Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hiking in sucks! How to build a kayak backpack system and a couple of fun New Zealand rivers.

stunning Westport beach sunset, NZ, chris baer, whereisbaer.com
stunning Westport beach sunset

Paddling in remote locations is immensely rewarding. But, to do so without paying for a helicopter usually means super long shuttle drives or… hiking. The physical act of hiking with a boat sucks. Shoulders go numb, sides chafe, and its just plain awkward.

Chris Tulley's van making the first pitch of the journey into the crooked

There are a few things to think about before the hike: How much does your boat weigh? Are there any optional items that you can remove from your craft? Can you spread out the essentials: breakdown paddle, med kit, pin kit. What about interference; is your hike in snow, mud, on a steep side hill or does it have overhanging vegetation? The simplest option is the classic shoulder carry, but sometimes you can benefit from a quick and easy backpack system.


New Zealand beaches drift wood and a staggering forest , whereisbaer.com chris baer
New Zealand beaches drift wood and a staggering forest

The few backpack systems on the market that I've tried (NRS Sherpa and Salamander Bak Yak) have all failed. The production packs all score high on initial comfort but fail in longevity, hefty weight, and dizzying complexity.

 

How to build your own kayak backpack

Ingredients:

10ft cam strap
pool noodle
sharp knife
duct tape
carabiner

the basics, pretty light and as simple as it gets, Chris Baer, kayak back pack
the basics, pretty light and as simple as it gets

 

Recipe:

Putting the backpack together is rather simple, but there are a few tricks to making the system fit well and hold up for the long hikes.


1. There is enough foam in one pool noodle to make two systems, so cut the original pool noodle into four equal parts.

2. Wrap the ends of the pool noodle in duct tape loosely. You don't need a ton of tape, just a wrap or two, as this helps keep the pool noodle from being pinched and cut by the cam strap.

notice the duct tape is tight making the hole compress and actually forcing the strap to start cutting the noodle
 notice the duct tape is tight making the hole compress and actually forcing the strap to start cutting the noodle

looser duct tape and a better finish
looser duct tape and a better finish

3. Slide one of the pool noodle sections onto the cam strap and lace the other end under the rear of the seat.

this takes a bit of wiggling, make sure it is supported by the plastic not the rear foam pillar
this takes a bit of wiggling, make sure it is supported by the plastic of the seat not the rear foam pillar

4. Slip the other section of pool noodle on the cam strap and weave the remaining cam strap through the two stern handles directly behind the seat.


laced up and looking for a walk
laced up and looking for a walk

the carabiner in the middle is essential for a comfortable pack, chris baer, kayak back pack home made how to
the carabiner in the middle is essential for a comfortable pack

5. To get into and adjust the system, stand the kayak up vertically against something stable and take a knee. Before cranking down on the cam strap use a carabiner to attach the two shoulder straps in front of you (this really eases the stress on the shoulders).

No, this system is not perfect, and having a waist belt would seriously help to disperse the load and alleviate some shifting. But, I find the simplicity, lightness, and ease of use literally outweigh any of the other systems on the market.

tight landing zones on the Kakapotahi, NZ, new zealand, Chris Baer
tight landing zones on the Kakapotahi

this is the first slot, of the Upper Kakapotahi and there is a six foot ledge to get you here

The Upper Kakapotahi,

has turned into my staple after-work run. It only takes a little rain for the water levels to come up into run-ability and the shuttle is only about a mile, making the backpack system not necessary, but a great place to test it.

clench those cheeks the landing zone is narrow, upper kakopatahi river NZ, new zealand, chris baer
clench those cheeks the landing zone is narrow
Kerry Hoglund enjoying the upper Kakers, Chris Baer, NZ,
Kerry Hoglund enjoying the upper Kakers

The run consists of seven fun rapids and after some probing they all are acceptable at most flows. The rapids have one consistent attribute, the lines are TIGHT! Whether it's boofing into a narrow landing zone, or unique laterals that flow directly into a confined triangular rock cave, all the lines are more than snug.

Kerry Hoglund zipping out of the triangular sieve, cave, fun line, upper kakapotahi Nz, Chris Baer kayak
Kerry Hoglund zipping out of the triangular sieve, cave, fun line
be patient on the hike in you never know what you might spot, I wonder what this one does, Chris Baer, kayak NZ, blue mushroom
be patient on the hike in you never know what you might spot, I wonder what this one does

 

 Crooked River,

The long muddy hike into the Crooked was what I originally built the backpack for and it turns out the hike in is far from backpack friendly. There is a ton of overhanging vegetation and the steep terrain covered in mud means having a 50 pound oblong backpack on is sketchy at best. The trusty shoulder was more well suited for the almost two hour hike in.

starting into the Crooked River, NZ west coast, hike in, Chris Baer
starting into the Crooked River

Once on water the action starts quickly and after a couple of fun ledges the crux of the run is reached. Bent and Twisted is a fun two-piece rapid that starts with a Raven Fork-esque twisty lead in where all the water smashes into an overhanging left wall. Thankfully a small, but well placed, eddy splits the rapid up and allows a quick breath and reset before paddling into the stacked second pitch. From there down, the rapids ease in difficulty and risk, and allow paddlers to boat scout well.

a couple seals near Westport, NZ, west coast, chris baer
a couple of seals near Westport

Upon reaching the take out I had a solid reflection, no I didn't like the two hour hike and yes the river and location was worth the sore shoulder!

adventure brought to you by Chris Baer