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Thread: Float Hunting/Rafting Gear & Food Review

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    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    Default Float Hunting/Rafting Gear & Food Review

    Earlier in the month I completed another remote Brooks Range float hunt for caribou with my 69 year old Dad and my two sons. The trip was great, the scenery incredible as always, but this year the 'bou we migrating late so the hunting was slow. I'm don't have nearly the float hunting experience as others on this forum, but I figured I'd review some of the services, gear and food choices inorder to help out others who may be planning their first float hunt.

    Flight services: For anything on the north side of the Brooks Range you can't beat Seventy North http://www.seventynorth.com for outstanding service. This was the second year we used them and Mike McCrary and crew will go out of the way to pull everything together for you to ensure you have a great trip. They've also added some facilities at both Happy Valley and Deadhorse making time at either airport more comfortable.



    The river chosen is notoriously shallow and braided which influenced my gear choices. Every pound in the raft would conspire against me and cause us to drag, so I tried to keep weight to a minimum. However, I still wanted comfortable camping and didn't feel the need to go as spartan as sheep hunting requires.



    My 15' NRS Otter is in it's third year and has over 500 river miles on it. I only have 2 small wear areas on the floor directly under the rower's position from high centering on rocks and spinning the raft off. The raft is big enough for multi-day float hunts for my family of 4 yet light enough for me to muscle it in/out of the truck for the occasional solo day trip.

    For this trip weight/space were an issue due to the flights in and the shallow river so my Action Swivel Seats had to stay home. I was looking for something that offered back support rather than simply sitting on a cooler or thwart which does not. Instead, I bought a piece of 1/2" plastic from Image Plastics in Anchorage, cut it to size, notched the corners to fit inside the frame's LoPros, drilled holes for straps and then rounded all of the edges with a router. The plastic straps to the frame with two 4' straps. On top I strapped 2 Crazy Creek folding chairs http://www.rei.com/product/800086/cr...amp-chair-2010. The Crazy Creek chairs at least offered some back support and doubled as camp chairs. I had a clothing alteration shop stitch a couple of button holes into the lower diagnol strap support of the chairs to allow a 4' raft strap to pass through without interfering with the support system of the chair. I think the plastic and seats together weigh under 15 pounds. Also, the plastic can be removed and double as a camp table.


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    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    All other gear was contained in dry bags, Pelican cases, 5 gallon buckets with lids, or a small cooler for any additional misc. gear. The 5 gallon buckets work great for containing charcoal for a dutch oven, backpacking stove/fuel, and double as seats around camp. The Home Depot buckets are high vis. if you happen to flip the raft and will hopefully float, or nearly so if sealed with a lid.

    I've been using floating gun cases from Cabela's, but I'll be replacing them for my next float hunt with rifle sized dry bags like Alaska Raft & Kayak sells http://alaskaraftandkayak.com/store/...at-p-1974.html The Cabela's models leave a small hole when fully zipped and allow moisture inside the case. Regardless of which bag used while floating, you need to remember to uncase the guns and let them air out everyday in camp or you'll be removing rust.

    Camp gear: This was my second year using a Cabela's Guide Model tent with vestibule and aluminum poles. The 6 man tent is easily large enough for 4 and gear. I added a 4th Paco Pad http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp?pfid=2706 this year and there is simply nothing better for sleeping on gravel bars. We just remove the biggest rocks from the tent site, unroll the Paco Pads, and put the tent on top. This elimiates the need for a tent footprint, protects the floor, and elevates the floor above any moisture. A new item I added this year was mesh bags to tie the tent guylines to. Stakes usually don't work well on gravel bars. Thanks Danattherock for this suggestion! Sometimes it's difficult to find large rocks and wrap the guylines. Just throwing a few rocks into a mesh bag and tiying them off is a whole lot easier and a lightweight/cheap solution. I surrounded the tent and raft with a UDAP electric fence. It's fairly simple to make your own, but UDAP offers a compact, simple set-up and can usually be found on sale at the spring Sportsman's Show.



    http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp?pfid=2706

    For cooking I alternately use both a MSR white gas backpacking stove and an aluminum dutch oven. I love cast iron dutch ovens, but for river trips you can't beat the 2/3rds weight savings and easy clean up/care of the aluminum version. After dinner I just rinse the dutch oven in the river to dispurse any remaining food away from camp then place it back on the coals for a few minutes to bake it dry and eliminate any bacteria from the river water. For filtered water I use both a Katadyn Basecamp filter http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp?pfid=2704 and a Katadyn Hiker Pro http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp?pfid=2701 along with a collapsible 2 gallon water container and Nalgene bottles for everyone. The Basecamp filter works best suspended. Use the oars as a tripod for this and also to hang game meat.



