Bloodvein River Trip – My Personal Gear

Bloodvein River Trip – My Personal Gear

Bloodvein River view from near Namay Falls
The Bloodvein flows through truly wild and remote country. A trip like this requires you to choose your personal gear wisely. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
People are always interested in other people’s gear.

It’s certainly an area I’m asked a lot of questions about.

As I get older, I’m less and less interested in outdoor clothing and equipment for any reason other than function and reliability.

That said, I understand it can be instructive to compare and contrast with the experience of others.

Also, I hate having too much clobber with me on journeys. In this respect my decisions always come back to function.

Simple is good.

With this in mind, given the interest in our recent Bloodvein river trip, I thought I’d lay out the personal kit I took with me for this two-week journey.

Those who have followed this blog for some time (or have read many of the articles more recently) will notice that much of my gear does not vary – over the years, or from activity to activity.

Bloodvein River Trip Personal Gear – Main Components

I packed three main luggage components:

  • Portage pack
  • Daysack
  • Camera case

In addition I had the following items:

  • Buoyancy aid/Personal floatation device (and contents – see below)
  • Throw-bag
  • Helmet
  • On-person items (see below)
  • Shirt, trousers and river shoes (not shown in the photos)
portage pack, day bag, camera case and other on-person items
All the personal kit I took on the two-week Bloodvein River canoe trip. Photo: Paul Kirtley

On-Person Items


When canoeing in mild conditions I wear a Swedish military surplus M59 shirt. I also use these while teaching courses in the summer months. They are comfy and inexpensive.


I use Fjallraven. The G1000 fabric is hard-wearing and dries quickly. For canoeing I’m still using Foresters but Fjallraven don’t produce this model any longer. There are plenty of other good models to choose from though. I also use Fjallraven trousers (Vidda and Barents) generally, including while teaching courses in the UK.


I take a classic Tilley T3 hat for sun/glare protection.

I don’t bother with specialist paddling clothing or separate clothes for camp. I spend 6 months of the year in this kind of get up and I find it comfy and functional.


My river shoes are 5.10 Canyoneers. They are extremely grippy. They are also comfy with plenty of ankle support. I wear them for portage trails too. Inside I wear some old wool hiking socks (one pair lasts me two weeks).

Belt and Pockets

I wear a leather belt on my trousers and on this I hang a PK1 Wilderness Knife (I’m still using the prototype) and a Bahco Laplander saw.

In my left pocket is a Swedish FireSteel 2.0 attached to my belt with a paracord lanyard.

In my thigh pockets I keep a Fallkniven DC4, a small cuts kit (as described here), a spare set of contact lenses, a hank of paracord and an XXS Exped drybag containing a thin Moleskine notebook (like this) and medical details (in an Aloksak), a small pen and a Mini-Sharpie.

With the exception of the river shoes, this is exactly the same on-person set up as I use when running wilderness bushcraft skills training programmes in the UK.

Or should I say, the on-person set up that I use while running wilderness bushcraft skills courses in the UK is what I actually wear on wilderness trips.

Canoeing Safety Gear

Buoyancy Aid

My buoyancy aid (PFD) is set up pretty much as I describe here but there have been a few changes:
a) the whistle is now inside the LHS pocket to reduce snag risk;
b) the old combat dressing has been replaced by an Israeli dressing;
c) I’ve added this Spyderco Paramilitary knife as a rescue knife/general folder;


The throwline is a 20m Palm ‘Alpine’ with 11mm line. It’s a heavy duty throwline that can also be used for unpinning boats (Ray had pulleys and karabiners on this trip so I didn’t bring mine) as well as lining when the painter is not long enough or you need a bridle. Ray and Malcolm on the trip had lighter weight HF throwlines. This was by design, so that we had a range of options open to us.


My helmet is by Pro-Tec and comfy. I also like the fact it is a low key matt black. I have fitted a GoPro mount on it (I use the Hero 3 Black Edition).

Main Portage Pack

The main portage pack I used on this trip was by Cooke Custom Sewing. This was supplied by our outfitter and I was very pleased with the design as well as the quality of materials and construction. These packs fit very well in our boat (two of these packs plus a barrel pack fit the length of a 16ft boat with little play for them to slide around). The packs were comfortable on the portage with good support from the substantial hip belt and shoulder straps. There are also some very well-thought-out design features, such as the lifting loops at the top and bottom of the bag for when the sack is lifted horizontally into or out of the boat.

