Advice for camping out on an AI/TI on our 7-day Chok-FLM trip
1. Rule 1:
“Less is more” The experienced backpacker has a sensible mindset for an extended trip. The rest of us must
work at reducing our load size to ease the chore of making and breaking camp. Nancy & I carry lots of stuff. We like some luxuries when we camp. Still, we try to carry less. The less stuff you take, the easier & faster your packing. The easier it is to find things. And, the faster your boat will go.Corollary:
lists are helpful here. One of my gear lists is at the bottom of the page, http://www.hobiecat.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=70&t=7276&start=150
More of my lists with some discussion are at http://www.hobiecat.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=70&t=7276&start=60
Scroll down until you find “AI Camping lists.
” You will see in my lists a “Water List.” It is really a spreadsheet which makes it easy to decide the amounts of water/Gatorade/beer to take, and, of course, it totals it as you make adjustments—easy to keep it around 7 gal for a 7-day trip.
Finally, if you have taken the time to make lists, you must check off each item on a list as it is put in your boat or vehicle to be transported to the launch. In other words, use your lists.
2. Rule 2:
“Down size, down size, down size” And, then, downsize more. A small tent is good. Keep cooking gear to a minimum. That big sleeping bag can be put into a Granite Gear “compression bag.” (Maybe, if it is going to be warm, you don’t need that big sleeping bag.) Also, your tent can go in a compression bag: http://www.rei.com/product/797346/granite-gear-compressor-sack
These bags need to be kept off the bottom of your boat to avoid water.
Sea to Summit has come out with some interesting compression dry bags
—the rule is 1 gallon/person/day—7 days, 7 gal. There is not really much to discuss about this. There is absolutely no fresh water along the route. Water filters DO NOT WORK on salt water. You do not need more than 7 gal for a 7 day trip. You can probably get by on 6.5 gal. Still, 7 gal gives you a bit of insurance in case you or someone has an accident and loses some water. That would be serious if you were by yourself, but the group can make it up. We carry most of our water in Dromedary bags (http://www.rei.com/product/733948/msr-dromedary-bag-10-liter
). They come in 4, 6, & 10 liter sizes. They are a bit expensive, but they last for 10-20 years. I would not buy the “lite” Dromedary bags—they are less sturdy. Interestingly, raccoons (see below) have never bothered our Dromedary bags—we can leave them out over night. We also carry bottles of Gatorade—these can be placed wherever they fit in your boat. Of course, the Gatorade counts towards your water quotient.
4. Out houses
—there are out houses on Pavilion, but that is about it. Graveyard has out houses, but we don’t camp at Graveyard proper, but rather at a place we call Scorpion Beach. Graveyard, 10 years ago, was one of our favorite campsites, but it has just been beat to death by hurricanes in recent years. Now we like Scorpion beach.
Bottom line, only Pavilion has out houses; everywhere else, it is “dig a cat hole.” Be sure to bring tp and trowel.
—some of you may think a chair is a luxury. We don’t, at least not at our age. A chair is so nice at the end of a long day. It gets you up to the level of your companions, who will all have chairs. BassPro stores have excellent 3-legged chairs. It is impossible to find a simple 4-legged chair today—they all have these huge arms w/ cup holders, nice but hard to fit on an AI/TI. Now, if you use tramps, you could easily store your chair(s) on them.
—this is a very personal choice. You do need to have noseeum netting. If you use an old tent with mosquito netting, it means you will likely be the noseeum entrée the first night on Pavilion.
