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Wanna go?


Grand Canyon. 10 days. Self-support. 1/29/12.

Hell yeah!!! It’s only the “trip of a lifetime!” This message came early December, leaving about a month and a half for planning, packing, and wrangling any additional gear needed for the trip.

It’s difficult to communicate in words how stoked I am for this trip. “It’s magic,” they keep saying. But despite all of the excitement, some doubts and worries have managed to creep into my mind.

I’ve never paddled big water before. What will it be like to be the only female in a crew of 11? Who are these people (I only know two of the ten)? Am I in good enough shape to paddle over twenty miles a day for ten days straight? I mean, I’m just your average weekend warrior.

The logistical questions are easier, they have straightforward answers. What boat should I take? What gear do I need? What’s a groover and why do I have to build my own? How cold does it get? Are any of my boats even suitable for this adventure?

While my largest boat, a Jackson Villain S, may be suitable, it’s not the most desirable. Fitting 10 days of gear is entirely possible, but the boat isn’t designed for a speedy trip through the canyon. It would be slow on the flats and inclined to spin out. Also, our permit holder specifically said “no creekers.”

Somehow I managed to snag a Jackson Rogue 9, which is much more suitable for the trip. It has a hull designed to speed through flatwater and a skeg to help paddle in a straight line. It also has a rear hatch for loads of gear.

I’m picking up the Rogue in Salt Lake City, UT on my way to the canyon (from Seattle). Of course, planning and packing for this adventure is complicated without having the boat in my possession. Thanks to the good people at Mountain to Sound Sports in West Seattle, I was able to check out the boat design in person and test pack, making sure everything would fit.

Packing the boat

Let’s face it. For a 10 day trip, in the middle of winter, with no raft support, you need a decent amount of stuff. Essential items only as space is at a premium.

The non-detailed pack list: essential kayaking gear and safety equipment, cold weather layering for under the drysuit, one full change of layers, shelter, stove, extra fuel, water filter, zero degree sleeping bag, sleeping pad, down jacket, wind/rain shell, warm pants for camp, camp shoes/booties, headlamps, batteries, camera, ten days of breakfast, snacks, and dinner. That’s a lot of stuff!!

The Rogue has two very awesome features that make the boat easy to pack.

1 – The rear hatch.

If you’ve ever packed the stern of a boat by cramming dry bags behind the seat and into the stern, it’s a pain. The rear hatch makes it easy. I’ll be packing my sleeping bag, most of my food supply, and other odds and ends in the stern.

2 – The overall design of the bow.

First of all, instead of a bulkhead it has little foot pegs on each side. If these are in your way at all, you can easily slide them in and out. There’s nothing to unscrew.

Secondly, the center pillar slides right out. This is a great spot for a groover. If you aren’t replacing the groover with a center pillar, then you can clip your dry bags directly to the back of the center pillar. Then you can easily access your dry bags by pulling out the pillar, and there’s no need to go digging into the bow. It’s a great design, and I had to see it to “get it.”

My plan is take two long 35L tapered dry bags and put those in the bow alongside the groover. Another option would be to use multiple smaller drybags, but I already have the larger ones from my last trip (stuffed in the stern of a Villain S). First, I put things like a tarp and tent (not in sacks) to fill out the bottom of the bags. Then I pack things like my sleeping pad, Jetboil, fuel canisters, and wind/rain shell. Anything I want to keep dry, like clothing, layers, and down, go into smaller dry sacks, which are the last thing I put in the larger dry bags.

I gotta say, it’s WAY EASIER to stuff those big dry bags into the bow of the Rogue than into the stern of the Villain! Since you don’t have to get behind the seat, you get a bigger opening and they just slide right into the bow. In the Villain, I had to put the bag in first, then cram each individual item in one by one… and the sleeping bag, OY!

The Groover

The groover is essentially a poop tube, which is a necessary piece of equipment for anyone who wants to paddle in a place where human waste must be packed out. It’s easy to make your own.

The NPS requires 40 cubic inches of space for each day of the trip. So for a ten day trip, you need 400 cubic inches of space. There are various options to get there, but for the Rogue, I like using 4″ diameter ABS (similar to PVC) that is 32″ long. This size fits nicely into the bow replacing the front center pillar (which easily slides out of the Rogue in about two seconds). The groover can be secured to the bow by using two buckle straps around the groover and through the rail where the center pillar would go.

I’d like to note that, usually, it’s not the best idea to remove a center pillar from a boat. On a run like the Grand Canyon, however, removing the center pillar should not cause any safety concerns.

To craft the groover, go to your local building supply store and purchase some ABS (4″ diameter), matching fittings, and ABS cement. On one end of the groover, you need a solid end cap. On the other end, you need a female threaded fitting and a screw top lid. Both fittings are glued in with ABS cement (it even comes with the brush in the can).

If you don’t know what you’re looking for, just ask, someone may be happy to help, and they might even cut the ABS to your specifications. If not, or if you end up with a pipe that is too long like I did, ABS is easy to cut at home with a hand saw.

By no means do you need to use ABS over PVC. The availability of each may vary on a regional basis. They are very similar, but ABS happens to be lighter and more environmentally friendly.

We launch in exactly ONE WEEK. All I can say is… WOOOOOOOT!!!!!