New Gear For Early Season Paddling Trips

seal line dry pack
Seal Line

Whether you’re heading out in your canoe as spring turns to summer for a weekend getaway or month-long expedition, here’s a rundown of an overnight canoeing kit that will get you on the water and keep you happy once you’re there.

Portage Pack

A paddler displays a portage pack
Conor Mihell

SealLine has a sterling reputation of making innovative, truly dry drybags. The Pro Dry Pack ($249 — BUY NOW) captures SealLine’s best attributes in a portage pack with a comfortable, fully adjustable harness system that fits torso lengths from 17 to 21 inches. Choose the Pro if you’re combining river tripping with portaging, and looking for bombproof protection and a comfortable load.

The pack comes in two sizes — 70 and 120 liters — with a roll-top closure that’s reliably waterproof for a typical dunking (you may want to pack critical items like sleeping bags in their own drybag). SealLine’s attention to detail sticks out: The light-colored interior makes it easy to identify contents; wear areas are reinforced; and the harness system is removable (so you can use the Pro as a super-sized drybag, if you prefer). The only catch to a heavy-duty portage pack with an elaborate harness? The Pro Pack ain’t light.

If you’re looking for a lightweight waterproof pack that takes design cues from the ultralight backpacking cult, consider the Six Moon Designs Flex Pack ($185 — BUY NOW). It’s the type of creative, think-outside-the-box product that this award-winning outdoor manufacturer is becoming known for. The Flex combines a super-supportive shoulder harness (obviously backpacker-designed) with an oversized drybag. The combination is ultra adjustable, weighs only 51 ounces, and is supremely comfortable on the portage trail (credit the multi-adjustable hip belt). In short, it’s the type of gear that might just woo long-distance backpackers to water trails.

Two types of tents
Conor Mihell


MSR bills its new Zoic 1 tent ($299 — BUY NOW) as a “light, spacious, ultra-breathable solo tent.” Check, check and check. With 21.5 square feet of floor space plus a 9-square-foot vestibule, the Zoic is no doghouse. The all mesh, near-vertical walls further impart a feeling of roominess on this three-season design. This is a sub-4-pound solo tent you can truly spread out in. If you want to shed weight and add the option of bunking with a (very) close friend, look at the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 ($449 with mtnGLO interior lights — BUY NOW). By some miracle of engineering, Big Agnes has managed to create a two-door, 28-square feet (plus dual 8-square-foot vestibules) in a sub-3-pound package. While its cozy for its rated two-person occupancy, the Tiger Wall is palatial for one.

Two pairs of pants

Tripping Pants

Sometimes, you find a product that truly lives up to the statement “you get what you pay for.” I’ve put five hard summers and over 300 trail days into my Fjallraven Vidda Pro ($150 — BUY NOW) pants on canoe trips across northern Canada. Fjallraven’s G-1000 fabric is absurdly tough; my pants are faded, but they’ve never torn. The 65 percent polyester, 35 percent cotton blend is comfortable and dries fast. An initial 32-day expedition wore out the wax finish (which lends a degree of water repellency to the fabric), but I’ve never bothered to re-wax. The number of pockets is overkill but provides lots of options for carrying all the essentials (map, compass, lighter and knife) day in, day out. In contrast, for barely 30 bucks you can get a pair of Dickies double-knee pants ($29 — BUY NOW) that boast the same quick-drying, durable poly-cotton blend as Fjallraven at your local work wear outlet. Of course, Dickies have fewer bells and whistles but the stretchy fabric is super comfortable for shifting positions in the canoe.

A pair of camp chairs
Courtesy the manufacturers

Camp Chair

After serving as the North American distributor of Helinox camp chairs, Big Agnes took a bold step in launching its own series of camp chairs in 2019. So far, so good: The Mica Basin ($129 — BUY NOW) gets you off the ground with a supportive nylon backrest and a rock-solid aluminum frame that does away with plastic components. If you don’t mind sitting on the ground but desire a bit of extra back support, consider the Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 ($58 — BUY NOW). It’s a typical folding stadium chair that’s cut in ultralight, fabric-covered foam. While not nearly as luxurious as the Mica Basin, the Crazy Creek works in a small tent and adds insulation to your sleeping pad.

An image of a sleeping bag
Coutesy the manufacturer

Sleeping Bag

Always, campers have weighed comfort versus packability in choosing barrel- or rectangular-shaped sleeping bags. The new Thermarest Ohm ($269 ON SALE – BUY NOW) eliminates this dichotomy. Credit top-shelf, lofty 900-fill power down and gossamer fabrics for creating a roomy, semi-rectangular bag that’s lighter that most mummies. The Ohm weighs in at only 18 ounces (regular size) and is rated to an honest 32 degrees F, plenty warm for most paddlers.

Of course, you give up a cozy hood in choosing a semi-rectangular bag. The Big Agnes Anvil Horn 30-degree F sleeping bag ($249 — BUY NOW) keeps your noggin warm overnight. It also boasts Big Agnes’ Flex Pad Sleeve—a stretchy pocket that holds your sleeping pad and keeps the sleeping bag in place when you toss and turn. It’s an innovative feature that makes the form-fitting Anvil Horn feel much more roomy, especially for side sleepers. Like Thermarest, Big Agnes uses water-repellent down (in this case, 650-fill power) for protection in damp environments.

Images of a water filter
Courtesy the manufacturer

Water Filter

Requirements for a water filter vary if you’re traveling solo or with a group. For solo trips, consider the LifeSaver Liberty ($99 — BUY NOW), a robust water purifier bottle that allows you to scoop and drink on the go or pump larger volumes of H2O in camp. For larger groups, gravity-fed systems like the MSR AutoFlow XL ($99; ON SALE $75 — BUY NOW) have become the standard. The AutoFlow removes bacteria and protozoans from 10 liters of water at a time—simply open the valve to fill your canteen, without making repeated trips to the river.


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The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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