Once the weather breaks and summer begins in earnest, I get itchy to embark upon some multi-day paddling trips.
I like both kinds of touring: canoe and kayak. I’m not a serious paddler; I just like to be on the water. When I can be on the water for several days at a time, I’m beyond delighted. One reason that I was so happy to move to Madison is its proximity to the Wisconsin River. Within forty-five minutes, I can be on the river, paddle in hand, headed towards the Mississippi. If time allows, I love to do more ambitious trips, but just getting on the river for one night will completely recreate my world.
On the Wisconsin River, there are a number of small islands where you can beach your boat, set up your tent to catch the sunrise, and settle down with a cozy campfire. I love fires, but safely building a good campfire can be difficult at times. For example, given that you set up camp on one of these islands, you won’t find neat metal fire rings provided by the park service. So, where do you build your roaring furnace (or your gently crackling flames)? As I am a fan of “Leave-No-Trace” camping, I am grateful that Snow Peak makes the Pack and Carry Foldable Fireplace–a folding version of the Weber-type backyard fireplaces. For fuel, you can use wood or charcoal, and the fireplace leaves behind neither blackened rock nor scorched earth.
There is something very primal and satisfying about watching a campfire dancing long into the night. Since you’ve got the night, the fire, and this is Wisconsin, why not roast some brats? Soft-sided Frostline Coolers take up precious little space and are very thermally efficient. If you freeze the brats and pack them in ice, they will remain safely refrigerated for several days. Now, to cook the brats: for years, I’ve used the “brat on a stick” technique, but a carved stick gives you little control over the cooking process. Cowboy Hank’s Hot Dog Forks are a simple answer to a question I didn’t even know I had. These wire tips add a big forked end to your roasting stick. It really grabs onto that brat, hotdog, marshmallow, or other campfire treat, so your snack ends up perfectly cooked, on the stick, and out of the fire.
For those of you who crave a smoothie in the morning or a Margarita at night, your prayers have been answered. The GSI Vortex Blender is a two-speed, hand-cranked manual blender whose liquid creations have only been contemplated on the river heretofore. GSI also makes what may be the perfect camp cup/bowl combination: the Fair Share Mug. Made out of Lexan and thus virtually indestructible, it has a big handle that doesn’t get hot, gradations that allow it to triple as a measuring cup, and a screw top that keeps hot things hot much longer. Another favorite of mine from GSI is the Hard Anodized Aluminum Cookware. Every piece is light, strong, distributes heat well, and cleans easily–it’s the camping version of Calphalon with a beautiful look that should last a long time.
Many of these cool camp toys may seem like luxuries to some campers. Are they? Why, certainly! That, my friends, is a privilege of canoe or kayak touring. Let go-lite backpackers drool in envy: we paddlers will be on the river, watching the sunset, frosty drink in hand, fire roaring in the fireplace.