If you are wanting to branch out and explore kayaking destinations farther than a car ride away, here are a couple of logistical and gear considerations that might help you to travel and kayak far away from home.
Finding Local Resources
The first thing that I recommend is finding out about and from local resources. That includes people, clubs, instructors, outfitters and paddlers that know the area you're interested in. Maybe they do guided tours, or maybe they teach in these areas, or maybe they're just part of a club or paddling community in that location. They can be a great resource for information, and also can be a great resource on how to make it all come together. Whether it's renting gear, or advice on locations to paddle, or times during the year that some locations might be open to paddlers, you never know what you might find out unless you reach out to local resources that can help you make those decisions.
>>Looking for local places to kayak or canoe? Check out the Paddling Locations Map
I'll give an example: my friend Daniel and I wanted to plan a trip together. When we decided on exploring the Sumidero Canyon, he had a couple of kayaks himself and some of the gear that maybe we could have used for the trip. But he had been talking to Rafael, the owner of Mayan Seas Kayaks for a little bit and when we brought to Rafael the idea of us maybe going to this canyon, he was so enthusiastic of helping us outfit the trip that he actually wanted to come himself.
So, along with Danny, we ended up with a wealth of local knowledge to make this trip come together. If I had gone by myself to Mexico:
- I wouldn't have known exactly where to paddle.
- I would have never known of this particular location.
- If we hadn't hooked up with Rafael all of the logistics in terms of gear, transportation, how we would all meet up, how we would make it all work, wouldn’t have gelled so well.
It all organically came together and it became an amazing trip.
Now, let's shift to another way that you can explore a place that's far away. There are symposiums all around the world for paddling and they are usually open for anybody to join as long as you have the minimum requirements in skills for their particular event or trips. This is an area that I really love because getting to go to different symposiums puts me in contact with other paddlers, and it also I can take away not only a story from meeting these paddlers and seeing what they do in those specific locations but also I can always continue to push my learning, continue to push my paddling.
Usually for a symposium, let's say for example Lumpy Waters out on the West Coast, or the Hudson River Greenland Festival here in New York, there are different ways that you can set things up gear wise. A lot of times they'll rent kayaks, or an outfitter will be part of the event and will be able to provide equipment for you to use. Similarly, Qajaq USA has an entire fleet of skin on frame kayaks that are available at every event so if people come without a kayak or even if they come with one, you can still test one if you want. Sometimes they set things up so you can reserve them for a class, or for the day. When my wife and I went out to SSTIKS on the West Coast, we did a similar thing. I was able to try several kayaks, one each day by reserving one each time. That was a fantastic way of going to a symposium across the country without having to worry about having actual kayaks with us.
Lastly, you could always just find a trip that you're really interested in – for example, our circumnavigation of Moskenes in Lofoten, Norway with Kristoffer and Matt. For them, this is a yearly trip and they have everything sorted ahead of time so that they themselves have gear available, and are also in communications with an outfitter that will have all additional gear necessary. So if someone needs to rent gear from them, or if they're bringing their own gear, they can just come and be a part of the adventure.
Just like that, there are trips and tours all over the world available. If you pick a destination, and try to find local resources, you can then find out what kind of trips they provide, what kind of accommodations they might have. Another example, in Maine, there are trips that are bed-and-breakfast based where you actually have a guided tour that will go from bed-and-breakfast to bed-and-breakfast. Now, that's glamping in full style. You can be on the water all day, and then sleep in a comfortable accommodation in the evening. Some outfitters will offer a trip like that, and then on the flip side they will have a camping equivalent of the trip so if you want to rough it, you can, if you want to glamp it, you can as well.
Gear to Bring on Faraway Trips
Let's talk a little bit about gear that I like to take. My friends know that I usually come a bit over-prepared, but over the years I've managed to get my gear down smaller and smaller because I realized just how much I usually take that I end up not using. The main thing I would say is take with you everything that is important to you that fits just right. For example, a dry suit, neoprene, booties, or anything that's going be on your body and that you want fitting well. Those are things that if you rent you don't know really what you're going to get. Don't get me wrong, in many situations you'll show up and they'll have great equipment for you to rent. But if you want something to really fit and you're finicky about the way your gear fits, all of that stuff, try to take with you.
