Friday, December 14, 2007

What a great idea!

While looking for places to buy a canoe barrel I stumbled across a company called Envirosponsible. They are located in Whitby, Ontario and have started a very ingenious business where they collect items from builders, contractors and pharmaceutical companies that would normally end up in a land fill and re-sell them to the public. What an awesome way to make a living and help the environment at the same time!

They have antique doors, windows, sinks and of course blue 30 liter barrels. The barrels are sold for $30 each and are available for pick-up or they will ship them anywhere in Canada.

Here is a short video tour of the warehouse...

Roll Out the Barrel!

After extensively researching the subject, I have made a big decision.....well not really a BIG decision, but one that will have lasting impact on future canoe trips. I have decided to start using a food barrel and harness. The reasons are simple, all the food will be in one place, food no longer has to take up space in my pack (...and risk it's sent staying on my pack) and foods that are prone to being squished....won't be. But the most important reason comes down to numbers. With 6 of us going on the "kids trip" next summer (Me, Lauren, Gerry and two of his boys), we simply won't be able to get away with putting food in our packs....there just won't be enough room.

There are two sizes although I fairly sure the 30 liter would be the right size, I would love to hear from any of you who have used barrels to know if I should just go for the 60 liter. Thoughts?

Anyway, the barrel is a 30 liter and is your standard blue barrel. Nothing special about that, but the key is choosing the right harness and I think I have.

The one I plan on getting is from Headstrong.
Check out the incredible reviews it received from Mycc.

Here's what they say on their site...

Headstrong Packs manufactures the only self-tightening Barrel Harness on the market. Designed by a Mechanical Engineer, this innovative harness holds the barrel tight and close to your back resulting in significantly less back strain and improved comfort.

The ergonomically designed dual-density lumbar pad and waist belt enhance comfort on long portages. The self-tightening design keeps the padding in contact with your back and distributes the load evenly.

Tumpline users will appreciate the better lift efficiency provided by the optimized tumpline angle.

Proper material selection and design result in very rugged construction to ensure that the Headstrong Harness will last through many paddling adventures.

Back Care Tips for Trippers

While surfing for info about the advantages of using a barrel to carry food, I found this great article on Paddling Canada. As you many of you already know, I have problems with my lower back and it's got all kinds of helpful hints. Check it out!

Bower’s Barrel Baskets Beat Backache!

A couple of hours at your sewing machine can
save miserable back strain on the portage.

By Carol Bower

The members of our annual canoe-camping expedition are all over 55 years old, and all of us have suffered back problems. To lessen chances of delay due to back spasms on our expeditions, we’ve developed some guidelines – and a handy method of carrying those awkward barrel packs so necessary to keep food secure.

#1 Use a pack board.
Nothing is harder on a delicate back than carrying heavy items in your arms. We organize our portage loads so that almost everything is carried in backpacks or strapped to a pack board. We have an old aluminum army surplus pack board with its own straps, and with it anyone can carry two barrels in great comfort high on the back. Paddles, a fishing rod and a net are the only items we can’t carry on our backs, so we tape them together in a bundle which can then be carried over one shoulder.

#2 Carry a sail bag.
Balers, lines, maps, wet shoes and jackets, and other miscellaneous items are tied separately to the thwarts during paddling. They considerably increase the weight of a canoe and make it much more difficult to portage, often flopping around and snagging on trees. Instead of securing all these small items separately onto packs (time-consuming and awkward) or carrying them by hand (uncomfortable and dangerous on a rough trail), we toss them all into a tough nylon drawstring sail bag, then lash the bag to a pack board, along with a day barrel. This is a quick, simple, and convenient solution, as long as you don’t buy a sailboat in order to obtain a sail bag.

#3 Portage the canoe half way... and switch.
It goes without saying that if you have back trouble, a Kevlar canoe is a good choice. After stripping our Kevlar canoes, their empty weights are 30 kg (66 lb.) and 25 kg (55 lb.).
On long portages, there are many advantages to taking the canoes one at a time. Instead of lifting the canoe alone, avoid that dangerous manoeuvre by having a partner hold it up while you get underneath. Then your partner, perhaps carrying a backpack or the paddles, can lead the way over difficult terrain, lending a hand over deadfalls and pointing out obstacles in advance. Every 400 metres (440 yd.) switch loads. In two trips, just as in the normal method, both canoes and two packs are still carried across, but with less strain on either back.

#4 Weigh those packs.
We use one waterproof pack each loaded with personal and camping gear. Each weighs 20 to 22 kg (44 - 49 lb.). On our latest trip, we also had two large and a small food barrel, for a total weight of 22 kg plus two day barrels, one for each canoe, weighing a few kg each. We also carry the pack board and that sail bag of miscellaneous items, adding up to another 10 kg (22 lb.). Aside from that we had a taped bundle of 5 paddles, a fishing rod, and net.

This gear was enough for 3 people for 17 days in the wilderness, and could be portaged in three trips. To keep light we replaced books with crossword puzzles, ground beans with instant coffee, wine with rum, and wore the same clothes the whole trip (laundered daily by immersion for hours in flowing water).

#5 Make Barrel Webbing.
We use plastic barrels in two sizes: 19-litres (5 gal.) for day barrels and 29-litres (8 gal.) (which have a wider mouth) for food. (See Edward T. Neal, “Get Tanked”, in KANAWA ‘s Summer 2000 issue) Both are awkward to lift and carry. The smaller ones have no handles at all, and lifting and carrying the loaded food barrels by one or even both side-mounted handles can easily lead to back strain.

Therefore, I made “baskets” with handles at the top for each barrel (see photo). The black plastic webbing I used is inexpensive and sews easily by machine using a normal needle and thread. A basket for a 19-litre
(5 gal.) barrel requires less than 6 metres (7 yd.) of webbing, costs under ten dollars, and takes less than an hour to make.

