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"Forest, forest, everywhere and not a trail to trek!" 

We have eighteen forests bordering the north side of Los Angeles... all CLOSED (STILL, it appears). After over a MONTH of not being able to backpack anywhere due to wildfires, I'm feeling pretty frustrated (you know, like when you haven't had sex in a few weeks and you're feeling kinda... "randy"? Yeah, that... or so I've been told). 

After further research, it appears ENTIRE key sections of both my Plan-A and Plan-B routes may be closed as well, though I'll be calling around to see if it's still true. My easy options for a mountain high are running thin! So, you know what they say, "When the going gets tough, the tough get PADDLING!"


One of the benefits of living in Southern California, for outdoors enthusiasts like myself (with diverse outdoor interests), is everything is within easy reach; mountains, forests, deserts, beaches, ocean and islands! I'd like to visit the Channel Islands, but Catalina Island is MUCH closer! Like Los Angeles, it can be a bit 'touristy' with hotel bungalows, beachside bars, etc., but there ARE diversions for the outdoor types including dozens of hiking trails like the Trans Catalina Trail (TCT), which you can do in just a few days (most go at a slower pace). 

But there are campsites that are "boat-in only" along the northern/leeward side of the island. These are "primitive" campsites, meaning they have no pit toilet, no water, and no trash service. So if you don't bring it, you won't have it, AND you have to pack out your POOP, too! (reservations and fees required). 

There are two towns there, I'll be starting at Avalon, the more popular, and paddle my way from camp to camp to Two Harbors, the smaller, less crowded one with a campground nearby, then on to Parson's Landing, a larger primitive campground. From there, I'll hike back to Avalon in meandering fashion.


As I've said before, the more diverse your adventures, the more gear, etc., you need. Fortunately, the weather is clear and sunny, so that helps keep the clothing requirements down. My gear list for this outing features:

2 Klymit ultralight packrafts (rated for class 2 water)

2 Exped/Alpaca ultralight convertible trekking/paddling poles 1 Katadyn Pur (model MTOD-06-LL) desalinator 

1 Mustang inflatable PFD ("fanny pack" style/size) 

1 "PenFishingRods.Com" ultralight fishing tackle 

1 Two-piece wet suit (pants and jacket)

1 box "Doody-bags" ('cause there are no toilets) 


KLYMIT PACKRAFTS may be small (and look a little funny), but they track well and can easily carry you AND your pack (or bicycle if you're "bikepacking"!) Why two? On the mainland, one would be enough to get me from one side of a river/lake to the other, but I'll be paddling on the ocean (fishing along the way) and that's a bad place to have issues!! So, my pack gets its own raft, besides, this way one of them can be a backup. 

EXPED/ALPACA CONVERTIBLE POLES are not for everyone at about $200 a pair (and this is my SECOND pair), but for the weight of one pair of poles, I have both high quality trekking poles AND double-bladed paddles (the blades are carbon-fiber), a PERFECT match for my Klymit!

INFLATABLE PFDs are a wise piece of gear ANYTIME you're in [water] over your head! I have one Mustang inflatable for sailing/boating (with several mod's), but for packrafting, I use their smaller 'fanny pack' model. This should be sufficient since I don't plan on being far from shore or in rough water. 

PEN FISHING ROD by is an absolute MUST (not the $10 or $20 piece of c***!) if you are backpacking AND your trek takes you by fish! Reportedly, these tiny rods have snagged TWENTY-THREE POUNDERS! I use a small pill organizer as my tackle box with hooks, weights, etc. set up ahead of time in each container. 

TWO-PIECE WET SUIT, 2mm, which I use for [wet] canyoneering, diving, kayaking, etc. (if the water isn't TOO cold) and it's great for packrafting! Fairly packable, the pants have a high back and the jacket gives good coverage (separate sellers). 

DOODY BAGS are necessary for an outing like this because the rules require it! To extend their usefulness, I prop one open at first use, and won't seal it until it's time to break camp. 'Nuff said. 


As with every outing, there are certain pieces of kit that are unavoidably necessary to make the outing even possible, as above, but there are items that can be switched out in favor of things that offer more utility, lighter weight, etc. One of the signs that you've packed well is if you use EVERY single item you brought AND did not want for anything else! Better still, is if those pieces of gear (AND clothing) are multi-use, compact, and light weight!! And in a perfect world, can be used for improvised purposes!!! Here are some examples:

(SHELTER) I will still be taking my convertible hammock/tarp/poncho, and a tarp (a length of rip-stop nylon fabric, remarkable what a difference it makes!), as my go-to shelter. In those situations where I don't have a hang for my hammock, I'll use these items to fashion a bivy sack to sleep in. 

SLEEPING BAG/QUILT  ->  CLOTHING. With warmer weather, a sleeping bag/quilt may be a bit much, however, it can still get cold at night! So, I will NOT be taking my sleeping bag/quilt (I will use my clothing). As I say, "In a pinch [a survival situation], your clothes ARE your shelter!" So, the clothes I take will be layerable. 

SLEEPING PAD  ->  PACKRAFTS. Instead of a sleeping pad (you normally STILL need insulation between you and your hammock), I will use the packrafts. Only partially inflated, the pad pocket I made for my sleeping pad will keep them under me and in the hammock.

HIKING BOOTS  ->  'TEVA' TYPE SANDALS. My Keen hiking boots would normally be up to the task; light weight, well ventilated (fast drying), tough sole (for stepping on edged rocks at the shoreline), but not so good for swimming. My kayaking boots are designed for exactly that, but are not great for hiking. So, I'm switching them out for my Teva-style Sketchers.  Most of the trails on Catalina, especially adjacent the shoreline, are dirt access roads, so I won't need the ankle support/protection of hiking boots (but I will wear them with ankle socks to help keep rocks out). 

Some gear I won't be taking, like my ultralight climbing rig, but for the most part, the rest will be reorganized.

3 Replies

Excellent post! Thanks so much!

btw, how do you get to the island?

REI Member Since 1979

@@Philreedshikes, you're welcome.

Well, most people (including myself) have taken the Catalina Express, a ferry with ports to/from Dana Point (I lived in Laguna during my college years), Newport Beach and San Pedro (Los Angeles).

However, I've also made the crossing by a three-masted schooner, kayak, a six-person Hawaiian outrigger canoe (during my racing days) and even by helicopter.


OOPS, skipped over the desalinator! (I sometimes write this stuff on my phone, when waiting, or going here-'n'-there.

THE DESALINATOR I use is used for life rafts and can produce about six gallons of water per day, although that's a LOT of pumping (then again, what ELSE are you gonna do if you're in a life raft?!)

It’s not QUITE the smallest, that would be a Katadyn pump, but at about $1,200, I'll pass (I bought mine for about $100. 😊

It's a little heavy, too, but at 2 pounds per liter, so is water! And with a desalinator, I don't have to keep going into town to keep get more!!

Of course, once the ocean outing is done, you have to clean everything well, including the desalinator by using a biocide so you can store it safely until next time.