What does it take to pack a kayak for three months of living along Alaska’s Inside Passage?
Well, first you must start with the essentials: a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove, food and warm clothes. From there, the options are endless, everyone has an opinion and no one can agree. When it came to planning and packing for our trip south, there were a few major criteria that the group looked to address before departing.
Rain is constant around these parts and thus we must make plans to stay dry. We have chosen to leave the rubber gear at home and will instead opt to rock the lightweight breathable rain gear, Xtra-tuff’s, and 360 degree rain hats to keep us cozy as we paddle. For the ultra-bad weather days and long distance crossings, each member of the group has a full dry suit in case someone ends up taking a swim. What about tarps? Each person has two small tarps for which they will use to “sandwich” their tents from above and below. In addition, there is a giant circus-like tent tarp for community dining and dry relaxation.
The great debate was whether to bring a gun or bear spray? We took the easy route, and opted for bear spray. The bears are our friends and we do not foresee any issues, but when you are in bear country it is important to play it safe. The best way to avoid a bad bear encounter is to be cognisant of food and its scent. The group plans to have several bear hangs to keep food out of reach, and will also attempt to mask the delicious smells of rice and beans with the natural scent of Pine Sol.
Camping with 12 people for several weeks without showers tends to frighten the nostrils. In order to alleviate the stink, we will pack soap and tooth brushes. Space is tight in our boats and I for one have decided that I can make do without the comfort of toilet paper. Rather, I will enjoy the diverse choices this place provides: seaweed, moss, rocks, and other peoples TP, when they are not looking.
This is perhaps the most important of all things to bring on an expedition of this sort. How do the currents move on different tides? What medications should we have along? What do we do if someone capsizes in bad weather?
Fortunately for us, we have had the help of the many wilderness experts who call Juneau their home. The community has rallied around us and we have been on a whirlwind course gathering wisdom from the many who have offered their help.
All of this and much more has been jigsaw-puzzled from every angle and orientation until it fits perfectly in our boats and brains.
By the time you read this article, we should be paddling up Tracy Arm, awestruck by floating ice palaces and daunting rock walls.
Track us in real time by visiting atripsouth.com/track-us.
Lastly, we want to shout on paper the biggest THANK YOU! This trip would not be possible without the enormous efforts of hundreds of people throughout Juneau and the world. Everyone we have met during the planning process has gone above and beyond what we could ever expect and for that we are forever grateful.
In the words of my friend Kanaan Bausler, “Every day is a gift.”
We could not be more excited to be alive.
• Chris Hinkely is a member of “A Trip South.” Look for their notes from the water and road every month in the Juneau Empire Outdoors section.