Words and Photos by Conor Mihell
The axiom, "gear doesn't make a camper" is unquestionably true. But quality, innovative kit can make your backcountry experience better and more enjoyable—especially when the bugs are bad or you want to explore new styles of camping. Here are five products to consider packing on your summer paddling adventures.
SealLine Bulkhead View dry bags
Long-time dry bag manufacturer SealLine expanded its range in 2017 with the Bulkhead View. Available in sizes ranging from five to 30 liters, the Bulkhead is vaguely rectangular in shape—better for contouring to the space inside a canoe pack and most sea kayak hatches. What's more, it also comes with a purge valve to eliminated wasted air space. So far, our test proves it to be durable and watertight over a month's worth of service.
$65 (hammock), $29 (straps)
Weighing in at 10 ounces and compressing to the size of fist, there's no reason not to pack the Wallaby along on a backcountry camping trip. The ripstop nylon fabric is cool and silky, perfect for lazy summer afternoons in camp. In dry, bug-free climates, you may even choose to sleep in it overnight. Our sample came with Kammok's Python straps—uber-adjustable, tree-friendly straps that make setup a breeze. The system supports up to 400 pounds.
$159.95, available online from Canadian retailers
A damp, cool spring in Ontario canoe country proved ideal for testing Eureka's new backcountry bug shelter. In what's been the worst season for blood-sucking mosquitoes and black flies in years, the NoBugZone has proven to be a sanctuary. The shelter combines a nine-by-nine tarp with no-see-um netting, which drops to the ground from the tarp's perimeter. It all sets up with four tie-off points and four to eight stakes, and two zippers provide easy entry. Inside, there's plenty of space for four adults and some gear. While the design is clever and robust (especially the full nylon ground skirt, which resists abrasion), Eureka kept the price down by using no-frills fabric. Packing the six-pound NoBugZone essentially amounts to carrying a second tent. But when the mosquitoes are thick, no one will complain about the extra weight.
Power Practical Luminoodle Light Rope
The Luminoodle is an ultra-bright five- to 10-foot string of white LEDs, powered by any USB battery bank. We tested the Plus model, which includes Practical Power's four-ounce, 4400-mAh lithium battery pack. The Luminoodle lights up campsites in the shoulder season when the sun sets early, providing a light source that's fun and versatile: String it up like Christmas lights above a picnic table or in the tent, or pack it in its translucent stuff sack to use it like a lantern. Including the battery pack, total weight for the 10-foot model is barely 10 ounces.
Mors Bush Pot
$32.98 at Ben's Backwoods
My wife laughed at me when I gushed over this simple cook pot. Bushcraft guru Mors Kochanski designed this pot four decades ago, while acting as a survival instructor for the Canadian air force. The eight-cup model is perfect for preparing one-pot backcountry meals for two (a smaller, five-cup version is also available). The aluminum construction is light yet tough, with an anodized finish that makes it semi-nonstick. With a wire bail and butterfly handles the Bush Pot is optimized for cooking over an open fire. It doubles as a kettle with a smooth-pouring spout.
— Editor-at-Large Conor Mihell tests gear for C&K in the boreal north from his Ontario paddling grounds. Read about his take on the hammock-camping trend in paddling, and see what happens to several drybags tested in a boreal spin cycle.
— Also check out his recent interview with Canadian modern-day voyageur Mike Ranta and photographer David Jackson.