DON’T Leave Home Without It!
In the recent issue of Adventure Kayak Magazine an article appeared suggesting we ‘Buy less and Paddle more. I whole-heartedly agree with the premise of the piece that not owning the newest, latest most elitist paddling gear such as carbon fibre paddles, multi-fuel camp stoves, and my personal favorite the self-inflating, six-inch thick, down-filled sleeping mattress should stop you from getting out there on the water. And though the author was not suggesting we head out willy-nilly without being prepared for any event, good or bad, she was well into a back to basics paddling ethic that I can back, along with her assertions towards spontaneity measured against months of prep for a trip. On reading the article I thought about my own approaches to kayaking and camping.
I confess, dreaming and visualizing about potential trips. It gets me through the winter months of most years and when it is time to actually plan a trip I am the guy to do it. Charts, tides, and a good idea of where I will be laying my head at night, and of course the menu, I love the planning! Again, measured against the trips that have happened on the spur of the moment that were no less enjoyable while paddling on a wing and a prayer with only same-day intel on hand. As for the gear junkie I once was, well that guy has softened up. I have since pared down the kayak luggage and even my goto cockpit bag is smaller and lighter these days. I go out with a blending of old gear and new pieces of kit. One of which I will get to later on.
I try very hard to stay gadget-free on my outings, although I do carry a cell phone (turned off) until I need it. I have a VHF radio, but avoid strapping my iPad to the spray skirt with a movable chart on the screen. On the deck of my kayak is a compass, or what my buddy called a ‘professional compass’. I can read a chart, the old-fashioned paper kind. I don’t have a cushy mattress, or a light-weight carbon-fibre paddle, (my paddle is now nearly 18 years old and weighs as small ton), but I did just pick up a second-hand SPOT Messenger for peace of mind for the gang back home. I kayak in a wooden kayak that I suppose could fall into the category of elitist, but as it ages and gains a weathered patina similar to my own, I doubt either boat or paddler would be declared outstanding.
My days and nights on the water, paddling and pulling out to camp at any convenient spot along the shore have not been tiresome, uncomfortable ordeals that make for fantastic trip reports in the pages of such magazines. But, as with the sentiment of within the article I do more with less and don’t feel the burden of anything lacking from the experience. With all of the above being said, the one piece of gear I now cannot leave home without no matter how uber-trendy or seemingly yuppi-town elitist it may appear to be. My campstove-topper four shot GSI espresso maker.
When out in the wilds after being kept awake at night by the irrational imaginings of hungry predators at every twig snap under the foot of a harmless deer, coupled with that tree root that was invisible when placing my tent, but at 3am was quite remarkably obvious to my right hip, I need some comforts. Upon rolling out of my tent I need, I dare say desire a cup of coffee. Take away the fancy paddles, the multi-season light-weight tent, made-to-order specialized kayak, iPad, iPod, GPS, VHF, PFD, LED, and all the rest, but leave me be with the quiet sleepy self-absorbed anticipation of that first spurt, and gurgle from the gadget. The sound and the sight of piping hot brown liquid falling into my cup that will make it all okay again. Rain or shine, wind and waves, tree root back aches be damned if I only can have that one enjoyable memorable experience of a cuppa in the wilderness. Back to basics kayak camping, a heartfelt yes! But even the cowboys of old got a cup of coffee before nursing saddle sores for another day on the open range.