appreciate it. This latter bit of "polishing" the camp will only take an hour or two, but is OH so nice once it's done. If you can, always lay in your fire before you leave camp... you may need it in a hurry when you get back

Miscellaneous:
-Cinnamon Raisin bagels seem to stay moister longer than plain bagels, probably due to the raisins.
-Tea is better than coffee on a trip because you don't need sugar or milk with it, nor special eqpt to make it.
-Cocoa is both a physically and emotionally/mentally strengthening beverage... nothing better when you're cold and miserable.
-Putting similar meals together in one bag seems to be pretty efficient... all the breakfast stuff in one bag, all the lunch stuff in a second, all the dinners in a third, and all the drink mixes in a fourth.
-Re the down vs synthetic argument... turns out that down won in the end. Just always always always keep it dry.
-Get a dog to keep bears and coons out of your food.
-Get a headlamp. A flashlight has few advantages over it, and you only need one. It's good if all your batteries (camera, lights, GPS) are the same kind.
-A fisheye compass is about all you need for your canoeing. You're going to learn how to navigate almost entirely by terrain association within a couple more years anyway, just like that SGT at fort riley told you. And you won't use your GPS for much, so get an old used one for cheap.
-You can get by on a really small first aid kit, so don't waste money on a store-bought one... moleskin, bandaids, dental repair kit, antibiotic cream in single use packs, and a small container of OTC pain relievers and stomach med is all you need.
-Read Kephart's Camping and Woodcraft sooner. He's pretty much got it down.
-In the South, replace your ax with a machete. You don't need both, and the machete gets used WAY more.
-If your trip is so easy you decide you can afford to bring a tarp and wannagon, bring a big tarp. not a small one, and set it up as an A-frame (one cross rope and 4 tie-outs). Might as well be comfortable.
-Bring a fishing outfit anyway... sure as you think you won't fish, you'll want to, and it's light.
-Go lighter vs heavier... I have never yet truly regretted not bringing something.
-Rice is stupid-simple, despite how hard people make it out to be. So always carry some for an emergency. Ground/dried navy beans too.
-Think stuff through... determination is all well and good, but remember the bulldog... too much can get you killed, and that's way easier to do when you're soloing. On the other hand, "go quietly, alone. No harm will befall you."
 
Joined
Jul 25, 2012
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My advice would be to become resigned to going alone. I suspect we all would like the idea of a pal who we could go with; but in practice it just doesn't seem to work out. The idea of what you want to do becomes compromised and diluted to where you're not sure it's worth the effort any more. Then the question of when can your buddy take the time to go, what with work, family and wife. And then, after you've changed the plan for the outing six times, he cancels anyway.

Now alone; you're not going to have any arguments, but you had really better plan on no outside help. Once you truly grasp that idea then all the other decisions will flow from that realization.

Best Wishes,

Rob
 
Joined
Aug 22, 2013
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Red Lake, Ontario
Hmmm, solo is nice but having an extra person paddling makes for a big difference when faced with winds. To quote a guy named Dan Period, "The winds are either with us, or with the terrorists"

Winds of 15-20km/h solo can be daunting but not impossible. 20-25 is manageable if the direction is favourable. Over that and it's with the wind or we're going nowhere.

Tandem I have yet to be in winds unmanageable. Not to say anything is possible, but the 30+ winds I just haven't experienced yet.

I am going to put this out there right now, if any solo trippers want to make a tandem trip in WCPP please send me a PM, no promises but I am open to ideas.
 
Joined
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Hmmm.. 25-40 kph winds are normal in the Everglades. When it gets to 40 you wish that the tide is favorable to make progress. I have been in tandem and in winds unmanageable. Found out later that they were about 60 kph in Wabakimi. Also been in winds unmanageable in Superior, which sooner or later happens to all who paddle there. Hence you just have to find shelter (pray that is near) and wait.

I stop paddling and seek shelter when I can't make forward progress. Better to wait for the early morning.. I do like WCPP but like it solo.

A summation is : if your gut tells you its too windy..its too windy. Find something else to do and wait. Never become married in handcuffs to a schedule.
 
Joined
Aug 22, 2013
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Red Lake, Ontario
This is an interesting sidebar, when is it too windy? The forward progress is less of an issue as it is keeping the canoe from weather vaneing. I don't solo with a double blade and this is likely my problem. Paddle kneeling to one side Canadian Style. Do okay but once the boat starts veering it's allot of work to keep it pointed the right way, and extremely tiring.

40kph winds would park my butt on shore solo every time.
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2012
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Appleton, Maine
Wow Seeker, good stuff, I agree with everything except the hammock vs. tent, I still enjoy my tent and too old to change I guess. The hammock system must be pretty good though, but can you lay on your side? I just can't picture my body with that curve in it for any length of time.
Oh yea, I have a pretty good pair of rain pants and a nice rain jacket that double as wind pants/top and keep me warm when needed, so I would forgo the poncho too.
Interesting thread.
 
