7 Tips for an Overnight Paddling Trip

We recently took off on a 2 night, 3 day trip on the Scenic Illinois River in Northeast Oklahoma. We floated from the Arkansas border to Tahlequah, OK. Check out the VLOG episode here! One of the most challenging aspects of an overnight trip is packing. I am going to show you 7 tips for how to pack your boat for a great trip on the river. This article will include how to’s, gear recommendations, and more so check it out.

1. Start with a Reliable Vessel

Insure that your boat is in good working order and that if you are going to experience large rapids that you have the necessary equipment like a spray skirt and a throw bag. The river that we floated has very few rapids and none of them are over class-1, so the throw bag can stay at home. We brought our spray skirts simply because we were expecting rain.

A trip can go awry very quickly if you have a boat failure. A boat that takes on water or doesn’t navigate properly can mean capsizing or getting pinned on riprap. Pay attention to the weight limit of your vessel as well. I do not hold manufacturer recommended weights as the final decider, but I was about 25 pounds over my recommended weight and that was about as far as I am willing to push it. I was sitting pretty low.

*Craigslist is a great place to find a gently used kayak for a much cheaper price than buying new. Good touring yaks can be had for under $1000. That is a steal!

2. Remember the Basics

The basic needs for survival are food, water and shelter, not necessarily in that order. A human can survive over 3 weeks without food, but will perish without water in 3-5 days. Shelter is important to maintain body temperature and protect from exposure and the elements.

  • Water- We always bring plenty of water in addition to a means of purifying freshwater. We use the STERIPEN and it has never let us down in harsh environments. A helpful tip when harvesting water from a stagnant source, use a bandana or buff to filter out floaties before treating with the UV light.

Due to the river having fairly clean water, I normally carry 2-32 ounce Nalgene bottles. These bottles are nearly indestructible and make using the STERIPEN super easy. Each bottles takes 1 minute of UV exposure to produce drinkable water.

*If a precarious situation such as a thunderstorm keeps you in your tent, the Nalgene makes for an effective pee bottle too. 

  • Food- Pack extra food. Even if you are a super-ultra-lightweight hiker and you carry a scale to the trailhead to make sure you’re not carrying too much, an extra couple of CLIF bars could be the difference in you having enough energy to swim, run, or hike to a nearby road or home for help.

For a river trip, we normally stick with a small ice chest or cooler bag for items like chicken breasts, bacon, and other easily packable perishables. This time, we brought along eggs, bacon, and hash-browns for breakfast. For lunch we brought bread, lunch meat, and trail mix. For dinner we did fish, chicken, sausage and veggies.

*Helpful Tip- Make Hobo-style meals ahead of time in aluminum foil and store them in freezer baggies in the cooler. Once you get to camp, throw them on the coals and enjoy. Once you’re done, put the cooled aluminum back in the freezer bag for easy disposal.

  • Shelter-Always carry some kind of shelter, regardless of the length of your trip. A simple solar blanket and fire bag can keep you warm and dry in a bad situation.

The last time that we didn’t pack shelter on a trip was Land Run 100 in April of this year. We assumed that since it was a bike race, shelter would not be needed. FALSE. We found ourselves completely exhausted and borderline hypothermic at mile 34 in the middle of rural Logan County Oklahoma with nothing but soaked clothes and spotty cell reception. Had we packed a simple lighter and 2 space blankets (minimal weight), we would have been much more pleasant in the root cellar that we hunkered down in for 45 minutes waiting on help to arrive.

On this trip, due to the chance of rain and the unavoidable onslaught of mosquitos, we opted to pack a backpacking tent sans stakes. The same coverage could be achieved for one person with a hammock and a bug net/tarp setup. Stakes are imperative when the chance for rain exists. Fancy backpacking tent flies aren’t designed to be used without stakes. We know, because we left ours at home and paid for it with soggy tent walls.

*An ultralight tarp such as the Hennessy Hex can be used as a shelter in a pinch with just a couple of stakes and some tracking poles or paddles. 

