Coastal Mountaineering

exploring BC's coastlines and mountain ranges

The Gear

Packing for a sea kayaking trip is similar to packing for any backpacking or wilderness camping trip. However, you have the luxury of not carrying everything on your back. Usually that means taking a few extra pieces of gear (like chairs or pillows), however, we have worked hard to slim down our kit to fit as much food as possible in the boats. While it is true that the gear for this trip is similar to what we would take on a standard sea kayaking expedition, the remote nature of the expedition means that we must also be truly self-sufficient and able to respond to emergencies and deal with equipment failures.

The extreme weather of the Arctic coast as well as advice from adventures before us, have led us to upgrade and rethink some of our gear decisions. Some of the notable changes are listed in the table below.

Somehow it all fits!
We have upgraded our tent to a Big Agnes Battle Mountain 3, which has been designed to withstand the extremes of the Himalaya and should suit us perfectly on the open Arctic Coast. Hopefully the tent will last until 2024!
Sleeping System
After years of experimenting to get the perfect sleep on trips, we have found what works best for us is a double-sleeping pad and sleeping bag system. We have a sleeping bag liner for additional warmth and cleanliness, as well as foam pads in case our sleeping pad suffers a puncture. Regrettably, we are leaving the pillows behind on this trip.

Our sleeping bag fits nicely inside our Ocoee Watershed Bag, where it stays perfectly dry and secure.
Cooking & Eating
Polar bears and wildlife are a concern on this trip. Most of our dinners consist of dehydrated meals from Good To-Go food that we can cook quickly and without any mess when we get to camp.

To limit time spent cooking we will plan on using a MSR Reactor to rapidly boil water. We will see if this is the most efficient method of cooking as it requires us to bring several compressed fuel canisters with us.

We are also carrying a small backup MSR PocketRocket stove incase the Reactor fails, as well as a MSR Universal for white gas. If all this fails, we expect to find driftwood carried north from the Mackenzie as far east as Cambridge Bay.
We have gone back and forth on which boats to take – ultimately deciding that plastic would be ideal for a trip of this nature, given our intent to drag the boats over the ice in the latter sections of the trip. That being said, we had fully expected to take our composite boats and ran out of time to purchase two plastic boats. Lindsay will be paddling a Current Designs Storm (Arnica); and Anthony will be paddling a Current Designs Solstice GT (Shadowfax).

Lindsay was able to secure a plastic kayak, which will be perfect for constant abuse; we will see how the fiberglass Solstice holds up!
New fiberglass paddles from Nimbus Paddles, made on Quadra Island in British Columbia. Although carbon blades are slightly lighter, we chose to have fiberglass blades for their durability. We have the Kiska and the Quinsam models.
Electronics & Camera
Our primary camera is a Sony a6000 with Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC and Sony E70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G OSS lenses. On the water we have an Olympus Tough TG-6. For at camp we are also travelling with a DJI Mini 2 Drone.

All of this is protected by two Nanuk Waterproof Cases (Nanuk 910 & 909).

And all of this is powered by rechargeable Li-Ion batteries and a Goal Zero Nomad 20 Solar Panel and Goal Zero Venture 75 Power Bank.
First Aid & Repair
We will each be carrying an Individual First Aid Kit in our deck-bags for everyday scrapes and cuts, as well as a more comprehensive First Aid Kit that will allow us to be comfortable for an extended duration in an emergency situation.

We are carrying two Repair Kits – one that is aimed at maintaining and repairing our immersion gear and one that is intended for larger boat and equipment repairs. We expect the extreme environment and daily wear-and-tear to require us to do constant boat maintenance and repair.

Lindsay is paddling a plastic boat that while more durable, will likely still require repair – especially at the bulkheads. Anthony has a fiberglass boat that, while less durable, is much easier to repair with the available materials.
Wildlife Encounters
Another topic of constant debate has been how to properly protect ourselves from polar bears and other potentially dangerous wildlife. We have decided based on all the available research to not carry a firearm for safety. Research has shown that bear spray is just as effective, if not more so, at preventing negative human-bear encounter. As climate continues to threaten polar bear populations, we think it is time to change the narrative that the only safe defense against polar bears is a lethal defense. Instead we will carry standard non-lethal bear safety equipment and rely on common sense, understanding of bear behavior, and bear avoidance strategies.

We will be carrying 3x Bear Spray, a Record Double Shot Launcher with 15mm Banger and Screamer cartridges, fired with 6mm blanks. We also have an air horn. Research suggests that polar bears in a wild setting respond strongly to noise deterrents.

Although research is limited, more data is emerging on the efficacy of using non-lethal bear deterrents in polar bear encounters. See below for a selection of articles:

WWF Norway, Safer People – Safer polar bears
“Bear spray is a very effective polar bear deterrent. At the WWF polar bear human conflict workshop, extra attention was paid to the use and effectiveness of capsaicin10-based deterrent spray on polar bears. Also known as pepper spray, and as a specially concocted bear deterrent known as bear spray, it can be an important part of one’s polar bear deterrent arsenal.”

IUCN Polar Bears: Proceedings of the 18th Working Meeting of the IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group
“He related a story of two people using bear spray to deter an adult female polar bear and her yearling at Pond Inlet, Nunavut. Although the evidence is limited, it provides further evidence that bear spray does appear to be effective on polar bears― bears were deterred in 14 of the 15 cases where bear spray has been used. The one unsuccessful case appeared to be a result of the wind carrying the spray away from rather than towards the bear.”

Polar bear attacks on humans: Implications of a changing climate
“We have records of 16 incidents in which bear spray was used successfully to deter polar bears, including incidents where other deterrents failed. Although bear spray was not used in any attacks reported here, it was used successfully to stop 3 attempted attacks by polar bears. In 3 other incidents in which bears exhibited persistent aggressive behavior, bear spray successfully altered the bear’s behavior after other deterrent efforts failed. Importantly, no humans or bears were killed or injured in the 16 incidents in which bear spray was used to deter polar bears.”

Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska
“Red pepper spray stopped bears’ undesirable behavior 92% of the time when used on brown bears,
90% for black bears, and 100% for polar bears [2 cases only]…Bear spray represents an effective alternative to lethal force and should be considered as an option for personal safety for those recreating and working in bear country.”

An Investigation of Factors Influencing Bear Spray Performance
“Our results provide no compelling reason to not carry bear spray in all areas where bears occur, even if it is windy or cold.”

Efficacy of firearms for bear deterrence in Alaska
“Our findings suggest that only those proficient in firearms use should rely on them for protection in bear country.”
Navigation & Communication
Disappointingly, Garmin and other companies no longer make dedicated maps or charts that are available for handheld GPS units that cover the majority of the Northwest Passage. I imagine this is a niche market, so I cannot hold it against them!

This has meant that we have instead decided to navigate mostly with CHS paper charts, using our Garmin eTrex22 and Garmin inReach Explorer+ as backup systems and to pinpoint our location.

Our primary tool for communication and weather reports will be the inReach. We are also carrying a SPOT Gen3 Satellite Beacon to update some friends and family daily. For shipping traffic and talking to each other we are carrying Standard Horizon HX870 VHF Radios.

Check out the link below to download a spreadsheet of all our gear for the first year. It is useful to list everything we are taking – down to the nuts and bolts in the repair kit – and how it is packed, to make our lives easier when we return to the boats in 2023.

Aside from some gear upgrades, the most expensive part of the trip has been purchasing food and shipping it north.

Click to go back to the main Northwest Passage page!

%d bloggers like this: