Twelve Days of Bush Living On Your Back

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The start of another day

Here is an outline of the outfit I used during my off-trail 12 day backpacking/packrafting tour through the remote Bay Du Nord Wilderness Reserve. In all I covered approximately 60 hard kilometres. I have to note that I actually ended up coming out on day 9 because I couldn’t find the beer store but that is another story ; ). That aside, my bag was still prepared for 12 days. Generally, some people like to ask me what I take on these long trips. With that being said, I thought I would let you delve into my pack’s contents and give you some advice on why I chose certain items, without too much use of the technical jargon.

This is just an example of what your pack could consist of during a trip this long without a resupply. By no means do you need all of this gear for a one or two day outing. You can start small in the game of backpacking and spend very little to have an enjoyable experience. Most things are essential for a safe an enjoyable trip, while other items are just personal luxuries that I am willing to sacrifice their extra weight on my back to have them in my arsenal. At the end of the day all of this kit meets my personal expectations and they serve me well on the trail. Over the course of the tour I decided that I would tweak this list and make note of the unnecessary items I would not need for next time. Those specific objects are not included on this list now but increased my pack from 85-90 pounds. Every pound out helps immensely.

The pack initially weighed in at 90 pounds but that would gradually decrease to about 68 pounds once my 22 pounds of food diminished by day 12. Some people may think that this kind of weight is unsafe, but I believe, if packed properly, and given frequent rest periods (I usually go 20-30 minutes on and 5 minutes off) then you can effectively carry large loads like this. You also can’t forget that I am carrying all my gear PLUS a small raft.

When packing, where the weight goes makes a world of a difference with regards to your balance and comfort level. Ideally, you want to keep the load low and close to your natural centre of gravity. This will increase your stability on uneven terrain. Since I will be entirely off-trail I will use this loading strategy. If I were to be on a groomed trail then I would still put weight closer to my back but also higher towards my shoulders. This would put the load over my hips, the portion of your body designed to support heavy masses.

Without further ado, here are the contents of my small human-sized Kelty Red Cloud 110 litre backpack:

Food:

I have given myself approximately 2900 calories per day with all of my packed food. On top of that, if I managed at least 1 half pound trout per day I would have added an additional 600-700 calories to my diet. Also, since it was blueberry season, if I happened to harvest 2 cups a day, I contributed about another 200 calories. All said and done, that rang me in at roughly 3800 calories per day. More than enough to keep grinding day in, day out. That amount didn’t meet my caloric output of about 5000-6000 calories per day but it provided enough fuel to function. Thankfully the fishing gods were on my side and the berries were abundant. I certainly ate like a king!

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Just what the doctor ordered. 4 FAT mud trout
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Atlantic Salmon topped the menu for a couple days
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These juicy treats were far from rare

Here is a breakdown of my nutrition plan:

  • About 22 pounds of food. ( ~ 1.5-2 pounds per day) High in carbs, fats and proteins. I like a good carb heavy breakfast and lunch. Supper should lean more towards high protein to replenish and rebuild the day’s muscular losses.
    Main food items: oatmeal, granola, trail mix, dried fruit ( from bulk barn, looking to dehydrate my own soon) jerky, cliff bars, granola bars, snickers, pretzels, hard candies, Sidekicks pastas, two cans of tuna(luxury item), wild trout and berries, instant coffee, tea bags, about 1 cup of crunchy peanut butter to eat on its own, half a cup of butter, half cup of brown sugar and last but not least the special mix of camp spices that produces an aroma which could cause a mammal to drool from a mile away. Flavours are very important to have on the trail. You are always eating similar foods so why not give your tastebuds plenty of variety.
  • I carried no fluids except for a small flask of spirits. This is essential for a nip every other evening around the pond side fire! I boiled water to drink at camp and during the day I used my LifeStraw water filter. If you haven’t heard of them then I suggest you look it up on google. They are revolutionary for this kind of racket. I use a Gatorade bottle to hold water than dip the straw down into it. The straw has about a one inch diameter so it fits perfectly. Away from the shore on larger ponds I don’t even bother with the filter. That H2O is as pristine as it comes in my opinion, chug away!
  • One pot and one kettle does the trick for cooking. Honestly, you can get away with one but two saves time.
  • Fork, knife and spoon set. They each fold up like a pocket knife and go into a handy dandy kit the size of a wallet.
  • One light mug for tea and coffee (plastic, steel, titanium are popular makeups)
  • Small stove with two 100 gram JetBoil propane/isobutane canisters, which are good for boiling about 10 L of water each in warm weather. Less when it is colder.
  • Although these are not a food item, I also threw in some cigars. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than having a tea and a smoke watching the sunset after a long day on the move. It’s pure magic.
  • A few hard candies are always in my pocket while hiking. It is nice to pop one in your mouth when you are feeling depleted and need to push through a stage. It drip feeds some sugar and will give you that much needed boost.

**When packing it is smart to keep a snack in an outer pouch available for quick access. That prevents you from digging deep into the food bag when you stop for a spell. You can do that with other important items as well (i.e. compass, rain gear, camera, binoculars, or rope)

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One of the finer sunsets of the tour

Transportation Tools:

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Inching my way beyond Mt.Sylvester
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Giving the Alpacka life
            • The Alpacka “ Mule” Raft : this raft deflates to the size of a small tent and weighs in at only 9 pounds with the kayak style 4-piece paddle and spray decks heaviness included. It inflates in about 6 minutes and does the opposite in half the time. All this is achieved with a large garbage bag sized satchel in which you catch air, seal it off, and push it through the other end which is screwed in to the rafts air vent. The finishing touches are done with a separate mouth piece. A seat and backrest are also inflated. They keep your bottom dry and prevent too much force being applied to the floor of your raft. This pressure could dig your raft onto potential sharp objects in the water beneath. Did I mention that this thing is double coated with urethane (high abrasion resistant material) and is also developed to handle ferocious white water? I love it. On her first big trip she passed with flying colours.
            • Personal floatation device (PFD) – wear it all day under my backpack.
            •  Irish Setter Men’s Tracker 10″ Hunting Boot (high cut) these give great ankle support and are waterproof when not completely submerged. Once you go over the top they become soaked. This is unavoidable when doing a trip through a variety of terrains. Especially when you are including water travel. It is impossible not to get your feet wet when you push the raft out beyond shallow water and sharp rocks. I suck it up and try to dry them in the evening. It is one of many sacrifices made when you’re trying to maneuver through remote territory. Some people figure that you can wear rubber boots. This is an absolute no-no when carrying 80 plus pounds. It’s a great way to end up air lifted out of the middle of nowhere with a trip-ending injury.
            • Walking pole: I am 50/50 with this item. I think it is a matter of preference. For fording and traversing rivers they are a must. In other situations you can get by without one but the third or even fourth leg does make life in the bush safer and easier. Whether it is a wooden stick you just cut down or collapsible hiking poles you purchase at a store, both make a good support. Personally, I roll with the handcrafted wooden stick even though the manufactured ones have shock absorbers and are much lighter.
            • A pair of old cross trainers to wear as “camp shoes” are essential. It always feels nice to get the big high cut boots off your feet after a long day of, sometimes soggy, trekking.
            •    Suunto MC-2 /G/6400 Compass or equivalent.
    • 1; 50,000 topographical maps (in a water proof map bag)
    • Celestron Nature DX 10×56 Binoculars (a must for spying wildlife)
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    A 22 point legend of a Stag
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    This caribou didn’t want me coming up on his perch

    Electronics:

    • SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger  personal locator beacon
    • Canon Rebel T5i (with 2 batteries and a 64 GB memory card)
    • Go Pro Hero Silver 3+ (with 6 batteries and a 64 GB memory card)
    • Go Pro chest mount, head mount and attachable jaws flex clamp mount
    • Go Pro Charging cord
    • Lens Cleaning accessories for both cameras
    • Solarmonkey Adventurer solar charger for electronics
    • 1 Portable charger with 5200 mAh (an average cell phone needs about 2000-3000 mAh to bring it from 0 percent battery to fully charged)
    • Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
    • One small flashlight
    • iPod touch (for some tunes)
    • Wind-up radio. This was mostly for weather updates if a station was available. By fluke, one of the few nights I had good signal I actually caught the last half of Tragically Hip’s final concert. What a treat that was. The camp fire was burning on a clear night of stars galore and the full moon was nearing its end. Pair that with a smoke and a nip and I was in pure ecstasy.
    • 6 Extra ‘AAA’ Batteries for Spot and Headlamp

