Anyone who’s had to carry a loaded kayak over a portage (in the BWCA for example) or across a tidal flat knows that it’s not an easy task given the boat’s design and compounded by the weight and amount of gear stuffed into compartments in the hull. The use of what canoers call a Canoe Pack/Duluth Pack/Portage Pack may be the answer to getting your gear – and boat – from one spot to another more conveniently and efficiently.
Portage/Canoe packs are voluminous, shopping bag-shaped backpacks that can be stuffed with several, various sized, odd-shaped items for easier transport of gear after being unloaded from watercraft. Originally fabricated from tough canvas, they are now also made from sturdy nylons and other rough-wear outdoor fabrics. Some have side pockets but their main feature is one huge, deep bag in which all your odds/ends camping gear can be carried.
Most paddlers use them on kayak camping trips. Rolled up and stowed behind/alongside the seat, kayak packs can be easily deployed when unloading gear from fore and aft hatches. Since packing a kayak usually involves stowing gear in several small, easy-to-load bags, it’s easier to get all those components from the beach to a campsite by collecting them together and loading them into a kayak pack. Boat/paddle and gear can all be brought up the beach, into camp in one trip.
While in camp, these packs serve well for gathering armloads of firewood, too. Packing up is equally easy, bringing all gear to be reloaded back down to the beach in fewer trips.
These packs can obviously be an asset any time a lot of small items need to be gathered up and transported. They are not always the most comfortable backpacks but for the short haul up a beach or even when a kayaker steps out along a portage, a “kayak” pack may be a trip saver.