The handles on top make it easy to pass the barrels from one person to another during loading, unloading or on a short “bucket brigade” portage. Loops on the sides make it easy to attach the barrels to a pack board in any combination, and also to a canoe.

Buying a ready-made backpack harness is another possibility, but then the barrels can only be carried one at a time. Also, the straps of the harness are inconvenient around the campsite if left attached, whereas the baskets become a permanent and unobtrusive part of the barrel.

#6 Bring medicine.
Sometimes back problems are inevitable. On our last trip, we had a lot of upstream work to do, which required pulling the loaded canoe from a stooped position through shallow water almost all day long. The constant bending and straining was tough on bad backs, and we had problems. Obviously more rest periods and muscle stretches would have helped, as well as warm ups before beginning the upstream work.
For those times when all else fails, your medical kit should include several types of medication for pain and spasms, as well as stomach settlers, since anti-spasm medication often causes indigestion. Also of great use is a good heat rub, which acts immediately to relax muscles and prevent further spasms. Massage the area lightly every ten minutes after application, and the heat returns. Adhesive patches impregnated with the same active ingredients as rubs can be applied and left on for a day or more; again, when rubbed they reactivate. Be sure to try them first if you have sensitive skin.

#7 Set back-saving rules for the trip.
Make a very conservative estimate of trip duration so you don’t have to rush. This means including one or two days off in the estimate of trip length, and planning for short work days. We generally leave camp at 8:30 a.m. and stop no later than 3:30 p.m.

We also promise each other to avoid hasty decisions during adrenalin surges, and to monitor each other for signs of these adrenalin surges or exhaustion. It’s up to everyone to do some back-strengthening exercises for several weeks before the trip, but en route we continue these exercises every morning or evening. We also take frequent breaks, do a few stretches and warm up our muscles before lifting.

Carol Bower’s back survived a gruelling 160-km (100 mi.) trip which began on the stunning West Magpie River, sometimes called one of America’s “ultimate” rivers. After paddling the Magpie, the travellers spent days hauling loaded canoes through almost continuous rapids, to cross to the Moisie River watershed beyond Lac Vital, Quebec.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New Site Content

I have added Mark's new blog to the "Blogs I read" section of the sidebar. If you are even a casual fan of all things Algonquin, you will love this new addition to an already awesome site.

You can check it out at

I have also added a banner to the top of the sidebar where I will post my progress saving money for my spring canoe purchase. If you are feeling generous please feel free to contact me

Thanks for reading folks!

"Where have you been???"

...that pretty much sums up the general sentiment of the emails I have received from readers lately. The past month or two have been a bit crazy and something had to give, so the blog took a back seat for a while. Sorry folks, but as some of the folks that have been reading my blog for a while can attest, this is nothing terribly unusual for me. I will admit that November was a particularly bad on the blog front, with just two posts for the month I am not surprised many of you thought I had jumped ship....or canoe in this case. But rest assured that I am still here and don't plan on leaving. With that 'bout an UPDATE people?

  • Canoe Search- I had posted about a canoe that was for sale on eBay a while back, but after some great advice from the guys on the AA forum I have decided to go in a different direction. Mark, from Mark in the Park (see my LINKS) let me know about the rental sale that The Portage Store has each spring. They have a number of different types, but for now I am leaning towards either the Ultra light the Langford Kevlar. They look like good quality canoes and for $650-$900 you can't go wrong in my opinion. I BIG thanks to Mark for giving me the heads up. I have learned that one of the things to watch for when buying a flat bottom canoe is for hogging. Thanks to Rick for posting some great info!
  • Kids Canoe Trip- We haven't decided on a date yet, but the destination had been finalized! We will be spending two nights on Booth Lake. This will be Laurens first ever trip to Algonquin and I am very excited for her to finally get to experience something that has become such a BIG part of my life.
  • Jack, Oh Jack..- Our yellow lab Jack is almost a year old and has turned out to be one great dog....most of the time. He has never been one to cause a lot of damage or chew, but last week while Tanyia was out he somehow got a hold of my digital camera. Tanyia called me at work to let me know and I had a panic attack as I imagined my camera all chewed to bits. Well fortunately, it was still in the thick case so the camera came away with very little damage. In fact the only thing that happened was a very small crack in the corner of the I won't be able to take it under water anymore, but at least it still works! I was never 100% happy with that camera and I am still considering buying a new one that has a viewfinder. This one doesn't have one and I find it hard to properly "frame" a picture without it.
  • Canoe Fund- I opened a new bank account to save for the canoe I plan to buy in the spring. I have set it up to take $100 from each pay and deposit it into the "Canoe account". By my calculations I should have about $1400 by May, which is more then enough to buy me a used canoe! I plan to add a "Canoe Fund Meter" to the blog this afternoon, so I can update my progress.
  • Star Wars Figures- My boys are obsessed with Star Wars, so I managed to find them 40 new figures on eBay for $30! It's so much fun watching my kids love the same thing I did as a child and allows me to be a kid again too. Good deal though eh?
  • CC 2007 Trip Log- It STILL isn't done, but I am still pecking away at it and will post the second it is done. The problem is all the detail I like to put into them takes a long time to write out and free time has been a problem lately.

Nautical Terminology

This is one of those things that I know I should know, but sometimes get confused about. So just in case I am not the only one that gets port and starboard mixed up, here is a reminder...

Bow - The front or pointy end of the boat.

Stern - The back or blunt end of the boat.

Port side - The left hand side of the boat when you are in the boat facing forward.

Starboard side - The right hand side of the boat when you are in the boat facing forward.