    Around camp, Fishing and other miscellaneous gear:

    •  MSR Mutha Hubba NX Tent (3 Person) This is more of a two-man rig but it is light at 4 pounds 12 ounces and provides plenty of space to keep my gear out of the elements when necessary. It also comes with a thin ground sheet to keep the tent floor protected from abrasion.
      *Note: It compacts to the size of a half case of beer so limited space is taken. In the future I look to upgrade to a one or two-man rig for these type of trips. Some of them can weigh in at as little as 2 pounds. It’s ridiculous how far we have advanced from the times of a heavy canvas tent that weighed as much as a house.
    • Rab Synthetic Mummy sleeping bag rated for -4 degrees celsius (THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF GEAR YOU HAVE). I can go into the difference between down and synthetic bags but that is a whole other ball game. Keep it dry at all times and you will be in fine shape – see compression dry sacks below.
    •  Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite sleeping pad. It is light, durable and will not absorb moisture so it can be kept on the outside of your pack. There’s no point in pretending that laying in a tent is as comfy as in your bunk. A nice sleeping pad can make the difference between no rest and a decent snooze.
    • Cheap 8×10 tarp. My tent is a bomb shelter so it typically does not need tarp support from above. Although, it helps to have one to be able to ignite a fire under its corner during prolonged rains or even to cover you and your entire outfit during a downpour while on the daily grind. *Never light a fire directly under the middle of a tarp unless you are planning on donating it to the flames.
    • Camp clothes: one clean pair of under wear, socks, a fleece pullover and wool long johns for the night. I wear the same socks, underwear, pants and shirt everyday while moving and grooving. Nobody can smell you out there. Plus the dirt and grime keeps the flies away. So much so that I didn’t even bother with using my fly dope or bug jacket, albeit extreme conditions would require their use. Ball cap or wide brimmed hat is also important to keep the sun off your head. One pair of thin cotton gloves were in the pack but they did not see any action. I prefer to go without them but take them in case of a messy situation.
    • A stocking cap isn’t a bad idea for a chilly night either. Your head is your biggest source of heat loss.
    • Rain coat and pants that compress into two separate bags. Each being the size of a can of pepsi. I got these in Dublin last year at a store specializing in outdoor gear. They are called “Trespass Qikpac Packaway TP75”. I highly recommended them if you can get your hands on a set. I label them as light, packable and reasonably effective. From my experience you will get damp eventually if you are in the wet stuff long enough, it’s inevitable.
    • Sea to Summit and Chinook compression dry sacks for clothes, sleeping bag, food and electronics. Everything else goes in large zip-lock freezer bags. Waterproofing is key on the trail, nobody likes soggy crackers.
    • Osprey extra large rain fly for my backpack. The pack itself is water resistant but in the heaviest rains you need this fly to protect it’s valuable contents regardless if they are in dry sacks or not. You never know.
    • Toothpaste/brush/floss pics/small biodegradable hand soap
    • SPF 15 Sports Sunscreen
    • Ben’s Fly Dope -high deet concentrations to really fend off the thickest of onslaughts.
    • Dry tinder for wet mornings/evenings, a quick fire if I am low on fumes or in case of a wet emergency. This consists of one small ziplock bag of birch bark and one small bag of dryer lint. Sometimes I substitute lint for cotton pads and vaseline.
    • Knives – one for my belt, a multitool with pliers and a small backup pocket knife. Which I actually lost on this trip, it is so hard to keep tabs on items when you are bushwhacking. It takes nothing for a piece of gear to get hooked in a tree and fall off unnoticed. I like to stop and check every so often but ultimately I try to keep majority of my belongings inside the pack and not attached to the outside. In this particular situation I think I had laid my knife down in the moss while cutting some rope then forgot to pick it back up. It happens. That is why I always carry an extra blade. If you’re interested in finding a great pocket knife, check out this guide for more information: https://www.reviews.com/pocket-knife/
    • Sven Saw 15″ Folding Saw (collapsible buck-saw) What an advantageous tool to have.
    • Gransfors and Bruks Small Forest hatchet. Any small hatchet will do as long it is sharp. There is nothing more unsafe in remote wilderness than a dull axe. It also makes you work twice as hard.
    • small pocket stone (know how to use it)
    • Collapsible spin action fishing rod and a fly rod (both are not necessary but I like it for luxury plus you need the latter to chase the wild atlantic salmon of course).
    • Tackle
    • Bait -I have found that 20 worms will last a week if you keep them in a breathable container and wrapped in a damp cloth during the days heat. After that a spinner with no bait always entices a bite.
    • Fire flint works wet or dry (know how to use it before you rely on it).
    • Whistle (good to get attention in an emergency)
    • Silver survival blanket
    • Matches x 5
    • Lighters x 3  – one was wrapped in duct tape, it never get wet no matter what.
    • First aid kit – various items from a Band-Aid to a needle and thread. There are no anesthetics out there.
    • Large roll of Duct tape (just ask Red Green how important this roll of wonders is. Its uses are numerous)
    • Patch kit for raft- provided by Alpacka, includes the highly effective Aquaseal   *Note: Duct tape could do a tidy job of fixing a small puncture
    • Bum wad or moss
    • Polarized glasses- key for navigating shallow waters in a raft/canoe/kayak. I needed to be aware of those hidden daggers at all times or I could have been up the creek without a raft.
    • Bear bangers: 6 bangers and 4 flares (shoots off a loud firework which deters the bad bruins. This shooter is the size of a pen and also shoots off emergency flares).
    • 100 ft paracord rope
    • Clothes line for inside tent. Mine is ingenious. It comes with several carabiner style clips to help attach gear when airing it out during the night (thanks Mudder and Fadder!). A rope in the tent would do the trick here if there are loop attachments. Some tents have built in gear lofts as well that serve the same purpose.
    • Tin Whistle (Nothing wrong with learning a tune during the trip).
    • 1 Reading Book and 1 field note book with pen and pencil.
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    A Carin atop of Mt.Sylvester. Started by Cormack, beefed up by Howley and continually added to by visitors like myself