    Last year my wife insisted on a potty seat. I conceeded and added it to the gear pile. I admit it's much more relaxing having a seat and you can't beat the view from the potty. Just remember the three P's when picking the bathroom site: Proximity (from camp), Privacy (from your fellow campers), and Panorama (pick a spectacular view). Also, baby wipes will make for a much more comfortable trip. Hint, hint! Germex is also a simple sanitary solution for hands.


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    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    Another rafting tip I picked up on the forums is the use of a 4 D cell battery powered pump for intial inflation of the boat. Thanks Jim Strutz! Although they won't win any speed contests, they sure beat inflating all by hand and allow you to work on other chores at the put-in. I replaced my cheapo Bravo pump with a 4"Carlson barrel pump this year. Even though the Bravo is smaller and lighter, the big outfitter grade pumps make final top off much easier. It's unfortunate though they don't allow pumping in the opposite direction to deflate at the end of the trip. I also added a cargo platform to suspend gear, game meat, and a kid off the floor of the raft. This made a big difference this year. The weight in the raft was better suspended from the frame and load placed on the tubes vs. the floor. I loaded my dad and a kid in the front, the bulky, lightweight sleeping pads under their seats, me in the middle, various bulky, but lightweight items on the floor behind me and everything else and other kid on top of the mesh cargo platform. The gear pile was then secured with straps to the raft D rings. When we did drag it was the tubes which have a protective wrap and not the floor which doesn't have the extra layer on the Otter.

    Other items worthy of mention are Tag Bags from Pristine Ventures. Lightweight, compact, and easy to rinse and dry. I just switch out to another, clean set each day in camp and rinse and air dry the previous set. I also used the citric acid powder packaged by Indian Valley Meats. Although it was only 4 days from harvesting the meat until taking it to the processor, we had no issues from bugs or bacteria. Allowing the meat to air dry while hanging from the tripod in camp greatlly aided in crust formation and protecting the meat.



    All in all it was another great float and had the added bonus of my 14 yo taking his first big game animal. The plan was for his younger brother to also take a 'bou. But, unlike last year where we had caribou walking through camp, this year we saw more planes and people then caribou. If we'd stayed a few more days we might have hit the leading edge of the migration, but my son was more than thrilled to bring this bull home to show his mom. Not to be outdone, his Mom reminded him that her's was still bigger. I guess we'll have to go back again for my youngest to surpass both his brother and Mom.

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    Moderator kingfisherktn's Avatar
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    Great write up and fantastic trip. I'm very envious. Hopefully you are going to show more picts??????????

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    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    We tried to keep the food menu fairly simple so that we'd have more time for hunting and had to spend less time cooking. However, no one wanted Mountain House or similar every day. The steaks, king crab legs, chicken breasts, wine & beer stayed home this trip. All of the food was fitted into 2 apple boxes which then fit into a NRS KOSS dry bag http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp?pfid=2921 As the trip progressed and food consumed the second apple box and any burnable trash was disposed of in a campfire. Nothing was left after the fire and all of the ashes were dispersed before leaving the camp.

    A menu agreed upon by all before the trip makes meal selection easier when digging through the food boxes. We try to FoodSaver our meal components together as much as possible and then use a Sharpie to write any prep directions on the package.

    Breakfast was oatmeal/cream of wheat with dried fruit or fresh blueberries picked along the trip. As mentioned in other threads, just carefully tear the top of the oatmeal package and add hot water. That way you don't have to clean a cup or bowl. The wax paper package holds water long enough to eat and warms your hands. Pop Tarts were forgotten, but would have been devoured by the kids. I'm only an occasional coffee drinker, but my Dad raved about Starbuck's Via instant coffee. If you haven't tried it pick some up at a grocery store. It comes in various flavors and is way, way better than previous attempts at instant coffee and avoids the mess and extra gear for regular coffee.

    Lunch was baggle sandwhiches each day. Nothing is as indestructible when packed in the raft, lasts as well, or is as filling. Bread gets squished and pita bread doesn't keep. The kids subsisted on PB&J while my dad and I alternated between dry salami, tuna from the ready mix pouches, and PB&J. Snacks were trailmix, Cliff Bars or granola bars, hunter sticks from last year's ducks and caribou, dried fruit, hard candies, and Babybel wax wrapped cheese rounds. The cheese was a big hit and keeps well unrefrigerated as well as the dry salami and hunter sticks. We took various individually packaged powdered mixes for everyone's water bottles.

