Appreciation for Traditional Canoe Tripping Gear I have to confess to being a hopeless gear head. I have collected a considerable array of specialized and technical gear of all types, for many activities. Paddling, hiking, mountaineering, skiing, hunting, fishing, etc, etc. Modern materials, lightest weights and small sizing, I'm in. But when it comes to canoe tripping I still prefer good old traditional classic equipment. It isnt just the aesthetic old world appeal that the warm woods, leather and canvas materials provide; though that is certainly pleasing too. But for me this type of gear provides the right kind of tried and true no fuss performance that I value as well. I'll admit that wood canvas canoes are debatable for longer backcountry tripping abuses. But they are simply beautiful in appearance and on the water. Put ash trim on a duraflex (clipper) kevlar prospector and you may have the best of both worlds going for you in my opinion. I also find wood paddles quieter, more powerful or even easy going, whatever you feel like. I will always take a collapse bow saw tripping, but I would also always pack a good old medium length hickory or ash handled axe as well, though I confess to not using the axe very much in practice. This look and type of equipment is also popular with bush craft fans, for good reasons. As far as packs go, the watertight barrels or large dry bags are fairly standard now for modern canoe tripping. But I still prefer the old duluth or woods style canvas/leather strapped bags. I say that as the canvas bags are very flexible on how you stuff into them, taking a good large load. And you decide if what you are stuffing into each one is going to be in a plastic or dry bag, waterproofed, or if its wet/damp and needs to breath. On canoe trips, due to weather, morning condensation, waves splashing over, or dunking, or kitchen things not dry yet, things get wet or can still be damp at pack up time. Large dry bags or barrels keep water out, but what about when the things you want to put in them are wet. Then everything else you want to stay dry and put into the same container has to be proofed separately anyhow. Not to say that barrels and dry bags dont have their places, especially on river trips, but in my book I wouldnt go with them exclusively. Sometimes I have used smaller barrels for certain things, like five gallon pails; and they can perch nicely on top of a duluth on the portage too; and make a decent campfire seat as well. Which leads me to the other benefit of the classic duluths, the tumpline. Some people say they hate them and the strain they claim on neck, but adjusted properly, so weight is evenly split between shoulder straps and the tump over top of forehead, I find it really improves comfort or distance between breaks with a heavy portage pack. The tump also has you leaning a bit forward which also creates a small pocket or platform on top of the pack and behind your head, where you can balance little additions you may wish to try and take as well, like a day pack or the smaller dry pail. I also like the even older school pack basket, though more for day trips, as it just makes pulling items out and putting back in so easy. Or a basket inside the right size of duluth or daypack for added protection. The traditional gears also lend to that simple approach to basic equipment, trying to take fewer things, less techy items or gadgets to mess around with. With traditional gear I'm trying to get down to the old tried and true basics. Minimal and nothing fancy. Like the old fashioned basics kit (ie equivalents for shelter tarp, bedroll, tea billy, axe, knife, fire starter, some food staples and little more.). Efficient to work with, quick to pack and easy in and out of the boat. Barely caring how you manage or roughly treat these things. Which helps you get into an easier rythmn and routine of back country travel. Which I think helps you be in tune with the country and travelling through it. And the aesthetics of that classic old world gear also helps transport me to that timeless sense of wilderness and times gone by, that I enjoy the most. The large duluth style canvas makes a good car camping bag too. I can get a fairly complete overnight camping kit for two into a portage pack, for the hatch, or trunk, or bed of the truck. Of course I'd pack a little larger than that if just going out to car camp. But when Kathy and I go out on a road trip, the one bag kit comes in handy sometimes when in between a home we're visiting, or a motel/hotel/resort we're staying at, and we come upon an appealing camping spot we'd like to enjoy.
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