Contents of Paul Kirtleys portage pack
The contents of my main portage pack. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Ortleib Bag #1

A 32 litre (I think) Ortleib bag containing:

Sleeping Bag

Down sleeping bag by RAB. This is a 1997 vintage 2-3 season bag which is still going strong as my summer exped bag. On the frosty nights of the Bloodvein trip, I had to put on a merino top and wool beanie to stay cosy. These are things I would have with me anyway, even if I had a heavier sleeping bag. So this tactic is part of the plan to keep weight down.

Sleeping Mat

Thermarest Prolite sleeping mat. This is a three-quarter length Thermarest. It weighs very little and packs down very small. I find it very comfortable. My sleeping bag and sleeping mat combined weight not much more than 1kg (2.2lbs).

Chilly Pack

This is one of my standard packing ‘modules’ that I almost always pack wherever I’m headed. It consists of a Granite Gear stuffsac containing a few small, relatively light items which make a big difference if the temperature drops (as it did overnight a few times on the Bloodvein trip). The pack contains the following:

  • Merino base layer by Howies. A good quality, zip-necked merino wool baselayer. Similar can be had from Icebreaker.
  • Ulfrotte balaclava. A versatile item that can be used as a hat or neck-warmer as well as a balaclava.
  • Wool finger gloves.

Miscellaneous Tent Items

  • T-shirt for sleeping in.
  • Book for bedtime reading.
  • iPod, 160GB for music and podcasts.
  • Contact lenses.
  • Spectacles.

The above “tent bag” contains everything I need in the tent bar my head-torch, which I will have been using before I need the above kit. Hence I keep the latter in my daysack (see below) where it is easily accessed. Once I have set up my tent, I just put the tent bag inside my tent and that’s me done. It takes 5 minutes. I unpack the tent bag only when I get into my tent for the evening.

Ortleib Bag #2

This is the same size Ortleib bag as bag #1, containing spare or less frequently used items:

Spare underwear and socks.

Spare shirt. Another Swedish M59 (see above)

Spare trousers. A second set of Fjallravens (see above)

Ditch kit, consisting of the following:

The ditch kit is used only if I get wet by falling into the water. It allows me to get highly effective warm layers onto my upper body quickly. I can then either keep my wet trousers on or use the above-listed spare set to change into. The plan also contemplates the possibility of my already having been wearing my waterproofs. Specifically, the Buffalo shirt is not only a great warm garment that does not depend upon layering, the Pertex outer also has a good degree of water repellancy and continues to perform well even with a wet Gore-tex jacket on top of it.

Heavy fleece for colder evenings and mornings. My faithful Swazi Back 40 fleece with hood. It pairs very well with my waterproof jacket (see below for more details).

Guide books, maps and field guides. If the guide book – such as Hap Wilson’s Wilderness Rivers Of Manitoba – is sizeable, then I’ll just take photocopies with me in order to save space and weight. Maps also live in the same place (in a 12″x12″ waterproof Aloksak pouch). I normally take a selection of relevant field guides with me, reflecting my interests and the season. On the Bloodvein trip I took books on trees, plants and berries. I wish I’d taken one on fungi too (note for next time).

Other Main Portage Pack Items


The Hilleberg Akto is generally my first port of call for a one-man tent. It is roomy and light weight. This tent has done many trips with me over the last 7 years, from the Brecon Beacons to the Bloodvein.

Wash Kit Bag (yellow Granite Gear sack) containing:

For more info on wash kits and hygiene in the bush, watch this video on my YouTube channel.

Group First Aid Kit. This was the only thing in my personal kit which was not just for me. As joint leader of the trip, I carried the group first aid kit. This is a PLCE side-pocket sized first responder kit which we put together at Frontier Bushcraft for our courses and expeditions. I’ll cover the contents of this in a future article. I mention it here only for the sake of completeness in listing what was in my pack.

Axe Small Forest Axe by Gransfors Bruk. The best compromise between functionality and portability, this half-size axe deserves its popularlity.

