Packed for Paddling [60]

By Dee Ratcliffe

As a rather novice expeditioner I asked some my fellow paddlers for their input as we enjoyed a fine dinner at the Bawley Point Café. Thanks to Paul and Leonie Loker, Kim Van Dyke and Harry Havu for their input.

Prior to Departure

Put together a trip plan outlining the itinerary, include details for all paddlers (boat type and colour, safety gear carried, emergency contacts), and expected day and time of return. Leave a copy of this with someone, preferably a sea kayaker, and a list of authorities to contact if necessary, and their numbers

Program local Coastal Patrol phone numbers, police, other relevant authorities and local contacts into mobile phones before departure.

Recharge pump battery.

Climate and clothes: by checking weather observations for a point close to the paddle destination during the weeks prior to departure, an idea is formed of likely temperatures and weather conditions helping to decide the clothes needed.

Have backup paddle plans and local maps in case conditions are not suitable for paddling.

Packing the car: Pack foodstuff into a plastic crate

Prepack gear into dry bags

Think about the return to the car, leave a towel and some fresh clothes ready.

Car keys: Give a spare to one of your paddling companions, or

Hide the keys in the car and carry a “non-drivable” key (one that will open the car but doesn’t have the computer chip in it) attached to the PFD, at least if everything else is lost at sea you can still drive home! (Read X Bass Strait, in the club magazine Issue 52)

Practise packing everything into the kayak at home.

Work out how much fuel is needed per day for your stove.

Packing the Kayak

If you trust your hatches not to leak, dry bags may not be necessary and then it is easier to use all available space.

More, smaller dry bags fit in better than less, larger ones.

See-through bags help with location of contents. Dry bags are available in lots of colours and sizes; always use the same size/colour for items and you will quickly get into routines for packing, what goes where.

A lot of foodstuff may not need to go in dry bags and can be used to fill gaps in the hatches between bulkier items.

Consider what will be needed first when coming ashore each day. In south-west Tassie it may be warm clothes, in the Whitsundays it may be your g-string. Pack these items just inside the hatches. Will cooking or putting up the tent be the first priority?

Weight distribution: try to keep heavy items as close to the centre of the boat as possible keeping the load even. Placing water in the cockpit or in hatches close to the bulkheads is one way of helping with this.

Compass: hold items close to the compass to check for influence before placing them in the front hatch.

Carry bags: for moving gear between kayak and campsite – use those stripped laundry bags available from $2 shops. Consider weight, it may be easier to carry two medium sized bags rather than one large bag. Add shoulder straps to the bag, carrying it backpack style could be easier. Pack the bags into hatches last

Plan packing order, consider what will be needed first, group items logically (one bag for things needed inside the tent – sleeping bag, sheet, pillow, toiletries, torch)

With the front hatch it may be necessary to push in a half-filled bag, complete the packing and then seal it up.

Boat carrying: taking out water containers before lifting the kayaks will lessen the load quickly. Use straps under the kayak and a four-person lift.

Food and Drink

Water: use whatever containers fit best in your kayak. Sometimes I use plastic 1L milk bottles, standing in the cockpit past my footrest (can be a hazard if the kayak is upside down and taking on water). Platypus type containers are good, make shade-cloth covers to protect them from tears and punctures. MSR 4L, 6L and 10L water bladders are durable. Allow a minimum of 3.5L per day.

Food supplies: bring more than enough for the planned number of days. For a 7 day trip allow enough food for 9 days. Place the extra rations at the furthest ends of the boat. Commercially available freeze dried meals are useful for this.

Juice poppers: provide welcome alternatives to drinking water/sports drinks and they can be stashed into small spots in the hatches.

Milk: add dried milk powder to breakfast cereals before the trip, then just add water; use tubed condensed milk; small poppers of UHT milk are a luxury to have when making coffee

Bread: commercial Chapatti and Mountain Bread come in flat packs which fit easily along inside of hull and are long lasting until opened. Pumpernickel bread is available in long life packaging.

Tubes: available from camping stores for easy use and filling. Use for Nutella/peanut butter/jam.

