The Kesagami River Solo Episode 10 Portaging and Double Packing

The Kesagami River Solo Episode 10 Portaging and Double Packing

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This portage was labeled “The Bog Walk” in an old guide book I read before my trip; it was just that. And the non stop rain wasn’t making it any better. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised though. The Hudson’s Bay Lowlands are the third largest wetland in the world. In some places I sunk well past my knee in the muck. What made the carry even tougher was that this was the last portage on a day that included a plethora of portaging. Not that this wasn’t the norm though, every day requires a lot of portaging while in the whitewater section of the Kesagami River, where the river drops 200-meters in 35-kilometers. The portage itself isn’t terribly long, about a mile, but the muskeg made it seem like it was double that. No doubt about it, this is the toughest portage on the Kesagami River. Filming it wasn’t easy either, that’s for sure.

The author double packs on a tough portage. Photo: Jim Baird
The author double packs on a tough portage. Photo: Jim Baird
Here are some key pointers for completing log, tough portages. 
• Pack a System: Have a system for carrying your gear that you use on every portage. When you get to the portage trail, ready your bags for the cary and go. I clip my Pelican cases to the handles of my food barrel, and strap my gun case, fishing net, and rod to the top of the barrel. Then I throw my canoe pack on top of the barrel and I’m good to go.
• Double Pack: You can also double back by wearing the second pack on your front. This can be dangerous on a rough trail as it makes it hard to see. If the bag on your front is large, it can also make it hard to step up. In most cases, I’d say it’s best to carry both packs on your back.
The Sitting Rest: As demonstrated in the video, it’s best not to take off both packs when resting. If you do, you’ll almost be out of energy just from shouldering he heavy food barrel. Throw off your canoe pack and use it as a seat. Sitting on it lengthwise will allow your food barrel to rest on it which will take the strain off your shoulders. It’s a good idea to do this on top of a small a hill, or where there is a tree in front of you to help you pull yourself up.
• The Standing Rest: Throw your canoe pack off and lean forward, to rest your hands on your thighs. This takes the weight off of your shoulders and feels great.
The author carrying his 15' Prospector. Photo: Jim Baird
The author carrying his 15′ Prospector. Photo: Jim Baird
• Play it Safe: Sometimes the trail is so rough or over grown that it’s unsafe or impossible to carry two packs. In situations like this, remember that you can make two trips over these tough portions of trail.
Play Leap Frog: If the portage is really long, especially one that will take over one day, it’s best to leap frog your gear. This means you won’t be separated by any of your stuff for a long distance. It also means you’ll never have to walk as far with a given load on your back. Carry half of your outfit for a god stretch, leave it on the trail and then go back for your second load. When you get back to your first load, switch loads and proceed to the end of the trail. If there is no trail, it can be hard to find exactly where you left your stuff. Mark it’s location with your GPS.
• Carry What You’ll Need: If you start a long portage late in the day, it likely makes sense to portage until it’s almost dark and make camp trail side. This is not a good time to realize your tent, food, and water tabs are back at the trail head. In situations like this, make sure you have what you need with you.
The author nears the end of a portage on the Kesagami River Photo: Jim Baird
The author nears the end of a portage on the Kesagami River Photo: Jim Baird

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