Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Shannon Finch, Brand Manager for Kokatat. I was fortunate enough to find myself taking a vacation in one of the finest adventures to be had in the lower 48. First off, I’d like to mention that our permit allowed us to be in the canyon during an incredible time of year, mid October - early November. The temperatures were mild 65-80 degrees F in the day and rarely dipped below 40 during the night… So my packing list reflects this time of year and these friendly conditions. We, 16 friends, acquaintances & strangers, had one thing in common, we were invited on this adventure by our common friend and lucky winner of the lottery, Fat Newty. If there is one thing that Fat Newty is good at, it’s surrounding himself with good people. When I was thinking about my “essential packing list” for this story I realized quickly that the most important element of a trip like this is the people that make up your party, and the trip leader that organizes that group. Our group spent 18 days navigating our 11 vessels from Lees Ferry to Pearce Ferry (mile 279) and although we experienced preferable weather conditions and very little carnage on the water, the overall group dynamic of the trip is something that should not be taken lightly when planning a trip like this in the canyon. I’m pleased to say that our group got along flawlessly, nobody broke, everyone participated in group discussions and tasks, we were empathetic to one another’s needs and we celebrated in one another’s successes. When planning a trip down the Grand Canyon, be sure to take this first bit of advice into account, group dynamics matter a great deal, don’t set yourself up for failure by not considering how your group will get along for 18+ days.
Into The Water
Items that made me comfortable while on the water, as a kayaker, are as follows:
Kokatat Meridian Dry Suit - Custom built for me, in Leaf & Mantis.
Kokatat HustleR Life Vest (2020) - I took a prototype of our newest life vest (Release in March 2020) and I’m happy to report, it is the most lightweight, comfortable, functional rescue life vest I’ve ever used. You’re going to love it. It was also Mantis in color. “When you look good, you feel good.”
Kokatat Hustle Hat - This five panel hat paired nicely with my Sweet Protection Rocker kayak helmet, great for keeping the sun out of my eyes & face.
Kokatat WoolCore Insulation - Most days were comfortable enough to wear my WoolCore, a lightweight, breathable, stink free, insulation combo underneath my dry suit.
Kokatat Habanero Liner - We did have a couple chilly mornings, and days spent deep in the gorge, and I was happy to have my warmer Habanero onesie on the trip.
Kokatat Huck Throwbag (2020) - Only had to use this once on the trip, bagging a friend out of the recirculating eddy, river left below Horn Creek Rapid.
Neoprene Socks + Kayak Shoes - I have found that if I wear neo socks over my dry suit socks, I am less likely to get holes in the sock; the canyon with it’s sand and rocks can be pretty hard on suits, so I have a routine that involves brushing the sand from my socks and slipping into neo socks every morning before putting on my kayak shoes.
Pyrahna Ripper (SM) - Fast slicey boat for the win! If kayaking through the canyon, take a boat like this; great fun for catching fat green waves on the fly and messing about on the eddy lines, and most importantly, take a boat that is COMFORTABLE!
Kokatat Kayak Mitt (Pogies) - I brought these and only used them once, but I was happy to have them.
Tutu - or other river costume of choice, this was used to please the “River Gods” while running Lava.
Small Waterproof Bag - Watershed Ocoee is my preference, this is my personal go-to bag that lives with me in the kayak for the day. Inside I pack: camera, sunglasses, chapstick, sunscreen, sun shirt (for hikes), beanie, headlamp, first aid, buff, leather gloves.
Paddle + Spare Breakdown Paddle.
The rest of my personal gear lived on a raft in Watershed Colorado dry bags; I used 2 for the trip, a personal clothing bag and a camp bag. I recommend bringing 303 with you; I brought 303 wipes to be used as the Watershed bag seal becomes sandy & dry towards the end of the trip, your cracked cold thumbs will thank you.
There are certainly essentials at camp and there are “camp comforts” that make your life a little more luxurious. This a list of both:
Sand Tarp - Game changer down here, a sand tarp allows sand to magically sift through it, giving you a sand free living space for camp. Trust me on this one, this is essential.
Sleeping Pad - Double-Wide Exped.
Sleeping Blanket - I prefer using a down sleeping blanket vs. a sleeping bag. With that said, I brought a warmer sleeping bag (just in case) I stuffed it into a pillow case and used it as a pillow.
Tent - I only used my tent once on the trip; probably could have used it twice, but one night with sand blasting winds I learned my lesson and set it up the following night. Happy to have had it along, but really enjoyed sleeping out under the stars with the Ringtail cats and mice.
Camp Mug - this cup doubled as my cocktail cup and my coffee mug.
Muck Boots / insulated ditch boots - These are essential! Perfect for rigging boats, loading and unloading without getting your feet wet, and most importantly, makes life so much easier when trying to pee in the river at camp. Essential.
Clothing- Camp pants 2 pair, flannel, 2 t-shirts, shorts, 6 pair of socks (don’t go light on the socks), rain jacket, light puffy jacket, super puffy puffy jacket, scarf.
Lotion, Lotion, Lotion + Salve for your cracked or soon to be cracked hands.
Baby Wipes - sometimes I just couldn’t bring myself to bathe in that chilly water, especially if the sun was down by the time we hit camp.
Dr. B’s soap and a towel - for those times I convinced myself to bathe in that chilly water. I never regretted bathing once it was over. But be prepared… Brrr
Garmin Inreach - Both for emergency preparedness and simply checking in with mom.
Goal Zero Solar Panel + Battery Bank.
Book - I suggest a book called “There’s This River” Stories from Grand Canyon Boatman.
Ammo Can and/or Pelican Case - I use this for my books, toothbrush/paste, journal, electronic cords, etc. Items that I need protected but may need to access during the day.
Costumes are key - weather it’s Halloween or not. We happened to be down there for Halloween, I was a chicken by day and a “Long Black Veiled” woman by night.
Guitar - I brought a travel guitar in a pelican case. Always nice to have music around the fire, and in Red Wall Cavern or Blacktail Canyon, or a handful of other magical places you’ll encounter.
Camp Chair - I splurged on this one and went with the Nemo Star Gazer… I didn’t regret this choice one bit.
Small Hiking Day Pack.
Personal Beverages - Pay special consideration to your personal beverage selection for the trip, and then add to it. A good standard to consider is one drink per mile.
Be prepared to have the time of your life, see things that you’ve never seen before, and tap into a part of yourself that you didn’t know existed. This is truly a magical experience.
Be prepared to have the time of your life, see things that you've never seen before, and tap into a part of yourself that you didn't know existed. This is truly a magical experience.