It is nice to have 2 doors which allow you some option avoiding mosquitoes as you get in/out of your tent. Most campsites are sandy beaches. Don’t be caught without 12” plastic tent stakes (Campmor #21768) to fasten critical corners and lines. 6” or 9” plastic stakes can be used at less stressed points. Aluminum, metal tubular, and y stakes will not hold on beaches in strong winds. A tent accessory that Nancy & I use are two simple plastic car mats—one in front of each tent door. This gives you a non-sandy area to place your feet before getting in your tent. The mat(s) can easily be stowed flat in the cargo area at your boat’s stern. Now to tents themselves…. My new
personal tent is an “REI Half Dome 2 Plus.” It is 42” high, 38 sq ft floor space, weighs about 4.5 lbs. The tent Nancy & I will share on this trip is a Mountain Hardware Hammerhead 3. It is a 3-season, 2-door tent w/ lots of netting. We have used it down to 22ºF—at this temperature you need good sleeping bags. This tent is 55” high w/ 45 sq ft floor space. It is a bit on the heavy side at about 8 lbs. You can certainly get smaller tents than we use, but we like the “luxury” of a little extra space. Yes, I know, we haven’t downsized as much as possible here.Tent poles need special care
to keep them from coming in contact with saltwater. They will probably work fine for the duration of a week trip, but, subsequent to saltwater contact, they will corrode sitting in the closet and they will not fit together again. Or, if you leave them stored with the connection engaged, you will not be able to get them apart & folded for your next trip.
7. Bug repellent/Head nets
—speaking of bugs, be sure to bring a can of DEET bug repellent. It can be in an aerosol can or some hand pump. It should be at least 18% Deet, but 25% is better. Bug suits made of noseeum netting are available. These are useful when it is warm, like in Nov or mid-March. During our Jan trip, the temperatures should be moderate to cool, so a bug suit is not necessary; however, a head net can be useful. Remember, it has to be noseeum mesh. A key requirement, if possible, is to camp in an open, breezy space. Avoid camping near mangroves or vegetation. Bugs are not a problem on the water.
8. Mobile phones
—phone service is thin to non-existent in most of the Everglades. Phones with AT&T service work at Pavilion, but you may have to find an active spot. They may work on NW Cape. They work standing at one point on East Cape Sable, if we should stop there. That is about it. They don’t work that well in Chokoloskee; they work fair in Everglades City.
—you can’t go wrong with a handheld Garmin. The Garmin GPSMAP 76Cx is on sale at West Marine for $149.99—this is one of the absolute best handheld GPS’s ever made. If you have a Garmin, I can give you a waypoint/route file for the whole trip. Ideally, we would all have a Garmin with the same waypoint/route file. That way, we all end up at the same place every night. If you have something other than a Garmin or no GPS, we can manage that.
If you want a minimal GPS, that would be the Garmin eTrex H—it is still a quality GPS but not in the class of the 76. These units use AA batteries, so they can be used on extended camping trips. While most GPS units claim to be waterproof, don’t trust the claim. Keep your GPS in a dry bag while on the water.
—For those people who like to have charts handy, NOAA nautical charts covering ENP and 10,000 islands area are #11430, 11432, 11433, and 11451. NOAA charts are now available for downloading: http://www.nauticalchartsonline.com/n.c/NauticalChartsOnline.html
Pasadena Hotspot, Inc. publishes easy to read “Top Spot” waterproof maps. The Top Spot maps are #N206, N204, and N207. http://www.offshoremapping.com/ProductCart/pc/viewcategories.asp?idCategory=42
There is also a very nice waterproof “Trails Illustrated Topo Map” It is number 243 and covers Everglades National Park. http://www.amazon.com/Everglades-National-Trails-Illustrated-Geographic/dp/1566954096/ref=sr_1_111?ie=UTF8&qid=1323965346&sr=8-111
It is not very good for navigating, but it gives a great overview of the park.
11. VHF radio
—a marine radio is both a safety necessity and a way for us to keep in touch on the water. One that is water proof (to 1 meter depth for 30 min), floats, has excellent battery life and lots of features, is the Cobra MR HH425LI VP 15-channel VHF/GMRS 2-Way Marine Radio, $120.52 +shipping at Amazon. I believe the “15-Channel” is part of the GMRS feature. An inexpensive one with fewer features is the Midland Nautico 3VP, $51.76+shipping at Amazon. Nancy & I have used a Uniden Voyager TI for years. It can only be found on Ebay now, but at a great price, usually about $55 for a refurbished unit. You can buy an extra battery so you have a backup for 7 days. VHF radios use a “line-of-sight” system. Your radio must be able to “see” the antenna of the target radio. Because our antennas are only about 3’ above ground level when sailing, these radios are limited to a broadcast distance of about 2 miles. To reduce battery consumption, have your transmit power on 1 watt.
