Archive for April, 2014

Tips for Camping in the Rain

Held in camp for a week in Clayoquot Sound in between heavy rains and high winds. At least we didn't run out of fresh water to drink. Photo by Dave Barnes

Held in camp for a week in Clayoquot Sound in between heavy rains and high winds. At least we didn’t run out of fresh water to drink.
Photo by Dave Barnes

The first thing you will notice about any summer day on the west ‘wet’ coast is that it is most likely to be raining. All you can do is weather the storm, (pun intended) with the dread realization that what Mark Twain said about the city of San Francisco counts here as well, that being “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Now it is not all bad news. During all the kayaking trips I have done to the outer coast of Vancouver Island in the summer months I can count on the fingers of both my hands how many clear, sunny and perfectly windless days there were. It keeps things simple that way. More rain than sunshine makes preparing for a trip a lot simpler. Check lists begin with rain gear, coats, rainpants, tarps before PFD’s, paddles, and even food. Preparing for the worst and being pleasantly surprised when the worst does not happen is my kayaking motto, that and bring more coffee! And holding onto a cup of rainwater coffee under a tarp beside your tent while sitting on a damp log breathing in the humidity is pure joy.

So, onto the tips section now that I have you feeling dreary at the prospects of your summer paddling adventure being one of sogginess. It is not that bad and by no means do you have to spend all of your time on rainy days sulking inside your tent. There is too much to do, even if the conditions don’t allow you to get off the beach for a rainy day paddle. I advise those by the way, as once you are wet, you will not get any wetter. Often times the rainy weather will accompany a calm on the water. Low clouds and drizzle drumming in a hush on your deck while you paddle through an environment of muted colours and your paddle swishes through the raindrop dappled seas. See, that sounds good, huh. Okay, so not for every one, but it is meant to be an adventure, right?

Tip number one is to get your outdoorsy skills de-rusted and dusted off during dry good weather days at home. Go camping in your backyard and practice, practice, practice. The first thing to do is set up your home in the outdoors. When landing your kayak at your desired camp have your wet weather stuff packed in such a way that it is the first thing you grab out of the boat. Starting with a tarp. Speed will be at the essence here as you will be well insulated from the chill when paddling in the kayak, but as soon as you are out in the open air it is easy to get cold fast. Get a shelter up as quickly as you can. Find a suitable spot for your tent, but string up your tarp(s) first in such a way as to create a wind break as well as a roof over your head. The tarp will create a place for you to set up your tent, or hammock and stay dry doing so. Consider a shelter for your tent area, and another farther away for your kitchen space. Occasionally tighten up the tarp to avoid puddling and that unintentional dumping of a tarp-load of rain water on your head.

Now it is time to get that tent set up. Go for high ground so you don’t end up in a puddle. If your tent comes with a ground sheet, use it, or a spare tarp to help create a barrier between you and the wet ground. Once the tent is up toss in your camp clothing bags and set out your sleeping pad and bag. Do this inside your tent to avoid your sleeping bag getting wet. Now get that stove going to brew up a cup. Your camp should be shaping up by now and while you are waiting for your coffee to brew take the moment to change out of your wet paddling gear and into dry camp clothing. It is important to maintain a dressing regime of separating paddle clothes and camp clothing. The mistake is wearing your camp clothing outside of camp, getting them wet and now you have nothing dry as back up. Rain gear over top will do nicely and you will be comfortable while enjoying the reward of that tea or coffee, or soup.

Settling in, there is still much to do to prepare for a stretch of rainy weather. More practice at home is in building a campfire. It seems a simple enough task doesn’t it, but in a rainfall day with any wind coming in to shore this can become a daunting job. There are several methods for making fire starters. Do some experiments at home to find the way you prefer. The fire is something good to have while killing rainy hours. Firstly, it sets a tone in camp and gives you or members of your group the occupation of scouting out best bits of wood to use. Wet driftwood is a pain to ignite and so I bring with me a small stuff sack filled with dry wood, twigs and kindling pieces crucial to getting that infant set of embers glowing. Nurse that little fire until it is working well and set up your wet wood as a surround to help protect the fire from winds as well as aiding in the drying process. This activity alone has kept me occupied an entire afternoon as the rain tap-tapped on the tarp overhead. Secondly, that campfire will be your TV for the evening. It will keep you warm, entertain you and mesmerize you with its flickering flames with no commercial interruption.

Make sure beforehand that your basic camp supplies are where you want them and packed in the order of need. Clothing is something we take for granted but having the right stuff to wear is important. Most of you will know already the dangers of using cotton. It gets wet, and it stays wet which draws heat from your body and can lead to hypothermia. Synthetics for all-weather, and woollens are great because even if they get wet, you stay warm. Ever see a shivering sheep, noop.

Other things to have on hand inside your tent and always in waterproof bags are toiletries, a butane lighter or strike anywhere matches, headlamp, lantern, and a good book. I bring my cell phone which is in a waterproof case but as an extra bit of insurance I put it in a ZipLoc bag as well. As for footwear I have a pair of shoes to wear around camp. Most often I stick to sandals unless it is colder. These come in the tent with me at night and my water shoes hang out in the vestibule.

