Smith River: Packing the canoe

If you are lucky enough to draw a permit to float the Smith River in Montana, you will have five days surrounded by gorgeous red and blue cliffs.  Just check out my video.  It’s 56 miles beginning at Camp Baker just outside of White Sulfur Springs and ends at Eden Bridge near Ulm.


Our permit was for a launch date of April 23.  We had done it 2 years prior, the last weekend in June so we knew what to expect.  Both years we ended up with groups of eleven people, three canoes and two rafts.   We have a canoe so one of the biggest questions many have asked us is how we fit everything.


We use a Mad River 14.  We were able to pack three 20 liter dry bags for clothes.  We usually only use two – one each.  However, we knew it might snow so I brought an extra one for some warm, dry boots to wear around camp as well as other warm layers.  We use a 40 liter dry bag for our tent, two sleeping bags and two towels.  Food, beer and cooking utensils are distributed between a 45 quart Yeti Cooler, A small soft-sided cooler, and a big laundry bag.  Other gear like a small tarp, a collapsible bucket for doing dishes, etc. went in a mesh bag.   We also have a Coleman camping table that rolls up but some of the rafters in our group also had one so we left ours in the car.

When packing our Madriver, I start with filling the spaces below our seats.  Nate sits in front because he’s the muscles, I’m the driver in back.  So under Nate’s seat I shove two of our 20 liter dry bags of clothing.  Under the middle seat I put our rolled up foam sleeping pads.  The last time we did the trip we chose not to bring the sleeping pads so we could use the space for other things.  We also just brought little bleacher chairs last time, this time we brought full sized lawn chairs.  Those fit perfectly under my seat

We strap the Yeti Cooler onto the middle seat using a few bungee cords.  Our friends also have a Madriver Canoe.  They bought a Yeti that’s a little bigger than ours.  They built an extra block to help balance it so they can put it sideways on the middle seat.

11174853_10152998121512408_3617277823161041756_n This is a picture of our canoe packed up on the Smith River. The army green bag has our dry food, cooking utensils, and a large cooking pot.  Next to it is our 20 liter dry bag that I mentioned has our tent and sleeping bags in it.

11150360_10152998091232408_7113317152489504680_nAnd finally, the third clothing dry bag went behind my seat with another small bag of toiletries.  In front of my feet was the soft-sided cooler with accessible beer and snacks.  My life jacket was also up there when I wasn’t wearing it.  In front of Nate’s feet was the mesh bag of random gear like our gravity bag water filter and stuff.

In my next post, I’ll talk about what kind of meals we cooked on the river and how we packed and prepared them.


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