    **Any permits required need to be on hand if you are in a protected wilderness area such as the Bay Du Nord Wilderness Reserve or the Avalon Wilderness Reserve. Go check the Forestry and Wildlife Office out at Paddys Pond. They will straighten you out.

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    Drifting smoke at Camp #1. Overlooking the 1234 foot Mt. Sylvester

    Most gear I have has been purchased from The Outfitters, MEC-Moountain Equipment Company (online order but great Canadian company), Coastal Outdoors, OP Fishing and Hunting, and Canadian Tire. The raft was purchased from Alpacka Rafts. A well respected company who operate out of Colorado. It was not cheap but is definitely worth its weight in gold (which is not very heavy, so probably worth more than its weight lol). If you are into traversing remote ponds, lakes, gullies, or rivers on a regular basis than I recommend that you take a look at their website. Although I have only had mine for two months, it has been an invaluable investment. The owner of the company was more than happy to help me out over the phone and answered every question I had regarding the vessel’s capabilities. His name is Thor and if you’re interested I am sure he would do the same for you. Let me know if you have any questions. There is only one other company I do believe that make this style of raft in the world but Alpacka seems to stand on top after years of consistent positive reviews. They have been used for expeditions that have covered more than 8000 kilometres in Alaska, so they are well represented.

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    The Alpacka on the shores of Diamond Lake
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    Night moves
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    A birds-eye view of Mt.Sylvester
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    Gene Ploughman of Thorburn Aviation scooped me out of the bush. He was very welcoming, informative and professional in the way he ran his business. I highly recommend their services if you are looking to fly to a remote location in NL.

    Overall my trip was truly awesome. I learned a vast amount about the interior of our beloved island and reached my destination. I am hoping that this will give me the upper hand for a future endeavour slated for next year. This is one of many exploratory trips I will do over the next little while to help me gain every inch I can. My aim is to inspire people to reconnect with our surroundings and relax in the company of nature without the distractions. Whether you play it safe and go on a mild, laid back hike or you decide to go outside your comfort zone and push your limits. Whatever it may be, I hope you live your adventure. If you are a fellow Newfoundlander or Labradorian than you do not have to go far. Our backyard is littered with world-class outdoor opportunities.

    If you have any questions or curiosities about my list above or would just like to get started with developing your own outdoor kit, feel free to drop me a line here or by email justinbarbournl@gmail.com. I would be more than happy to help you out.

    Happy travels,

    JB

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