Packing for a sea kayaking trip is similar to packing for any backpacking trip; however, you have the luxury of not carrying everything on your back! The remote nature of this expedition means that we must be truly self-reliant and able to respond to emergencies without assistance.
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.
|In 2023 we will continue to use our Big Agnes Battle Mountain 3. It is an amazingly well designed tent and has held up well to the extreme Arctic conditions. It does, however, have some flaws: 1) The outer fly does not extend to the ground, so in extreme winds, snow, or debris can blow under; 2) there are no windows in the outer doors, so it is difficult to spot bears while in the tent.|
|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.|
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.
|Our boats are waiting for us in Paulatuk, stored with Parks Canada. 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!
|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.
|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|
|We have instead decided to navigate mostly with CHS paper charts, using our Garmin eTrex22 and Garmin inReach Explorer+ as backup systems 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 friends and family. For shipping traffic and talking to each other we are carrying Standard Horizon HX870 VHF Radios, although these were useless in 2022.
Click on the links below to download a spreadsheet of the gear we took on the expedition – down to the nuts and bolts in the repair kit. Each year is slightly different.