Folding Bucksaw Lightweight and compact for the cutting power, this fits perfectly down the side of the CCS portage pack. Learn how to make one here.

Travel Tripod. The superb (and expensive) Gitzo 1541 Carbon Fibre tripod. Compact and lightweight yet fully functional as a solid support for my DSLR.

Camp boots. Rogue RB1 boots. These are years old and comfy as slippers around camp. Very grippy on bare rock. They are not waterproof, however, so I pair them with SealSkinz socks. Perfect.


Day Pack and Contents

The pack itself is a Karrimor SF Sabre 35. This is paired with an Ortleib drybag, which is much larger than the main compartment of the bag. It’s about 50 litres (I think) but like the other Ortleib bags I use, is not labelled in any way. Further it does not correspond to anything I can find on the Ortleib website, which I find confusing and at odds with what I regularly find in retail outlets (old stock?). The more time I spend in North America, the more I’m moving towards Sealline but I’ll use the Ortleib bags as long as they last.

Anyway, the idea here is to have everything I need during the day to hand. Unless I need the ditch kit (see above), I should not need to go into my main portage pack from when I fasten it in the morning to when I set up camp in the evening. My daysack also tends to contain bits and pieces that are valuable or too small to fit in larger bags/compartments.

Waterproof jacket

The superlative Swazi Tahr. Good while in a boat or in the woods.

Waterproof Trousers

I use the old Swazi bib trousers which are no longer produced. Very comfy, warm and waterproof. Heard wearing knee patches too. I didn’t use them at all on the Bloodvein trip. I expect, as usual I’ll be wearing them continuously on the next River Spey trip.

Light fleece

I like a light fleece pullover for when there is a chill in the air or for wearing under a waterproof when I’m active on cooler, wet days. I use a Berghaus microfleece top like this. It’s a pretty generic design but the quality of construction and materials is good.

Warm hat

Merino beanie.


Silver Expedition 15TDCL. My favourite fully featured compass, as discussed here.


Surefire Saint Headtorch. Bomb proof, bright, infinitely adjustable head-torch that will take 2xAA (alkaline or lithium) or 3x CR123 lithium. In a stuff sack with several sets of spare batteries; I’ve had this head torch for around four years and it is no longer produced. It is superb, however, but the world of headlamps keeps moving on! Check out the latest Surefire Headlamps here.

Personal First Aid Kit.

As described here, except that the First Field Dressing has been replaced with an Israeli Bandage.


Small SealLine See-thru Drybag containing wallet, phone, passport.

Other Equipment

GoPro camera add-ons and spare batteries.

Daysack Side Pocket #1


I always like to have a metal mug (as discussed here). At present I’m using the BCB Crusader II mug, aluminium hard anodised and proving very good so far.

Water Bottle

In conjunction with the BCB Crusader 2, I’m still using the Nato water bottle, which fits inside the mug.


Generally the only cutlery I pack is a spoon. I have a folding knife too. The spoon I use for international trips is a Snowpeak titanium spoon.

BCB Crusader 2 in use on canoe trip in Canada
This newer hard-anodised aluminium BCB mug is one I’ve been trying out over the older, heavier stainless steel Crusader mug design. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Daysack Side Pocket #2:

This pocket is perfecly sized for a Peli 1050 Micro Case with a home made insert to house my Leica D-lux 5 camera and a spare battery. While I had my DSLR on this trip, the Leica has a great macro function as well as shooting decent video on auto settings (good for capturing action at the drop of a hat).

Camera Case

For this trip I took my “big camera”. I use a Pelican 1450 case to house it, the main lenses I need and the accessories.

Peli case containing Nikon D800, lenses and accessories
Contents of my Peli case. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Main Photographic Camera Equipment

Camera Body

Nikon D800. This 36.3 megapixel full frame digital SLR is simply the best camera I’ve ever owned. Often these days taking a full size DSLR is a hindrance, particularly when there are so many good compact, travel and bridge cameras around. To my mind, however, a wilderness trip such as the Bloodvein River deserves the visual treatment this camera can provide.

General Lens

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 17-35mm f2.8 lens. This is a discontinued lens which I’ve owned since I used a F100 35mm camera. Still excellent quality and very good in low light, it makes for a very good general lens for travel and landscapes. I’m enjoying getting the most out of it again paired with the D800.