Joined
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Aberdeen, MD
Wow Seeker, good stuff, I agree with everything except the hammock vs. tent, I still enjoy my tent and too old to change I guess. The hammock system must be pretty good though, but can you lay on your side? I just can't picture my body with that curve in it for any length of time.
Oh yea, I have a pretty good pair of rain pants and a nice rain jacket that double as wind pants/top and keep me warm when needed, so I would forgo the poncho too.
Interesting thread.

Thanks Robin... picture it this way... get a piece of paper and a pencil. lay the paper "landscape oriented" in front of you. Lay the pencil on it, pointing left/right like the paper. now pick up the far right and near left corners, which forces the paper to form a hammock U-shape... notice that the pencil does not want to bridge the resulting high points... it automatically has rotated clock-wise about 45* and is laying FLAT in the bottom of the U.

Your body will do almost the same thing in a properly hung hammock. it's not perfectly flat, but close enough. some folks have problems with their knees getting stiff when "locked", but you can just put a shirt or pants under your knees to keep them bent a little. As far as side sleeping, oh yeah... you can spoon right up into a little ball... the hammock changes shape to hold you like a babe in its mother's arms. I sleep better in my hammock than in my own fancy/expensive bed at home... I know some folks over on hammockforums.com who have hammocks installed in their bedrooms.
 
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This is an interesting sidebar, when is it too windy? The forward progress is less of an issue as it is keeping the canoe from weather vaneing. I don't solo with a double blade and this is likely my problem. Paddle kneeling to one side Canadian Style. Do okay but once the boat starts veering it's allot of work to keep it pointed the right way, and extremely tiring.

40kph winds would park my butt on shore solo every time.


Hit and switch with a single blade( or the double which some dislike). I am speaking from narrow dedicated solo experience. I too have a harder time in a large hull that catches a lot of wind and has a lot of surface area for friction loss with the water. In winds every inch of square area counts. Dedicated solos under 28 inches wide don't need to be heeled.

Of course winds are where a kayak shines..there is less exposed to the wind..So a dedicated solo is somewhere between a kayak and a tandem canoe.

However we all paddle our own trip and are responsible for us and should be true to ourselves. You might have trouble in high wind. Easy.. just wait. I don't do rapids well.. So I walk the portage.

Have to admit that two of us in the Everglades were each paddling a dedicated solo and it was a LOT of work getting to the campsite..gee I think our progress was half an mile an hour but there was no choice. On land he had a portable anemometer and it read 47 kph . That was Yeek I am glad to be on terra firma time.

Robin...I have a hammock you could possibly try sometimes. While it looks like you sleep curved you really do lie pretty flat.
 
Joined
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I find myself telling younger people this "get off the video games and go outside and do something real." I went thru the police academy at age 45. I was running circles around people half my age. That is sad.
 
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My friends already think I'm weird. Installing a hammock in our bedroom would only convince them; I like to keep them confused. Not sure what my wife would think. Going the hammock route sure looks sensible though. I've only recently bought a Hubba Hubba2 with a large vestibule. It's a tiny tent, but snug and comfortable enough. I'll give the hammock some serious thought.
The advice here on this thread is so thorough and wise, I've nothing to add except to repeat the message of motivation. I had so many opportunities growing up to get into canoeing, but never took that step. What held me back wasn't the lack gear, help, friends & family, or places to go. It was always the final step of overcoming self doubt. The advice I'd give to my 18 year old self, is the same I've given to all my kids, which is to 1) ponder 2) plan 3) prepare, and then 4) do it.
I had an aunt and uncle who ran a marina in a small northern town. I was also fortunate to have another aunt and uncle who ran a diner in town. The 1 or 2 weeks every summer spent there was like a life time of summer camp fun. Hikes to the fire tower, swimming, and just hanging around was wonderful. One day while goofing off around the marina, my uncle called me over to say "Son, if you can pick up this outboard motor here in the parking lot, and carry it to the end of the dock, and set it down, you've got a summer job. Don't drop it in the lake." In a flash I imagined the fun and adventure I'd have, spending all summer long with aunts, uncles, and cousins in that northern Ontario adventure wonderland. But, in a flash self doubt crept in and spoiled it. I said "Umm, no thank you." I knew I could do it, and knew it was a golden opportunity to live a fantasy, but my get up and go, got up and went. It never occurred to me, this loving and generous uncle of mine was trying to do me a favour (and my parents too, no doubt); goodness knows, he didn't need a skinny young teen "helping out" around the place. WHOOOSH was the sound of an opportunity as it went right past. I tell my kids, "You don't want to hear that sound."
Great thread, filled with great advice.
 
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Joined
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Colrain MA
YC wrote Never become married in handcuffs to a schedule.

And never plan a trip that handcuffs you to schedule.
 
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