Other than the obvious basics (a tent, sleeping bag, maybe a phone), there are a few items that one may not think of when preparing for their trip down-river. But don't worry--we've got you covered. Here's a list of 10 (lesser known) must-have items for long-term paddling adventures.
These maps are the Bibles of the River. The Minnesota DNR Maps provide navigation from Lake Itasca to Hastings, Minnesota. The Minnesota DNR has done a great job of maintaining campsites along the Minnesota portion of the Mississippi, and all of these campsites are conveniently labeled on their maps.
The US Army Corps of Engineers Maps for the Upper and Lower Mississippi are big, heavy, and detailed. While intended for barge operators navigating the river, they are also incredibly helpful for paddlers. Unlike the MN DNR maps however, these Army Corps maps do not provide information about campsites along the river. Don't worry though, we've got you covered... Check out our article about "Finding Camp, Water, and Food" along the Lower Mississippi.
When you've got perfect weather on the river, the last thing you'll want to do is get out of the canoe in search of water. Instead, carry enough water to last you three to five days and plan on drinking/using about one gallon of water each day. Including our water jug and personal water bottles, we probably carried about 8-10 gallons of water. Here's more info about finding water along the river.
Trust us, that sun gets BRUTAL. During high noon, not even the biggest trees will provide you with shade, so make sure to be prepared. While Adam brought a wide-brimmed hat with him on the river, Cole only brought a baseball cap and had spent most of the trip regretting that decision. Also, sunblock is basically mandatory and sunglasses are an added bonus.
Sunburn on the river can be very severe, so we recommend wearing a long sleeve shirt and capris for protection. Clothes that have zip-off sleeves/pant-legs are also super convenient. Capris or pants that you can easily roll up are especially nice because they won't get wet and muddy when you are hopping in and out of the canoe and they won't carry dirt into your tent.
In order to navigate the Mississippi River, you will need to have your Bibles (Maps) out and easily accessible. Sudden rainstorms, gusts of strong wind, and huge waves could put a quick end to your precious maps, so keep them protected and buy a big map case.
A good radio will provide you with weather and news updates. It will also help you stay sane.
If you're bringing a phone or a device like an iPad in order to keep up with a blog, bringing a solar charger is a must. Before leaving for your trip, make sure that your devices are compatible with the charger and that you own the correct adapters/cords. We used our solar charger to charge our cell phone, iPad, and radio.
Gatorade. The official maker of the world's best pee-bottles.
For you female paddlers out there, this item may be irrelevant, but for us, pee-bottles quickly became an important piece of equipment. Your pee bottle can be used in two convenient situations:
1) You can use the pee-bottle in the canoe so you don't have to get out of the boat or run the risk of tipping. This saves a lot of time for those with especially small bladders.
2) You can use the pee-bottle in the comfort of your tent. While we were initially hesitant to both of these uses, getting out of the tent during a cold and stormy night is not a fun experience. Having your pee bottle in your tent will be a blessing on these nights. We promise.
High quality rain gear makes paddling through light rains bearable and surviving heavy rains possible. When packing for long expeditions, bringing multi-purpose items is a plus, gear that will not only keep you dry but also keep you warm in the morning/night is good gear to have. Good rain gear can also serve as a windbreaker during the day, if there is a cool breeze.
There are many times you will be getting in and out of the canoe, getting your feet wet, stepping into mud, walking to a marina, etc. Crocs are perfect for this, as they are light, comfortable, and dry quickly. Keens can also be useful, but Adam brought some off-brand Keens with him on the trip and discovered that they dried much slower than Cole's Crocs.
You WILL get water in your boat. Do you have a method of getting that water out?
You can either buy a fancy bailer (like the image on the left), or just cut open a milk jug. Either way, TIE YOUR BAILER to the canoe so it won't get away from you if you tip. Having a large sponge can also be very helpful when it comes to getting small amounts of water out of the canoe (and cleaning the inside of your tent).
So there you have it folks, our top-ten list of lesser known paddling items. If you think of any additional items or have questions, make sure to send us an e-mail or write in the forum.