Ray Goodwin tending fire
The 17-35, f2.8 is a great general lens for travel and landcapes. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Long Lens

Nikon Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens. Another discontinued lens. Superseded by the newer, superior, AF-S version. Brought with me for long distance nature shots. While this is not a cheap lens by any standard, compared to the quality of the D800 and the 17-35 lens, this telephoto zoom is a little lacking in clarity. Wide open it’s somewhat soft around the edges and it washes out colours generally (not so much of a problem if you shoot in RAW). Yet in the context of an expedition, an 80-400mm lens makes sense. You have a wide range of focal lengths available in a relatively compact package. Plus, most of the time, I was shooting with the general 17-35mm lens. In the right light, the longer lens delivers some superb shots. It needs plenty of light and a fast shutter speed but paired with the 17-35, I find I don’t need any other lenses on a trip like this.

Bald eagle perched in dead tree
The 80-400mm needs to be used fast and preferably not quite fully open. Here with the lens at 300mm 1/2000th of a second at f6.3 produces a good, crisp image. Vibration reduction on; ISO 400. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Spare Batteries

Four spare Nikon EN-EL15 batteries (plus one in the camera). Overkill if you are just taking stills but shooting video drains the batteries very rapidly.

Data Cards

I shoot in RAW and the 36.3MP sensor in the D800 produces 80MB files. You need big cards. I use 64GB Sandisk Extreme Compact Flash Cards. I also fit a 64GB Sandisk Extreme Pro SD card in the D800 (it has dual card slots) to capture any video I might want.

Other Accessories

In the Peli case I also indlude a Nikon cable release for use in conjunction with the tripod (see above) as well as lens cleaning items.

Aurora borealis
You need a tripod and cable release to capture images such as this, which was taken with a 10 second exposure. A full frame sensor also makes a big difference. It was definitely worth the extra few kgs that carrying this photographic equipment entailed. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

I hope this sheds some light on my thinking regards to my personal equipment for this trip as well as my rationale for choosing certain items over others.

I’m always interested to read your comments and opinions. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog:

Six Men, Three Boats and The Bloodvein: Canoeing A Wilderness River

What Gear To Pack For A Day Hike In The Woods

A Personal Wilderness First Aid Kit: What To Include?

A Bushcraft Camping Outfit – Equipment For Living In The Woods

Cliff Jacobson and Camping’s Top Secrets

Essential Wilderness Equipment – 7 Items I Never Leave Home Without

Featured Products From Amazon:


38 thoughts on “Bloodvein River Trip – My Personal Gear

  1. I loved the Bloodvein River trip write up and meant to comment, but I’ve been having internet issues so will quickly type this up whilst I have access.

    Many thanks, as ever, for the quality of work you share with us (FOR FREE, let’s not forget folks) – it is always hugely appreciated. I have pored over every article here and on the Frontier site several times (some more than that). Good stuff.

    One question I thought of whilst reading this article relates to contact lenses. I’ve recently (last year) started wearing my glasses full time, which is not a problem in “civilisation” (at least not that much of a problem), but they become irritating to wear when it is raining, or there are sunny spells, or I’m near spray, or… the list goes on. Basically, I’ve been looking at contacts, and I wondered what sort you wear?

    I had a quick chat with my optician recently and will be trying daily disposables as he thought they’d suit the long periods I spend outdoors. The only problem I have with these is my issue with waste and our disposable culture, but I’d rather not risk wearing dirty contacts – which is what the optician suggested may happen with any other type.

    Thanks again, as ever.


    1. Hi Alex,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m happy you enjoyed the Bloodvein write up and appreciate the time it takes me to put these articles together. It’s something I love doing though and particularly with trips such as the Bloodvein, where not every reader – for numerous reasons – would ever be able to accompany Ray and I on such a trip, it’s great to be able to share something of the trip itself but also some of the insights and lessons, which others may be able to benefit from and apply more widely.

