The Ripple - Fall 2016

Tricks, Tips, and Tid-bits

One of the greatest treasures of a group like Paddle Manitoba is the sharing of our resources, giving each member the opportunity to learn from the wisdom and experiences of fellow-paddlers. Below are some ideas and observations from the Paddle Manitoba community

Pocket Chainsaw - gear review

From Paul Shipman

We’ve been carrying a pocket chainsaw on our canoe trips, although we have not had to use it until this summer. While it worked well enough, I would not recommend it to other paddlers.

A pocket chainsaw is the chain blade of a chain saw with nylon or cordura handles attached at either end. You place the chain under a trunk on the ground with the blades facing up and pull it back and forth to cut. The saw is light, compact, cheap, and fairly effective.

So why don’t I recommend it? Because it uses the very muscles you’ve already been using all day for paddling. I found that my shoulders got far too tired too fast. This impacted our ability to get firewood in a timely fashion. I believe that a folding saw would be a better investment.

Pocket Chain Saw

Cellphone Photos - a gear review

From Paul Shipman

Our Boundary Waters trip marked the first real test of the Optrix photography unit I’d purchased for my iPhone SE a few months earlier. The Optrix Waterproof case is meant to protect your phone while still allowing you to interface with it through a membrane that maintains contact with the screen. The set comes with lens attachments with O-rings to allow the camera to be used. I purchased a fourth lens, a 4x Optical zoom lens.

The case itself is sturdy and waterproof. I have not tried underwater photography, but I did follow the immersion tests suggested by the manufacturer prior to encasing my phone in it.

The membrane that covers the screen has a tendency to scratch, which can obfuscate items on the screen. Even without the scratches, the screen can be difficult to see in direct sunlight.

With an extra lens on the camera (a flat lens or 0°, usually) the photographs generally have a shadow-halo in the corners. When pointing too closely to light sources, the photos can have full halo, starbursts, or light bubbles.

For this trip I pretty much exclusively used the 4x telephoto lens, as I find that when I’m canoeing the moments that I’m looking to capture are wildlife or landscapes that are far away and would benefit from some zoom.

My experience with this lens and phone combination has been less than desired. While the zoom is quite effective, I believe the processor on the phone has too much trouble with the shakiness in the canoe and most of the background ends up strangely distorted.

Optrix Case

New Outdoor Retailer Comes to Town

From Dusty Molinski

Founded by Mark Neale in 1997, Mountain Warehouse is a UK-based outdoor retailer. Selling only house-branded products, a first location for Winnipeg, and Manitoba, has opened at Kildonan Place Shopping Centre.

Instructor Maintenance Clinic

From Brian Johnston

After 2 years of planning, visiting Instructor Trainer Andrew Westwood joined Instructor Trainer Brian Johnston to facilitate a Paddle Canada moving water canoe instructor maintenance clinic.

Brian and Andrew

While crossing the prairies, en route to a Canadian Shield river, Brian and Andrew pause to wait out road construction with a rooftop quiver of canoes.

Cedar Plank Cutting Board

From Paul Shipman

A lot of paddlers who fish use their paddle as a cutting board to clean their fish. For myself, I’d rather not risk the finish on my paddle blade, or risk getting finish in my dinner. In order to have a light-weight, reasonably sized cutting board for tripping, I use a cedar grilling plank intended for cooking salmon or trout. Having found a suitably flat board, I sand it smooth (past 220 grit) and then soak it in a four, or more, coats of food-safe mineral oil. Sanding prevents it from snagging on things in my pack; oiling keeps it from absorbing too much moisture, making it easier to clean the fish slime off of the board.

Spring Fires Torch Train Station

From Dusty Molinski

Early spring saw forest fires blaze through parts of the Mantario Wilderness Zone of Whiteshell Provincial Park. Lost in this fire was the historic Winnitoba train station. Built in the 1920s, the station was the mainstay of the cottage community around Florence and Nora Lakes where there was no road access until the late 1990s.

Following the construction of the road to the lakes, and the cancellation of Friday evening trains, the station saw less use. However, with planning, VIA rail would still pick up and drop off passengers travelling on its Canadian route. For paddlers looking for a different shuttle to and from the Whiteshell backcountry, the station was a very real connection to the past, harking back to canoe travel by the likes of Tom Thompson, Grey Owl and others. VIA will still make stops at Winnitoba, but the station is now just another memory along the portage trail.

For a history of the Winnitoba area, check out:

Waiting at Winnitoba in 2008

Waiting at Winnitoba in 2008

Drainmakers - a gear review

From Paul Shipman

When we were on our Boundary Waters trip, we noticed that many paddlers simply plunged into the water with full hikers on at every portage. We’re still relatively new to tripping and had generally done our best to find a reasonable spot on the shoreline where we could exit the canoe directly onto land without running aground. Stepping into the water was a game changer for us, but neither of us felt comfortable with the idea of spending a whole day tripping with wet feet.

On our drive home, we stopped in Minneapolis to do some shopping. At REI, Eveline picked up a pair of women’s trainers designed to drain water and dry quickly. I wasn’t so lucky. I came across the Columbia version at their outlet in Albertville – the Drainmakers. While they didn’t have my size, I made note of it and did some research when I got home.

