You have likely heard the admonition, “Always do a site check before shoving off from camp.” But it bears repeating and with a twist. Some of my best friends have left important articles behind. On a long trip, it can undermine your success downriver when you are missing a key piece of gear. On a short trip, it can take a bite out of your wallet. Or if you’re stubborn it can create unneeded risk. Rockstar paddler and German friend Jan Detmer left behind his wet suit top on an island campsite on the arctic Thelon River. He noticed the omission an hour (and 5 miles) later. Rather than fight the current in his canoe, he hiked back upstream to retrieve it. A twenty yard swim in icy water was almost more than he could handle but he retrieved the wet suit (and put it on). Just last month my newest friend Jacques Shermock left a beautiful wooden bow saw at our Buffalo River camp. This was especially sad because both Sue Plankis and I had done what we thought were thorough site checks. So, here is another tip. Stylish hand rubbed wood finishes on the handles of knives, saws, paddles, and other tools catch your eye in the shop but often blend in with the weeds on the trail. I suggest you wrap a piece of reflective tape around tools or that you paint handles or paddle blades bright colors. This will make your site checks more effective and keep your wallet fat and doubling back unnecessary. This can also be a problem on road trips. On my way to the Arctic with Karen Kelley, I left my Rayban sunglasses that I had owned since college, at a restaurant. Ninety minutes down the road I realized my error. Despite what was already an endless drive across the Canadian prairie, Karen graciously agreed to the 3-hour detour to retrieve my sunglasses. The really sad part is that as I walked into the restaurant to pick them up, I felt a bulge in my breast pocket. Lo and behold I had not left the Raybans behind after all! However, when I came out of the restaurant I held them high in the air and shouted, “They were right where I left them!” Karen never knew the whole story; I guess until now.
So always do a thorough site check.
Brighten up your gear with reflective tape or red paint
And before you go back to retrieve, check all your pockets!
PS Never buy a camo colored butane lighter
Picture below shows knife with banner and reflective tape, orange lighter. The compass? It should be orange too. It makes sense to paint paddle blades red too and I have done that with many but struggling with my new beauty a custom 57 inch Bending Branches paddle – hard to paint that blade, but I should.