Camping On the River: What Do You Need?

A while back (September 2021) I wrote an article regarding what type of equipment that I used for deer season. It wasn’t anything special, just what works for me and my situation. Some of the items were necessary tools to do the job, while others were merely creature comforts. That said, I thought I’d put out there some of the stuff that I use when fishing/camping on the river. I haven’t been nearly as successful fishing on the river as I have deer hunting, but I’m still alive and if you’ve read some of my previous articles about me and boats then you understand what a huge accomplishment that is.

First things first, the boat. I have a 16’ War Eagle aluminum boat that will pretty much go anywhere in Mississippi that has at least 2 feet of water. It’s an absolute tank that is seemingly indestructible (a good thing for me). Pushing this rig around is a 40 horsepower Mariner motor that I’m pretty sure was built during the Reagan Administration. It’s a constant pain in the butt, but when it’s running right it’s more than enough to move me as fast as I want to go on the water. I slapped a 45 pound thrust Minn Kota trolling motor on the front that works perfect for bass fishing or sneaking up on alligators. The boat also has a bright LED light attached to the front that’s great on the river when you’re just putting around. However, when you run the boat wide open the light all of a sudden serves as a great light to hunt raccoons from the tops of trees.

The main cause of concern, aside from sinking, when I’m fishing on the river is the weather. South Mississippi is well known for pop up storms in the evening during this time of the year and its easy to make an all night fishing trip miserable when you’re soaking wet. With the weather in mind, I make sure to pack a rain jacket on every trip regardless of the forecast. As for staying all night and having adequate shelter, I pack a different tent for river fishing than I do for deer season camping. For solo trips on the river, I pack a Camppal one person tent. It’s an easy one pole setup and comes with a rainfly that will keep you dry during those evening showers. It’s low to the ground so you don’t have to worry much about wind blowing it over, either. And the best thing about it…it’s light and easily packed into a standard size backpack.

Now that we’ve arrived at our camping spot and have our tent put up, how are we going to sleep well on a hot, Mississippi summer night? I use a Klymit inflatable sleeping pad as my mattress. It inflates easily by blowing it up with your mouth (almost like a pool float, but better). When rolled up and packed away, it’s no larger than a cup of tea from Newks. For a pillow, I use a Klymit Coast Travel Pillow. This is the trickiest accessory for me. I like a big pillow that is somewhat firm, but for the sake of packing that just doesn’t work. The Klymit Coast Travel Pillow easily rolls up and packs away at about the size of a water bottle. For a sleeping bag, I use a Field and Stream lightweight bag rated for 50 degrees. For where we are, you’ll usually end up sleeping on top of this rather than in it during the summer months. Last, to help with sleeping, I pack a 5 inch Treva battery operated fan. This is almost an essential item for me to go to sleep. It runs on two “D” batteries that seemingly last forever. All of the items listed fit into a single backpack with my tent.

We’ve covered transportation, shelter, and sleeping. Now let’s cover eating. I pack either a Coleman two burner stove or a folding campfire grill grate (all depending on what I plan to eat). As for wood for the fire, I usually pick that up from the ground. Be sure to pack plenty of water to drink. I either pack 8-10 bottles or an Aqua Tainer. Along with that, I pack a nonstick frying pan, cooking oil, seasoning, a lighter, and a multipurpose utensil for eating. After a night of running trot lines and bank poles, frying up some bacon to start the morning is a must. Whatever I decide to cook is usually packed into a small ice chest in the boat. And if you’ve never had a campfire hamburger at midnight, you’re missing out. With apologies to Robert St. John and Ed’s, their burgers don’t hold a candle to a midnight “I’m starving to death” hamburger cooked over an open flame covered with mosquitoes.

And speaking of mosquitoes, it’s a good policy to carry a bottle of bug spray while on the river unless you want to come home looking like you have the measles. Bug spray usually goes with my first aid kit and other various toiletries, like soap. Toiletries! How could I forget?! Pack a roll of toilet paper (decomposable works best if you’re quick). The last thing, aside from fishing gear (that’s an entire article by itself), is some sort of communication device. Over the years I’ve learned it’s a good policy to make sure someone knows where you are at all times. I try to make sure I check in every so often to let my wife know that I’m not dead. I don’t want her calling the insurance company prematurely.

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