Every canoe trip comes checklists. Packs, cook ware, toilet paper. Check, check, check. Over the years, however, we’ve come to realize that there are certain things not on our usual lists that we can’t trip without. Mind you, we’ve forgotten some of these things more times than I can count. All part of the fun.
1. Small Pot
Canoe trips are filthy, and I love it. It is nice, sometimes, to bring along some of the luxuries of home. I remember the first time I learned this hack. We were winding our night down, I had just hung the food pack a ways away from the site, and came back to the fire to find my brother setting a small pot down next to the fire to cool. ‘Making tea?’, I asked. ‘Come, wash your face,’ Aaron responded. Let me tell you. After a long day toiling in the sun, as the evening air begins to cool, a couple palms full of warm water is pure bliss. And so, now, we never trip without one. Get one of our favourites here.
A what? I was just as confused when the lead guide asked me to pass him the spondonicle on the first trip I’d ever guided. What he was referring to is the all-too-vital pot gripper. When packing for multi-day excursions, conserving space and weight wherever possible is generally a top priority. Things that take up space? Pot handles. Things that melt or get volcano-lava hot? Pot handles? Things that break? Pot handles.So, we opt for pots without handles. Pulling our cookware from the utility pack, I wondered silently, ‘how the hell are we going to move these around?’. Couple of sticks, maybe fire-proof gloves, I figured. Nope. Spondonicle. These almost universally fitting pot grippers have been, and continue to be, a life saver. Pro Tip: On more than one occasion, the spondonicle I carried was on the weaker side. The feeling of a group of kids gasping as the full, steaming pot of dinner splats into the dirt really, really sucks. (We still ate it, of course.) Since then, we opt for the rock solid MSR Panhandler. Grab one here, trust me:
3. Pillow Cases
Okay, maybe this one isn’t a necessity, but again, a little luxury goes a long way. The move? Pack a pillow case, and as you change into your cozy nighttime clothing, pack whatever you aren’t wearing into it and BAM! Pillow. Try this one from Therm-a-Rest hereYou’re welcome.
4. The Percy Sac
Besides from the standard trip gear, I like to keep my personal items close and easily accessible. A wallet, keys, phone, headlamp, star chart, little journal, and whatever else you’d love to not lose. Having a small, typically 5 litre dry-sac that makes your goods grabbable, carriable and clippable to any pack is the handiest thing I never trip without. Suddenly paddle by a moose and her calf feeding in the river? Camera’s at the ready. Sun going down? Headlamp’s right there. Need to jot down a quick memory? Journal’s dry and close by.The Percy Sac has long since been a mainstay of my tripping outfit, and the durable Sea to Summit bags are some of our favourites
5. Notes to Myself
This one is more of a bible for me. I first flipped through its pages guiding a trip, camped between the first and second set of rapids called ‘The Natch’, on Algonquin’s Petawawa River. I was a little spooked, stuck in my head about what could go wrong, and nervous about starting the day with an immediate drop. My co-guide, seeing the tension visibly strewn across my face, handed me a tattered old copy of this book, told me to find a quiet spot and read the first few lines. In an instant, everything when from scary to fun, and off we went.Whether canoe tripping, travelling abroad, or needing a dose of goodness, Notes to Myself: My Struggle to Become a Person, by Hugh Prather, is always with me. This series of short thoughts, written as notes to the author, has changed my life on more than one occasion. It’s one of those books you can open to any page and find meaning. I won’t delve much more, but if you take one thing away from this list, let it be Notes. Find a copy here.