Friday, 14 August 2015

Lessons Learned: 10 Tips for Your First Portaging Trip - Part I

Hot off our very first portage trip Sam and myself learned some valuable lessons and want to share them with you. Here are 5 things I learned about what to do before, after and during your portage trip.

1. Ditch the Packaging and go All Ziploc

A bear canister fills up fast with less food than you’d imagine. My recommendation is to take any food that has air in it and put it into a Ziploc bag. This will save you a ton of space. After repackaging use a marker or painters tape and label each bag to easily identify your food. 

Bonus Tip: Load the canister or bag in order of your consumption plan (day 1’s meals at the top and your last days meals at the bottom). That way you don’t have to dig deep to get your eats or repack it daily.

Transferred food from original packaging to Ziploc bags
Food transferred from store packaging to Ziploc bags. Saves a ton of space in your bear canister.

2. Baby Wipes over Toilet Paper

Ditch the toilet paper and jump over to baby wipes. Not only do they pack up smaller but they can also get wet and are multi-purpose (washing your face, hands, wiping your butt, etc). The only concern is their scent, so save some room in your bear canister or bear bag. Trust me your butt will be much happier after crouching in the bush with these!

3. Invest in the Right Gear

Too often people buy an inferior product because of the price tag. The truth is you get what you pay for; you don’t need to run out and buy a $4000 tent. But think about this, do you want to spend $300 on a tent now that is built to last 20 years or do you want to spend $80-100 every 3 to 5 years on one at your local big box? The way I have approached gear is that I am slowly building up to having exactly what I want by making key purchases every season. I’m spreading out what I can deal with and what I need to purchase in order to maintain my budget. Make one big purchase (tent, sleeping bag or pack) and add on one slightly less expensive item and within 3 summers you will have a superb set up without breaking the bank.

Ed's Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent set up with a starlight sky background
Ed's new Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent. Lighter and easier to assemble than his old tent.

4. Aim to Pack Less but Pack Smart

Less is more, especially when you have to carry everything you will need on your back. The keyword there was what you “need”. Reduce clothing to items you can stretch out for the duration of your trip and pack layers. On a recent 4 day portage trip I wore the same shirt, shorts and sweater for the entire trip; I’m not trying to impress anyone. Also make sure you have only essential items that you are able to comfortably carry. Real Man Travels recommends laying out all of the gear you think you’d need on the floor of your home. Then start to pick out non essentials until you are left with about 60-75% of what you had. From there load up your pack and see how it feels. If it is still too heavy think outside of the box on how to reduce, or give weight to a partner that has a lighter load. Just remember that walking around the house for 2 minutes with a full pack is not the same as a trail for an hour or more.

Bonus Tip: Pack a bag with fresh underwear and other clothing and leave it in your vehicle for when you re-enter society. Fresh clothes will go a long way for the ride home, or that pit stop at a pub for a much needed beer.

5. Portage with the Right People

This may be an oversight but if you are going to be canoeing and camping out in the wild for an extended period of time, you better like the people you are going with. Let’s face it, a trip can be make or break depending on the people attending. Positivity is key so eliminate anyone who will be a negative strain; the last thing you want is a Debbie downer moaning and crying when the day is filled with bugs, rain or some other undesirable element. If you are blending groups of friends, choose wisely who can attend. Look for similar humour styles, similar attitude towards the outdoors, similar interests, etc.

Sam and Derek shore fishing
Fishing with a straw hat is an automatic in with our group. Sam and Derek doing some shore fishing. 

Those are my 5 things learned from this portage trip, be sure to come back later and check out part II when Sam will reveal what he has learned.


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