BWCA Kayak Camping Single Portage? Boundary Waters Group Forum: Solo Tripping
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member (6)member
07/11/2020 03:26PM  
I moved to MN recently, and looking to buy a kayak to explore the 10k lakes, including for my first BWCA trip. I've read many posts about why canoes are superior, but I'll eventually buy a yak for the great lakes anyways, so can make the yak work here?

After reviewing the forums, two main complaints I see are: portage carry weight, and portage time un/repacking the yak's holds. I guess compared to a canoe it's heavier, but a 50 lb touring yak doesn't sound like much to me. I could easily carry more... which leads to the un/repacking could be solved by not unloading for the portage. Sure, that adds weight doing a single portage, but only ~35 lbs. Assuming my 33 lbs backpacking gear (including food & fuel for 4 day trip) and ~2 lbs for PFD + paddle, total is ~85 lbs on my shoulders. I can easily carry 100+ lbs girlfriend, so what's the big deal?

Am I just a hulk-ish anomaly or is there something I'm missing? I can't imagine the yak snapping under this minor load if it can survive a rooftop car ride. Are the portages really that long on average? Obviously I'll avoid the longest 2 mile one, but surely most are significantly less, right?

My background: 27 years old, 6'3", 190 lbs, athletic, man, experienced at 4 seasons backpack camping, but the only boat I currently own is an inflatable canoe, so I've obviously gotta buy something here, preferably a yak!

Please advise!
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distinguished member(832)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/11/2020 07:11PM  
If you were to carry a 100 lb pack over even ground for 200 rods, it would be difficult, but very doable. An 85 pound, unbalanced kayak on uneven bolder fields and slick rock would not be doable. I'm 5' 11" 198 pounds and anything over 45 pounds over your shoulders gets old quick. If you don't want to own a canoe, I would highly suggest renting one for the BWCA.

distinguished member(1439)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/11/2020 07:13PM  
When I was your age, weight was not a huge concern. I could flip a 100 lb. wood and canvas canoe onto my shoulders solo and march thru the portages no problem. I don't see the weight combo itself being an issue for you, if you are fit.

You will want a carrying kayak yoke so it can rest evenly on both shoulders, because setting that type of weight on just one shoulder would be miserable and on the slippery rocky paths will put a crimp in your stride.

The biggest challenge you will have is making sure the weight is evenly distributed so when you have the yoke on your shoulder, the kayak is not bow or stern heavy. Since I have never used a kayak like that, I am not familiar with how much storage is available on each end and how easy it would be to keep the weight distributed.
07/11/2020 07:56PM  
Personally I would get a canoe for canoe country and a yak for other lakes. If you do get the Yak staying on the large border lakes would be a good idea. Basswood through Carp to Knife would be a good route for a yak.
member (6)member
07/11/2020 09:00PM  
Thanks for the feedback, this is great! I'll plan to kayak the big border lake for my maiden voyage, test a few short yoked portages, and if it's too imbalanced for the terrain, I'll canoe for trip #2.

Excited to be paddling again, it's been too many years! Can you believe there are states down south with zero natural lakes!? Lucky to be back here in ex-glacier country.
07/11/2020 09:40PM  
You could well be the exception on this one. Go for it.

But figure out a good yoke system for the yak. That can be tricky.
07/11/2020 10:33PM  
When I was younger I also carried much more weight, but now know the damage done to joints has added up, and I have gone from Moose Lake to Kawnipi in Quetico and back in a yak. Others do it, you surely can too.

A good yoke and balance are very important, +1 on this earlier input. If you do a trip with no challenging portages you could shoulder carry, but it can be a hassle quick.
member (6)member
07/12/2020 08:17AM  
Thanks, I'll definitely get or make a yoke. I know a yak is a compromise, and I plan on buying a canoe eventually, but that'll wait till after I move out of my apartment. Boring reason but I don't want to bleed my future house savings on rentals, and no space here for two boats.

