The Kesagami River Solo Episode 1 Packing for the Expedition

The Kesagami River Solo Episode 1 Packing for the Expedition

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Introducing The Kesagami River 

Red line represents route of canoe travel.
Red line represents route of canoe travel.

The Kesagami isn’t just any whitewater river. Through it’s 35-kilometer whitewater section, it plunges 200-meters in a series of raging rapids, thundering waterfalls, and a plethora of portages before emptying into James Bay. I paddled this remote river and a stretch of the James Bay coast all alone. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share the adventure with you through a 16-part video series where I’ll cover the the skills, tips, and tricks I used along the way. Everything from shooting, lining, wading, and portaging whitewater, to preparing fish over the fire and, when necessity calls, treating nasty burns in the wilderness. Stay tuned, it’s going to be a great run!

  Episode 1: Packing For The Expedition 
I was frying up some beer battered Pickerel (Walleye) while camping on Lake Temagami. That’s when my stove took a tumble, and a frying pan, full of hot oil dumped all over my left hand. Don’t worry, the fish was alright. The next day, the blisters got really big and grotesque, it was pretty nasty stuff. Turn’s out I had second degree burns; I’d hate to know what 3rd degree burns feel like. It was a Dr. at the hospital in New Liskeard, Ontario who diagnosed me. I’d headed there after shoving off from Temagami and, I made sure I didn’t leave the hospital without a good refresher on treating burns. Warding off infection would be vital during the multi-week canoe trip I was about to embark on. The medical stop slowed my progress but before too long, I was almost in Cochran, Ontario, the jumping-off point for my big solo trip down the Kesagami.
Near town, I spread out my gear in a parking lot and double checked to make sure I had all I needed before it was time for my vehicle shuttle. You don’t see him in the video, but I’d prearranged a drive to the put-in with a local guy named Mark, he wasn’t too sure where I wanted him to go, and neither was I for that matter. I’d decided not to put-in at Upper Kesagami Lake, the usual starting point for a trip down the Kesagami River. Instead, I led Mark on a bit of a wild goose chase, trying to find another put-in off the two-track Rd. 2. The option shortens the over-all distance of the trip, a good idea I thought, because of my burnt hand. We were about as far north as you can get by road in Northeastern Ontario, when we finally reached the put-in. I unloaded the truck and looked at Mark with a nod, the last thing he said was, “I could be the last person to see you alive”.
 
Here are the key gear items I brought with me:
 
Eureka Taron 2 with fly on
Eureka Taron 2 with fly on

Tent: Think simple, dependable and waterproof. You want an easy-to-erect dome-style tent with a fly that covers the entire tent. I brought the Eureka Taron 2.

 

Canoe: You’ll need an expedition-grade canoe that can wrap around a mid-rapid boulder, then bounce back into shape. Choose an all-around hull design, such as that of the traditional prospector canoe. On the Kesagami, I used a 15′  Novacraft Prospector made of Royalex. Unfortunately though, Royalex is no longer manufactured. Nova Craft is currently leading the charge with a new, expedition-grade material called TuffStuff. Other new materials are set to reach the market in the near future.

15' TuffStuff Prospector by Nova Craft Canoe.
15′ TuffStuff Prospector by Nova Craft Canoe.

Paddles: Bring a long whitewater paddle and a shorter, multi-purpose paddle. I like the Grey Owl Hammerhead for whitewater and a Carlisle Outfitter for flat-water. Should I loose the Hammerhead in a rapid, the Outfitter would double as whitewater paddle.

Grey Owl Hammerhead  paddle
Grey Owl Hammerhead paddle
Carlisle Outfitter paddle
Carlisle Outfitter paddle

 

 

 

 

Food barrel: This protects your food from animals, impact and moisture. Plus, it floats, even when fully loaded, shoulder straps are sold separately.

Food barrel with straps
Food barrel with straps

Large dry bag: This is where you keep your clothes, tent, sleeping bag and ground pad. For extended trips, you’ll need one with shoulder straps that holds more than 100 liters. I like the Eureka Canoe Pack SS 115.

Eureka Canoe Pack 115
Eureka Canoe Pack 115

Small dry bag: Get a smaller, 20 or 30-litre dry bag to store things you may need to access quickly, such as your first-aid kit or sunglasses. Note: Don’t buy one of the clear ones because they puncture too easily.

MEC Dry Bags
MEC Dry Bags

 

Maps and compass: Use 1:50,000 scale Topo Canada maps and a modern, liquid-filled, orienteering style compass. I recommend the Brunton TruArc or Silva Ranger.  I also bring 1:250,000 topographic maps for my route which I keep waterproofed in my survival pack.

Brunton Tru Arc 20 compass.
Brunton Tru Arc 20 compass.

 

Canadian Topographic map by Topo Canada.
Canadian Topographic map

 

 

 

 

 

Lighters: Since a fire source is so crucial, I bring at least five lighters: one in my emergency kit, one in my pocket, one in my jacket pocket in a plastic bag and one in each of my dry bags.

Bic lighters
Bic lighters

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