      With respect to contact lenses, I too wear daily disposables and find them perfectly serviceable on trips such as this. As long as your fingers are not horribly grubby (or you weren’t the one chopping the fresh chilly the evening before), they are quick and easy to pop into your eyes in the morning with little trouble. There is of course a chance they are removed from your eyes if you take a swim but that is also the beauty of a daily disposable compared to a monthly for example – it costs less financially if you lose one. This was actually the reason I started with daily disposables but in a different context – that of fighting on the ground during Ju Jitsu sessions, where the close contact meant there was always a chance of lens being lost.

      I just make sure I have a spare set on my person in case one comes out or I have a problem with one.

      With respect to environmental concerns, I share your distaste for excessive packaging in general. That said, if you are using dailies, then you are not using contact lens solution (which comes in a plastic bottle), nor are you using the plastic containers which store lenses when you take them out (and also need replacing on a fairly regular basis).

      I hope this helps.

      Warm regards,


  2. Thank you for this excellent overview – so much detail. Thank you!

    Especially thought provoking:
    Cold kit, ditch kit, group gear, camera tips…

    Also good to find similarities with my own systems thinking.

    Really appreciate all the effort you put into your blog, Paul. We learn and we are inspired!

    1. Hi Susanne,

      It’s good to hear from you – I’ve enjoyed seeing your paddling videos posted to Facebook groups this summer. Subbed your YT channel now too šŸ™‚

      Thanks for reading and commenting – I really do appreciate it.

      Keep in touch.

      Warm regards,


      1. Hey, thank you very much.

        I find so much to enjoy and learn from in your blog and generally in your approach.
        This tends also to be aesthetically pleasing.

        My main next adventure will be the BCUK Arctic trip to the Boreal Forest near Kittila in Jan.
        I have been there end of Jan a few years running with locals and a few guests, but this time its with a UK crew. Heaven….
        (-47c last time… wow that needed a bit of extra attention paying, especially when mushing…)

        I may do a 3-4 day solo “Autumn Beauty” fell-running thing through the Stubai Alps near Kuhtai before that…and/or the East Face of Watzmann. The 7 day solo fast & light thing in the Karwendel has really turned me onto the possibilities of these mountains for runners… But you do have to be strong.

        Please keep all of your good stuff coming!

        We love it.

        Very respectfully,


        1. Hey Susanne,

          You are very welcome. I look forward to your future videos. That said, there are quite a few on there I haven’t seen yet. In particular, I’m interested in your 7 day solo fast and light video, which I’ve seen on your channel but not had chance to watch yet.

          Funny you should mention the BCUK Arctic Trip – earlier I was answering some winter/night-time photography questions via Facebook messaging. One of the guys who went on the trip this year wants to improve the results he gets with his photos next time around. It sounds like there is a better chance of it being properly cold again next year with the decision to undertake the trip in January.

          I’ll certainly keep the articles (and videos) flowing. I have some more winter material in the pipeline amongst other things…

          Thanks for all your positive feedback.

          All the best,


            1. šŸ™‚ Maybe one year but my diary is already committed well into 2015. I’ll look forward to reading the accounts/watching the videos though…



  3. I very much enjoyed reading about this trip. Well written, as usual. Good to see you in North America. The photos were very nice. I like your choices of clothing. A great variety of clothing is available online and otherwise in the states. But, quality comes at a high price. I’ve found that by buying military surplus goods out of Europe from U.S. suppliers, I get high quality items at a very reasonable price. I have not been disappointed yet. I have everything from tents to Nuclear Biological and Chemical suits, clothing from hip boots to hats for all seasons. UK, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, German, Italy, Bulgaria, and others are represented. This is the only way I could afford all of my survival gear. “Hats-off” to you and your neighbors. I looked at many of the product links you provided with added interest. You were well equipped on your trip. You did mention knee-pads. I recommend the type with adjustable buckles for canoeing. The type with elastic bunch up behind the knees and cause chafing. One thing I might suggest is that you consider (on such a long trip) a small solar panel device/battery charger to avoid having to carry so many extra batteries. Or as a back-up. And, I think a small fishing kit including a take-down rod would be nice to have. One thing that I am now going to look into is a buck-saw to compliment my folding saw. I’m sure they are much more efficient. I add a small machete for tasks not suited for my axe. I suffer from the desire that so many of us “Yanks” suffer from. I carry the usual electronic trappings such as GPS and cell phone, I take reading materials in the form of survival and bushcraft how-to and a good read by some well-known woodsmen from the past. Thanks for taking us along on this wonderful journey. I may get to do the same someday.