Food ideas: Tasty Bite curries made in India available from Woolworths go well with flavoured Tilda Rice.

Precooked pastas (eg Dolmio) may be expensive but they mean less cooking and therefore less fuel and water usage.

For guaranteed solitude and isolation offer to cook Red Kidney Beans with Sweet Chilli Sauce for your companions

Use some fresh fruit and vegetables for the meals for the first day or two.

Oranges last well inside the hatch.

Use a food dehydrator to prepare meals.

Consider sharing dinners, taking turns to plan and cook with each other.

Zip lock bags: fantastic for just about everything! Use small size for individual serves of breakfast cereals, eating from the bag. Make a snack pack for each day with nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Package each day’s food in a medium size bag; label or number. Each evening as the kayak is being unloaded, take out one food pack.

Work out the correct quantity for food serves.

Have some meals that are quick to prepare, great at the end of an extra long day on the water.


CDMA mobile phones will get reception in more areas than GSM phones.

Washing up: Steelo soap pads work well, as does sand of course. Cut up a double sided sponge and take a small piece. Chux cloths are good as tea towels, pack well and dry quickly.

Have some kind of clothes line, bring a few pegs.

Use plastic bags for shoes then any sand or mud is not carried into the hatch.

Tarp: share one with other paddlers, use as a ground sheet

A safety V-sheet also doubles as a ground sheet for under the tent.

Spare tent fly and lengths of venetian blind of cord: useful to make a shelter if weather is bad

Toilet paper: essential that this is carried in a dry bag. Have a few smaller rolls stashed in different bags rather than one large roll. Carrying extra toilet paper may provide a useful trading currency and even power if others run out! Don’t forget the trowel.

Rubbish: flatten rubbish each day and place into a used zip lock bag. Having numerous small flat stashes scattered in the kayak is easier than one large bulky bag of rubbish.

Luxuries: a tripod stool or backrest that turns a sleeping mat into a chair

Food treats eg cookies are welcome about 4 days into a trip

Dessert is essential according to one experienced expeditioner, as it fills in dark evenings and is good for munchies. Try commercial puddings with custard (available as a powder in small sachets).

Wine in 2L casks

Coffee maker of some sort, I use a small plunger

A book

Small notebook and pencil

Pack of cards

Safety Gear

as per Grade 3 standards

Remember to have spare batteries for all essential equipment

Short wave SSB radio is useful for weather forecasts

If necessary for safety reasons, hire a satellite phone to maintain contact with someone on land. Consider the wilderness experience though – talking to someone at home each day may encourage homesickness.

Personal hygiene: depends on how fussy you and your fellow paddlers are! Wet wipes are available in small flat packs – great for washing salt off the face. One friend, when sitting down to prepare dinner, wipes her face, her hands and then uses the wipe to clean up after cooking.

Wilderness Wash is welcome for a quick scrub in the sea after a few days out.

Ideas for Paddling Destinations

Use the our club website and those of other clubs to read trip reports (there are links on the club’s webpage to other clubs and paddlers’ web sites.

Read kayaking magazines

Check commercial kayak companies for ideas

Word of mouth

Rainy day ideas (those days when you are not paddling for some reason):

bushwalk or try fishing

one Whitsunday-seasoned paddler suggests making pancakes all day and not sharing with envious drooling companions.

Eat the desserts allocated as extra food!


  • Usual kayaking gear
  • Grade 3 safety gear
  • Tent
  • Sleeping mat and bag. Sleep sheet. Pillow
  • Toiletries
  • Light-weight towel
  • Wilderness wash
  • Wet wipes
  • Toilet paper
  • Trovel
  • Headtorch
  • Stove
  • Pots and pans
  • Fuel
  • Gas lighter
  • Plate, bowl, mug
  • Knife, fork, spoon
  • Sharp knife
  • Chux/sponge
  • Stool
  • Tarp
  • Spare tent fly
  • Clothesline, pegs
  • Spare lengths of cord
  • Mosquito sticks/coils, insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Boots or shoes
  • Clothes
  • Raincoat
  • Camera
  • Food/drink, water
  • Maps
  • Book