Packs are important in that they are needed to store your gear compactly and securely and provide protection from physical damage and water. They must also allow you to carry them in reasonable comfort over the portages. Packs come in a variety of styles. Some are more suited than others when it comes to canoe tripping.
The number of packs you carry will be dependent on what kind of packs you are using and how you configure them. Many trippers carry only one large canoe pack with the camp gear and personal gear packed together. These packs can get quite heavy. Others prefer multiple lighter packs. We generally place three packs to a canoe. Two personal packs and one camp pack. These packs will weigh 30 to 40 pounds. The food bag may be in a camp pack or separate for easy storage later. If separate you may opt for a bear proof food container. In addition you may want to bring a small pack to carry essential items you may need throughout the day negating the need to dig in your main pack. I also carry a small pack with my fishing rod (telescoping) and tackle.
Canoe Style Pack
The following are the essential items you should have with you at all times. Consider it a survival kit. These items are obviously a part of your camping gear but they should be with you on day trips also. Though rare, there are numerous situations that may strand you overnight. Bring along a separate pack that will hold this equipment for those trips.
Appropriate Clothing – Anytime you travel you will want clothing accessible. Through the course of a days travel you will be adding and subtracting clothing as the day warms and cools. You will also want your rain gear accessible. All clothing, except rain gear, should be protected from rain and water.
Water – Everyone should start the day with a full container of purified water. You should have at least one quart/liter per person. If you are taking day trips be sure to bring your purifier along.
Map and Compass – Anytime you are traveling or away from camp someone in your party should have a map and compass. When going from lake to lake it is essential. If you are just cruising on your base camp lake you may get by without one. But remember as the shadows lengthen things start to look different.
Knife / Multi-Tool – When you are in the wilderness this is one of your most versatile tools. Its uses are numerous. A pocket “Swiss Army” knife has been a staple for decades. More recently the multi-tool “Leatherman” has become popular.
First Aid Kit – Since I just told you to bring a sharp object I feel it’s appropriate to bring a first aid kit. Seriously, though the above is true, anyone can become ill or injured at any time.
Food – When you are traveling have snacks and lunch accessible without unpacking. We usually pack cold lunches so we do not have to pull out all the cook gear. Having this food available will help you maintain your energy level.
Shelter – Keep a tarp accessible. If you encounter a storm you can deploy it as a shelter. One of the quickest and easiest shelters is to land your canoe(s), flip them over, and stretch a tarp over the top and tuck the corners under, crawl in the ends and tie down and hang on to the corners. Paddles can be used as poles if needed.
Fire Starter – Most fire starting kits are small and easy to pack. Therefore they should be taken with you at all times. If you are forced to spend the night away from base camp or if someone would become wet and cold, a fire will provide you with warmth and security.
Military ALICE Packs
Bear Proof Container