3. Stay Dry

This one seems obvious, but most floaters don’t take precautions to stay dry. Even some that know better, can get caught with their pants down. It is imperative that all of your dry gear and supplies (warmth, fire, and food) stay dry. If you are traveling with camera gear, it obviously needs to stay dry too.

On this trip, I took every precaution advised and secured all dry goods in dry bags, properly closed and stored in the water-tight hatch on the rear of my boat. After paddling most of the first day, I was told that my boat was riding low in the water. I pulled into our campsite and found my rear hatch completely full of water. I later found out that the skeg cable sheath had come undone and was leaking water into the hatch. My dry bags weren’t all that dry. Especially the bag with my DSLR camera, lenses, and memory card in it. I pulled the dry bag out of the hull to find water visibly inside the bag. I released the dry bag only to find the camera bag completely soaked. When I opened the Lowepro Camera bag the contents were dry as a bone. I received that bag when I bought my camera and the seller didn’t have anything else to send it in. Thanks Lowepro! The cheap dry bag has been moved to “mostly dry” duty for items like a tarp or rain jacket.

*Hypothermia can occur in very warm temperatures with the quick arrival of a summer storm, or prolonged periods without the ability to make a fire.

4. Pack Small

Most kayaks come equipped with small watertight hatches, so it is important to pack a lot of small dry bags instead of big ones. For a sit-in like my Jackson Rogue or Rachael’s Pyrahna Fusion, the biggest dry bag I would suggest is a 10L bag. If you have a sit-on kayak or a canoe, you can probably get away with bigger bags, however, you will wast a considerable amount of space.

*If you must pack a large dry bag in a small kayak, place the half-packed bag in the spot where you want to pack it first, then fill items in until it fills the space, then roll it shut.

5. Pack Smart

I mentioned total weight earlier. Where you place the weight is extremely important as well. Too much weight in the bow or stern and the boat will not handle properly and may be more susceptible to rolls. Place heavier items near the middle of the cockpit and place your light-weight items toward the ends of your boat. Remember that lateral placement can effect handling as well. If you are heavier on the port side, remember that when you have to roll back over.

*If your creek/crossover kayak is equipped with a bulkhead and you are not floating whitewater, remove it for the additional storage space.

6. Flip Your Boat

Flipping your boat at night is helpful for a lot of reasons. First, it keeps your seat and cockpit dry, whether by dew or rain, no one likes a wet seat. Second,it discourages critters from crawling into your boat for the night and surprising you in the AM. Also remember to move your boat and paddles up and out of the water. Waking up to a missing boat is absolutely no fun and you float buddies with thank you for not having to taxi you down river.

*I make a habit of banging on my boat with a paddle when I approach in the morning to make sure there are no creepy crawlies waiting for me inside. 

7. Know Your Limits

Overnight paddling trips are one of my favorite ways to see new places and enjoy nature like most don’t get to. However, multi-day trips open you up to possible fatigue and injury. Make sure that you are physically able to tackle the 15-20 miles per day that you plan to float in order to get back to your job by 8AM on Monday morning. It’s often hard to call in to work from the river valley, only because of spotty cell service.

*Start with a few small day trips or over-nighters and slowly work your way up to longer expeditions. This way you will know what gear you need and how much you can handle.

Thank you so very much for taking the time out of your day to read along. We post all kinds of articles like this almost every week. Stick around and check out the pictures from our travels and check out our YouTube Channel for more content not published on the blog. We are always looking for brands and creators to partner with, please reach out if you are interested- okienomads@gmail.com.

As always, God Bless and be safe out there!

What to Pack for a Canadian Adventure-Gear Load-Out for Banff, Jasper, and Yoho National Parks

One of my favorite aspects of any adventure is the preparation. The route planning, researching local attractions and trails, and packing enough gear to survive and enjoy ourselves, but not so much that we can’t comfortably move in and out of airports, campsites, and local establishments. By the time this post goes live, the Okienomads will be married and on their way to Calgary, AB for a road trip through the Canadian Rockies in areas including Jasper, Banff, and Yoho National Parks. But what do you bring for an adventure in the Canadian Rockies when you plan on living out of an RV and hiking some of the most beautiful trails in North America?