Do I need to bring my passport to go to Quetico / Canada side of any border lake?

Follow up, but am I looking at the right yaks? It seems most touring yaks for sale in the Twin Cities / MN are ~50 lbs. Having backpacked a lot, I know I'd always be happier with less. Seems all the ultralight yaks are either in NY or some other distant place... Or am I missing the best local outfitter?
07/12/2020 10:00AM  
Consider the effects of portaging a kayak with gear inside. It will by necessity be at the ends of the kayak. Think of the exaggerated movements this will cause with each swing side to side and up or down. Yes the total weight is the same but stopping or controlling those movements is amplified.
You may be "hulk-ish" but even the green dude has limitations.

distinguished member(850)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/12/2020 10:12AM  
I think Butthead has the best description of the problems you will encounter with gear in the hatches. You will do best with a yoke regardless of how you deal with your gear, so you can try it out just to see. Getting the weight balanced is going to take some trials and may change over the course of the trip as you use up food or have to pack up a wet tent or or tarp.

The best arrangement I have seen used for readying gear for the portage:

Have all your stuff arranged in small stuff sacs, no or very little loose gear.
A simple duffel with shoulder straps(cheap, lots of sizes available) goes into the hatch last so it comes out first.
Dump all those stuff sacs in the duffel put the yoke on the yak and go. Takes only a minute or so to do. Reverse at end. You should have ne problem with the weight if it is concentrated on your shoulders.

The tripper I watched do this at the start of a portage did the whole process standing in the water next to his yak. He never moved it up on shore, banging it around on the rocks.

I see more yaks in the BWCAW every time I go. Figure an efficient method that suits your style and you will be able to enjoy touring with the kayak since that seems to be your desire. We would be interested in how this works out for you.
member (6)member
07/12/2020 10:45AM  
That higher moment of inertia is a good concern. Worst case I bring my backpacking pack, 1 minute of shoveling stuff sacks is no big deal, just another couple lbs total including the pack. I'll keep you posted once I've bought the boat & acquired a yoke.
distinguished member(1442)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/12/2020 10:56AM  
distinguished member (113)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/12/2020 12:44PM  
I own one of these in Kevlar Poke Boat, weighs about 20 pounds, this one is fiberglass and weighs about 30 pounds. You have to put in air bag for flotation. I use some small bags and have a lot of space in front and backs for packs. They are expensive but love mine.
Poke boats.
07/12/2020 01:18PM  
MagicPaddler: " Compromise "
07/12/2020 05:03PM  
No required passport as entry into Canada is still prohibited. Do not fish in their waters or land your boat on Canadian soil, the exception is portages that are on the Canadian side that connect to border lakes.
The cockpit of a kayak is really not designed for a yoke nor supporting much weight. It will work, but I have been concerned about damaging the cockpit without any gear stowed. And finding a way to pack and maintain aft-fore balance would be a challenge. No gear in the boat while portaging.
Curious. What will be your primary paddling and how is a solo canoe not appropriate? I would be fine paddling my solo anywhere a recreation kayak would go, maybe a little hesitant in some situations.
The Delta is 12.6 and has large storage for a boat it's size. I prefer my 14.6 Tsunami but still had to pack some gear on the deck...think larger items that will not fit. Packing and accessing gear in a canoe is so much easier.
07/12/2020 06:10PM  
You might also check out Kruger canoes. A hybrid of sorts and I know several people on this board who use them. Click on "canoes" at the link.

Kruger canoes

member (6)member
07/12/2020 07:08PM  
All these recommendations look great! Tsunami is most in line with what I'm expecting, length is nice for double use in the great lake, only minor downside is the weight. The used Poke boat & Delta are attractive options, but seem a bit short for good tracking over open water. Is this a fair assessment? I'm concerned as a tall guy I'll need a longer paddle to hit the water, and therefore a longer boat the counter that extra torque. Kruger is sadly outta my price range.

