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What You Need To Know Before Your First Multi-Day Kayak Trip

Author: Helen Wilson

July 12, 2016

Multi-day kayaking trips can be a great way to connect with yourself, nature and your friends. Putting in for a couple of days helps shake off the normalcy of everyday life and add to the feeling of a trip’s adventure—you can simply go further and see more than you could in a single day. But before launching into that unknown body of water, there are a few things that should be considered to make your trip fun, safe and successful.

• Research the area where you will be paddling and figure out the best time of year to go. Some considerations should be weather conditions (including wind, hurricane seasons and daytime and nighttime temperatures), tourist seasons and daylight hours. In general, it's a good idea to aim for when the weather has the most stable and comfortable temperatures. The best time of year will depend on the location. For example, most Arctic regions have the most stable temperatures and the most daylight in the summer months. On the other hand, if you're paddling in Israel, the summer months may be too hot for you, and the fall might be better.

• Create a packing list. Have the list in a handy place, where you can constantly add to it. Make the list long, and narrow it down to what you really need before you go. Including a couple of small comfort items (such as chocolate) is sometimes just as important as the more practical items. Research the area that you’ll be traveling to. Bug nets, bug spray and sunblock should not be forgotten in many parts of the world.

• Make sure you have the right gear for the environment you’ll be paddling in. Kayaking, like many sports, can be very expensive, but don’t let the expense leave you unprepared. Safety gear, proper clothing for both land and water and navigation resources should accompany you. Test everything and know how it works before you take it on your trip. Things like leaky tents, torn neck gaskets and cracked day hatches can be not only uncomfortable, but can also present safety issues.

• Start to prepare your body for the rigorous challenges of being on an expedition. Paddling a couple of days a week is very different from paddling on a daily basis without the comforts of home. A regular exercise routine and a healthy diet, with lots of fresh vegetables, protein and sufficient drinking water, will help prepare you for an extended kayaking trip. Expeditions often result in weight loss, and it's very easy to eat a lot before you go, thinking of the expedition as a type of "diet." Try not to get into that mentality. A diet of cheeseburgers and pizza before an expedition will often lead to drowsiness, poor posture, headaches and just not feeling well. You're going on the expedition for fun, and a healthy body before you start will help you to enjoy it.

• In addition to physical preparation for your trip, it’s important to mentally prepare as well. Nature is a wonderful medicine for finding solitude, peace and harmony with both your surroundings and yourself. However, nature can also be tough, and can push you both physically and mentally. Plan for a way to deal with this. Often journaling can help. When stuck in a tent during a wind and rain storm, a journal can get help get your mind back on the right track, plus it’s a souvenir of your adventure. If you’re not into journaling, a small musical instrument or some waterproof paper and colored pencils can also be a way to calm your mind. Overcoming both physical and mental challenges are a big part of expeditioning, and as you look back on your expedition, you’ll often find that the challenging days stand out as being more special than the calm, easy days.

• Look at maps and charts and come up with a plan for where you’ll be camping. If possible, have two camps per night selected, with one being the distance that you hope to travel, and one being half to three quarters that distance. It’s always good to have a closer camp planned in case of prevailing weather/sea conditions, or just the desire to stop sooner.

• Finally, expect the unexpected. No matter how prepared you are, nature often throws a curveball or two. Accept and embrace what’s tossed at you, stay open to change and remember, the unexpected is what makes it an adventure.

Helen Wilson

Helen Wilson is a sea kayaker out of Arcata, California. She enjoys open ocean paddling in her skin-on-frame qajaq and can be found playing off the northern California coastline and in the lagoons several times a week. She’s never far from water and enjoys being underwater as much as being on the surface. She specializes in traditional paddling skills using traditional equipment. She competed in the Greenland National Kayaking Championship in 2008 (Qaqortoq, Greenland) and again in 2010 (Nuuk, Greenland), receiving five medals in four disciplines. In July 2014, Helen and her husband, Mark Tozer, will be returning to south Greenland to host their second commercial expedition.

Helen performs rolling demonstrations, presentations and instructs at events worldwide. She has written skills articles for several publications including Sea Kayaker magazine, The Masik and Ocean Paddler magazine. In May 1010, she released an instructional DVD, Simplifying the Roll with Helen Wilson. In September 2013, Helen and Mark released a second DVD, Yoga for Outdoor People. Both DVDs are available worldwide. She also serves as a board advisor for Qajaq USA.

Besides from being a kayaker, Helen’s other passion is yoga. She is a registered yoga teacher (RYT), and Greenland or Bust often includes Yoga for Padders as part of their programs.Contact Helen at [email protected]