Clothing

Needless to say, we will need to dress warm. We plan on hiking and exploring nearly every day while in “The Great White North”, so warm, synthetic layers are a must. We have a trail race when we get back stateside, so we will need to get in a couple of runs in Calgary and when we travel further North, so we will need a couple of pairs of shorts and the running shoes.

For the colder nights in the RV, tights, gloves, and the down jacket will be huge if we run out of propane or if temps drop below freezing for too long. We opt for wool socks for obvious reasons to keep warm and stay dry.

I am not going to lie, I could wear my Patagonia hiking pants every day of the year and be happy as can be. I am packing a pair of jeans and a decent shirt in case we go out to eat or out on the town for the evening, historically, the jeans will stay in the bag for most of the trip.

Swimsuit is in the bag for the Air BnB in Calgary and the hot springs along the way.

Photography Gear

We couldn’t possibly travel to one of the most beautiful parts of the world and not take my camera and some gear to capture these amazing sights. I wanted to avoid taking a laptop as we would be leaving the RV unattended during most days in some very remote areas of Alberta and BC. Instead I am bringing the bulk of my CF memory cards for the 5d to avoid uploading until we get back. I think over 100 GB should be enough even with video files. The GoPro will tag along for time-lapse and hazardous condition shots and video with around 100 GB of memory as well. If you can’t tell, I don’t like running out of storage space while in the backcountry.

The Dolica tripod is a new addition to the gear list and I hope it works out better than the cheap tripods that I have used in the past. The tripod weighs 4 pounds and folds down to a 2ft length so it will make carrying on the airplane and on hikes a breeze. Reviews are excellent and the price can’t be beat at $50. With the chance of a Grizzly mauling or it falling into a freezing, glacier fed stream, I didn’t want to chance losing a several hundred dollar tripod. I will post an in depth review when we get back, but initial impressions are good!

The Circular Polarizing Filter is needed to cut down snow and water reflections as well as maintain blue skies and clouds. The Neutral Density Filter will be used for waterfalls and other exposures needing long shutters.

I opted to leave the drone at home for a couple of reasons. First, we are traveling on our honeymoon, I don’t want to spend a romantic trip with my new wife flying a hive of angry bees over scenic Banff. That doesn’t sound like fun to me. Second, because of the size. I love my drone. The 3DR Solo is great for the type of work that I use it for. However, it is huge! It would be a carry-on by itself. If I had something like a DJI Spark or Mavic that folds down small and can still record quality video and stills, I might consider lugging it around.

Other Miscellaneous Gear

Just when I thought we had everything that we needed for an expedition to Canada, my bride surprised me by picking up a pair of YakTrax for both of us. These simple devices improve traction on snow and ice and will be perfect for post-holing snow packed trails and scurrying across glaciers. There are a million reasons that I love this woman, and spontaneous & surprise gear purchases rank in the top 100 reasons for sure.

We are both packing winter sleeping bags as I am not confident in the insulation of a rental RV in the Canadian Rockies in October. I will also pack a bag liner to add a little extra warmth to the sleeping arrangement. Travel pillows will more than likely fly in the carry-on and be used heavily in our Houston layover.

In order to get all of this gear on an airplane and across the continent we need some luggage. My clothing will be packed in an old REI duffel that has been on many adventures. My carry-on is a Patagonia Refugio 28L day pack. This day-pack has been my go-to since my 2nd year of college and carries my camera bag in the bottom, jackets on top, maps, chargers, and a book/journal, and passports in several well-designed pockets and a tripod in one side pocket with a Nalgene in the other side pocket.

Rachael uses a NorthFace Base Camp Duffel as her checked bag and an Osprey 35L backpacking pack as her carry-on. If I know her at all, her checked bag will have plenty of clothing and shoes for any adventure that we might find and her carry-on will have her e-reader, plenty of snacks, and warm layers for her to stay warm in the freezing airport, plane, or public transport.

What gear do you use when you travel? Comment on the blog or reach out to us on Instagram and YouTube as @okienomads. We love hearing from others traveling and trying to make things work in this lifestyle.

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