For any trip into the outdoors, and for times when the weather is not great it is important to know for certain that your stove works! The last thing you will want to discover is a stove failure. Sure, you can always cook on that campfire but what if you can’t get that going? That stove is your safety net. Make sure that your fuel is new and that you have an ample supply. Going OCD at this point is perfectly acceptable. Give the stove a few starts to make sure all burners are working.

With your camp set up, and the firewood stacked, and the rain pouring down it is time to go sulk in your tent. But wait one minute! Did you notice the trails near your camp, or maybe there is a big beach to comb. It is time to wander about and a little rain should not stop you from exploring your surroundings.

The final tip is this, go anyway. Rain or shine it is an adventure you are after and the real meaning of adventure is that they don’t always go as planned, and that is the point. But with a little forethought and planning you can hit the camp running and be warm, dry-ish and comfortable until the weather gods smile upon you with some clear blue skies and sunshine.





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The Enlightenment Found in the Pebbles


“Far away from where I live, I am home”, David Barnes Dreaming in Nuchatlitz

After 3 days of non-stop rainfall the skies began the clear and all the wet gear could be dried. I loafed in my open tent with a cold beer in the meantime. photo credit to Peter Mede

After 3 days of non-stop rainfall the skies began the clear and all the wet gear could be dried. I loafed in my open tent with a cold beer in the meantime.
photo credit to Peter Mede

Where was the last place you found bliss? I am not talking about the gooey bliss of licking you favorite ice cream cone, or the lovey dovey sweet bliss of your first kiss. I am talking about the full-blown irrational abandonment of all that you thought to be important case of bliss. The category of joy of finding a place where you instantaneously forget everything. At the first breath of the place’s air you inhale the amnesia that erases all of your ‘small stuff’ troubles, and at the first sight you become conscious of what is real to you. Then, when all of this has settled down and your heart regains a more normal rhythm than when you are at home, the initial twinges of enlightenment may begin to seep in. This release of the day-to-day at home tensions can be found for me when my paddle touches Mother Ocean. Stroke upon stroke the water and scenery pass by, the winds may rise and the cool morning sun lost behind rain clouds but this is all part of my session and journey to the ultimate bliss.

I found this place by chance and without a conscious searching on a remnant of the past, a far away place from where I live where I pitched my tent towards the morning sun rise and watched sea otters playing in the phosphorescent sparkles after dark. It is an island that gives evidence of the powers of nature that make each and every one of us humbled in the shadows of earthly grandness that it takes to make one pebble. Catala Island is a pile of pebbles trapped against a ridge of rocky cliff and raked level by the elements. The landing is steep and formidable on a rougher day, but as I nudged my bow into the stones with a gentle crunch I realized to jump out now would have me standing up to my midriff in icy cold Pacific waters. I did just that. The humid air after days of rainfall felt heavy and the sun-drenched crossing from the Nuchatlitz Marine park was a relief from too much camp time under dripping tarps. I pulled my kayak up the slope feeling the aching chill from the plunge leaving my body as the radiation off the pebbled surface rose to greet me. It felt good and though I had been ‘out there’ for over a week the small stuff that should have been erased if temporarily from my soul had clung to the back of my mind. Small stuff can be sticky and no matter how much paddling, endurance of wind, rain and sun, lunching on far-flung islets facing the horizon and beers by the campfire by nightfall, it sticks.

By the time I had my tent erected and the wet gear including the fly splayed out upon the slope to the water, I was settling into a kind of pre-bliss state. I lay in my tent with the door flaps wide open, the sweat dripping down the outside of my can of beer and the moist warmth rising up from below me. Our group dynamic had faltered somewhat on this trip. Tensions rose, ebbed and lingered like the sand that builds up in the corner of the tent that with no amount of shaking will allow all of it to escape. We had gone out separate ways for a few days and the reunion cleared the air. The rain clouds parted above and within our camp. Was it the pebbles working the magic on us with the same tenacity as they had to lodging so firmly between our bare toes? Who is to say, all I know is that by late afternoon we were laying on the pebbles, gooey and silly as we picked out what we hoped to be pure pieces of Jade from the mosaic mess left behind after the crush of glaciers receded from this part of the coast. I lay face down, snoozing in a hole I had dug and only woke when a sensation of suffocation set in. I looked around me to the other three and found two of them with a mount of greenish stones in front of them and the third of our group swimming on his stomach downhill and sweeping his arms for propulsion through the pebbles like some kind of weird sea turtle returning to the sea. Giddy, and relaxed from the pebbly magic we lay silent, each owning his own measure of enlightenment about the place we found ourselves, and how far away from home we may be, this is where we truly lived.


As this is the 100th post on Kayak Rogue I would like to thank all of you for stopping by from time to time. There is more to come…







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