Published on April 6th, 2013 | by Paddleworld


The Joy of Self Support

In this issue, Kent Ford shares with us the enjoyment of self-support trips. Taking advantage of new advances in lightweight gear, it’s easier and more fun than ever to get out on your own and explore. Start with a basic overnight trip and soon you’ll be hooked on the simplicity and excitement of self-support adventures.

As I write this, I am starting to pack for a 6-day self support flatwater kayaking trip down the Green River in Utah. The trip offers amazing access to the remote Maze district, centerpiece of the dramatic Utah desert. Getting there by boat is considerably easier than access by vehicle or hiking.

And it is an exciting time to be doing self support. Driven by user innovations in ultra-light backpacking, it is easier than ever to find innovative equipment to fit inside a boat for an overnight trip. New stoves, sleeping pads, and outerwear make it more comfortable proposition. Packing light is not as important in a boat as on foot, however the mentality of ultralight packing makes it easier to fit your gear on a trip. But more than that, the internet community allows for easily sharing ideas that make for a simpler trip.

I approach packing with a methodical approach. Do I really need this item? Can I make it lighter? What lighter version might be available? For example, I replace my heavy drinking mug (ie coffee mug!) with a large foam cups from the local gas station. This foam cup weighs nothing, and works well as long as I protect it from damage. To do this I just stuff it with underwear and socks. My bowl is similarly light weight- saved from the first meal with Ramen soup.

Simplicity is one of the ultimate rewards of getting away. In our worlds dominated by consumerism, there is special pleasure in reducing what we need to exist. Lightweight means more freedom to explore, less hassle dealing with gear, more energy. With a lighter boat, you can go farther faster, more efficiently. Mere mortals can keep up with their friends more easily.
So get out there, and give it a try. Start with a little research online… comparing and paring down paddling packing lists with the advice found from ultralight backpacking communities. For your first adventure, pick a simple one night trip to give your gear a test run. Then seek out the trip of your dreams.

Kent Ford

Kent-FordFor more info on Kent Ford’s books, films and adventures go to

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