The Art of Expeditionary Packing
by Andy Singh
The day after returning from the Murray, I took the opportunity to review what I took and how I packed. Each item was weighed before being cleaned and packed away.
In total, I took 117 different items, plus the addition of multiples of the same items.
- Most useful item – small pair of scissors – promoted on Day 3 to front deck bag in recognition of frequent service
- Most important item – throw rope – legendary Day 1 performance – the gift against grief
- Unused item – hand saw – what was I thinking?
- Most poorly performing item – my spork broke on Day 1
- Crew member of the month – stepping into the void created by the demise of my spork, I recovered a plastic spoon from my coffee supplies. The little white plastic spoon provided great service for the next four and a half days before succumbing to a careless unload on Day 5 – RIP little spoon.
I anticipate about 108 items who joined me in 2019 will be invited along in 2020.
All together I carried 45 kg of gear, plus my 84 kg of body mass and 23 kg of kayak weight, creating a 150 kg missile shooting down the river.
Of the 45 kg load, my camping gear weighed 13.3 kg, my water and wine weighed 16 kg, my food 5 kg and my kayaking gear including paddles, PFD, clothes and safety gear weighed 10.9 kg.
Water and wine constituted 35% of my total load weight. For the future, reducing weight may involve
a) giving up drinking wine
b) being able to filter water
c) planning the trip with water resupplies.
I brought twice as much food as I needed – ultimately I had a good breakfast – I nibbled throughout the day and had a good dinner. Most of my lunches and desserts came home.
There is not much scope for reducing the weight of kayaking gear, most of it was essential.
So in training for the 2020 Murray Descent, loading my boat with 15 kg in the front and 15 kg in the back, would mirror expeditionary kayaking conditions.
This year, 65% of the load weight sat in the rear hatch and 35% in the forward hatch. An additional 13% sat in front of my feet behind the foot plate. Without an understanding of physics, the over weighted rear assisted in keeping the kayak maneuverable. On the wider and more predictable waters of the Murray below Hume, I can shift weight forward to create a more balanced boat.
My 4.8m Q-Kayak Shearwater has a rear hatch capacity of 91 litres and a front capacity of 52 litres. This was more than enough to store all my gear. Ultimately packing within the kayak is a practiced reductionist skill, and one highly valued by those who need a bit of OCD in their lives. Certainly I would have no reservations taking my Shearwater on another week-long trip again. But in 2020 I am in my Mirage 530, enjoying an extra 22 litres of capacity.