On September 2, friends and adventurers Adam Trigg, Winchell Delano, Jarrad Moore, Daniel Flynn, John Keaveny and Luke Kimmes finished their eight-month (that's 242 days), 5,200-mile canoe trip from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. Billing the trip as "6 friends, 9 months, 10 States, 5 Provinces, 11 rivers, 5,200 miles, One Continent," they paddled upstream on the Mississippi River until connecting with the Red River, Lake Winnipeg, Lake Athabasca, Great Slave Lake, the Hood River and more until reaching their destination of Bathurst Inlet on the Arctic Ocean. "They're definitely the only group I've known to take this route up to the Arctic Ocean,” says John Ruskey from the Lower Mississippi River Dispatch, who met the group in Helena, Arkansas. We caught up with team member Kimmes for his list of six, can't-live-without gear items he and his team used, getting them through thick and thin. "We used all of these on a daily basis," he says. "And they all outweighed each other at any given time on the trip."
Big Agnes Downtek Bellyache Mountain Sleeping Bag
I've used a handful of different bags from various companies in the past. This was my first Big Agnes bag. I'm astounded by its durability and warmth. The new Downtek works wonderfully. After sleeping around 260 nights in this bag, I can say it's top notch. Even during the winter months with lots of condensation, if the outside of the bag was wet, it never reached the down inside.There were times when conditions wouldn't allow for it to dry out for over a week, but the bag inside stayed dry and warm. It was great during the winter and summer. It's extremely durable and held up after stuffing it in a Sea to Summit stuff sack day in and day out.
Hilleberg Keron 3 GT Tent
This tent was invaluable. The amount of space it offers is huge. Having a vestibule as big as the tent was also clutch, for everything from repackaging food packs to cooking and storage. I can’t even think of how it would've been without them. It makes total sense to have a tent that allows you to set up the shell first, and then the inside. If you're putting it up in a storm, which we did often, it keeps the inside of the tent dry. The set-up became so easy we could have set them up with our eyes closed – which we did sometimes because there were so many mosquitoes. They also hold warmth well, which was crucial during the winter, and had great ventilation. In the summer we kept both doors open. It was also impressively durable and able to withstand a major ice storm.
Most of our paddling was an upstream battle. However the days we had a tail wind were a blessing, especially since we had Windpaddle sails. We covered many, many miles in no time with their help. And they're extremely durable, which we know because we put them through the wringer. They endure gusts of up to 45 mph — that is, if you can keep your grip to hold on. One day on the Mississippi, I thought the wind was going to rip it in half, but they held strong. Without them, our fast pace mile-crushing stints would have been unheard of, and those days of luxury would have been a mere daydream.
Bending Branches, Sawyer, and Werner Paddles
This one is a pretty obvious piece of gear to have on an eight-month canoe expedition. However we each preferred a different style of paddle. Styles we used were a straight shaft, bent shaft, carbon fiber, spoon, and carbon fiber bent shaft. They all worked great.
NRS Boundary Shoe
While one of our biggest issues was finding proper footwear for all seasons, the NRS Boundary River Booty was the best shoe. Everyday occurrences they got us through involved jumping out of the boat at any given time to pull through rapids, walking through shin-deep mud, protection from bugs and hiking miles of portages. These shoes helped with all of these and more.
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
As humans, we lack X-ray vision. So when the sun goes down, having a headlamp is a must. During the first five months light was pretty sparse; we usually set up or took down camp in the dark. And our nighttime or early morning paddles required good way-finding light. The Black Diamond Storm worked great all the time. Thankfuly, once we got up north to the land of the midnight sun, we didn't need it. But we certainly did in winter on the Mississippi.
Read more about the impetus for the expedition, funded in part with the $2,500 Expedition Grant presented by Shred Ready, which was awarded to Winchell Delano's 2,600-mile Trans-Territorial Canoe Expedition upon winning the 2013 Canoe & Kayak Awards Expedition of the Year, and visit www.rediscoverna.comwww.rediscoverna.com.