Kayak Camping – Extreme Living – LivingMini®

Fiord_KayakWhile in New Zealand’s South Island, I embarked on a 3-day fiord kayaking trip on Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park. There were just 4 of us, 3 crazy adventurers and our 21-year-old guide Tara. Out in the middle of nowhere. In the middle of heavy storms. 3 days.

Now, originally I thought this would be one great adventure – and it was. Of the extreme kind – moments of pure joy and pure misery. Read all about Kayaking the Fiordlands: NZ’s Next Frontier. But that’s another story. What I want to talk about here are the kayaks themselves.

Transporting Base Camp

I tried to find some typical dimensions on kayak holds, but none are mentioned when reviewing the features of each kayak. This says to me that storage is not a primary concern for kayakers. (I guess speed and stability are the chief concerns.)

A lack of interest in kayak’s storage space seems about right, given the tiny spaces provided. Especially when you think of everything we had to take with us, including:

  • · Emergency Radio (thankfully)
  • · Medical Kit
  • · Communal fly tent
  • · 3 Sleeping Tents with flies and ground tarps (one tent slept 2)
  • · 4 Camping chairs (which seemed like an extravagance, but so nice to have)
  • · 2 cook stoves and cooking pots
  • · 4 sets of dishes and utensils (we all brought our own)
  • · A bag of goon (really poor quality white wine)
  • · A shovel (for digging the latrine) & TP
  • · 4 Sleeping bags and 4 ThermaRests
  • · Food for 4 days for 4 people (an extra day in case we were stranded – we all brought our own)
  • · Dry clothing, extra shoes and toiletries

Shoving_OffAnd all of this had to fit into dry bags as protection from the water that seeps into the kayaks. The dry bags then fit into 3 cargo holds, a larger one in the middle about and two smaller holds on each end. Each hold was sealed with a tight neoprene cover and a hard shell. Still water seeped in, which we had to bale out each morning.

A Master Puzzle

One of the biggest challenges each day was fitting the gear back into the holds before we could get on the water. And because a fully geared kayak normally takes 6 people to carry, many times we needed to empty the gear on to the beach and relay the goods to our campsite.

This may not seem like a big deal, but after at least 6 hours of paddling in a storm (most of the time without the option of a bathroom break), the last thing you want to do is haul gear, set up your tent and cook your own dinner. In the constant dampness no less. It was hard core.

Kayak_CampersEl Bano This Way

And yet we were still having fun. Or at least Tara was. She made finding the latrine a scavenger hunt, leaving clues in the mud (before the tide came in anyway), and arrows made out of sticks pointing the way. It was a cute idea.

Although really not so cute when you have to go to the bathroom and you have to solve some Blair Witch-inspired, half-washed out schematic just so you can find a shallow hole dug in the woods.

Sand Fly Massacre

Our most hateful time was the sand fly attack we suffered our last morning. (It was the worst one that Tara had seen in her 3 seasons of guiding.) We were literally being eaten alive. You can read about that little bit of fun here: Tasmania Tragedy: Revenge of the Sand Fly.

The real torture though was having to pack up the kayaks before we could leave the lunch room. We were the ones flying around that morning, stuffing gear left and right, desperate to get it all in so we could shove off.

We left in such a hurry that we didn’t even secure our skirts (the neoprene that encircles your waist as you sit in the kayak). Instead we waited until we were far enough away from the shore and the stinging flies.

I thought living in a mini house was tight quarters. Or living out of 1 bag for two years. But really, when all you have is what fits in a kayak’s cargo hold – now that’s Living Mini.

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 11th, 2011 and is filed under Hearth.

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