    Dinner was cooked either in a dutch oven or on a white gas backpacking stove. As previously mentioned we tried to package all components of a meal together to simplify things.

    Dinner 1 was chilli with a cornbread topping cooked in the dutch oven.

    Dinner 2 was Thai night - Minute Rice, a powdered Thai sauce, and 2 cans of pre-cooked, diced chicken with some dried, mixed veggies from Natural Pantry added in at the end. Desert was cookies

    Dinner 3 was chicken burritos. A box of mexican rice cooked in the dutch oven and then a powdered taco sauce and can of chicken was added. The MSR stove heated water for dried, re-fried beans also from Natural Pantry in Anchorage. I was skeptical of the beans, but they were very good!

    Dinner 4 was tuna mac & cheese. The water was boiled in the dutch oven, pasta cooked, and cheese and tuna from a ready mix pouch added in. My kids about licked the dutch oven clean. It was then rinsed in the river, placed back on the coals to bake dry, and then put away for another use. Desert was instant pudding made with cold, filtered river water and powdered milk.

    Dinner 5 was simply Mountain House. My older son had shot a caribou in the evening and by the time everything was packed back to camp it was getting late. My 11 yo wisely suggested just cooking Moutain House so he was put in charge of boiling water and dinner prep while the rest of us tended to the meat, cape, and other camp chores.

    Dinner 6 was after a long day of rowing through rain squalls, headwinds, shallow braided channels (like every other day on this river), and the worst bugs of the trip. We just boiled water, added some vegetable oil, couscous, and 2 cans of chicken and called it a day.


    Dinner 7 was at Coldfoot and it sure was nice to sit at a table and let someone else do the work. lol

    We also had a Bisquick biscuit & stew meal for the dutch oven, a spaghetti meal, as well another night of Mountain House left along with 3 more days of breakfast/lunch. Due having seen few caribou in the mountains, as well as none downriver, we opted to end the trip rather than stretch it out and hope for another bou or two to migrate past camp. Through 7 days I had barely tapped into my second MSR fuel bottle and still had plenty of charcoal left from what had been an almost full 5 gallon bucket.

    This was my Dad's first float trip and I think he was suprised by the food even though it was spartan compared to some of our trips - I've pulled ice cream out of the cooler on day 3 and topped warm dutch oven brownies to the amazement of the rest of our group. But, one thing I've learned is a good, hot meal at the end of a day floating makes all of the hardwork melt away.

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Best post I have seen on this forum all year.


    Thank you


    -Dan
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    I'll post a trip report under the Hunting forum over the next couple of days. I'm out of town and waiting for my wife to email some additional pics I forgot to take with me that I can include in the other post.

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    This was a very informative thread. I appreciate all the good tips. I certainly plan on doing a float hunt in the future and some of the tips you have provided will help me along my way. Do you have any more pics?

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    Birdstrike
    Great post! Where did you buy the mesh bags you used to secure the tent?

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    Member scott_rn's Avatar
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    Maybe I missed it - what did you make your platform out of?

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    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    The mesh bags are simply laundry bags from WalMart. There may be a cheaper source somewhere, but I have not found it yet.

    The plastic platform was fabricated from "seaboard" plastic. It's very easy to work with. Normal power tools are sufficient. The material itself reminds me of plastic cutting boards. The platform rests on top of 2 crossbars of my frame system.

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    Birdstrike; Thanks for this very informative report. I have learned a few things that may come in handy some day!

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    Member Gerberman's Avatar
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    Birdstrike, Thank You, I just found that I am going on a float trip above the arctic C next year and your information is fantastic, it makes it much easier to make my LIST of necessary items. Lots of good ideas. I like the dehydrated food for dinners from Backpackers pantry. I have done a lot of white water rafting on the Snake and Salmon rivers in the Northwest. I have a 16 foot Marivia with inflated floor, breakdown aluminum frame. I do not know if I will be able to use it as the weight might be to much. I will be checking all this out in the near future.

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    Finally got around to reading this, although I had seen it a few weeks ago. Very good ideas and advice. Thanks Birdstrike.

    I've been saving mesh onion bags for tent & tarp holders. The 5lb size seems to work fine, and I like the onions.

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JM View Post
    Birdstrike
    Great post! Where did you buy the mesh bags you used to secure the tent?


    Get these. They come in 4 sizes, are cheap, and hold up very well. Been using the same ones for years.






    http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___48221

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    awesome report. looks like a great time and hunt. thanks for taking the time to post.

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