—this is a very useful device. It has certainly saved lives. It costs about $100 and requires a yearly subscription ($100/yr) to activate and use. http://www.findmespot.com/en/
I use mine a couple times each day on a trip (that includes driving trips & international trips.) At the end of the day, when we have reached our destination, I send an “OK” signal. This signal activates an email message, which goes to a dozen or so people I have designated before the trip. SPOT has a GPS, so the message it sends to people also has a link to Google Earth which shows them exactly where you were, when you sent the message. SPOT also has a “Send Help” signal. I’ve never used it, but it goes to a few people selected by you, who will get someone to go to you and fix something or tow you someplace. Finally, SPOT has a “911” button. When this signal is sent, again with GPS coordinates, appropriate authorities in your area are notified that you are in a life-threatening situation and need emergency help.
13. Personal EPIRB
—these are devices are similar in purpose to SPOT except they are generally less functional. Their signal is detected by Government satellites. SPOT uses commercial satellites. Some people claim EPIRBs are more reliable than SPOT, and that may be true. You can read about one EPIRB at http://www.westmarine.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product2_11151_10001_180379_-1____ProductDisplayErrorView
14. Raccoons—Place all food and water in secure hatches by sundown.
Weapons are not allowed in ENP; hence, raccoons have no fear of people. They will work tirelessly to steal your food. They bite into unprotected water containers. They swim. They climb trees. Smelly food or trash in your cockpit invites intense raccoon activity during the night. Never have food in your tent. Never feed these shrewd, deceptively friendly-appearing animals. They are dangerous and will get their share of your food and water if you are not vigilant. I don’t like to talk about rats on the islands. These rats are what we called “field mice” when I was a kid in South Dakota. Most islands don’t have a problem, but a couple years ago someone poisoned the raccoons on Pavilion, and the rats flourished. I believe the raccoons have made a comeback, and the rats are back under control. If that is the case, we won’t see any rats. Rats are worse than raccoons. Rats chew more and think less.
15. Campfire policy
—some folks must have a campfire after dinner; others feel it despoils the environment. Park Service policy allows campfires only on beach sites
, and they must be below the high tide line. The policy doesn’t specify which high tide line. Unfortunately, some people build fires anywhere and leave unsightly ashes and partially burned wood, even broken glass in campfires. If you build a campfire with enlisted help of others, dig a 1-ft deep fire pit in the sand below the previous 24-hr high tide line. Let your fire burn until only ashes remain. Finally, remove all fire vestiges by refilling the hole. The next high tide will return the site to its natural state.
On extended trips, campfires can be used to burn trash. Always sit upwind of campfires to avoid natural toxins and allergens. Some people are allergic to campfire smoke or have respiratory problems. In addition to helping manage trash, campfires keep mosquitoes at bay, if you sit close enough to the fire—on a cold night, that is easy to do. Pavilion Key does not have a lot of handy material for a fire; most other beach sites do.
—headlamps are much better around camp than a flashlight. You can get inexpensive ones at Wal Mart and Sports Authority. Some of the better ones are water resistant. I keep mine under the brim of my hat if it is raining. I use a Petzl Tikka XP 2 LED. Nancy uses a Petzl Zipka 2 LED.
17. Mattress Pad
—Exped Synmat 9 Deluxe Air Pads—these are truly luxurious. http://www.rei.com/product/780369/exped-synmat-9-deluxe-air-pad-with-pump
If you are in the market for a sleeping pad, and you want a little luxury, any of the Synmat air mattresses are great—very well made, durable. They are amazingly comfortable. Part of our excuse for such luxury, is that we car camp 3-4 weeks in the Rockies every summer. In addition, we probably do 3 weeks or more AI-camping in SFL, and, as I say, these air pads are just great. In addition, I carry a quart-size air pump. Well, I do have 2 mattresses to pump up! But, alas, downsizing takes a back seat here.
