Friday, December 28, 2012

Mississippi: Gear recommendations

My Feathercraft K1
Boat: Everyone we met in the river was in a Canadian canoe and telling from the few Mississippi blogs this seems to be the preferred type of boat. I was in a foldable kayak and would definitely recommend a kayak. Why? Although a Canadian is definitely more comfortable and much easier to pack than a kayak it has several disadvantages on the Mississippi. In a canoe you have much more wind resistance and in the constant southerly headwinds we were better of in a kayak. Next problem is the waves either created by wind or the barges' wake. Several times we got severely swamped which did not really affect us in our kayaks with a sprayskirt. On the other hand being swamped in a canoe can be a potentially very dangerous situation and a fellow canoe paddler lost several pieces of gear this way. Also paddling that late in the season I felt much better protected.against the cold, rain and wind. I used.a foldable kayak because I can travel with it, but if that had not been an issue a hardshell kayak would probably have been better in this low water year. My Feathercraft K1 fared very well in class 1 rapids and despite hitting rocks and dragging my boat around a lot there its hardly a scratch at the bottom of the boat. Brian with his Folbot Cooper on the other hand had holes in his boat already on day 2!  For such a long trip I would definitely recommend keelstrips to prevent damage. And of course a rudder is great in the wind. A kayak has less loading capacity but for me as an ultralight hiker that did not really matter. Plus you don't want to have to much stuff anyways because of the long portages in Minnesota.

Getting out of my boots
Boat cart: We did not have one but we could help each other carrying our boats. If you are on your own you will definitely need a boat cart for the portages before Minneapolis. And even with a boat cart these long and steep portages will be hell.

Mud boots: These are a very essential piece of gear for the Mississippi. We were lost without them getting in and out of the boat especially in colder temperatures. Don't buy them too small. Getting in and out of the mud boots while sitting in a kayak is a rather acrobatic effort and even more difficult with tight boots.

Foam mat: When it got colder we were smart enough to buy a cheap cell foam mat, cut it in half and put it into our boats. This cheap little device worked miracles: First it kept me much warmer as my legs were not touching the cold boat skin any more. Secondly it also helped to prevent the butt pain from sitting too long in the same position because it slightly raised my butt higher than my ankles and therefore prevented pressure on the Ischias nerve.

Ropes: Bring enough long ropes so that you are able to tie your boat every night. Do take that advice serious: Two other paddlers we met had lost their boats because they had not tied them.

Phone: Our smart phones were invaluable on this trip. We needed them to call the locks, make arrangements with our hosts, do research and check out the weather forecast. AT&T had the best coverage and Brian had reception every day.

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