Columbia is on version III of the Drainmakers. I was able to order a pair on-line for $78. The Drainmakers are made of a mesh fabric that quickly drains the water and dries in the sun. The insole and out-soles are perforated to let the water drain out completely, and the out-sole has tire-tread-like features that provide better grip in wet conditions.

My first experiences with the Drainmakers have been positive. They drain well, although in cooler weather they definitely remain damp throughout the trip. Their grip in wet and slippery conditions is very good. They are quite comfortable to wear, and provide adequate support during a carry.


Shindig - an annual Manitoba Whitewater Club event

From Brian Johnston

Every spring, whitewater kayak and canoe paddlers gather at Cooks Falls to boast, boat, and boof.

Shindig welcomes paddlers, from first timers in current to seasoned vets. Activities include fun races, instructional clinics, river running, play boating, prizes, catered food, music, and camping.

shindig 1 shindig 2 shindig 3

Photographs by Michael Pantermaraki


From Paul Shipman

Posole is a South American soup/stew featuring hominy, a lye-processed corn product, as the main starch. In order to prepare ours, I separately dehydrated a store-bought roasted chicken (shredded, of course), diced tomatoes, onions, garlic, bouillon, and cilantro. I added some dried Mexican oregano and chipotle chilli powder. We rehydrated it all by filling our bowl with water so that we could eat it like a soup.

Here's a basic recipe that I enjoyed at the campsite:

From Tim Lutz

Soak dried apricots in rum. Grease a dutch oven and pre-heat over fire. Mix vanilla cake mix with eggs and water. Place apricot mixture into hot dutch oven, then pour in cake batter. Remove dutch oven from heat and place coals on top of dutch oven lid. Wait a spell.

This was an excellent and interesting cake, a departure from my usual method of a silicon bundt pan inside the dutch oven. I used welder's gloves – thick leather work gloves that are pretty inexpensive at Princess Auto – to handle the dutch oven and the coals.

dessert Dessert

Hatchet Techniques

From Paul Shipman

If you canoe much, you are likely going to need to split wood at some point, to cook, to warm up at camp, or, heaven forbid, after swamping. Few of us want to carry a full-sized axe, so it is much more likely that your wood splitting will be done with a hatchet.

If you’re not careful, you could really hurt yourself with a hatchet, the kind of hurt that you cannot take care of with a first-aid kit, and that is going to make it difficult to get out of the woods.

Two camp-found tools will be your best friends in hatchet safety. They are an old stump or log, and a branch about the thickness of your forearm. You’ll use the stump as the base upon which you split your wood. The branch you’ll use to pound the hatchet through the wood you are splitting.

Place the wood you want to split on the base. Place the hatchet where you want to split the wood. Use the branch to pound the hatchet through the wood. That’s the safest way to split the wood.

You don’t need to go straight through from the top of the log to the bottom in order to get kindling. You can also hold the piece of wood at an angle, and chop at the lower half with the hatchet. This will shave big chunks of wood off that can be used as tinder and kindling, and shouldn’t risk injury to your hands.

Wednesday Evening Paddles

From Charles Burchill

For more on Wednesday Evening Paddles, see Paul Shipman’s story and Charles Burchill’s pictures elsewhere in the Ripple

There were 22 weeks of Wednesday Evening Paddles this summer between May and September. Although the last outing every year is short, it is typically a beautiful autumn day. This year was no exception. With an average of four people coming out every week, the summer was eventful and full of company and stories.

The Paddle Manitoba board has been a strong supporter of the evenings with at least one board member coming out most weeks.

Ghillie Kettle - gear review

From Paul Shipman

Since Eveline and I largely eat dehydrated meals while in the backcountry, boiling water is our primary cooking concern while on a trip. When we started out, we only had a Primus Classic Trail stove paired with a GSI Dualist. As we generally need about one litre of water for dinner and dishes, we found that it took quite a while to boil water, and used quite a bit of fuel. Hoping to find something more efficient, I stumbled upon the Ghillie Kettle.

The Ghillie Kettle burns small fuel, such as twigs and pinecones, in an aluminum base below a double-walled kettle. Water is poured into the double-wall, and the flame and smoke rush out the chimney through the centre of the kettle – heating the water all around it. When we can get and keep a good fire going, we can boil one litre of water in about three or four minutes. When it reaches a full boil, the Ghillie's shrill whistle lets us know it’s ready.

The Ghillie Kettle includes a grill that you can place over the base after boiling water (resulting in what they call the Hobo Stove). You can use it directly or place a pan or pot on it and cook. We’ve successfully used the grill to cook fish, eggs and pop popcorn.

The Ghillie Kettle works well in wind, using the air flow to fan the fire and increase the flow of energy from the base. It also works well in the rain, if you can find dry fuel. We haven’t had much success yet in wet conditions, and we still carry our Trail stove and a small fuel canister just in case.

With practice, I hope to be able to get an efficient fire going in wet conditions. In the meantime I would recommend that others try something like a JetBoil system as a more robust stove for those focused mainly on dehydrated grub.