Revised 12/6/11

Great Lakes Equipment List

This is the stuff that you need to bring and that you are limited to during the duration of the trip. If you are flying, we recommend putting all your essential trip gear in a carry-on bag to avoid trip delays. Any extra stuff for before and after your kayak trip will be securely stored in locked vehicles or a provided secure storage. Take a minute to look over the optional items and the packing notes, do it now. This gives you time to acquire any items you do not yet have. There are no dumb questions.... feel free to call us (231) 882-5525. Email is good too —


  • Compact Sleeping Bag: preferably synthetic mummy style comfort rated to 40 degrees or lower. Should be compressible enough to fit through small hatches.
  • Sleeping Pad: Closed cell foam or self-inflating Therma-rest type.
    NOTE: With advanced notice a limited number of bags and pads are available for rent for $20/trip.


  • Note: Cotton-love it on land, but it can kill you on the water…it holds life-draining cold water like a sponge. Best to stick with synthetics…and you thought you'd never wear that Leisure Suit again….
  • Raingear: Waterproof raincoat or paddle jacket and rain pants if you like…no ponchos. Your raingear can double as a windshell, but not vice versa.
  • Comfortable long sleeve shirt and long pants (quick drying if possible) for both sun and bug protection
  • 2 short sleeve synthetic shirts or synthetic T's
  • 2 comfortable t-shirts for on land
  • Synthetic long sleeve top and bottom: Polypro, Capilene, Coolmax…any of it.
  • 2 pairs of comfortable quick drying loose shorts. No cotton on the water
  • Swimsuit or use quick dry shorts
  • Fleece jacket or sweater
  • Hat with wide brim for sun protection
  • Socks and underwear: Again synthetics and wool work best…. usually 3 sets of each work…its easy to rinse stuff out on longer trips.
  • Footwear: Comfortable shoes for around camp and hiking, Neoprene booties, water shoes, or old tennis shoes for in the kayak….things that work when wet. Sandals don't work in kayaks because the straps get tangled in footrests compromising safety during a wet exit.
  • Gloves for colder water trips: thin neoprene or thin synthetics with a pair of dishwashing gloves pulled over (old trick, but it works).

Nuts and bolts

  • At least SPF 15 waterproof/sweatproof sunscreen
  • A PAPERback book you've been truly wanting to read
  • Small AA flashlight or headlamp
  • Small daypack or waistpack to hold items that you access often
  • Sunglasses with full UV protection/polarized if you want to fish, spare glasses if you wear contact lenses
  • A few Band-aids, chap stick with sunscreen, regular Meds, spare glucose for Diabetics
  • A mug, cutlery and pocketknife
  • At least a one-liter water bottle: typical bottled water bottles are fine
  • A good story to share
  • Personal toiletries including a little TP.
  • A few freezer type zip lock bags for organizing small items, a couple of heavy duty garbage bags to keep wet stuff from migrating into your dry stuff.


Field guides, binoculars, camera, notebook or journal, watercolor paints, fishing equipment (call for advice), small musical instruments, specific diet needs/snacks, kites, Spouse and Prozac, not that those should be related.

Equipment and Gear Sources

Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to find some items like polypropylene long underwear in the summer. If you don't have a local source, we suggest trying these mail order and on-line sources (remember to allow adequate time for shipping):

REI.comEastern Mountain SportsSierraTradingPost.comLL. Bean
(Links open in new windows)

Trip Notes — READ THIS!

Packing: Your gear will be contained in four main parcels. We will provide you with a dry bag for your sleeping bag (parcel 1) and a dry bag or two smallish ones for your clothing (parcel 2). Your third parcel is your sleeping pad and your fourth is a small personal bag only containing things you actually need while you are paddling-i.e. sunglasses, sunscreen, binocs, camera, etc. It is very small and tucks behind your seat or in a day hatch. Odds and ends like spare shoes, wine bottles, cutlery, etc tucked in the dry nooks and crannies. Raingear and fleece jackets are LIFO…Last In First Out in day hatches or small dry bags that are accessed from the cockpit.

Pace: Generally we travel in two-hour blocks with breaks to relax, stretch and graze. We would consider 5 hours/14miles of paddling a fairly ambitious day. If a crossing looks risky, we spend an extra day loving the island we're on, learning to surf, fly cast, hike, tell stories, bake brownies, take pictures, etc…we really don't mind.

Alcohol: We can't legally provide it, but there is some space available to have wine with meals or a nightcap and you are welcome to bring some if that is something you would like. Glass containers don't work well, but there are better wines being found in boxes these days and bottled wine can be decanted into bottled water containers. Please leave any illegal drugs at puts everyone at risk. I suppose there are reasons to numb myself in everyday modern life in the big city, but out in the wilds I'd like to be aware of every minute!

ID: If you are on a trip that ventures into Canada be sure to bring proof of US citizenship or your passport.

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