This is the second part of a two part article covering my experiences when kayaking alone and advice if you decide to do so. You can find the first part here [Kayaking Alone Part 1]! Also please don’t forget to check out the recommended product at the end of this article. This is one of the products I use on my solo floats.
Kayaking alone means camping alone. When camping solo along the river I always consider a few factors called the 3 W’s: Weather, water, wood. First, what is the weather going to do? When rain or storms are possible, I always find high ground and will drag the kayak close to me. Even in good weather I make sure I’m never on a small island and I always have access to higher ground in case the weather changes.
When it comes to water in the 3 W’s, I look for clean water to filter for drinking and cooking. I try to find a spring or moving water within walking distance from my camp. Having a good water filtration system can mean the difference between good hydration and serious illness arising from bad bacteria. I try to avoid stagnant water because of mosquitoes and would rather filter clear water to prevent clogging my filter.
Wood is the last of the three. Wood isn’t always a necessity for me. Many times I’ll camp without fire. However a fire is a good morale booster. It’s nice to have that fire after a long day of adventure, to provide warmth and it helps keeps the bugs away.
When I kayak alone, I always bring a life jacket, SOS beacon and knife. Depending on where you’re kayaking or camping, a gun might also be handy. I have had a few experiences where I wished I brought my gun that day.
A few years back I was on my last night of a 4-day solo kayaking trip along the Buffalo National River. I tied my kayak to a tree, hung my hammock up the hill, and got ready for bed. My night was going well until around 1 or 2 am in the morning when I woke up and noticed two figures down by my kayak with flash lights. I was over a mile away from any campgrounds and had not seen any floaters that day. This gave me the assumption that they had floated down in the dark. I grabbed my flashlight, turned it on to shine at the two men and my kayak and yelled “Hey!”. They immediately shined their light in my direction and yelled back at me. I honestly don’t remember what they said but it felt like a threat. One of the men started walking towards my direction. I then turned my flashlight on super bright mode with a strobe and yelled once again “This is my camp!” One of the men stopped, looked at his friend and returned to their kayaks cussing at me. If he had come up to me it would have been nice to have had a gun handy.
Side Note: One thing you need to remember is that not everyone is a threat and you can’t just be pulling your gun on everyone. In this case I would have drawn my gun if he had continued up to my hammock. Also, I was in a National Park and sometimes a park ranger will approach camps at night. I would hope they would always identify themselves beforehand but to be safe always make sure you’re not pulling a firearm on a park ranger. I once was told by a good friend that he never fears the creatures when in the backcountry – other than the two legged ones. Crazy people are out there and when you’re alone it’s up to you to protect yourself. Just check local laws before taking a firearm with you.
Most of all, when kayaking alone, plan on relaxing and having fun! One of my favorite things to do when kayaking alone is just chilling in the water. I like to find a cool spring that meets up with the warmer water and just lay where both waters mix. It’s a very relaxing feeling to have two temps circling your body at the same time. Sometimes, if you sit long enough, the fish will come all the way up to you and will touch your hands. I know this kind of makes me sound like a hippy, but it’s kind of cool.
Fishing for food, or just to catch and release is also a fun activity when alone on a river float. I personally catch and release mainly because I’m not a fan of the taste of fish. However, it’s always fun catching that large bass and feeling him fight you all the way. Go for swims, explore around your camp. Take photos and just enjoy the sights and wildlife. Whatever makes you feel happy, this is your time with none other than maybe another floater or two passing you by.
Just remember this trip is about you! Always plan a safe trip letting others know details of where and when you’ll be. Bring the right gear for camping and fishing, and of course protection from animals and perhaps other people. Make this trip about you and have fun!