For example, anytime I go to a local event, I will usually bring extra gear with me just in case someone doesn't have it or just in case something breaks. I'll always have extra dry suits, extra dry tops, etc. I'll just bring them with me when driving, but if I fly somewhere I'll only bring whatever I know I'm going to use for sure. I like bringing my own skirt for example. I use a Reed skirt that fits me really well and it's very flexible, and because it's not very heavy it fits on a lot of different cockpit sizes. That's something that I love bringing with me because I know it makes a perfect seal on pretty much anything I wear. I used to use a Snapdragon skirt that was a lot heavier. It was great, but I wouldn't travel as much with it because it was just so much bigger and bulkier. The reed one is very thin, so I'm able to roll it up easily put it away in my luggage and take it with me.
Usually PFDs you can rent or borrow at events as well, or if you're going on a trip, often times local paddlers will have extra PFDs. If I drive to an event or a symposium, I almost always bring extras just in case someone is in need. So in that respect a lot of times you don't have to take one with you – but if you’re like me, I like the way my PFD is set up. I know how I like putting stuff away in it so a lot of times I'll deal with the bulkiness of traveling with my PFD just because I know it'll fit me and I'll be able to fit all my camera gear in there.
Helmets – if we are going rock gardening or are going to take surf lessons I usually like taking my own helmet because I like how it fits (it also has a camera mount on it…). I used to try to bring a two-piece paddle with me everywhere I went and years ago was a little easier traveling with a paddle. They used to let you bring them on the planes but now they don't as much. If you're taking a carbon paddle, a two-piece is harder nowadays unless you check it with a well-padded bag. Lately what I've been doing is I have a four piece that I've been using from Nimbus that I just throw it in my bag and usually it's been great.
Lastly, from the trips I've done thus far, when it comes to camping I try to take the things that I really feel most comfortable with. So, while you can't fly for example with gas for a stove, maybe you can use your stove top if you really feel comfortable with it and get gas when you land. Or, I like my sleeping mat because it packs down very small, so that's an easy thing to take. Same goes with a sleeping bag – I love my sleeping bag! I like taking with me if I know that I'm going to be sleeping outdoors. Next, my hammock. It's a really easy go-to that packs super small. Usually I like taking that with me as well. Tents can always be borrowed or rented, that’s an easy one.
Takeaways for Faraway Travel
Out of all of the gear the main takeaway I would say is if you can try not to check anything in that you must have at your destination. I know that sometimes that's a very hard thing to do because we want to take so much gear with us, but on the way there, on the way to your trip, especially if you don't have a lot of extra time between when you land and when the trip starts, things could get lost along the way.
For that reason I try to fit everything into my carry-on. We've had friends and other paddlers that their stuff has not reached the destination in time and then they're left scrambling. When we went to Lofoten we had a very tight window that we had to get from Oslo to Bodø and then from Bodø we had to catch a ferry that was four hours to Lofoten. Having all my gear with me the entire time just gave me a sense of security that I knew that my equipment was going to be there during all the flights. On the way back, if you want to check it in, that's not as big a deal because it can get to your house at any other time once you get home. But before an adventure, I like trying to fit as much as I can in my carry-on luggage and then prioritize based on that.
Another item to add, if it isn't a symposium or it isn't a guided tour, if you're just going to explore an area, local resources are really the way to go. It’s also in terms of when to go in, for backup plans in case the weather doesn't cooperate, etc. For a symposium, it's probably going to take place no matter what and the organizers have already taken into account when it's the best time for that symposium and backup dates. If you're just going to an area that you don't know it's always great to not only know what weather will be like when you're there but also probable and possible backup plans in case that falls apart.
The last thought I'll leave you with: Henrietta was a fellow paddler on our circumnavigation in Lofoten, and I loved her outlook to the trip. She had taken a two-week vacation from work. The first week she was doing the circumnavigation with us, and for the second week she was going wherever the Sun was going to be shining. She had left it open, she had the kayak on her car, had her camping gear, and was ready to go wherever it was going to be beautiful. I just wanted to end with that thought because it was so inspiring for me to hear.