    1. Hi Clay,

      Thanks for your comments – I’m glad you appreciated the photos. It’s interesting to read your comments about quality equipment and European surplus in this context. It’s good to know that you’ve been able to gain some value from this.

      You are right, I didn’t mention knee pads or kneeling mats, the reason being the boats we hired had fantastic foam pads glued into them. I left my Bell Canoe Works kneeling mat – which I’d normally use – in my duffel bag with the outfitter.

      I would also normally take a Shimano telescopic rod but it is in a box at the back of a storage unit having moved some of my kit around. I simply didn’t have time to collect it before I departed for the trip. One of the other guys on the trip had a similar rod and I really wish I’d had the chance to grab mine. Oh well, next time…

      As for electronics, we did have GPS as well as a satellite phone, but these were more group/leadership considerations and not in the kit which was in my boat.

      In terms of charging batteries, one of the guys on the trip had a Power Monkey set up like this, with a solar charger but it’s a small panel and it seemed it needed long exposure to strong sunlight to gain any real charge. Having that thing loose in the boat became a real hindrance as it needed to be packed away at any rapid which needed portaging or lining. A set up that makes more sense in this context is one where a larger unit is glued onto the outside of a Peli case (such as the 1450) and the lead is run though a hole drilled in the case before being epoxied in place to maintain water-tightness. Batteries can then be charged inside and the whole thing can be lifted and carried just as a normal Peli case can, with no further “faffing” around packing things away or securing them from being lost to the water…

      Out of interest, what solar system do you use?

      Thanks for your interest and coming along on the virtual journey with us šŸ™‚

      Warm regards,


      1. I have the Goal Zero Nomad 13 Watt Solar Panel that can be draped over a backpack while hiking. It is water resistant and can withstand a rain. As any small unit, it can take hours to charge a device or power pack. So, exposure to direct sunlight is a must. The Goal Zero Sherpa 50 power pack is recommended as the power pack to use with the panel for faster charges. But. I try to use AA batteries when possible for lighting, GPS etc… Therefore I purchased, instead, two of the Goal Zero 11406 Guide 10 Plus Silver Battery Packs that each charge four rechargeable AA batteries and each of those have USB outlets on them. The solar panel has a knit bag for carrying the power packs while being charged. I also have 3 other much more powerful power packs from other makers that are not much larger than a cell phone. The solar panel will also charge those. I carry a laptop at times, 500GB drive loaded with 350 movies, as well as 20+ discs with over 3000 books on them. As you can imagine, my two wheeled travois cart or snow sled are needed when i carry all of the extra gear. In cold weather it is best to keep batteries near your body warmth to avoid their running down fast. I’ve done some research on a satellite phone to use where cell phone service is not available in the Rocky Mountains, where I spend most of my time.

        There is a more powerful solar unit available than the one linked to here.
        http://tinyurl.com/nrfc2cv Goal Zero Nomad 13 Watt Solar Panel
        http://tinyurl.com/mblnclc Goal Zero 11406 Guide 10 Plus Silver Battery Pack

  4. Dear Paul,
    I always think…what can surprise me next…you do…with the quality of blog and articles…they have improved and evolved over time. I have faithfully read every article and this has been a great help for me ever since my interest in nature, bushcraft started…. This articles adds to the others in gear, camera, bags,how to pack ur kit, kit under 100. the axe..et all….and it gives your insights on how you have changed grown. I certainly do reflect back on the things I have …now…as a result..am grateful for your insights, improvements and suggestions.
    Your scenic blood vein trip, picturlogue…is similarly gripping.

    This is to say thank you, do continue in your articles.

    1. Hi Leena,

      As always you’re so kind. I’m happy you have found so much of value in my blog and I always appreciate your participation in comments and discussions here. Thanks so much for bringing such enthusiasm to my blog. I will certainly continue as long as I have readers such as you.

      Warmest regards,


  5. Paul, congratulations on a successful trip. Your write up and photos were great. I especially like your ‘dump kit’. Like you, as I age I am less interested in kit and more interested in skill and process. The bloodvien is spectacular wilderness. Paul

    1. Thanks Paul.

      As always, it’s nice to hear from you.

