The Art of Portaging: Unleashing Boundless Adventures

A man portages his canoe in the autumn forest

Portaging is the gateway to unlocking new horizons in your kayaking or canoeing journey. Though it may seem daunting initially, with the right preparation and determination, it becomes a path to uncharted territories and unique experiences that make the effort worthwhile.

What is Portaging?

The term “portage” comes from the French word “porter,” meaning “to carry.” It involves transferring your boat and gear between different bodies of water. In the past, fur traders traversed mighty rivers and navigated around impassable rapids by carrying their boats and equipment. Today, portaging allows us to connect disconnected waterways, bypass treacherous rapids, or avoid stormy seas.

The Purpose Behind Portaging

A paddler carries his yellow sit-in kayak on the beach towards the water

Many view portaging as an inconvenient aspect of their journey, but it offers numerous advantages. For example, when reaching the end of a lake, a short portage can lead you to the next body of water. Similarly, encountering an impassable or unsafe rapid necessitates a portage. Portaging enables you to access untouched water, embark on backcountry fishing adventures, and explore areas beyond your usual reach.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Portaging

You might wonder why a guide is necessary for carrying your kayak or canoe. While some portages are straightforward, longer ones require careful planning and execution. Let’s explore the essential steps:

Secure Your Gear on the Bank

Before starting your portage, make sure everything is securely stored on the shoreline. Check that your boat won’t drift away, and the wind won’t scatter your gear. Safety precautions like properly storing food are necessary to prevent attracting wildlife.

Further reading:  Crabbing From a Kayak: An Exciting Adventure on the Water

Walk Your Route

Familiarize yourself with the portage route before attempting to carry your equipment. Clear any obstructions along the way to facilitate your journey. Take note of landmarks or use a map and compass for navigation. Additionally, carry essential safety items and mark your trail discreetly to aid your return.

Move Your Gear

When ready, start loading your gear for the first trip. It’s advisable to complete the portage in as few trips as possible while avoiding overloading yourself. For long portages, consider moving your gear in stages. This strategy allows you to maintain a reasonable distance from your equipment and provides rest periods along the way.

Move Your Boat

Finally, transport your kayak or canoe. By leaving this step for last, you ensure that your trail is well-trodden, and your route is established. Attach lightweight dry bags or paddles to your watercraft, ensuring they don’t interfere with your balance or comfort during the portage.

Different Ways to Portage

A man, holding a map in his hands, is sitting near a blue kayak on a kayak trolley.

The method you choose for portaging depends on the type of boat and the nature of the trail. Let’s explore some options:

Portaging a Sit-On-Top Kayak

Sit-on-top kayaks are relatively easy to portage but can be physically demanding over long distances. The most efficient way to portage a sit-on-top kayak is to use a kayak trolley. This tool allows you to strap your kayak securely onto the trolley and effortlessly navigate the trail. In cases where the terrain is too rugged for a trolley, manual carrying or dragging may be necessary.

Portaging a Sit-In Kayak

Most kayakers prefer carrying their sit-in kayaks by placing them on their shoulders. Lighter kayaks, such as recreational or whitewater models, are better suited for this method. Alternatively, you can use carrying yokes or straps to ease the burden. Similar to sit-on-top kayaks, a trolley can also be employed for portaging sit-in kayaks.

Further reading:  River Fishing: Unlocking the Secrets of Kayak Fishing

Portaging a Canoe

When portaging a canoe, you have several options at your disposal:

  • Portaging with a Carrying Yoke: A carrying yoke fitted into the middle of your canoe offers stability and comfort during a portage. The deep-dish yoke, in particular, provides better weight distribution. Lift the rear of the canoe, position the yoke on your shoulders, and balance the canoe carefully to complete this method.

  • Portaging with a Trolley: Using a portage trolley is the most popular way to transport a canoe. Attach the trolley underneath the center of gravity of your canoe, ensuring it is secure. If you decide to leave your gear inside the canoe during the portage, position it above the trolley to maintain balance.

  • Pair Carrying: When dealing with short portages, sharing the burden with a partner can be effective. This method involves standing on either side of the canoe, gripping the gunwales, and lifting together. It distributes weight more evenly, providing better efficiency and ease.

  • Dragging: In certain situations, dragging a canoe across open ground can be beneficial. However, exercise caution to prevent damage. Use ropes (painters) to minimize strain and discomfort, ensuring they are comfortably positioned over your shoulder.

Embrace the Challenge and Discover New Frontiers

A man portages a red and white sit-in kayak on his shoulder

Don’t let the fear of portages hinder your exploration of new places. Mastering the art of portaging opens up a world of adventure. Remember, the journey is often as rewarding as the destination itself. So load up, embrace the challenge, and embark on unforgettable paddling experiences.

Happy paddling!

To learn more about kayaking and canoeing adventures, visit UpStreamPaddle.

Further reading:  Discover the Beauty of Kiawah Island through Kayaking