If you take wilderness canoeing seriously, you'll want the best gear you can afford. Sure, you can get by with shoddy stuff - a lot of canoeists do - but only if being wet, cold and bug-bitten is part of your good time.
In his classic book, Camping and Woodcraft(Macmillan Press, 1917), Horace Kephart wrote: "I come (to the wilderness) not to rough it, but to smooth it!"
Kepart valued his comfort in the wild outdoors and was always on the prowl for better gear and better ways. He wrote:
"To be sure, even though a man rigs up his own outfit, he never gets it quite to suit him. Every season sees the downfall of some cherished scheme, the failure of some fond contrivance. Every winter sees you again fussing over your kit, altering this, substituting that, and flogging your wits with the same old problem of how to save weight and bulk without sacrifice of utility."
Like Kephart, I am always fussing with my stuff. Here are some tricks I've learned over the years-and some things to consider when you buy stuff for the long haul. Manufacturers please take note!
The bottom line is that single-mindedness can spell trouble on a wilderness river. Think "diversity" and you'll be in good hands. It's better to be a well-rounded mid-level paddler than a polished professional in one discipline. Not everyone shares the wilderness dream, but everyone can contribute to it.
Cliff Jacobson is a professional canoe guide and outfitter for the Science Museum of Minnesota, a wilderness canoeing consultant, and the author of more than a dozen top-selling books on camping and canoeing. www.cliffcanoe.com
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