      Skill and process are definitely where it’s at for me. Plus, of course, the delights you see along the way on a journey.

      All the best,


  6. Hi Paul (and all),

    I found it interesting that six people all had subtly different approaches to kit based on their background and experience. I took specialist canoeing waterproofs (Peak dry trousers and Palm Oceana Cag). Fortunately for my sanity, it was at times cold and wet enough for me to wear this kit in cheerful comfort and I never regretted the additional weight.

    My only other luxury item is my down filled sleeping mat, on which I have never had a cold or uncomfortable night. I also find that by upgrading my mat, I can get away with a lighter bag for longer in the season and so my much loved Alpkit 2-3 season bag kept me toasty even as it noticeably cooled in the second week.

    One thing I really enjoy about these expeditions is the simplicity of having so little. In the end, all of life comes down to the contents of four or five dry bags. Once we were a couple of days in, everything had found a natural place and I never lost anything because it was always in the only place it could be.

    Stuff I didn’t need:
    I took a hydration bladder and a flask that I didn’t really need. Although if the weather had cooled much more I may have used the flask to take a hot drink on the water each day.

    Stuff I did need:
    If we had been there much longer and the weather had continued to cool I would have needed a buff or other neck covering and some long johns. I also didn’t take enough reading material – I was slightly jealous of Ray’s e-reader. I was also impressed with the usage that TC got from his small personal tarp, on the days when we had to pack wet tents TC largely managed to stay dry.

    Really enjoyed learning from each other’s approaches.

  7. “As I get older, Iā€™m less and less interested in outdoor clothing and equipment for any reason other than function and reliability.” I totally agree with this statement. When I first started, I bought things willy-nilly simply because someone on youtube recommended it. I have to admit, I did waste a lot of money on things that were, quite simply, junk. Now I have pared down the stuff I had accumulated, and am left with a core of gear that is functional, and a lot less weight to carry! Keep up the good work, Paul!

  8. Skills and process and intense joy are the name of the game…

    And reducing unnecessary suffering….

  9. Great article as usual Paul, could have done with that before the Ardeche!

  10. Brilliant read, detailed and thorough as always. Many thanks for sharing your trip with us.

  11. Hello Paul, thank you for this article about your gear. It’s always interesting to see what others take on a wilderness journey. My kit compares with yours. Simple and functional, a few items have been with me over 30 years. “Use it up, make do and wear it out” is my motto. I’m whats known as a “dirtbag” camper, and scour used stores for choice items.

    Once a fellow canoeist (who happened to be what we call a “gear head” with all the latest and best), mentioned my stuff had patches and my mess pot was dented and blackened with soot. He said, “Everything you have is old”. My reply? “Everything you have is new!” Maybe we both were a little elitist, but in different ways.

    It’s been a pleasure corresponding with you.


  12. Hi Paul

    THANKS for this follow up, can you tell me the best place to buy Ortlieb dry bags from?



  13. Wow, I’m impressed with myself, I counted 13 items that I already use and most of them seemed to be even the same colour! I second the recommendation of Alpkit & a buff. I use a Powermonkey which kept my iphone charged for a 36 day camp this summer but dull days were generally not often enough to give a problem. I’ve glued foam mats to the bottom of my Old Town and made pads for the thwarts so can switch the canoe around depending on the wind direction or tide.

    1. Hi Neil,

      I shold have mentioned that I also took a powermonkey extreme and used it to recharge my iphone 3 or 4 times during the trip. I did not bother taking the solar panel because I have found it ineffective in more northern climates and is just something else to carry around. Instead I just charged it from the mains before I left and it still had plenty of juice left by the end.

      I kept my iphone in “flight mode” while on the trip and just used it for taking pictures (and a bit of video) / looking at pictures, listening to music in the late evening and making occasional notes for myself. I found it would run up to 4 days on one charge like that.

      I took more electronics with me last time and it seemed burdensome so I really committed to keeping it simple this time, and I am happy with that decision.