Primary paddling will be BWCA until the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore opens up, that looks like a fun challenge. I fear taking any canoe over that much open water. Eventually Voyageurs NP also, again same concern with the canoe. I know I should have 2 different boats for these contexts, but I think the optimal compromise is to get 1 "jack of all trades = master of none" kayak until I'm not living in an apartment.

I don't bring much gear, just enough to fill a 50-60L backpacking pack. No need for a clunky folding chair, I relax in my hammock! I'm pretty confident any longer boat should be able to accommodate my gear. Bhouse thanks for the heads up on damaging the cockpit, I might need to 3D-print some custom interfaces for the yoke!
07/12/2020 10:33PM  
Input on use was helpful. I primarily paddle small to mid sized lakes and gentle rivers but have also eyed the Apostle islands and have researched trips there. I doubt my Tsunami would do better than my 16 foot Magic with deck cover but anticipated paddling something at least 17 foot for big water trips. The length not only helps with tracking, but also speed and for an open water trip the kayak would do better.
Price may keep you with a kayak, something in the 14 foot range will do you well, but a solo canoe at 16 foot still might be something to consider. Who knows, by the time the Apostles open up you could have a garage.
distinguished member (113)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/13/2020 05:50AM  
I would not take canoe to Apostle Island. A family lost 3 of its four members canoeing the apostles 2 years ago. So sad. There are several kayak rental places around here for sea kayaks. Try a few see what you like.
distinguished member(971)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/14/2020 11:25AM  
I trip and portage with my yak. I have a portage yoke, and pack like a backpacker. My total pack load for a week is under 40 lbs, and my yak weighs 45. I don't unpack anything at portages, just throw the yoke on and go. I am a large man, 6'2" and 260, so maybe that helps me manage the weight? The longest portage I have done was 240 rods, and I stopped once to rest on that one. I could be the exception to the rule but I say go for the yak.
member (6)member
07/14/2020 12:09PM  
Bear Burrito, outta curiosity which kayak / length do you ride?
distinguished member(971)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/14/2020 04:55PM  
I have an Old Town Loon 126. They say it's a rec boat, but it works for me to trip with.
distinguished member (218)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/15/2020 10:57AM  
This is a good guy who knows a LOT about kayak camping. He travels Algonquin a lot.
distinguished member(1439)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/15/2020 04:20PM  
distinguished member(1457)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/17/2020 07:49AM  
my advice is to find another person interested in going with and then carrying the yaks loaded, two person, one on each end, yes, you will need to double portage, that is a sin only if you think it is

if the other yak was a double, you'd have three people and you could single portage with the middle guy being you since you are macho man insisting on single portage
member (6)member
07/25/2020 12:14PM  
Hey man -- Welcome to MN! take it from me -- been there, done that.

The enjoyment of solo canoeing through the BWCA vs kayaking is incalculably greater. Packing/unpacking the kayak compartments at each portage is a total PITA, even with a well-designed system. Portaging a yak is doable, but yaks are not engineered to be portaged overhead and it is awkward, aggravating, and dicier.

Compare this to fast-paced solo canoeing -- have one backpack with all gear, arrive at a portage, pull it on your back, throw the light canoe over you and hit the trail. single portage. You can cover 20 miles a day with this format.

If I were you, i'd get a canoe first. I'll sell you my kayak lol . 14.5' Perception Carolina. Nice solid fast boat.

Hit me up w questions



08/02/2020 09:19AM  
FWIW, a very strong 21yo wilderness firefighting student really struggled with a 100# aluminum canoe over an easy 60 rod portage this week on our trip. And I couldn’t even get it ten feet despite being a weightlifter and easily overhead squatting that. As others have mentioned, carrying the unbalanced weight like a sail over your head with extra weight at the tips and stepping over rocks and roots and swamps—it’s tough.

