It’s incredible how everything falls into place when the desire and motivation to accomplish something great are there.

One year ago I was inspired to return to the Au Sable River for a proper kayaking trip – a few days, a few miles, sleeping on the bank, carrying just my supplies and a few books. Six weeks before departure I started planning the trip. One week before departure I was stressing that everything wouldn’t be done in time and considered other camping options. But by July 5, my scheduled departure date, everything was figured out and the river was waiting for me to arrive.

But of course, I didn’t undertake my adventure without the proper planning and gear. Here’s what I brought and what I had to arrange for this kayaking trip to be possible (could be a canoe trip). Hopefully knowing that this is possible will inspire other people to go as well, and you’ll have a list to check off as you plan.

All the gear I had in my dry bag and three essential pieces of camping gear – the sleeping bag, tent and sleeping pad. Click image to enlarge.

The gear list:

Essentials

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Vessel (Kayak in this case)
  • Appropriate paddle, oar, etc.
  • Dry bag
  • Reusable water bottle
  • 2 one gallon water jugs
  • Emergency mylar blanket (space blanket)
  • Flashlight
  • Fire source – lighter, matches
  • Towel
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • First aid kit (anti-septic, gauze, tape, bandaids)
  • Poncho (rain gear)
  • Toilet paper
  • Extra zippered bags
  • Personal flotation device (life jacket)
  • Money/identification card/cell phone/car keys (if necessary)

Clothing

Not much is needed if the weather will be hot hot hot, as it was on my trip (between 80 and 100 degrees daily), but plan accordingly. This is what I packed.

  • 2 pairs of bathing suits
  • 1 pair long pants
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 1 t-shirt
  • 1 long-sleeved zip-up hoodie
  • 1 windproof jacket
  • Bandana (or hat)

Food

I didn’t carry a cooler, knowing I wouldn’t be able to refill it with ice along the way as I was floating through a national forest. Here is a list of what I brought to eat.

  • Jerky
  • Canned Spaghettio’s/Chef Boyardee
  • Canned tuna
  • Applesauce
  • Power/granola bars (Nutri-Grain, Kashi, Clif)
  • Oatmeal
  • Clementines
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • One medium-size container of juice
  • Homemade trail mix (peanuts, cashews, almonds, dried cherries, coconut and chocolate and peanut butter chips)
  • Spices (mixed ahead of time in one container – garlic salt, pepper, chili powder, rosemary, crushed red pepper)
  • Potatoes
  • Tea

Cooking Utensils

  • Aluminum cup
  • Spoon
  • Fork
  • Knife
  • Cutting board (doubles up as a plate)
  • Grill sheet
  • Portable stove (homemade)
  • Tin foil

Optional

  • Camera
  • GPS
  • Blank journal
  • 1 or 2 Books
  • Lint (as a firestarter)
  • Can-opener
  • Fishing pole and bait
  • Map of your river
  • Bear spray (essential if in bear country)
  • Compass
  • Rope
  • Boots
  • Water purification supplies
  • Cosmetics such as toothbrush/paste, contact solution and container, face wash, cream, etc.

How It All Came Together

The desire to kayak down a long stretch of one of Michigan’s most beautiful rivers was undoubtedly there, but I had to take care of a lot of things before I considered myself ready to go.

First of all, I don’t own a kayak, so I took every opportunity to quiz friends on whether they had a kayak, or knew someone willing to lend out a kayak. I was willing to settle for a canoe. A few weeks into planning when I almost considered plan B to just camp stationary in the woods, the president of Outdoor Hub overheard my talk of the trip and graciously offered his tandem kayak for the trip. Lifesafer.

Had he never offered, plan C was to pay to rent a kayak from a canoe/kayak livery, but at a greater cost and limited time in my possession, this didn’t fit with my “low-budget, easy-access” model.

I still had to figure out a start and end point, and how to get there. Traveling solo, I called Hinchman Acres in Mio, Michigan, thinking I would start there. Realizing I wanted to go closer to Lake Huron, they recommended Oscoda Canoe Livery who agreed to drive me between 25 to 50 river miles upstream. That would have been a whole lot easier to figure out with two people and two cars going for the trip.

As soon as I was convinced the trip would take place, I began exercising those arms! Push-ups, abdominal workouts and yoga became the weekly norm.

The rest of the details were smaller, but still important. I arranged a fishing license in hopes of catching my dinner one night. I thought about a roof rack to transport the kayak, but in the end, two form-fitted foam pads and ratchet straps did the job. I arranged camping permits since I would be sleeping in a National Forest, and lastly, I arranged a campsite for the very last night of the trip as my boyfriend would be joining me (for an accessible place to meet).

Images by author

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  • Jim R

    I couldn’t help but notice one omission from your list, and that is a communication device to call for help if you need it. No matter how fit and able you are, no one is immune from a disabling accident or illness.If you’re always within cellular coverage, a fully charged mobile phone in a waterproof bag may be sufficient. If you’re kayaking “off the grid” a satellite communicator is a critical necessity. DeLorme’s new inReach, for instance, provides two-way tracking, locating, SOS alerting and even texting/email when paired wirelessly with your Android or Apple smartphone or tablet. If you are hurt, you can press the SOS button and be connected instantly to an international search and rescue center. It’s completely waterproof, dustproof and resistant to extremely high and low temperatures.

  • Hannahwings

    You forgot the can opener I think

    • Hannahwings

      I lied.