  14. Hi Paul,

    Great photos! That trip looks amazing. Also thanks for the overview of your equipment. Very informative. Being new to bushcraft myself I always like to read the experiences of others. Would you perhaps have some advice on what’s a good trouser to start bushcraft with? I don’t want to buy a top of the line pants right away, though. On my last hike I learned that jeans aren’t much good in the rain. With the autumn and winter approaching, I think it’s time to invest in better quality pants šŸ˜‰

    Thanks for your great blogs.



    1. Hi Sander,

      Thanks for your comments. As a general piece of advice for trousers, go for something tough and fast drying. A polycotton or synthetic/cotton mix is good in this respect. Avoid 100% cotton or heavy fabrics. If it is very wet, wear some waterproof overtrousers too.

      Warm regards,


    2. I like wool. Lightweight for warm temps, slightly heavier for spring and fall. There are some nice Army surplus wool pants coming out of Europe.

      1. Yes, I agree. I recently bought some via eBay. A simple search on eBay will take you to the sources. Wool in various grades can be purchased. Larger sizes must be purchased to accommodate winter under wear. Surplus suppliers often carry un-issued items and if they have been issued, they will be cleaned, packaged, and in excellent shape. And, the prices are reasonable. The ability of wool to shed external water and wick away body moisture is most important to me.

  15. Hi Paul,
    very good and informative article, I appreciate the efforts you put to let us know…
    Many thanks and best regards.

    Pierluigi Tucci

  16. Hi Paul

    Thanks for the informative site. I am interested to read your thoughts on choice of colour/fabric for clothing and other kit. I much prefer olives and greens, etc, and notice that you and other bush craft experts tend to also.

    I do worry about visibility though: both in case I get lost or injured, and someone is looking for me, and so I am visible to hunters (it is sadly not uncommon for trampers and other hunters to be shot mistakenly where I live).

    Bright colours can look terrible garish, but do you think there is a case for wearing them?



  17. I think that the foam insert of the Pelican case is a waste of space, I prever the padded deviders. You will win space (or could carry a smaler case) and they are easier to clean and dry if needed.
    Great blog!

  18. Hi Paul,
    Fabulous article as ever, I always enjoy reading what people pack for trips, especially canoe trips. As much as I’d love to join you and Ray for the blood vein trip it’s at my busiest time of year and if I go to Canada without the Mrs the locks will have been changed by the time I get home!. That being said I am hoping this year to catch up with some old friends in Norway and Sweden and do some canoe and wild camping while I’m there. As its been a while Since I’ve done a foreign canoe and camping trip I shall be drawing on your articles for some tips on packing as like a lot of people it can be very easy to overpack.
    Thanks Paul


    1. Hi Craig,

      Yes, I understand about keeping things smooth at home.

      But it sounds like you have some good adventures planned and I hope your trips to Norway/Sweden come off.

      I’m glad to hear that my articles will be of use to you in sorting your gear.

      Warm regards,


  19. Superb article. Paul, one of the reasons you get asked about equipment so much is your videos and articles on the subject are so well put together and come from a position of such experience and authority. One of the first things of yours I remember seeing was the week’s food in a PLCE pouch video. Nobody else has ever come close to the quality of your response.
    If you do something well, you’ll be doing it forever, or at least you’ll keep getting asked. I understand how frustrating that can be, but I’ll admit that any blog or video you do about kit is going to be something I return to time and again.

    1. Hi Gareth,

      Thanks for your kind words. As long as I’m helping people in the right way, then I’m happy to talk about kit. If it gets people to where they need to be and back again safely then I’ve done my job in this respect.

      Right let’s talk about skills… šŸ˜‰

      Warm regards,


  20. Hi Paul, looks like you’ve had another amazing trip, I love canoe trips, usually do an anual sweden trip and Canada is definitely on my bucket list, who knows, maybe I can get the resources together to come join you guys one year. Anyway, my question is on ditch kits and clothing. I was wondering if you have a spare, clean set of clothes that you stash somewhere to travel home in? I’m always wary of sitting in an airport or in the plane surrounded by people annoyed that I’m in clothes that stink of two weeks use and woodsmoke. Maybe you just have time to wash some kit before you travel back?
    I usually keep a complete set of clothes in my ditch kit and then, subject to capsize I have a smoke free, clean set to travel home in but wondered what you guys did?
    All the best


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