One of our favorite parts of getting deep into the canyons on a multi-day river trip is liberating ourselves from our daily ‘necessities’ — no smartphone, no car, no problem. That being said, we’re not totally willing to give up all material possessions—especially if we’re talking about our beloved outdoor gear.
When packing for a river trip the most important thing to remember is that it’s not about how much you bring but rather what you bring that counts. So we put some of the leading industry gear to test on a multi-day river trip down the Green River’s Gates of Lodore. After all was said and done (and beer and food consumed), we’re confident these items belong on your next river trip as well.
Red Paddling Co. Stand Up Paddle Board
Standup paddling boarding is an amazing way to experience a river trip so long as you’re adding the right sup to the quiver. Characterized by a union of agility and stablity, Red Paddle Co.’s 9’6″ Wild MSL board ($1,349) is a great board to navigate the hairier and quicker rapids often encountered. With its wider (34-inch) and shorter (9’6″) figure, the board may sacrifice some speed for stability, but in Class III rapids, who’s really looking for the extra lick? And with its uber-stable 5.9-inch thickness, it handled such John Wesley Powell-named drops as Disaster Falls and Hell’s Half Mile with aplomb (even though its testers may have been kneeling), and had people clambering to use it on the flats between the canyon’s towering walls. It’s also tough, with its MSL Fusion construction bouncing off every rock we (accidentally) hit. The quad fin configuration on the Wild gives the board steady hold when getting tossed side to side, making it easier to find a line and stick to it. Make sure you’ve got the proper leash with a quick release feature when taking it out. Bonus: It makes a perfect lunch counter for those chicken salad on pita bread sandwiches when placed upside-down on a beach.
Big Agnes Camping Set Up
No river trip is complete without a night spent sleeping under the stars. Truly, it is one of the finer pleasures in life — that is until the rain begins to fall and you’re on hour 12 of being perpetually soaked. On nights like these we praise the Big Agnes Copper Spur tent for both its comfort and durability. Without packing too bulky, the Copper Spur offers a space as boundless as the open sky. Paired with the Q Core SLX sleeping pad and Dumont 30 sleeping bag, this all-star Big Agnes kit provides the sleeping experience you desperately need after the dramas and excitements from a day on the river. The Dumont 30 proud perfect for the cool canyon nights, the pad a welcome cushion from the sand, and the tent a perfect conduit to the stars above.
The little red BAP house in Steamboat Springs, Colorado is a great place for last minute gear or some local input.
MSR Camping Stove
What’s the one thing as important as a good crew of companions? A stove system to feed them all. In our opinion, MSR’s WindBurner Stove System Combo ($259.95) takes the literal cake. While the 2.5 L sauce pot and an 8” skillet are undoubtedly helpful aspects for feeding larger groups, it’s the efficiency features such as the windproof burner and the pressure regulator that make it stand out from the rest. While we used bigger stoves and pots for our main group feeds, we fired up the Windburner for early morning coffee to take on sunrise side hikes, and late-night quesadilla munchies. Featuring a ceramic-coated 2.5L sauce pot and an 8” skillet, this modular stove system is compatible with all WindBurner cookware and features a windproof radiant burner and pressure regulator maintain its performance in all conditions—even when a freak wind arose from down canyon. And all its components nest snug as a bug for easy, efficient packing, whether you’re backpacking or on a boat.
SealLine Dry Bag
When aiming for simplicity and convienence, SealLine’s Boundary Portage Pack more than fits the bill. Other than its guaranteed waterproof elements, the bag incorporates traditional backpacking straps into its construction to create a dry pack that is much easier to mobilize than any other. After packing up and down rafts everyday, this aspect is something that every river tripper can more than appreciate. Available in 36, 70 and 115L sizes ($104.95 – $134.95), the bags are constructed from a 100% waterproof, 19-oz vinyl-coated polyester body, and 30 oz vinyl-coated polyester bottom, with fully welded seams. Adding to its waterproofness is SealLine’s original DrySeal™ roll-top closure design, secured with side straps. For hauling, padded shoulder straps, with sternum strap and webbing waist belt, help you carry the load, whether from raft to camp or across a portage in the Boundary Waters.
Tenkara Fishing Rod
What self-respecting angler floating past the trout haven of Jones Creek wouldn’t want to bring a fly rod along? In particular, a Hane from Japan’s Tenkara, the original Tenkara system which goes from its packed-down un-rigged form to fully extended and usable in seconds flat? The key is a telescoping system that unfurls the rod in record time, before you even have a change to spook your quarry. Perfect for backpacking or stuffing in your dry bag, the rod weighs just 3.5 oz., with a closed length of just 15 inches. Pull it out, however, and cinch-hitch the line to its end with fly already on, and its 12 segments telescope out to a 10’10” trout machine. An 8-inch handle rests at the end for grip. While everyone else was de-rigging, we headed upstream to put it to use, using a quick flick of the wrist to cast it into unsuspecting pools below. I caught one (admittedly a hair small), and so did my friend Dan, bringing up its only tricky part: since there’s no reel, you have to keep an eye on the slack to set the hook. But it comes as naturally as the rod’s — and fishing style’s — place in angling lore. Info: www.tenkara.com.