18. Sun Protection
—the sun in south Florida is unrelenting and brutal. You must take precautions to avoid sun damage to skin. Lips: Sun screen is an absolute necessity.
Lips have no pigment or sun protection. Use 30 SPF lip balm. A multi-day trip is no place to learn that your lips are very sun sensitive and can develop painful cold sores (fever blisters, herpes simplex virus
.) If you are prone to cold sores, bring a tube of Abreva® and use at first sign of an outbreak. Face and arms: Sun screen is an absolute necessity for exposed skin.
The sun-smart person wears a wide-brimmed hat with a neck cape and long-sleeved, quick-dry, vented shirts. If that is uncomfortable, at least wear a T-shirt and use SPF 30 or higher. Sun screen should be reapplied every 2 hrs. Hands: Paddling gloves ($15-30) help avoid skin cancer.
Your hands are exposed for extended hours daily. Put on waterproof SPF 30 or higher sun screen before getting on the water. In addition, use paddling gloves.
I’ve had a grand slam in skin cancer: squamous cell, basal cell, and melanoma. While the first 2 are slow spreading, and usually easily managed if caught early
, melanoma is just the opposite—it can spread fast and is very dangerous. It is best to prevent these diseases rather than play catch-up.
—we will sail along some of the best shoreline for inshore fishing in Florida. We have hooked tarpon, redfish, snook, and sea trout. Of course, we have also caught too many catfish and gafftopsail catfish. We regularly catch jacks and, sometimes, Spanish mackerel. There is even the occasional shark. Of course, you could catch all the sharks you want if you put out a chunk of fresh fish. But, the one reliable eating fish is the ubiquitous sea trout.
It is a very good eating fish and can be found all along the coast. The sure-fire rig for trout is a Cajun Thunder rattling cork with 2-3’ of 15-20# fluorocarbon leader with a hook attached. For bait, I use Berkeley Gulp! 3’ or 4’ Glow shrimp—a bag or 2 of these will be enough for the whole trip. While the Cajun Thunder cork will work, I prefer the Bayside Paradise Popper Float. Either cork w/ a Gulp! Shrimp is deadly for sea trout and will get us a fish fry dinner 2-3 nights of the trip. Here are some links so you know what I am talking about: http://www.basspro.com/Precision-Tackle-Cajun-Thunder-Float/product/10215451/235824http://www.basspro.com/Paradise-Popper-XTreme-Float-8-Popper/product/42936501/230055http://www.basspro.com/Berkley
®-Gulp!®-Saltwater-Shrimp/product/72346/200733 (sorry, this is not recognized as a link, but it works if you cut & paste it.)
One caveat: Fishing opportunities will be variable. On last year’s trip, we only fished one day. It was at Broad River on our layover day at Highland Beach. And, while we caught a disgusting number of Gafftopsail fish, we only caught 2 sea trout. At least, at the end of the day, I realized we were fishing in the wrong spot (we fished all over the mouth of the river.) We should have been fishing right in front of our campsite!
My point is that sailing days can be long and difficult. By the time you break camp, tack into the wind for 4-5 hrs, and set up camp, you are not in the mood for going back out fishing. So, we will play it by ear. Hopefully we will have 2-3 fish fry nights.
20. General information
—A permit is required for camping in the backcountry of ENP. The permit costs $10 plus $2/person/night—it is a bargain. Stiff fines are levied against people who do not have a permit. The permit must be obtained in person no more than 24 hrs before the trip begins
at either the Flamingo Visitor Center or the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City. Excellent information about permits and backcountry camping in the Park can be obtained online at http://www.nps.gov/ever/upload/WildernessTripPlanner.pdf
—I’ll discuss this item separately.