But you do your own thing, my friend. I recommend trying it first before you commit to a long trip with lots of portages.
member (7)member
12/31/2020 11:56AM  
Half a year out, I'm curious if you bought a yak and how it went, Dippy?

I wonder because you're approaching this from more or less the same angle I did when I moved to MN five years ago. Came from a backpacking background, with some sea kayaking experience, and wanted a yak to do a whole slew of things. So that's what I did.

I have a 14' Dagger Alchemy (which I love). I have soloed it for many BWCA trips, Voyageurs NP (Rainy Lake mostly), tooling around town, rivers, etc. It's still short of a true sea kayak, so I will still rent a more suitable yak for Apostle Isands one day - but otherwise it performs great on the chop that builds on big lakes like Rainy, or Basswood sometimes in the BWCA. It's fast, and tracks well. Love it on the water.

After quite a few solo trips BWCA trips, I'd mostly reiterate what was said here. It's certainly doable, but I do find myself wishing I had a solo canoe on every portage. I do exactly what sedges described - generally use small stuff sacks in the hatches, and have a large but lightweight big duffle at the top of hatch. Hit the portage landing, pull out all the sacks, throw them in the duffle, and then I usually double portage now (just faster for me). I tried a few portages early on with it loaded. As others described, it's not the overall weight, but the fact that you have weight at the end of 7+foot lever arms away from your body. For me, it's faster to unpack and repack every portage (and I'm actually as fast at the portage as some canoe groups now). I don't have a yoke - am yet to find one that fit my narrow cockpit well - so I portage by folding up my closed cell foam butt pad on my should, and then shouldering it the whole way. It is... not comfortable. But it works.

So how has it gone for you? Did you portage with it fully loaded?

distinguished member (392)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/07/2021 07:09PM  

Two solos, both 5 days. Used my 12', 50lb Perception Kayak. No yoke.

Left to right:
10L - food bag; goes behind my seat.
20L - sleeping bag, pad, pillow, clothes. Goes between my legs towards the front.
Backpack - first aid kit, cookware, tarp, and miscellaneous camp gear; goes in the rear storage compartment.
What is missing is my tent, which was attached to the backpack while portaging. Also in rear storage. Rain gear is under the straps on the top front for easy access.

Double portage: Packs and paddle first trip, kayak on second trip. Shoulder that b#&$% and get to stepping.

Recently purchased a kayak yoke from Piragis. Have not had the time to install and try it out yet. Stay tuned.


02/09/2021 10:19AM  
Has anyone else seen this kayak portage yoke?

The KaYoke

Seems like it could be a good option for those who insist on kayak camping through the BW.
distinguished member(832)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/09/2021 10:52AM  
Can you imagine lifting up your Kayak and shimmying that webbing at the beginning and end of every portage... I can't even stand messing with a yoke on a solo canoe let alone having to slide it under the vessel every time. To each his own I guess.
02/09/2021 11:38AM  
MidwestFirecraft: "Can you imagine lifting up your Kayak and shimmying that webbing at the beginning and end of every portage... I can't even stand messing with a yoke on a solo canoe let alone having to slide it under the vessel every time. To each his own I guess."
...and dealing with all the little bags of gear at each portage. But, if the person is simply looking for a way to portage the kayak by itself, it might be an ok option.
distinguished member(781)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/19/2022 03:15PM  
I'll repeat some of what has been said.

I'm a big guy also. Not just large but like a linebacker a few years past playing days. 6' 2", etc. I have a kayak and use it to lake and river camp and have portaged just enough to know I would NOT want to take it on a longer more frequent portage situation. As others have said, it's the balance issue that is the issue. The weight is a problem over longer and treacherous portages, but an unbalanced canoe can turn treacherous into dangerous.

The solution? Get a pack boat, like one from Swift. It's a canoe/kayak hybrid and is most likely what I'll purchase next and move to as my full-time trip vessel when I'm not on a local rocky river.
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